Wellness Weekender Guide: Huntington Beach
Home to the closest beach resorts to Disneyland, Huntington Beach is a family-friendly destination for those looking for a relaxing place to rest up after a day at the theme parks. But visitors would be remiss to not devote at least a few days to Huntington Beach itself, as it’s teeming with wellness activities for the whole family.
With 78 parks and 10 miles of uninterrupted coastline divided into five sprawling beaches, there are no shortage of outdoor spaces to find your zen. Whether you’re biking, walking, swimming or surfing, spacious beaches, boardwalks and bike lanes allow you to soak up the sun in peace.
Outdoor pursuits aside, wellness is also found in Huntington Beach’s spas, many of which feature eucalyptus steam rooms, CBD-infused massages and luxurious relaxation areas for lounging. Dining options range from inventive fine dining to casual beachfront fare—either way, you’re sure to find fresh seafood. While luxury oceanfront resorts help you unwind with high-end service, that, in true Orange County fashion, never feels too fancy.
Within minutes of breathing in the fresh ocean air from the Huntington Beach Pier, watching the surfers ride the waves that roll in to the vast shoreline, Surf City has you calmed and centered. It’s this relaxed OC culture that makes Huntington Beach the perfect weekend wellness destination.
Located just steps from Huntington Beach Pier and popular outdoor mall Pacific City, this oceanfront hotel is a relaxing oasis in the heart of it all. Unwind by the pool with panoramic beach views or at the top-ranked Aarna Spa, where Balinese-inspired treatments are followed by a session in the onsite eucalyptus steam room, sauna and whirlpool, and refreshments in the private outdoor spa garden. The outdoors is also brought in with 250 water-themed guestrooms and suites, almost all of which have beach views. Tanner’s Restaurant serves wood-fired American cuisine while Tanner’s Treehouse Bar dishes up panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean.
Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa
Despite being the closest oceanfront resort to Disneyland, the family-friendly Hyatt Regency exudes the sophistication of a high-end resort with its Andalusian-inspired architecture and top-notch service. The sophistication is especially felt at award-winning onsite restaurant Watertable, where locally-sourced ingredients contribute to a vegetable-forward menu of inventive dishes and artisanal cocktails. Looking for more casual fare? The resort has four other dining options, so you never have to leave the property. Kids will love the swimming pool and water playground, while parents can unwind at Pacific Waters Spa or with a Toes On The Noes yoga session on the beach. The whole family will love a private beach bonfire when the sun sets. But the distinguishing feature here is the resort is that it’s the only hotel with direct beach access.
Waterfront Beach Resort, A Hilton Hotel
One of the first oceanfront hotels to be built in Huntington Beach, this resort has long been a leader in delivering relaxed-meets-luxury Orange County hospitality. Two pools are complete with cabanas, water slides and fire pits while gear is available to rent for beachfront adventures. Six dining outlets range from fine-dining at Henry’s Coastal Cuisine to poolside cocktails at Riptide to small plates with a view at Offshore 9 Rooftop Lounge. Relaxation awaits at Drift, A Waterfront Spa where ocean-inspired treatments incorporate CBD and natural ingredients like seaweed and clay. Private beach bonfires—complete with smores and hot chocolate—are a must.
With sweeping views of the ocean from floor-to-ceiling windows, you would never guess one of the most sophisticated restaurants in the city is housed in a mall. Set on the second floor of Pacific City, you’ll find Bluegold serving farm-to-table fare that integrates worldly flavors to make elevated New American cuisine. Fresh seafood is celebrated with an extensive raw bar selection (the shellfish tower is a showstopper), steam kettles (think, New England clam chowder) and more classic cooked fish entrees (like, striped sea bass and wild salmon). Those who prefer beef will appreciate the variety of steaks cooked in on the wood and charcoal grill (they even have Japanese 100% wagyu beef). The fresh bounty of the region isn’t forgotten with a variety of vegetable-forward pizzas, sides and salads.
Tucked away on the second floor of the Kimpton Shorebreak Resort overlooking bustling 5th street below, Pacific Hideaway lives up to its name as it’s one of the city’s best-kept dining secrets. A colorful, floral mural known as Frida serves as the backdrop for the eclectic variety of dishes that draw influences from Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands and South America. From ceviche to tacos; pad thai to burritos, the dinner menu has something for every taste. But you’ll want to come for the equally as diverse brunch menu that includes unique dishes like the ‘Hideaway Hash Benny made with lao sausage and coconut rice and a short rib grilled cheese.
This seafood paradise has been an OC favorite since opening in 2007. Tacos, poke, sushi, ceviche, clam chowder—name a seafood dish and they’ve probably got it. Get there early because there is almost always a line for the walk-up order counter. You might have a hard time finding a seat at the bar or communal tables, but it’s worth the wait for stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. Set on the oceanside of Pacific City’s food court, this outpost of the popular OC chain embodies all of the laidback surfer vibe that Huntington Beach is known for.
Another crowd favorite found on the second floor of Pacific City is this chain from the Huntington Beach-based team behind the popular Mahe restaurants in Seal Beach and Dana Point. Translating to “wave” in Spanish and “life” in Hawaiian, Ola showcases Mexican cuisine with a hint of Hawaiian (think, ahi poke). The most popular offerings are their extensive taco selection which range from classics like ‘Carnitas and ‘Carne Asada to inventive additions like the ‘Salmon Agave made with brie and a chipotle-honey glaze. Don’t miss their colorful margaritas, perfect for sipping with the ocean breeze from their open air, ocean-facing high-top tables.
Named after Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku, known as the father of international surfing, this popular restaurant honors Huntington Beach’s reputation as “Surf City” with its tiki-inspired décor and fresh Hawaiian seafood. With a menu that goes beyond typical dishes like poke, you’ll find modern spins on traditional Hawaiian classics like the ‘Rib and Chicken Plate’ featuring pork and chicken with the accompanying sides of jasmine rice, macaroni salad and bok choy macadamia nut slaw. You’ll also find one-of-a-kind dishes like the ‘Kabocha Squash and Marscapone Ravioli’ made with a coconut ginger broth and the ‘Hula Pie’—a macadamia nut ice cream cake stacked on a crunchy chocolate cookie crust and drizzled with chocolate fudge. As one of the few restaurants set on the beach, Duke’s is the restaurant for watching the surfers hit the waves.
If you’ve got a refined sweet tooth, this chocolate shop is a must. Set inside the Pacific City food court, it’s not like the casual eateries that surround it, with its diverse selection of chocolates handmade in small batches using fair trade cacao from the Caribbean and South America. From hand-rolled truffles to colorful bon bons, co-owner Steph Shafer is as much an artist as she is a chocolatier as she delicately hand-paints many of her creations. Even if you don’t like chocolate, the shop is worth checking out simply to marvel at the edible art.
Embrace the surf culture
Whether you’re a surfer yourself or prefer to watch from the shore, Surf City lives up to its name with some of the best surfing in the country. The best place to take it all in is Huntington Beach Pier, which provides aerial views of the surfers catching the waves. Check out the world’s largest surfboard at Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum—a 42-foot-long behemoth that weighs 1,300 pounds. The free museum also houses collections of surfing memorabilia and culture, providing a history lesson on Surf City’s storied history.
Practice yoga on the beach
The only hotel with direct beach, it makes sense that the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa has teamed up with Toes on the Nose Adventures to offer private group or one-on-one yoga sessions. Performed on towels on the sand, the uneven terrain challenges your balance while the stunning ocean view encourages you to tune into the moment. Plus there’s nothing like a shavasana accompanied by the relaxing sound of the waves.
Take to the water
While 10 miles of beaches are a relaxing way to take in the ocean from land, those looking for a bit more beach adventure will want to check out OC Paddlesports. Take your pick of single, double or even triple kayaks, or paddleboards for those who prefer to test their balance. The rental outfitter offers discounts for large groups and $5 dollars off all rentals before 10:30 a.m. on weekdays.
Connect with nature
While the beach is the obvious first-stop for grounding with nature, also worth visiting is the lesser-known Huntington Beach Central Park’s Shipley Nature Center, which features walking trails, redwood trees, butterfly and hummingbird gardens, and a freshwater wetland. Even more impressive is the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve: 1,300 acres of protected wetlands where you’ll find 321 bird species and 100 varieties of plants.
Embark on a private cruise
Huntington Beach’s best-kept secret is that it’s home to 5.5 miles of peaceful canals. A private cruise with Prince Charters LLC is the best way to see them. Take your pick of a quaint wood boat, luxury yacht or classy harbour cruiser to experience the picturesque waterways. A licensed captain guides you and shares knowledge on the area as you tour the five residential islands. Better yet, refreshments like beer, wine, sangria and champagne are provided on board.
Explore downtown Huntington Beach
One silver lining to the pandemic is that Downtown Huntington Beach has closed a couple blocks on Main Street to traffic for restaurants to expand their patios. The result is a pedestrian-friendly, al fresco dining atmosphere, that invites you to slow down and wander. Downtown is also where you’ll find the Surfers’ Hall of Fame and Surfing Walk of Fame, not to mention countless surf apparel shops.
Art aficionados will want to visit the free Huntington Beach Art Center, which hosts six exhibitions featuring local artists. Don’t miss the newest attraction to join downtown—Pacific City, a relaxed outdoor mall with all the major retail chains (think, Lululemon and H&M) and warm, oceanfront fire pits for keeping warm in the evening.