Huntington Beach’s love affair with surf and surfing started all the way back in 1910, when Henry Huntington hired the father of modern surfing, George Freeth, to show off his moves in the waves off Huntington Beach.
Since then, Huntington Beach has been known for its sand and waves. It has seven excellent beaches to choose from when you’re picking a spot for a beach day, including a dog beach. No matter which beach you choose, there’s a spot that’ll make you happy.
Bolsa Chica State Beach
Location: 18331 East Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, CA
Parking: Designated parking lots with day use fees required
Hours: 6AM-10PM. Gates close at 9PM.
This state beach has an enviable spot along PCH across from the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. This gives you plenty of parking options and the Reserve gives you lots of opportunities for birdwatching and nature walking.
That’s not to say there isn’t a lot to do on the beach itself. Bolsa Chica beach has fantastic waves, plenty of space on the sand, fishing opportunities (including summer grunion fishing), and even RV camping (no tents, sorry!).
There are plenty of accessible features here to enhance your beach experience.
There’s a multi-use trail for your walking, biking and running needs; make sure you keep an eye out for fellow enthusiasts and obey the rules of the road.
Sorry, no dogs allowed on the sand but they are welcome on the beach path and in the campground area.
Huntington City Beach
Location: E. Pacific Coast Hwy. & Main Street, Huntington Beach
Parking: Designated parking lot with day use fees required
Hours: 5AM-10PM. Gates close at 9PM.
The big draw here is the iconic pier with its fishing opportunities and food offerings. It’s also a fantastic place to take in the sunset views over this public beach.
Huntington City Beach is a great activity beach that includes surf lessons; keep your eyes open to watch the professional surfers commune with the waves.
Lifeguards are on duty. Restrooms and showers are available. There’s even a campground if you’re so inclined. In fact, HCB might be the perfect place to camp for the weekend, sunbathe, and enjoy some good eats at the local restaurants in popular Downtown HB or at the open air shopping center, Pacific City.
Leashed dogs are allowed on the paved multi-use bike trail, but not on the sand or the pier.
Huntington Dog Beach
Location: E. Pacific Coast Hwy. and Goldenwest St., Huntington Beach, CA 92648
Parking: Several lots are available up the bluff with metered parking
If you want to see a big grin on your furbaby’s face as they romp up the beach, Huntington Dog Beach is where you want to go. This bit of sand is at the northern end of Huntington City Beach; just make sure you stay between Seapoint and 21st Streets. Well-behaved dogs are accepted off-leash on the sand.
The Huntington Beach Bike Trail runs adjacent to the beach… if you decide to take your dog on this road, make sure they’re on a proper six-foot leash.
While this is primarily a dog beach, you can fish and surf here if you want.
Restrooms and showers are available. There’s also a grassy area and a few picnic tables available for your noshing needs.
Lifeguards are on duty in season.
Huntington State Beach
Location: East Pacific Coast Hwy. and Magnolia St., Huntington Beach, CA 92646
Parking: Designated parking lot with required day use fees
Hours: 6AM-10PM. Gates close at 9PM.
This beach has it all… and we do mean “all”… including a lot of available parking.
This enormous stretch of Southern California sand is large enough to accommodate a lot of beachgoers, and there are enough activities and amenities to keep any daytripper happy.
Swimming, sunbathing, surfing (body and board)… fishing, skating, biking, picnicking… even volleyball and basketball courts and a snack bar.
Lifeguards are on duty. Restrooms and showers are available.
There are plenty of accessible features here to help you enjoy the beach to the fullest. A beach wheelchair is available to rent if you need it. Call (714) 536-1454 for more information.
Sorry, no dogs are allowed on the sand, although they’re welcome on the paved multi-use trail.
JG Island Beach
Location: E. Pacific Coast Hwy. and Brookhurst St., Huntington Beach, CA 92646
Parking: Huntington State Beach Parking Lot, day use fees required
Hours: 6AM-10PM. Gates close at 9PM.
Local secret JG Island Beach is part of the much larger Huntington State Beach. The name refers to the southern bit of the beach that butts up to the local wildlife preserve. Use parking Lot 0 or Lot 1 for the easiest access, but you can also come in from Seashore Drive.
Once you park, you’ll find great birdwatching courtesy of the California Least Tern Protection Area. There’s also a great view of the pier in the distance and good views of local surfers trying their hand at the waves.
Don’t want to sit and watch? The Huntington Beach Bike Trail and the Santa Ana River Trail run through the area.
Restrooms are available.
Sorry, no dogs allowed.
Location: 19th St. and South Pacific Ave., Huntington Beach, CA 92649
Parking: Free street parking along Pacific Avenue
Sunset Beach is a reasonably quiet county-owned and operated beach in the Sunset Beach community. It’s a great resource for outdoor recreation with its paved bike path, beach volleyball courts, and kid-friendly playground. If sand isn’t your thing, head over to the grass area to hang out and maybe have a picnic without worrying about sand in your food.
This beach is notable for allowing kitesurfing in addition to regular surfing. Keep an eye open for stingrays and don’t forget to do the stingray shuffle to cut down on the chance of being stung.
Lifeguards are on duty, and there are restrooms available. Grab a shower to wash the sand and salt off before you get back into the car.
Sorry, dogs aren’t allowed on the beach.
Location: Anderson St. & Surfside Ave., Seal Beach, CA 90740
Parking: Park for free along Pacific Avenue.
You won’t be able to access most of Surfside Beach without being a resident of Surfside Colony, but there is public access to part of this beach (on the water side of the sand berms.)
The sand berms are a major part of Surfside; erosion is a serious issue here. The berms help the beach (and the homes behind it) survive winter storm waves. Those waves also provide some great surfing opportunities, so bring your board.
There aren’t any facilities here. Plan accordingly.
Sorry, no dogs are allowed on the beach.
Secret: Surfside Colony has its own secret tunnel! It was supposed to link the ocean side of Surfside Colony to its twin on the other side of PCH. The tunnel still exists, but it’s closed off.
Here are some things to know before you go:
- You can take an EZ-up or open tent, but no enclosed tents are allowed on the beach.
- Dogs are not allowed on the sand. Paved trails yes, beach no.
- No alcohol.
- Do not bring pinatas or balloons. They’re not allowed because they could harm local wildlife.
- No charcoal grills are allowed on the beach.
- There are firepits available, but they are first come first served.
- RVs may park in the regular lot, but you have to either be in it or actively on the beach. Pop-out awnings can’t be opened in the parking lot.
Speaking of parking…
Parking isn’t the first worry you have when you’re going to the beach, but it’s probably a close second.
Huntington Beach has their approach to parking on lock. Sunset and Surfside beachgoers will have to search for street parking, which can be tough on weekends and holidays. The city and state beaches all have lots, including several smaller lots along PCH. Pay for your parking via one of the kiosks. There is also metered parking along select areas of PCH.
If you’re a frequent visitor to Huntington Beach, make your life easier by opting for a parking pass. Most city beaches and facilities will accept them and having a parking pass means you can spend less time worrying about how to pay for your spot and more time worrying about how to get all the sand off the kids before they get into the car. Even better, Huntington Beach parking passes have several pay tiers so that you can customize your pass to your needs.
Purchase the California State Parks annual pass to get into Bolsa Chica and Huntington State beaches (and the majority of the other beaches and state parks throughout Southern California). If you’re a frequent beach-goer or you like to explore new places, this one will pay for itself in no time.
You’ve heard of try before you buy? Now you can check the beach before you put all the sand toys in the car. Check current conditions here.
The beach is for everybody; Huntington Beach tries to make sure its facilities are as accessible as possible to as many patrons as possible. Several of the state park beaches on this list have accessible features: bike paths, paved walkways, accessible picnic shelters, special RV spots and more. Check each entry for specific details.
Beach Safety Tips
The beach is a paradise, but there are a few things you need to be aware of to keep your visit as trouble-free as possible:
- Always ask the lifeguards about water conditions.
- Shuffle! Shuffling your feet as you walk along the sandy ocean bottom will warn stingrays away from you before you accidentally step on them.
- Never swim by yourself.
- When you’re bodyboarding, wiping out, or otherwise swimming into shore, keep a hand out. Extending a hand will help keep your head and face from a painful meeting with the sand.
- Don’t drink and swim! If you shouldn’t do it behind the wheel, you shouldn’t do it in the water.
- If the surf is high and you’re not a strong swimmer… stay on shore.
- Swim near staffed lifeguard towers.
- Fill in any deep holes you dig in the sand. Nobody wants to trip.
- Don’t bring glass to the beach. If it breaks, everyone’s feet are at risk.
Explore More Orange County Beaches
|Best Beaches In Orange County||Best Surf Spots in Orange County|
|OC Bucket List: Huntington Beach||Beach Bonfires & Fire Pits in Orange County|
|City of Huntington Beach||Best Beach Resorts in Orange County|
Kelly Smith is a freelance writer living in Southern California with one dog, two cats, two guinea pigs… and the rest of her family. She writes about Orange County, faith, family, special needs and tea, and world-builds science fiction universes on the side. Find her at www.bluerosecopywriting.com.