Going back to Cali means sun, surf and sand, and you'll get all that and then some (such as great food, fun shops, and yes, cute surfers), in the city where surfing originated in 'Merica. Just an hour drive from Los Angeles, it's perfect for a side trip or a week-long surf getaway.
stay: The vibrant, cheerful colour scheme of the boutique hotel Kimpton Shorebreak is perfectly matched with amiable staff. Wine hour daily at 5 p.m. adds to the happy vibe, although we were already all smiles after a day of chilling out on the sun-drenched beach. (Be sure to grab chairs and towels at the front desk before hopping across the street to nab your spot on the sand.) Kimpton Hotels + Restaurants, 222 Kearny St, Ste 200, San Francisco, 1-800-KIMPTON (546-7866)
sport: Squeeze into a wetsuit and take a lesson in this legendary spot where surfing was born in the U.S.A. Knowledgeable instructors from Toes on the Nose will teach you how to carry your board, spot a good wave, time jumping up onto the board and wipe out safely. For a more calm watersport, try a standup paddle boarding lesson with Rocky McKinnon, a local pro surfer and boarder. McKinnon doesn't just hand you a SUP, make sure you can stand on the board and send you away from shore; he'll help you perfect your turns and stroke so you'll leave a more confident paddler. But water babes don't get all the fun in SoCal. Land lovers should borrow the complimentary beach cruisers from the Shorebreak Hotel for a carefree bike along the beach. Shorebreak Hotel,500 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, CA, 714-816-4470
savour: Refuel post-surfing right in the Shorebreak at Zimzala (think Hawaiian ahi poke and Moroccan chicken with golden couscous). For a fantastic view of the beach, grab lunch one day on the modern garden-chic patio of BLK Earth Sea Spirits for one of their affordable specials (the ahi salad is fresh and satisfying). And get your so very SoCal breakfast -- a smoothie bowl -- at Banzai Bowls just a five-minute walk from the hotel. Their substantial (read enormous) açai or pitaya bowls are loaded heavily with fruit and granola, so you may want to share one. The Original Banzai Bowls, 222 5th St, Huntington Beach, CA, (714) 594-3220,
spa: Surfing and SUP may leave your muscles a bit sore, so make sure to book a massage at Pacific Waters Spa. This spa in the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach occupies 20,000 square feet of space dedicated to pampering. Make sure to budget plenty of time after your treatment to kick back in this space that'll make you feel as though you've escaped to the Spanish countryside, that is, a countryside decked out with luxurious steam room, sauna and waterfall showers. Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa, 21500 Pacific Coast Hwy, Huntington Beach, CA, 714-845-4772,
stargaze: Book a nighttime beach bonfire on the beach through Waterfront Adventures for a s'mores night out (they build the fire and stock you with the requisite marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers, along with chairs and blankets). As you eat your sweet and gooey dessert, sit back beneath the twinkling sky and take in the soothing sound of the waves lapping at the shore in the dark of the night. California dreaming? Nope, just everyday life in this surf town. And we'll take it. Waterfront Adventures. 21100 Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach, CA, 714-845-8000. -- Karen Kwan
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