The setting, climate and activity offerings of the coastal cities of Orange County provide that iconic Endless Summer atmosphere that lives in the imaginations of all attendees. Once a laid-back getaway to cool off from the inland, the coastal region, from San Clemente to Seal Beach, is now a full-fledged meetings destination with ample meeting space, accommodations and activity options far beyond catching waves.
Like many locals, groups that come to this Southern California region want to take advantage of their surroundings and get outside with active and thrilling outdoor adventures. Surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking and bike beach cruising are all available, but there is much more to do along its 42 miles of coastline.
Huntington Beach, or Surf City, offers 10 miles of uninterrupted coastline that includes new developments and major hotel renovations. The city has “grown up,” according to Scott O’Hanlon, director of marketing and advertising at The Waterfront Beach Resort, A Hilton Hotel.
“Huntington Beach has the largest collection of rooms on the coast in Southern California,” explained John Ehlenfeldt, CMP, executive vice president of sales and administration for Visit Huntington Beach.
A big 2016 addition is Pasea Hotel & Spa, which debuted in June on Pacific Coast Highway. The hotel, part of the Meritage Collection, features Tanner’s restaurant, with views of the Pacific and indoor and outdoor seating that includes the Treehouse, a bar and lounge on the second floor terrace. The hotel offers more than 34,000 square feet of meeting space.
Taking advantage of its location and the climate, groups can use the 14,000-square-foot Ocean Lawn for private yoga, or utilize the hotel’s beach butler, who can arrange for group surfing lessons with a local instructor. There is also a fleet of bikes guests can use to get around throughout their stay, and through the on-site Aarna Spa, groups can incorporate beach bootcamp classes, runs along the beach or customized fitness options into their program.
Next door, the Waterfront Beach Resort, A Hilton Hotel, is adding a new 152-all-suite tower scheduled to open in June 2017. The resort, along with the Pasea Hotel & Spa, Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa and the Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel, will offer 1,400 rooms for Huntington Beach meeting attendees. Hilton’s new tower will connect with the existing hotel tower and add 20,000 square feet of meeting space, a restaurant, ocean-view rooftop lounge, pool deck and event lawn to the property.
Planners can work with the Hilton’s staff to incorporate pre- or post-meeting activities, such as rock-climbing on the beach (on a rock-climbing wall) or playing a giant Jenga game on the sand. Groups can also take advantage of a Huntington Beach staple—a beach bonfire with provided chairs, blankets and the fixings for s’mores.
“Guests can enjoy the benefits of a beach bonfire without having to do the work,” O’Hanlon said. “Just show up and enjoy.”
In addition to the endless beach and water-based activities, not many know that Huntington Beach has its own Equestrian Center. The Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center is set on 25 acres just two miles from the coastline and is home to 400 horses and access to public trails. Groups of all experience levels and abilities can choose a guided trail ride through the hills overlooking Huntington Central Park.
According to Ehlenfeldt, social corporate responsibility (CSR) programs are popular among groups that come to the city. Two favored options are beach clean-ups and wildlife refuge programs led by the Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy. The wetlands include three marshes along the Pacific Coast Highway set aside for restoration and the protection of local wildlife.
With one of the largest recreational harbors on the West Coast and 10 neighborhoods, each with their own distinct feel, Newport Beach boasts adventurous opportunities ranging from aquatic activities to helicopter tours.