7 Authentic Aloha Spirit Experiences Right Here at Huntington Beach

UPDATED: March 15, 2024 — I’ll bet that the Aloha Spirit found at Huntington Beach is one of the reasons the California beach was just named the fourth most popular beach in the USA. 

A recent study by journeyera.com rated US beaches based on Instagram hashtags.*  Read on for the rest of the story…

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I was surprised to catch the Aloha Spirit at Huntington Beach when I stayed at the California beach town a while back.

Since Maui might not yet be ready for our visits, I thought it would be good to offer up this story about how to find the Aloha Spirit in an alternative location.

But first…

What is the Aloha Spirit?

6 surfboards mounted on an outdoor wall spell out A-L-O-H-A-with LocalMotion logo on 5th board- each board is in solid color making almost a rainbow of colors on the wall
Aloha Spirit captured on surfboards | Photo by little plant on Unsplash

According to Hawaiian state law, “Aloha Spirit is the coordination of mind and heart within each person. It brings each person to the self. Each person must think and emote good feelings to others.”

Yes! It’s so important to Hawaiian culture that there is even an Aloha Spirit law about the Aloha Spirit!

The decree declares: “‘Aloha’ is more than a word of greeting or farewell or a salutation.

‘Aloha’ means mutual regard and affection and extends warmth in caring with no obligation in return.

‘Aloha’ is the essence of relationships in which each person is important to every other person for collective existence. ‘Aloha’ means to hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable.”

So now that we know what the Aloha Spirit is, let’s look at seven authentic experiences right here at Huntington Beach:

1.) "Embracing the Aloha Spirit: Discover Peace as a 'Zimzala'

UNSTOPPABLE Stacey experiences life as a Zimzala in the sands of Huntington Beach

During my Huntington Beach escape, I learned I am a “Zimzala.” I always thought I was “UNSTOPPABLE Stacey,” but now I know for sure that I am a Zimzala.

Sitting in a beach chair on Huntington Beach, I enjoyed the sound of the crashing surf, dreamily breathing in fresh ocean air and digging my toes into the sand.

“A Zimzala is a free-spirited person who finds peace with sand between her toes,” local Carla Dispalatro was explaining in an ad hoc lesson in surfer lingo and the Aloha Spirit. I looked down at my toes, burrowing into the warm, clean sand. And just like that, I felt the Aloha Spirit as a Zimzala.

“A Zimzala, no doubt,” I labeled myself right then and there. Dispalatro described the former Zimzala Restaurant (now the Pacific Hideaway) in a nearby hotel where surfing celebs stay during the annual US Open of Surfing.

That year’s winner, Kelly Slater, on track to win his eleventh world championship, stayed at the Shorebreak Hotel where Carla worked.

“I asked for his room key, and all the staff gave me a hard time,” admitted Carla, who failed to recognize the honored guest.

RELATED: Best Greek Island Beaches | Best Beaches in the Peloponnese

2.) Ride the Waves of History: Uncover Treasures at the International Surfing Museum

1913 newspaper, sports page shows etching of Hawaiian young man and photo of the surfer in swimming attire
Duke Kahanamoku introduced surfing to Huntington Beach | Salt Lake Tribune, Feb 2, 1913 via Wikimedia

Later, at the International Surfing Museum in historic downtown Huntington Beach, Director Gary Sahagen said, “I’ve always described surfing as a cross between walking on water and flying.”

In fact, when surfing was first introduced to California in the early 1900s, shows were performed by Hawaiian surfers. The acts were billed as “Men Who Walk on Water.”

One of these water walkers was Duke Kahanamoku, a Hawaiian known as the father of modern surfing, who introduced surfing to the mainland at Huntington Beach.

Huntington Beach, known as Surf City USA Has Aloha Spirit

No wonder Huntington Beach, known as Surf City USA, has an authentic Hawaiian vibe and is home to the international museum.

At the museum, I discovered that surfing is not just a sport with its own lingo; it’s a culture with its own music, film and clothing.

I met surfing legend David Nuuhiwa, introduced as the best nose-ride surfer ever, who was hanging out with his buddy Sahagen.

The original camera that filmed The Endless Summer movie is on display along with other surfer memorabilia.

modern 1960s design of yellow sun framed by fuschia sky while black silhouettes of surfers walk on an orange beach
The Endless Summer movie poster at the International Surfing Museum

3.) Enjoy Tiki Bars like Don the Beachcomber

hi peaked tiki wood roof with beams and sign that reads "Don the Beachcomber"
Don the Beachcomber was an iconic Huntington Beach tiki bar

Just down the beach is another spot full of the Aloha Spirit: Don the Beachcomber is the oldest Tiki bar in Orange County.

Its ninety-year colored past includes time as a speakeasy during prohibition.

“People would drive out, and cars would stay parked for days,” said Art Snyder, owner of the Hawaiian restaurant that is part seafood shack, part Tiki Lounge.

“Patrons would camp on the beach.”

Don, the original owner, invented tiki drinks

Don, the original owner, invented 84 tropical drinks. One was called Navy Grog, Frank Sinatra’s favorite at Don the Beachcomber in Palm Springs.

Unfortunately, the tiki bar is now closed, but you can find others like Turc’s Cocktails.

RELATED: 10 Best Rooftop Bars Bangkok Including Sky Bar Bangkok

4.) Find the Aloha Spirit at Beach Bonfires

Huntington Beach has over 500 first-come, first-served fire pits during the summer and fall seasons.

“You have to get out here at 7 am to stake out your fire pit,” revealed Juan Flores of the Anaheim Orange County Visitor Bureau. “You can always tell how big the party will be by how much firewood people bring in.”

Or you could stay at The Waterfront Beach Resort, A Hilton Hotel – where most rooms have an ocean view – and check out the Waterfront Adventures Beach Cabana.

Book beach butler service and beach bonfires, or rent surf and sand toys, beach chairs, umbrellas and more.

 

5.) Waking up to the Sound of Waves Awakens the Aloha Spirit

fisherperson casts into the waves from the sandy beach for a little Aloha Spirit in CA
Fisherperson enjoys the Huntington Beach morning | UNSTOPPABLE Stacey photo

Part of the Aloha Spirit lifestyle is waking up in the morning – or afternoon – to the sounds of waves.

Along the nine miles of Huntington Beach, there are plenty of large hotels like the Hilton, funky surf motels and budget motor inns.

The sumptuous hacienda-style Hyatt Regency offers a water park and waterslides for children of all ages, beach bonfire packages and a Conscious Coconut Scrub at their Pacific Waters Spa. Aloha!

6.) Hang Out at Surf Nights Free Street Fair

arial view of beach town looking down main drag towards ocean and palm-lined beach
Photo by Mike Fox on Unsplash

Surf City Nights take place every Tuesday evening, typically between March and November when part of Main Street is closed for the free street fair.

Featured are a farmer’s market, street acts and musicians, restaurant samplings, sidewalk sales and specials from local restaurants.

 

7.) Let’s Go Surin’ Now! Everybody’s Learnin’ How!

Take surfing lessons and go on a surfing safari with professional instructors. You could book private or group classes for all levels.

When you’re in Surf City, USA, you have to try surfing! It’s easy when you book one of the lessons below:

Conclusion: Authentic Aloha Spirit Experiences at Huntington Beach

late day sun brings golden hue to beach, water and pier behind surfer walking in the glow of the Aloha Spirit while carrying his surfboard along the beach
Huntington Beach surfer | Visit Huntington Beach photo

“When people think of classic California beaches, this is the one they have in their heads,” proclaimed Huntington Beach historian and author Chris Epting.

Chris wrote Huntington Beach (Then and Now) and It Happened Right Here: America’s Pop Culture Landmarks

This fall, you can discover the Aloha Spirit of this classic beach community. Average October temperatures range from highs of 70-72°F to lows of 56-62°F  – perfect for beachcombing, roasting s’mores on the beach or trying to “walk on water” ala surfboard.

*According to the report, “South Beach in Florida tops the list as the most popular beach, with a staggering hashtag count of 8,794,810, equating to 2512.8 hashtags per meter of its approximate 3,500-meter length.

“Following closely is Miami Beach, also in Florida, with a length of 8,000 meters and 15,856,570 hashtags, translating to 1982.07 hashtags per meter. The third spot goes to California’s Venice Beach, with 2,500 meters in length and 4,439,353 hashtags,” averaging 1776 hashtags per meter. Huntington Beach, 4,500 meters long, came in fourth with 3,634,734 hashtags or 808 hashtags per meter.

Listen to the Aloha Spirit Song

The Aloha Spirit song celebrates the five traits of aloha: kindness, unity, agreeableness/pleasantness, humility and patience. Sounds like the fruit of the spirit to me!

woman stands on rooftop with Med sea in background

Hi, I’m Stacey

UNSTOPPABLE Stacey Travel is a travel blog focused on immersive travel that highlights food, wine and the spirituality of place. I also occasionally write about life as a Camino de Santiago pilgrim. I hope you enjoy what I post here. Feel free to leave comments! Read more…

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As is common in the travel industry, UNSTOPPABLE Stacey was provided with accommodations, meals, and other compensation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review,  the author believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.

In addition, this blog, UNSTOPPABLE Stacey Travel, contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, Stacey earns a commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help reduce the costs of keeping this travel blog active. 

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