Huntington Beach’s surf culture used to define the destination at just about every turn.
Surfer vans dot the beach and a 42-ft surfboard holding 66 people, deemed the world’s largest board by Guinness World Records, took to the waves last year. Groups can marvel at the craftsmanship of those who made it at the International Surfing Museum. And if you’re looking for something entirely new in SurfCity USA, you won’t have to look far.
The city has begun to transform from traditional surfer town into a more expansive yet walkable destination for groups. The Pacific City outdoor mall opened in late 2015, connecting long-standing meeting properties to its downtown core. And the recent debut of the Pasea Hotel & Spa—which opened this past June—added another 250 rooms to the city.
We toured the Pasea a couple weeks before it opened. The first thing attendees will notice when pulling up to the hotel is the 25-by-50-ft LED light installation on the side of the building, which features rotating art—for instance, pictures of local surfers. Inside, the Treehouse Lounge, featuring a bar built to look like a tree, sits atop Tanners Restaurant and makes an ideal event space for up to 120. The rest of the property’s roughly 34,600 sf of meeting space has a flow to it; the 8,400-sf Sapphire Ballroom connects to the 14,600-sf Ocean Lawn.
“Because of how travel savvy our millennial clients are, we feel like the meeting space resonates with today’s meeting planner because it allows you to bring the outdoors in,” says Jamilia Dunbar, marketing manager for the hotel.
Get Out & Play
While all local resorts can help organize group activities, the 517-room Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa partnered with Toes on the Nose to offer private surf lessons, bike rentals and yoga sessions. The hotel is the only one in town that has a bridge, connecting the hotel to the beach across the Pacific Coast Highway. This makes it easy for attendees to take lessons or simply rent a surfboard or body board and head to the beach on their own.
Attendees who are new to boarding can try stand-up paddleboarding. Local Instructor Rocky McKinnon met us at Huntington Harbour to instruct us in calmer waters. Once we mastered the art of moving forward and turning around, we paddled past houses and docked yachts set on the water.
The hotel also offers groups the quintessential California meeting experience through its “Breakouts on the Beach” program, where groups can take their entire meeting to the sand. They can also create a beach bonfire experience for groups on its lawn or on the beach. Our group had dinner on the lawn before ending the night fireside with a make-your-own-s’more dessert—a first for some.