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The Pacific Coast Highway goes right through Huntington
Beach, otherwise known as Surf City USA and a popular beach resort town between
Los Angeles and San Diego. It's about 40 miles from LA and 90-100 miles from
There are plenty of places along the Pacific Coast Highway that are popular for surfing, but the series of beach towns south of Los Angeles have become real surfing hubs because of their proximity to the big city. The biggest of these towns is Huntington Beach, which has dubbed itself Surf City USA.
It has more claim than most to that title. Not only is it
the home of the US Open of Surfing,
its connection to surfing goes back to the very roots of the town - longer than
most people think surfing has been around.
The town is named after Henry Huntington, a railroad tycoon
who lived in Los Angeles and owned the Pacific Electric Railway. There was
already a small community here, and a pier that was built in 1904. The
developer behind the community was a company also owned by Henry Huntington.
Huntington added a train stop, which caused the town to grow even more. As a way of promoting it as a destination, so that more people would use the railway or buy homes, Huntington introduced the sport of surfing from Hawaii, where it was already popular. The first surfing was done here in 1914, and the town has been associated with surfing ever since.
What to Do in
There aren't that many attractions as such. It's mainly a town for enjoying the sunny climate by way of outdoor
activities like angling or kite surfing, for hanging out at the beach, and for
shopping and dining. It makes for a good base, though, especially for families.
Not only do you get the beach to enjoy, it's only a 40-minute drive to
Disneyland and an hour or so to Legoland in Carlsbad.
The big attraction for many visitors is:
Not surprisingly, Surf City USA is home to the International Surfing Museum. You
don't have to be into surfing to enjoy it. In fact the woman who originally
founded the museum, Natalie Kotsch, had never surfed in her life but that
didn't stop her enjoying watching the sport and building up the museum into the
splendid collection it is today.
In some ways the museum is more interesting if you don't
know much about surfing, then there's more for you to discover, like the way
boards have changed over the decades. Those first boards were huge, heavy
things. There's a reason you see photos of them being carried on the roof racks
of cars! Today's boards are high-tech and light enough to be easily carried.
There are fun sections on surf movies and of course surf
music and the Beach Boys. In the summer the museum put on a series of free music
concerts underneath the pier, so it's worth checking the website for dates and
Huntington Beach Pier
The first pier was built here in 1904, and today at 1,850
feet long it's one of the longest on the west coast. There are shops and a
diner, situated right at the end of the pier where you'll find amazing views up
and down the coast, and across to Santa Catalina Island.
Driving to Huntington
San Diego to
From San Diego, the quickest way is to
take I-5, then CA-73N. This takes you to I-405N for a short stretch before taking
exit 15 and heading west into Huntington Beach. It's a distance of just under
100 miles (161 kms) and could take you anything from 90 minutes to three hours depending
on the traffic.
You could also leave at exit 79 into Dana Point and then
finish the journey along the coast for the last 25 miles (40 kms), going through Laguna
Beach and Newport Beach. It cuts a few miles off the journey and the time
should be about the same.
Los Angeles to
Taking Los Angeles International Airport as a starting
point, then Huntington Beach is less than 40 miles (64 kms) south. The quickest way is
to take I-405S and you should be there in under an hour.
If you want to go the coastal route through Redondo Beach and Long Beach, take Highway 1 south from the airport and follow it all the way. The distance is about the same, but it will take you at least a couple of hours depending on traffic.
The first part through the city isn't very scenic but it's a much nicer drive once you hit the coast around Seal Beach. The highway then goes right through the centers of all those beach towns so it's slower driving. There are also more temptations to stop along the way.
Where to Stay in
I'm Staying Right Here!
Other California Coast pages
Santa Monica Pier is just off the Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica near Los Angeles, with an amusement park, an aquarium and many other attractions.
Pacific Grove is a small city on the California coast, next to Monterey and close to Carmel, with attractions including its historic Victorian houses.
Bodega Bay is a small California coastal town on the borders of Marin County and Sonoma County, and the filming location for Alfred Hitchcock's the Birds.
Pacific Coast Highway Travel's list of the best beaches in California with beaches in Santa Monica, Big Sur, Malibu, Carmel, Cambria, La Jolla and Coronado.
The Lighthouse Inn at Point Cabrillo is a romantic, historic guesthouse on the Mendocino California coast, on the Pacific Coast Highway.
Unique Inns on the Pacific Coast Highway include some of the best independently-owned boutique hotels, spas, and lodges in California, Oregon and Washington.
Lonely Planet's Coastal California guidebook is the ideal travel guide for driving or cycling the Pacific Coast Highway from the Oregon border to Mexico.
Pacific Coast Highway Travel's guide to the most scenic spots on the Pacific Coast Highway in California with Big Sur, Bixby Bridge and Pfeiffer Beach.
Santa Cruz on the Pacific Coast Highway in California has its famous boardwalk, beaches, wine tastings, Surfing Museum, Mission, and Marine Discovery Center.
San Clemente in California is a small city on the Pacific Coast Highway midway between San Diego and Los Angeles, noted for its beaches and surfing.
This Visiting Hearst Castle page gives all the practicalities including location, types of tour, length of tours, how long to allow, and much more information.
Newport Beach is a small city on the Pacific coast of southern California, right on the Pacific Coast Highway and noted for its beaches and surfing.
One of the best California coast guides is the California Coastal Access Guide, describing the coast’s beaches, National Parks, State Parks, with many maps.
The Pelican Inn and Suites in Cambria on California's Central Coast has oceanfront views, swimming pool, gardens, and is right on the beach near Hearst Castle.
Dana Point in California is the official start or end of the Pacific Coast Highway, and its attractions include whale watching, and Doheny State Beach.
Oceanside is a typical southern California beach town with a surf culture and with the Pacific Coast Highway running right through it.
Of all Eureka inns, The Carter House Inns are the most romantic and historic, with one of the best restaurants in Northern California.
Standing on the Pacific Coast Highway in California, Santa Barbara is an attractive resort with a historic downtown, sandy beaches, a mission, and good museums.
Pacific Coast Highway Travel recommends some of the top wildlife spots along the California coast.
San Luis Obispo in California is half-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, on the Pacific Coast Highway and with lots of things to do and see.
La Jolla in southern California is north of San Diego off the Pacific Coast Highway and has museums, restaurants, hotels, beaches, and the Birch Aquarium.
Morro Bay is a delightful small town on the California coast roughly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles and noted for the huge Morro Rock.
Crescent City is on the Pacific Coast Highway in northern California and noted for its crescent-shaped beach, Ocean World sea park, and nearby redwoods and state parks.
Pismo Beach is a small beach town on California's Central Coast, a resort famous for surfing and clams.
Santa Catalina Island, or Catalina Island, is off the shore of Southern California and reachable from Long Beach, San Pedro, Newport Beach, and Dana Point.
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