Aquatic Adventure: Mix & Match Your Long Beach Vacation

In a world that’s 71% H2O, searching for your next waterfront getaway can easily turn into an unending scroll fest. Allow us to save you the time. Where else can you feed penguins, take a gondola ride through Italian-inspired canals, play with your dog on the beach, go whale watching, jet-ski to an island, hike around an idyllic lagoon, and play nearly any watersport you can think of – all in one place? Long Beach, California. With 11 miles of protected waterways, Long Beach is beloved by parents, kids, sports aficionados, and fun-seekers alike as a water-lovers paradise. This summer, if you’re looking for a getaway on the water with the whole family, we’ve got all the tips to plan your next trip. Mix and match these waterfront activities and restaurants to plan a full on trip of fun – and visit our hotels portal to book your stay!

Get Up Close at the Aquarium of the Pacific

The Aquarium of the Pacific is known the world over as the only aquarium dedicated to the Pacific Ocean and its inhabitants – and, let’s be real, for its TikToK account, which serves up a daily dose of cute mixed with educational fun to the delight of its 2.6 million followers. But did you know that you can arrange one-on-one interactions with the likes of penguins, sea lions, parrots, sharks, and more? The Aquarium’s Animal Encounters program lets you get up close and personal with some seriously cool creatures, so long as you’re 9 years of age and up, and wearing a mask to protect the animals from any germs you might’ve brought along.

What else can you do at the Aquarium? Beginning May 27, 2022, be sure to check out its cutest exhibit of all time, “BABIES” (which is exactly what it sounds like), and view everything from toothy sharks to playful otters and swimming sea lions. And, of course, stop by the interactive theater and exhibit hall, Pacific Visions, where you’ll learn all about our impact on the Pacific Ocean and how we can help.

Whale Watching

Harbor Breeze Cruises is the go-to whale watching tour company in Long Beach and the South Bay. Their daily trips include staff from the Aquarium of the Pacific, who give educated commentary about all the sea creatures spotted along the way. In the summer time, you’re most likely to spot blue whales and finback whales off the coast of Long Beach – and maybe even orcas, dolphins, and seals! Cruises leave at noon and 3 PM seven days a week.


With 11 miles of waterways of varying types – a five mile stretch of the Pacific Ocean, canals, bays, a lagoon, and marine stadium, etc. – it’s no wonder that Long Beach is known as a mecca for watersports. In fact, Long Beach is known as something of a factory for Olympic aquatic athletes – think rowing legend Joan Van Blom, for who a local bridge is named after, swimmer Jessica Hardy, and many others.

A south-facing beach makes for mild winds, and the ocean waters are protected by a break wall, making Long Beach a hub for watersports you can’t do in most Southern California beach cities. Think parasailing, jet skiing, kayaking, rowing, paddle boarding, sailing – the “long beach” of the city’s namesake has it all, with a number of reliable vendors to rent from. If the ocean isn’t your scene, try Rainbow Harbor, Alamitos Bay, Marine Stadium, Colorado Lagoon, and the Naples Island canals for watersports on calmer waters.

Boat Excursions

From leisurely Duffy boat rides to sailing and even cruises to Catalina, there are plenty of options for families, couples and friends to spend an afternoon on Long Beach waters. Check out our handy list, Bon Voyage, Boat Excursions in Long Beach, to choose your next boating adventure!

Landside Activities

Bicycle & Pedestrian Beach Path

A more than five-mile long, flat trail runs along the sandy waterfront in Long Beach, welcoming walkers, bikers, and rollerskaters from Belmont Shore to Downtown. With separate paths for those on wheels and those on foot, there’s room for lots of fun. If you’re looking to get out with a group, be sure to stop by Wheel Fun Rentals at Shoreline Village and rent a surrey!

Colorado Lagoon

A short hiking path surrounds the tranquil Colorado Lagoon in the neighborhood of Belmont Heights. Walk across a pedestrian bridge on the lagoon itself to the other side, and you’ll find a natural sanctuary of reeds, flowers, and wild birds. The lagoon itself is family friendly, with shallow waters for those who aren’t confident in open seas. Locals love to picnic on its shores while kids enjoy the adjacent playground.


With so much waterfront in the city, there are plenty of options for shopping waterside. Shoreline Village offers a boardwalk experience complete with an eclectic mix of shops specializing in hats, Moroccan lamps, hot sauce, vintage inspired clothes, pirate gear and more. Check out the nearby Pike Outlets for discounts on mainstream brands like GAP, EXPRESS and more.

For a local shopping experience, be sure to hit Belmont Shore's 2nd Street, which features a mix of local boutiques and international dining. And if you're looking for a more high-end shopping experience, visit 2nd + PCH at Alamitos Bay, where you'll find brands like Madewell and Lulelemon alongside a ton of great places to eat.

Waterfront Dining & Drinks

Looking to dine with a view? Head to 2nd + PCH, Marina Pacifica or Alamitos Bay Landing if you’re in the Belmont Shore area for plenty of great options. Family favorites are Boathouse on the Bay (they’ve got everything from burgers to sushi) and Ballast Point (think gastropub style food with craft beer on tap for the adults).

If you’re staying or hanging out Downtown, there are tons of options at The Pike Outlets where you’ll find national standards like CPK and Islands alongside local Irish pub faire at the Auld Dubliner. Virtually every eatery at Shoreline Village has a waterfront patio, with Parkers' Lighthouse at the end of the boardwalk taking the award for best view.

Looking for a more unique setting? Head over to Claire’s at the Museum, a restaurant set on the bluff’s edge and connected to the Long Beach Museum of Art – or, try Fuego at the Maya which boasts views of the city skyline.

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About the Author
Samantha Mehlinger