Southern California has always been a favorite vacation destination, famous for its sunny beaches, palm tree backdrops, and the dream-big attitude of Los Angeles. Just southeast of Los Angeles is Huntington City, home to my favorite beach in Southern California.
Growing up near Huntington Beach, my family has established the tradition of making an annual day trip there, dedicated to shopping and enjoying the sights. Some of my favorite memories, meals and articles of clothing have come from these trips. Hence, I’ve compiled a list of the best places to go and things to do for your day in the sun.
Every great day trip starts with a little morning fuel. Two of the best cafes in Huntington are located across the street from the sand. Philz Coffee, while not special to this beach, is still one of the most popular cafes in Huntington, often adorned with a line going outside the store. Be sure to time it right so as to not spend your whole morning in line! Named for its address, 602 Coffee House, on the other hand, is unique to Huntington Beach. 602 Coffee House is within walking distance from beach parking and the nearby hotels and malls, making it the perfect spot to grab a morning cup of coffee or an açaí bowl and enjoy the morning beach breeze.
My favorite thing to do at Huntington Beach is to shop at the beachside malls. The two most accessible malls are the Pacific City Mall and 5th & PCH. Pacific City Mall is an outdoor mall across the street from the beach, with shops like Urban Outfitters, Free People and more brand-name stores. The selection in these stores is catered more towards beach lifestyles, as opposed to the city-life selections you might find in other locations. Hence, they offer a different spin on the brand names and still give you a unique shopping experience.
5th and PCH is made up of a string of shops lining 5th Street and Pacifc City Highway. These stores are dedicated to a surfer lifestyle, with shops like Ripcurl and boutiques like Merrilee's Swimwear. There are plenty of stunning swimsuits to choose from, as well as a great selection of sweaters and hoodies with Huntington Beach logos on them (I’ve acquired so many of these throughout the years and, trust me, they are incredibly comfortable). Both Pacific City Mall and 5th & PCH are within walking distance from the beach, the pier, and each other.
I firmly believe that Huntington Beach has some of the best food options out of the Southern California beaches. They are all simultaneously delicious and affordable- which makes them more delicious, in my opinion. Bruxie is a restaurant that specializes in chicken and waffles, offering unique flavor combinations that never fail to impress. Their waffles are sweet and just the right amount of filling: perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Grater is a gourmet grilled cheese restaurant. You can order one of their specialty concoctions or try your hand and make your own grilled cheese. You can even put mac n’ cheese inside your grilled cheese- talk about genius! Both Bruxie and Grater are located in the 5th & PCH strip mall.
Another great dining option is Lemonade, a quintessential California restaurant. Located in the Pacific City Mall, Lemonade works as a ‘build-your-own meal’ assembly line, where you can choose your entrée, sides and drink. Of course, their lemonade is classic, but they also have other options that are just as good. With seating both inside and outside, you have the option to take advantage of the California sun and enjoy the view of the beach while you eat (this also serves as a perfect photo-opportunity *wink wink*). Bruxie, Grater, and Lemonade all offer vegetarian options on top of their regular menu.
If you find you have some extra time, there are also plenty of places in Huntington Beach- namely at Pacific City Mall- where you can relax and pamper yourself. This is a vacation destination, after all. Drybar is a hair styling studio offering quality blowouts and hair styling options. Facialworks offers cleansing facials paired with free skin consultations to help you pick the best facial for you. Holly and Hudson Nail Salon is a nail studio offering manicures and pedicures, as well as hand and foot treatments. Each studio welcomes walk-ins, but it is recommended that you set an appointment beforehand.
Don’t forget about the pictures!! If you didn’t post it, did you really go? I’m kidding, of course, but it never hurts to capture the fun- and look great while doing so. Some of my favorite picture spots around Huntington Beach are the various statement walls at Pacific City Mall and 5th & PCH: namely, the red wall across from Free People. Another option is to take pictures in the plethora of outside dining areas and walkways. These destinations offer a less posed photo opportunity, capturing the candid joy, the sun, and sometimes even the beach in the background. Of course, there is also the ever-appealing golden hour picture in the sand. Huntington Beach is cleaner than other Southern California beaches, making it even better for pictures on the sand!
While you’re at the beach, you can’t forget to play and truly take it all in: the sun, the sand, the water! Huntington Beach has volleyball nets set up in the sand, so simply bring a ball and enjoy a game or two with your friends; or make some friends at the beach and play with them! Huntington Beach also offers surfing lessons, which you can take through Zack’s Surf School and HB Surf School, which is organized by Huntington City itself. Lastly, you can’t forget the pier. Lined with benches, the Huntington Beach pier is the perfect place to sightsee and people-watch. It’s also a beautiful place for a stroll at sunset: a relaxing ending to a fun-filled day.
This itinerary covers a lot of ground- far too much for one day. Nevertheless, there is no wrong way to spend your time in a place like this.This guide is meant for you to cater to your own wants and needs. The most important thing is that you have fun and enjoy your time at Huntington Beach!
Let us know your favorite things to do at Huntington Beach in the comments below! For beauty tips, skincare products, and more content like this, follow us on Instagram @paradox. If you find you have more time in Southern California, check out our LA Itinerary (here); if you find yourself on the West Coast, we’ve also made you an itinerary for NYC (here).