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Huntington Beach 

Welcome to Huntington Beach – known as ‘Surf City USA’ – where 15 kilometres of uninterrupted beach meets one sparkling blue ocean. This SoCal locale earned its reputation as a mecca for surfing more than a century ago, and its town serves as a laid-back base for those seeking exceptional sun, sand and surf. 

Huntington Beach is situated along the same stretch of gorgeous coast as Newport Beach, Laguna Beach and Long Beach. Safer and less crowded than many of Los Angeles’ rival hot spots, the city is a fantastic family-friendly choice for a California beach holiday. Even after sunset, its beachfront has plenty to offer; gather around a firepit to toast s'mores and trade stories late into the night. 

One of the best times to visit Huntington Beach is between July and August, when the weather is warm, the sun is shining, and the beaches are at their best. Towards the end of July, the town is buzzing as the annual US Open of Surfing brings competitors and spectators to the coast. If you’re inspired by these professionals carving up the Pacific, note that beginner surfers may be better served 30 kilometres away approx. at Laguna Beach. Experienced surfers, however, will fall head-over-heels for the superior waves here.  

With breath-taking views of the ocean, the Montage Laguna Beach has received award-winning distinction for its elegant accommodation, ocean-inspired spa and distinctive regional dining. Choose from a selection of swimming pools, onsite activities and outstanding tennis and golf facilities.

Newport Beach

Newport Beach offers plenty for pleasure seekers. From harbours chocka-block with luxury yachts to the swollen waves of The Wedge – a haven for serious surfers, this O.C. city revolves around its gorgeous coastline. Here, you can enjoy sublimely fresh seafood, perennially pleasant weather and some of the best beaches in California.

Don’t stay planted to the beach, though – take a boat out for a scenic tour. Combine seafaring with seafood by hiring a private ‘Duffy’ boat to sail from dockside-restaurant to dockside-restaurant. You’ll enjoy views of the palm-dotted coast and the opulent private homes that nestle along it. Or hop aboard the ferry for a 10-minute journey across the bay to Balbao Island. This pretty islet encapsulates the seaside charm of Newport Beach. It’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon. You can also embark from Newport Bay for a chance to glimpse majestic grey, blue and minke whale during a whale-watching tour.

Visit the city at the tail-end of April for the Newport Beach Film Festival, an annual showcase of more than 350 films from over 50 countries. Whilst you watch everything from blockbusters to indie gems, you can also enjoy the springtime weather – warm, sunny and with little rainfall.  

Laguna Beach 

Expect warm weather and a warm welcome year-round at Laguna Beach. This arty O.C. resort town offers everything you could want on a California beach holiday: 11 kilometres of sandy coast, 30 hidden coves to explore, sapphire-blue waves and a laid-back, family-friendly attitude. 

It’s the perfect place for a surf lesson, paddle-boarding session or kayak tour. If you’re feeling adventurous, try your hand at skimboarding, a sport created in the 1920s when local lifeguards took to riding shore breaks on pieces of wood. Or, if you’d rather go under the water than over it, snorkel and dive to see abundant wildlife; thanks to its status as a marine protected area, Laguna Beach’s underwater ecosystem is thriving. When the tide is out, there’s still more to see. Peer into the rock pools of Treasure Island, which teem with life. 

Laguna Beach has more to offer than its seaside, though. There are 8,000 hectares of rugged wilderness to explore by bike or by foot, gorgeous green parks to wander through and play in as well as art exhibitions and festivals to sate culture vultures. 

As with all of California’s best seaside resorts, there are myriad beachfront hotels to choose from in Laguna Beach, both grand and boutique. After days on the shore, return with sand between your toes and saltwater in your hair, to recuperate in blissful comfort.

San Diego

The surf’s always up in San Diego. Situated on the gorgeous Pacific coast, with Mexico barely an hour’s drive away, the city exudes an easy-going attitude. Some of the best beaches in California are here, and the predictably warm weather means you can enjoy them year-round. Aside from sun, sea and sand, there’s the city’s historic Gaslamp Quarter, iconic Balboa Park as well as some of America’s best craft beer to enjoy. Dodge the overcast skies typical of grey May and gloomy June by visiting between September and November. Not only will you love bathing in the San Diego sun, you’ll love dodging the busy crowds of summer.

There’s plenty of choice when it comes to experiencing the city’s ocean locale, but for a real taste of A&K luxury, board a private yacht for a sight-seeing excursion around the coast. When your eyes aren’t skimming the wagging masts of harbour-bound boats or the luxurious sea-front properties dotting the shore, keep an eye out for marine life. San Diego’s waterfront is frequented by dolphin, sea lion and even whale, all of which may breach the water to say hello. 

Boasting a beachfront location and glorious views of the Pacific, Hotel Coronado surrounds you with the best of San Diego’s seaside leisure. Tee-off on the golf course, indulge yourself at the spa and curl up in one of the richly dressed Victorian Rooms. The hotel’s Vibz teen lounge will keep the kids entertained, making this the ideal accommodation for a California family holiday. 


For holiday inspiration, see our main California destination page.

Click here to return to The Ultimate Guide to California start page.