Huntington Beach, California: A Teen Paradise

By Amy Parlapiano

As a sixteen year old, I speak for myself and other teens when I say a dream vacation can be anywhere, as long as a beach is involved. But with so many beaches in the world, how can one choose? Well, after visiting Huntington Beach, California last June with my mom, I think I found my perfect match.

Officially known as ďSurf City USAĒ (see, itís so cool thereís even a song written about it), Huntington Beach offers just about every activity imaginable, whether youíre into surfing, shopping, rollerblading, biking, skateboarding, or beach volleyball. Itís a teenagerís dream.

The first thing I saw as I walked along the beach was the giant pier that stretches more than 1,000 feet across the ocean. This bustling boardwalk is crammed with people and dotted with cool shops, like a kite store. Few know that this pier was actually built over a century ago, in 1904, and has suffered through much destruction since then by natural disasters. Over 10 years ago, the pier was redone with new structural supports to be better suited for storms and earthquakes. One of the additions was a restaurant called Rubyís Surf City Diner. Itís the building with the red roof, all the way at the end of the pier, and itís where local teens go for burgers, fries, sandwiches and salads. The portions are huge! You can sit by the window and listen to Beach Boys music blasting from the jukebox as you watch the surfers riding the waves below.

The view from the pier is awesome and you can see just how breathtakingly beautiful it is here. The sapphire ocean glistens in the sun as the sound of waves crashing fills your ears. Palm trees line the soft sand, while beautiful houses like the ones on TVís The OC tower behind the beach. Speaking of The OC, many people may wonder how accurately the show portrays the area. Although I canít speak for Newport Beach, where the show is actually set, I can say that Huntington Beach seems to be nothing like the show. Of course, you do see gorgeous mansions, and thereís no doubt the area is wealthy, but the people I encountered didnít show any snobbishness whatsoever. In fact, everyone here seemed really laid back, carefree; always friendly and smiling and ready to make their way to the beach. I guess they really have no reason to be unhappy when theyíre living in a place like this!

One of the most appealing things about Surf City USA is that itís an extremely active place. One of my personal favorite activities was bike riding up and down the 8 Ĺ- mile strand that runs along the ocean. I hadnít ridden a bike in years, yet it instantly became natural to me. I imagined how much fun my friends and I would have if we went together; weíd race our bikes up the hill, ringing our bells as we zoomed past each other. Many Huntington Beach residents own their own bikes, but tourists can get them from one of the many rental shops along the beach. We rode up to Dog Beach, which is just as beautiful as the main beach by the pier, but with one slight difference: Dogs are allowed! It must be so nice having the option of waking up in the morning and walking your dog over to Dog Beach for a swim. If I lived here, Iíd bike every day -- looking out at the beautiful ocean as the wind blows at my back. Itís like paradise, except with a lot more to do!

And of course, who could go to Surf City USA without taking a whack at hanging ten? Of course, Iím talking about Huntington Beachís claim to fame: Surfing! On the day I surfed, the water was rough and the conditions not perfect, but my mom and I braved it anyway. And it was most definitely worth it. After a quick training session on land from the instructors at ďToes on the Nose,Ē we were broken up into small groups and taken into the water. I wiped out about 100 times, but was unwilling to give up. Iíd come so close to getting up on my board and then lose my balance at the last minute. On my one last try before our lesson was over, I finally succeeded! I got up on my board! Even if it was for about less than 2 seconds before I plunged back into the water, it was still a great feeling Ė one that would stay with me for the remainder of the trip.

After the surfing, we were pretty wet and chilly. So after relaxing for a little while on the beautiful beach, my mom and I retreated to our absolutely gorgeous hotel, The Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort. Outside, itís surrounded by flowers; while inside, the lobby has a tropical garden complete with palm trees and a waterfall. After a refreshing shower, we headed back out for a walk around the town, where shopping is a must for all teenagers. No matter what youíre into, youíll find something, guaranteed. Make sure you check out the vintage clothing shops, the Shoe Lab and The Rock and Roll Emporiumówhere I saw a very cool boom box bag. For fellow teenage girls, I also recommend HB Wahine, an all girls surf shop with a Hawaiian feel. It has all the necessities for surfing, whether youíre a beginner or a pro, and at night they even show surf movies and girls can just come in and hang out. I know I, for one, would love to have something like that near me. Another one of my favorites was The HB Store, where I bought a unique dress with palm trees sewed on it (I get compliments every time I wear it!), along with a new pair of sunglasses, which are essential in Surf City, where the weather is always sunny and perfect. As a bonus, I happened to be there on a weekend, so the Main Street Art-A-Fair was going on, where people sell some exceptionally original crafts. We purchased a really cool bathmat in shape of a surfboard, and I found some nice pieces of jewelry that Iíve never seen anywhere else. I bought some for my friends as souvenirs, as well as something for myself, because I just couldnít resist.

All that shopping can make you pretty tired, so we went back to the Hilton and chilled by the pool, where waiters and waitresses will get you a drink, if youíre in the mood for one (which I always was, virgin strawberry daiquiri, of course!). The pool was very pretty, although I didnít actually go in. The whole environment around it was very peaceful and tranquil, making it very easy to fall asleep on the comfortable pool chair. That happened to me several times, and by the time I would wake up, it would be time for dinner, which sparked no objections from me.

The food was absolutely outstanding, one of my favorite things about the whole trip. I think I gained about 20 pounds, but it was totally worth it. Huntington Beach has all three major meals completely covered. For breakfast, we went to a famous little hot spot called The Sugar Shack, where the surfers fuel up before hitting the waves. The atmosphere there was vintage Surf City. And as for the breakfast itself, it was phenomenal, (I highly recommend the French Toast!) I finished every last bite, so by noon, I didnít think I would be hungry for anything at our lunch destination: Dukes. However, I immediately realized that the food would be hard to resist, no matter how full I was. After finishing a delicious Crispy Wonton Salad, my mom and I split a mouthwatering dessert called Hula Pieómacadamia nut ice cream piled on a chocolate cookie crust and slathered with whipped cream and syrup. We gobbled it up, despite the fact that we had both said we were completely stuffed just moments before. And my personal favorite place to eat dinner was Peteís Sunset Grille, located over at the Hyatt Regency Resort (another gorgeous hotel, where I plan to stay on my next visit!). Peteís has great burgers, fries and pulled pork sandwiches, and amazing desserts. But the best part was the entertainment (they have live bands on Friday and Saturday nights). We ate outside in the courtyard, and while we were there, they had a great Rolling Stones cover band, (I swear, the lead singer looked exactly like Mick Jagger), as well as a Janis Joplin imitator and a Jefferson Airplane tribute band. The Rolling Stones were by far my favorite!

Besides the food, another memorable part of the trip was the bonfire on the beach at night (which, coincidently, involves more food!) We arrived around 9ish at our fire ring, lit our bonfire, and assembled our símores. Hotel beach butlers can provide you with símore packets with graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate, or you can buy them at the gift shops. We were informed by the surfer dude who was helping us that the more stuff you put into your fire, the bigger it will be. And he was certainly right. Our fire soon became comparable to the humongous ones surrounding us, and we roasted our marshmallows and enjoyed our símores. The bonfire is a tradition at Huntington Beach, and one of the things itís famous for. The beach was packed with people sitting by their fires. Again, while I was sitting at ours, I was thinking about my friends and what a blast we would have if they were there with me.

One of the biggest indulgences of the trip was our visit to Hyatt Regency Resortís gorgeous, upscale Spa. My mom received a massage and I received a really cool teen facial. I was given advice on how to keep my skin clear, and even given a little gift bag of cream for my face. It was an extremely relaxing experience, and although itís a bit of a splurge, itís absolutely worth it. Make sure you bring a bathing suit in case you want to take a dip in the hot tub; they also have a sauna and a steam room. Once we left, my mom and I were both completely peaceful, and itís amazing how a really good treatment like that can make you so much happier. Not that we needed to be much happier than we already were, staring out at the ocean as we walked back to our hotel.

Iíll be the first to admit that we teenagers are a hard bunch to please. But Surf City USA should certainly be proud of how well they cater to teens. As I walked down the streets in awe of my surroundings, I envied the residents who thought of this as every day life. The perfect weather, the gleaming ocean, the great stores. How could anyone actually live here? It was straight out of a movie, everybodyís dream place to live. While lying on the beach at one point, I put together a list of reasons to read to my parents of why moving here would be absolutely essential to our existence. I think it was pretty convincing. Weíd all be really tan, weíd all be really fit, and weíd all be really gnarly at surfing. The food would be pretty far up on my list, but that kind of contradicts the being really fit thing, and might spark confusion from my parents. Moving here has now become one of my goals in life, no matter how out of reach it may sound. Until then, I guess Iíll start making a new list about why we have to go back and vacation in Huntington Beach as soon as humanly possible. After all, what better place could there be for teens than Huntington Beach, California, where the sun always shines and the surf is always mad awesome, dude.

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