Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Huntington Beach, CA

  • Published 2022/12/10

The gorgeous city of Huntington Beach, California, is one of the most beloved locations on this side of SoCal.

It probably has the best beaches and waves, hence the nickname “Surf City.”

Located in populous Orange County, Huntington Beach has 196,652 residents, with the numbers increasing during summer.

Lots of people come for the culture, the sights, and of course, the magnificent beaches.

You can still enjoy the city and its many offerings for free if you’re on a tight budget.

Plenty of destinations, activities, and events do not require entrance or admissions fees, which is great for all walks of life and preferences.

Here are free things to do in Huntington Beach, California:

See the Wildlife at Huntington State Beach

Scenic view of Huntington State Beach

MarynaG /

Most people come to Huntington Beach for the beach, so it’s not surprising that it’s the first on the list.

Thankfully, accessing the beautiful Huntington State Beach is free, so you’re welcome to visit any time you want!

You shouldn’t confuse it with Huntington City Beach, which is another destination in itself.

The two form the long strip of sand covering six miles or most of the city’s western borders.

Boardwalk at Huntington State Beach

MarynaG /

However, Huntington State Beach is a protected area that serves as a nesting ground for native California wildlife.

While you won’t see the wild and thrilling surfing competitions here, you might get a chance to spot California terns, snowy plovers, and even endangered turtles.

Aside from finding animals, you can try other modern activities like sunbathing, swimming, and biking along the Huntington Beach Bike Trail.

Visitors relaxing at Huntington State Beach

VDB Photos /

Spend Your Early Morning at Saturday Sunrise Car Cruisers

Given the diverse communities living in Huntington, you can expect many groups of people to practice various hobbies and interests.

Among these are the hot rod enthusiasts, and you can meet them all at Donut Derelict’s Saturday Sunrise Car Cruisers.

This weekly event is held on the Adams Avenue Donuts premises, gathering car enthusiasts from far and wide to see the vehicles.

You’ll see modified vintage cars glimmer under the sunlight, bright with new paint jobs and wax applied by the owners.

There’s no entrance fee, too!

You’re welcome to spend the early morning admiring the specialty builds and learning about the stories behind them.

To complete the Saturday Sunrise Car Cruisers experience, get a coffee and a donut from the shop.

They’re relatively affordable and won’t hurt your budget.

Watch the Thrilling Competitions on Huntington City Beach

View of the pier at Huntington City Beach

lunamarina /

Once you pass Beach Boulevard and continue north, you’ve officially arrived at Huntington City Beach.

This other half covers the remaining 3.5 miles of sand and is home to attractions like the Huntington Beach Pier.

The pier juts 1,850 feet into the water, making it one of the longest piers on the entire West Coast.

Vibrant sunset at Huntington City Beach

Namolik Design and Photography /

Best of all, admission to the pier is free, so you can spend a few hours fishing or just admiring the waterside views.

But the true attraction of Huntington City Beach is the surfing competitions, especially the International Surfing Association (ISA) World Surfing Games.

Watch skillful surfers on the beach for free!

Just check out the upcoming schedules and plan your vacation ahead of time.

Dog surfing competition at Huntington City Beach

KK Stock /

Explore the Huntington Beach Santa Ana River Trail

Huntington Beach offers plenty of offerings if you want to try outdoor adventures unrelated to the beach and sea.

One of these is the grand Santa Ana River Trail, with its zero-mile marker located in Huntington Beach.

From the edge of Huntington State Beach, you’ll find the southern terminus of the 30-mile multi-use trail.

View of Santa Ana River Trail

Basar, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The trail follows the eponymous body of water and is one of California’s most-used bike trails.

So if you bring your bike and other gear, you’re free to explore all the wonders along this route.

The Santa Ana River Trail will take you to places outside Huntington Beach, such as the Chino Hills, the home stadia of various Los Angeles sports teams, and scenic regional parks.

Venture into the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Birds flying over the wetlands at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Jason Finn /

If you continue north from Huntington City Beach, you’ll reach the expansive Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.

This natural reserve doubles as public land, so you won’t need to pay any fees to enter the attraction.

“Bolsa Chica” means little bag, which refers to the pockets of land that dot the marshy attraction.

Within these habitats, you’ll find plenty of native flora, fauna, and migratory species.

Stunning yellow flowers at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Debbie Eckert /

Following the numerous trails crisscrossing the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, you’ll spot rare wildlife and wildflowers.

Visit the Bolsa Chica Conservancy Interpretive Center to learn more about these animals, plants, and fungi.

They have aquariums, live animal exhibits, books, and more information about the reserve and its history.

Egret at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

KK Stock /

Stretch Your Limbs with Yoga on the Beach HB

Yoga on the Beach HB is one of the special donation-based events in the city, and it happens right on the sand.

Visit Tower 14 near the corner of 14th Street and the Pacific Coast Highway to join these relaxing classes!

Under the California sun, you’ll practice various yoga poses along with other enthusiasts.

There will be instructors to guide you as you try the Lotus or the Mountain Pose, so don’t worry about doing it wrong.

Before attending Yoga on the Beach HB, bring your mat, extra water for hydration, and sunscreen for the UV rays.

If you enjoyed the session and want to donate, the coaches will accept cash or online payments!

Spend the Afternoon at Huntington Central Park

Scenic view of Huntington Central Park

Deepti S /

As the largest city-owned facility of its kind, the magnificent Huntington Central Park is one of the area’s most-visited attractions.

The attraction covers 356 acres of land and is divided into two sections by Goldenwest Street.

On the left is Huntington Central Park West, and on the right is Huntington Central Park East.

A tree covered with pink colored flowers at Huntington Central Park

Onajourneythrunature /

Both have equally expansive grounds filled with natural attractions and artificial facilities.

Enjoy the well-equipped playgrounds, the equestrian trails, exercise courses, and three restaurants within the parks.

You’ll enjoy the glimmering lakes, nature trails, urban forests, and vibrant grounds.

If you plan accordingly, you might even catch the live shows and performances on the Amphitheater at Huntington Central Park East!

Soldiers firing cannon at Huntington Central Park

KK Stock /

Check Out the Exhibits at Huntington Beach Art Center

Along Main Street, you’ll find the thriving community attraction locals frequently visit: the Huntington Beach Art Center.

It serves as the city’s artistic and cultural hotspot, so you can expect many things to happen here.

The center is free, though they encourage donations.

Most patrons are happy to support the center after seeing the spectacles inside.

See the art exhibits from local, national, and international artists.

They also hold special events like film showings and video screenings, singing and dancing performances, and other exceptional circumstances.

These events celebrate the cultural heritage of the bustling city and its more contemporary perspectives.

Stop by the Huntington Beach Art Center if you are an art and culture connoisseur.

Join a Free Event at the Pacific City

Outside view of Pacific City

Steve Cukrov /

Yes, going to malls usually means spending money on products and services.

But that’s not the only thing you can do in Pacific City, one of the biggest malls in Huntington Beach.

There’sindow shopping, which is fun with friends and family.

Browse bags, clothes, jewelry, and other items while spending time with your loved ones.

Shops at Pacific City

Steve Cukrov /

Aside from that, Pacific City is known for its many free shows and events.

They have seasonal shows, art walks, live concerts and performances, and workshops for various hobbies and crafts.

Most of them are free, so visit the Pacific City website to see their upcoming events!

See the Big Names of Surfing at the Surfing Walk of Fame

Huntington Beach earning the nickname “Surf City” isn’t just for show.

The city locals live and breathe surfing, and you can all see the depth of this culture at the Surfing Walk of Fame.

It follows the same idea as nearby Hollywood, with plaques on tiles showcasing the best surfers from Huntington Beach and the rest of the world.

Entrance to Surfing Walk of Fame

Steve Cukrov /

Founded by six hardcore enthusiasts more than two decades ago, the Surfing Walk of Fame slowly became a must-see attraction.

People come to pay tribute and remember people inducted into the six categories: Surf Pioneer, Local Hero, Surf Culture, Surf Champion, Woman of the Year, and Honor Roll.

Much like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, visiting this attraction is free!

Bring Your Pet to the Huntington Dog Beach

A dog playing with the waves at Huntington Dog Beach

ChrisGreenTea /

A section next to the Pacific Coast Highway is dedicated to all the doggies: Huntington Dog Beach!

Add this place to your itinerary if you brought your furry best friend on vacation.

Huntington Dog Beach is a stretch of sand with all the amenities for dogs and their owners, making it an excellent place to stretch their paws and play on the water.

Dogs playing on the shores of Huntington Dog Beach

Darilynn /

You’ll find several waste bag dispensers, drinking fountains, and trashcans all over the destination.

In addition, the city regularly holds events on the dog beach, including beach days for particular breeds.

Check out the schedules and plan your itinerary accordingly.

Dog playing frisbee at Huntington Dog Beach

mikeledray /

Practice Your Skating Skills at Vans Off the Wall Skatepark

The iconic Vans sneaker brand is a staple in skating culture, and Huntington Beach is known for its urban lifestyle.

So it’s no surprise that the company has found a home in this part of SoCal.

You can experience the culture firsthand by visiting the Vans Off the Wall Skatepark!

This 35,000 outdoor attraction features the checkerboard pattern found on Vans sneakers, and there’s also an Off The Wall store on the premises.

Of course, you’re not required to buy anything from there to access the skatepark.

Everyone can enjoy the bowls, rollers, rails, and challenging stair sets.

Every day is for skaters except Wednesdays when the BMX bikers take over Vans Off the Wall Skatepark.

Discover Endemic Wildlife at the Shipley Nature Center

Signage of Shipley Nature Center

KK Stock /

Next to Huntington Beach Central Park West is a fenced-off attraction that’s perfect for wildlife lovers, the Shipley Nature Center.

It has operated since 1974 and has undergone restoration and renovation, resulting in the modern sanctuary you’ll see today.

Several habitats dot the center: meadows, oak woodlands, ponds, natural wetlands, etc.

Entrance to Shipley Nature Center

KK Stock /

These habitats support much local fauna and flora, including native insects, aquatic birds and reptiles, and endemic small mammals.

You can see all of the sections by exploring the crisscrossing trails.

Don’t forget to visit the Interpretive Center to learn more about the local species, the best times to see them, and other incredible details about the Shipley Nature Center.

Nature trail along the Shipley Nature Center

Debbie Eckert /

Other Free Things to Do Nearby

After exploring Huntington Beach’s natural and artificial wonders, check out these other free things to do in the area!

Play Sports at Mile Square Regional Park

Signage of Mile Square Regional Park

Arne Beruldsen /

The expansive Mile Square Regional Park is in Fountain Valley, California, just 16 minutes from Huntington Beach.

You can visit it if you have a few hours to spare.

It’s one of the top attractions of Fountain Valley and its most prominent.

True to its name, the park is roughly one square mile in total area.

This means there’s ample space for natural attractions and modern amenities.

Palm trees lined up at Mile Square Regional Park

Arne Beruldsen /

You’ll find regulation golf courses, basketball courts, baseball diamonds, and soccer fields at the Mile Square Regional Park.

There are also two fishing lakes, lengthy walking trails, verdant grounds, and an urban natural area filled with trees.

Lake at Mile Square Regional Park

Arne Beruldsen /

Commune with Nature at Talbert Regional Park

The unassuming Talbert Regional Park is located on the edge of Costa Mesa, California, next to the Santa Ana River, 12 minutes from Huntington Beach.

It’s just minutes from Huntington State Beach via Hamilton Avenue, but you could walk to it from the beach!

Here, you’ll enjoy acres of undisturbed coastal and riparian habitats shaped by the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ana River.

Talbert Regional Park is divided into six sections, representing distinct plant groups living along the river.

You’ll see all of them by following the trails winding through the park.

Final Thoughts

You can still enjoy the bustling city of Huntington Beach without spending a dime!

There are many places to see and activities to try: exploring natural areas, sunbathing on the beach, attending interactive events, and more.

So if you’re on a budget but still want to enjoy your next vacation, follow this list of the free things to do in Huntington Beach, California!

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