Though technically absorbed into the confines of Huntington Beach a couple of years ago, this tiny community will always be its own special place to us. Expensive-looking houses flank a relatively small stretch of PCH—most have either ocean views or harbor views—but the rest of us can party like rich locals at some choice spots, all within a few miles of sunny coastal property.
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Start the day off burning some calories and absorbing a water-reflected tan by kayaking or paddleboarding through Huntington Harbor, and get a glimpse of the good life. Sometimes, the owners of these waterfront properties leave the curtains open, allowing you to see right in. But that's not why we like to go kayaking. Really. Pick from any of the beach-weathered rental shacks lining the highway—prices for kayaks and paddleboards usually run about $15 to $20 for two hours. It's as good for your bank account as it is for your cardio tracker!
One of the newer kids on the street is Schooner at Sunset (16821 Pacific Coast Hwy., 562-592-2121; www.schooneratsunset.com), a restaurant/bar/live music venue opened by the folks of prime brunch spot Schooner Or Later. Check its site for a full calendar of live music—all of which pair well with the fine selection of craft beers, tequila-based cocktails, and beer-and-shot combos here. Bar snacks are on the gourmand side, with lobster mac and duck fries—but if it's blazing-hot outside, cool off with the heirloom gazpacho.
Just as the sun dips below the horizon, head to Don the Beachcomber (16278 Pacific Coast Hwy., 562-592-1321; www.donthebeachcomber.com), our favorite local tiki bar and restaurant, complete with indoor volcano fountain, carved tiki gods, wooden parrots—and the most delightfully low-lit drinkery called the Dagger Bar, adjacent to the theme-park-esque dining room. In addition to the best damn mai tai in SoCal, Don the Beachcomber specializes in an assortment of classic cocktails, such as the Zombie (limit two, you drunks!), the Missionary's Downfall and the Navy Grog. The drink list is categorized not by spirits (most descriptions don't even mention ingredients), but by alcohol content, measured by a number of dancing tiki icons—at least they looked like dancing tikis after our second Zombie. Get an order of Bruddah's Spam Roll, too (trust us, it's delicious). Don the Beachcomber has an assortment of live music, everything from rockabilly to jazz, but our favorite is Fully Fullwood's Reggae Sunday, blasting from the Hidden Village/High Chief's Room in the back. It's only five bucks to get in, and the money goes to charity.
And when the bars close and your stomach starts grumbling for some greasy drunk food, there's only one place: Harbor House Café (16341 Pacific Coast Hwy., 562-592-5404; www.harborhousecafe.com). A staple among night owls, college kids and salty insomniacs alike, this old-school, 24-hour diner covers its walls with movie memorabilia and its nachos with about a pound of cheese and toppings. Because nothing makes for sweeter summer slumber than a drunken head and a full belly.