Well, we made it. Steve and I are celebrating 5 crazy, wonderful, adventurous years together. This anniversary was quite a milestone for us. We’ve traveled through ten countries together, countless cities, and had some hilarious moments along the way. I’m telling you guys, I got a good one.
When it came to planning our anniversary, we were practical about being four weeks out from departing for Panama, and chose to stay close to home to celebrate. Being the beach bums that we are, we hopped from our home beach, Redondo, to another! I’ll take any and every chance I get to sunbathe or swim in Pacific, so California is perfect because Pacific Coast Highway spans a huge stretch of great beach towns.
We drove south to soak up surf city during the U.S. Open of Surfing for a romantic getaway to Huntington Beach. From cruising around town on bicycles, to indulging in many of the local food spots, relaxing in the spa to swimming in the torrential waves, Huntington Beach is a seriously fun city!
Huntington Beach is coined surf city because… you guessed it, the waves are big and the surf is great. But there’s more to do in Huntington than just surf. Rent bicycles and cruise the strand from the south at Pacific City past downtown and all the way north to the dog beach. On the way, lock the bikes up downtown and grab a margarita or go shopping. If you’re not in the mood to do anything, then this city is for you. The beach is a perfect place to relax and tap into your summer zen, salty hair and sunkissed glow.
Although the ocean is beautiful, the waves are tumultuous so be sure to swim with caution. Rip currents are common and the waves are powerful. I have a blast battling the crashing waves, but it’s not for everyone. Many people prefer to stand with their feet in the water to cool off, and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen the lifeguards swim out to save a group of people who don’t know how to swim out of a rip current (swim parallel to the shore!)
Every year Huntington Beach hosts the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing, a nine day event which draws scores of crowds to the pier to watch surfers, skateboarders and bmx racers from all over the world compete. There’s games, events, and never a dull moment. If you like watching action sports and don’t mind huge crowds, this is a great time to visit Huntington. If this overall sounds like a nightmare, stay at least 5-6 blocks north of the pier and you’ll experience a much quieter and laid back side of Huntington Beach.
Staying at the Hyatt Regency was amazing! Or so I speculate it would be ;). Trust me, my champagne taste on a beer budget beckoned me to reserve a room at the Hyatt, but fortunately my naysaying internal voice kicked in and shot that whimsical notion down before I could whip out my credit card. That said, you don’t have to be staying at the Hyatt to enjoy it. It’s a beautiful hotel with a bridge across PCH that connects to the beach. Pristine fountains, swaying palm trees and scenic grounds create a picturesque scenery worth exploring, and snapping a pic or two of!
HB is filled with local culinary specialties offering unique food choices, which is a great excuse to go food hopping! From fresh funnels to killer pizza, creamy ice cream to waffle sandwiches, you’ll find an array of cuisine on Main Street or at the buzzing new outdoor mall, Pacific City. Here are some of my favorites!
Doughy, greasy goodness covered in powdered sugar and assorted toppings like strawberries and whipped cream, pardon me while I wipe away the drool. Equally as tasty as the funnels are the ice cream sandwiches made with freshly baked cookies. If you’ve got a nagging sweet tooth like me, this is your spot.
Bruxie is a glorified chicken and waffle house, but like most modern food establishments, they’ve got vegetarian options! The roasted mushroom and goat cheese waffle sandwich was quite possibly one of the best concoctions I’ve ever had. Savory smokey flavor and potent goat cheese topped with arugula sandwiched between the fluffiest, crispiest waffle ever, this dish is not your mommas ordinary sandwich.
Beach boulevard runs perpendicular to PCH, leading inland to tons of strip malls with more local restaurants. To escape the buzz of Huntington, we found a small and intimate jazz club serving European inspired tapas to celebrate our anniversary. The Black Trumpet is romantic and inviting with dim lighting and slow jazz music playing in the background. We snuggled in a corner booth, sipped Tuscan vino, nibbled on tapas and talked about our adventures together; past, present and future.
Other notable mentions not pictured (simply because I didn’t get a picture, equally as good, though!)
Delicious pizza with gluten free options, fresh salads, and wine infused cocktails. This is hands down the best pizza in Huntington, no doubt about it.
Nightlife in HB is wild. For whatever reason, Huntington attracts an odd mix of individuals. The suspect characters come out of the woodwork and congregate on Main Street. Boisterous groups of young twenty-somethings come in waves of laughter and there’s always some random character getting interrogated on a corner next to a guy handing out fliers for parties happening on the second floor of some building two blocks down. This is Huntington Beach on any given weekend night, but during the US Surf Open… it was brimming with lunacy.
Cops saturate every corner, thankfully, and ever since the rowdy riots a few years ago during the Surf Open, there are now neighborhood volunteers regulating their turf. Nightlife in Huntington is not really my gig. I much prefer going on a night bike ride downtown to get ice cream and just sit on a bench and watch the craziness unfold. It’s quite an entertaining spectacle. When I’ve had my fix of crazy, I head home. Come morning, walking down the same exact street as the night before almost feels like an altogether different city.
Pacific City is Huntington Beach’s newest destination for shopping, artisanal food, and nightlife. Outdoor patios buzz with people socializing. On the weekend there was a DJ, making a lively environment to hang and grab a snack or people watch.
Balboa island is technically in Newport Beach, and Newport Beach is only a short Uber ride South of Huntington. The jewel in the crown of Newport is Balboa Island, a peninsula with a coastal amusement park appropriately named the Fun Zone. There’s an arcade, a Ferris wheel, and charters to go whale watching or fishing. If you’re looking for a romantic trip take the sunset cruise, the views are enchanting and you can bring your own champagne and snacks. The captain offers insight into who lives in some of the giant mansions along the coast. You’ll spot seals cuddling on a buoy and when the sun drops on the horizon the ocean glows up like a beautiful painting. Snuggling and sipping wine at sunset was the perfect way to celebrate our fifth anniversary!
As you can see, there are tons of fun things to do in Huntington Beach. Let me know if you’ve ever been or if I missed any spots worth mentioning!
Want more summer fun? Check out my survival guide for spending the summer in Europe!