The early winter months are a great time to visit southern California (SoCal). The temperatures are generally moderate (65-70 degrees Fahrenheit in January), it’s almost always sunny, and there’s so much to see and do.
In fact, we just returned from Huntington Beach, CA, a few days ago and packed quite a bit into just a 4-day mini break.
If you’re not familiar with Huntington Beach, CA, it’s located about 45 minutes southeast of Los Angeles, 20 minutes from Santa Ana airport, and about 1.5-2 hours north of San Diego.
Huntington Beach, known as Surf City, USA, is primarily a beach town, but its location makes it a great home base to see many other beach towns in SoCal area.
This time around, we stayed at the luxurious Hyatt Huntington Beach Resort, located just across Pacific Coast Hwy from the beach. It was my family’s second time staying on the property together, but I’ve also stayed there 2-3 other times on business trips. Each time I’ve stayed, I’ve been more than pleased with the resort’s cleanliness, services and host of amenities it provides.
But honestly, the best thing about this property is its location. Although not directly on the beach, access to the beach is quite easy, just steps away from the resort via a private pedestrian overpass walkway. It is also very centrally located, making it easy to visit area attractions, shopping venues and incredible restaurants.
There’s so much to do within a 30-minute drive that you could easily spend a week there and not get to everything on your list. Take a look at all Huntington Beach (and the surrounding area) has to offer this winter within 30 minutes or less:
16 Things to Do in the Huntington Beach Area in Winter
1. Start your day with a beachfront run – I ran for several miles every morning along the beachfront path. It’s such a scenic, peaceful place for a run, jog or walk…or just sit in the sand and watch the waves hit the shore.
2. Lounge at Huntington Beach – The large and lovely beachfront is located just over the pedestrian bridge accessible from the resort. Before taking the stairs or elevator down to the beach level, be sure to grab your beach towels and other complimentary beach accessories from the resort attendant.
3. Walk along the Huntington Beach Pier – If you walk northwest down the beach path for about 15 min, you’ll run into one of HB’s most iconic landmarks – the Huntington Beach Pier. The pier is one of the longest on the West Coast (over 1800 ft long) and offers views of Catalina Island, Newport Beach and Long Beach, not to mention great photo ops!
4. Shop the latest fashion trends at Pacific City – About a 7-minute walk from the pier, you’ll find the glamorous Pacific City, an outdoor shopping mall full of cool restaurants and trendy stores like Brandy Melville, Free People, H&M, Lululemon and Urban Outfitters. It’s also a super convenient place to grab lunch or any items (like a swim suit) that you may have forgotten to pack.
5. Rent a bike – Cruise down the beachfront path for miles and miles (yes, you can literally bike from Huntington Beach to Newport Beach in about 30 min). The resort rents bikes from their on-property Toes on the Nose shop, but there are other bike rental options on the beach or in town.
6. Watch or participate in beach volleyball – Although you can play volleyball anywhere on the beach, the most popular volleyball location can be found just south of the resort along the beach path. Nets are free and available on a first-come, first-served basis. No ball, no worries! Balls are available for rent at beach concessionaires.
7. Practice yoga on beach – The Hyatt offers guests many complimentary activities during their stay. For the first time, I was able to actually attend a beach yoga class with my daughter and had a great experience. Thanks to our fitness instructor Shane, we had a private, 45-min yoga session and also learned more about better stretching and breathing techniques.
8. Gather around a beach bonfire or firepit – The resort offers a bonfire concierge service, where for a considerable fee, they can set you up with chairs and s’mores around a private beach bonfire or a resort fire table. If you’re not looking to spend that much, the resort has many fire tables available at a first come first use basis.
9. Indulge in a spa treatment– The Hyatt resort’s Pacific Waters Spa is one of the best spas I’ve been to on vacation. It offers a full suite of spa services and treatments as well lavish amenities, including sauna, steam room, waterfall showers, private whirlpools, outdoor relaxation areas, a state-of-the-art fitness center, and personal lockers.
10. Watch and be amazed by SoCal surfers – On any given day, surfers can be found gliding across the waves, and not just in January, but all throughout the year. The best times to spot surfers are in the early morning or late afternoon hours, and on the weekends or holidays.
11. Relax by the pool – The Hyatt has multiple pools all around the property including those with a full service bar and food options. The heated pool water often feels like bath water so it’s easy to spend hours there, whether swimming, enjoying the water slide or just sipping your favorite cocktail on a lounge chair.
12. Embrace your inner foodie – We’ve never had a bad meal in SoCal, and Huntington Beach is no exception. We have an affinity for Hawaii so we always love Duke’s on the beach and Tommy Bahama (just a few min drive away in Newport Beach). We also really enjoyed Shorebird (also in Newport Beach) and Ola Mexican Kitchen (Pacific City).
13. Hike at nearby trails – You may not associate SoCal with hiking, but in reality, there are many hiking spots and trails all over the area. This time, we headed to Carbon Canyon Regional Park to hike the easy path to the small Redwoods grove. It wasn’t as magical as John Muir Woods near San Fran, but it was our closest option to see Redwoods in the area. Thanks to our resort’s yoga instructor, we also hiked the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park Dartmoor trail, a trail mostly used by locals and tourists who are in-the-know. During the hour long hike (30 min uphill), we were treated to incredible views of Laguna Beach and the Pacific Ocean.
14. Make some magic at Disneyland – While we didn’t go to Disney this time around, we have enjoyed Disneyland and California Adventure many times in the past. The park is no more than a 30 minute drive (no highways) from the resort, making it super easy to spend a full day enjoying the rides and shows, and convenient enough to spend the night back at your comfy, beachfront resort.
15. Beach hop down PCH – If you have a car, take a day or two to beach hop along the many coastal towns and beaches all along Pacific Coast Highway. We absolutely loved Laguna Beach and Newport Beach and both are less than a 30 minute drive from the resort.
16. Catch one (or two or three) amazing sunsets – The best thing about sunsets is that they happen every night! So unless the weather is really bad (which it rarely is in SoCal) you’ll have your pick of gorgeous sunsets either from your resort balcony or just across the bridge at the beach.
If you’re thinking about a SoCal escape this winter, why not give Huntington Beach a try?
Travel often, travel well, my friends!