Huntington Beach is my favorite Orange County beach just for the sheer reason of its ample parking. You can be hitting the surf here while you'd still be circling for a parking spot at Newport or Laguna.
The beach itself is wide and long, with plenty of room for your group on even the most crowded days. Yet, especially in fall, winter, and spring, it can also be the setting for an isolated, romantic sunset stroll along the shore.
The concrete beach path stretches for miles. It's a great place to people-watch as you jog, bike, or skate. At one time or another, I've seen dogs pulling their skateboard-riding owners, dogs in the child seat of bikes, wind-skaters (it's like wind-surfing) and wind-skateboarders, bikes with arm (instead of foot) pedals, parent-child bicycles built-for-two (with the front half tall for the adult and the back half of the bike small for the child), people in wide-tired wheelchairs made for rolling along in the sand, teams of cyclists in colorful matching spandex uniforms... well, the list could go on and on.
Not in the mood for sports or swimming? There's a long concrete fishing pier with a Ruby's Restaurant (‘50s diner-style) at the end. As you stroll towards the restaurant, you'll have a great view of the surfers and kite-flyers below on the beach, and of the fishermen hauling in their catches alongside you on the pier.
Weekends bring the cutest crafts bazaar, which features surfing- and beach-related handmade items. Though it's not too large, you will not find a more unique crafts fair!
Across the street from the pier is the little downtown area that's been built to satisfy the strolling window-shopper. You can find various restaurants and shops, all with a beach-town atmosphere.
Of course, you won't want to miss seeing the surf shops. Even if you don't surf, it's fascinating to look at the gear. Plus, one prominent surf shop has footprints of famous surfers in front of it, a la Graumann's Chinese Theater, and another has a surfer's "walk of fame," reminiscent of the Walk of Fame in Hollywood.
Luxury accommodations are available at several hotels across from the beach. Less-expensive motels are available in Huntington Beach a bit more inland, and also closer to the Orange County theme parks.
There's also a dog-beach for pet owners! If you don't have a dog, it's still fun just to go and watch other people's pets frolicking in the waves--obviously having the time of their lives!