The pier was built even before Huntington Beach was an official town. At the time, the land was owned by a business called Huntington Beach Company, which decided to build a pier in 1903. It was made completely out of wood and extended 1,000 feet (300 m) into the ocean.
In 1912, it was damaged for the first time by a severe storm that caused a large portion of it to plunge into the Pacific. Fortunately, the city council at the time was already considering rebuilding the pier.
A $70,000 bond was approved to construct a new pier made of concrete that would be 1,350 feet (410 m) long. In 1914, the Huntington Beach Pier set a record as the longest and highest concrete pleasure pier in the United States.
In 1930, the city extended the pier by 500 feet (150 m) and added a cafe at the end. However, this last section was not built well and was separated from the original pier by an earthquake in 1933.
Although the city paved over the gap, a rare California hurricane destroyed the cafe and extended section in 1939. Reconstruction of the pier and End Cafe (what the cafe came to be called) was completed the year later.
After the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, Huntington Beach, along with many other coastal cities, became involved in the World War II effort. The U.S. navy took over the pier for military use by installing a submarine lookout post at the end along with a heavy caliber machine gun.
When the war was over, all military equipment was removed and the pier was returned to the citizens. The pier did not face any trouble for the next four decades, until 1983 when another storm destroyed the end of the pier and End Cafe again, and once again in 1988 after another reconstruction. That year, a company called Fluor/Daniel Consultants of Irvine conducted a study on the structural stability of the pier and as a result, the pier was declared unsafe and was closed in July of that year.
In an effort to raise funds to rebuild the pier, a group of citizens formed an organization called P.I.E.R. (Persons Interested in Expediting Reconstruction). The organization raised over $100,000 by selling t-shirts and other merchandise with the P.I.E.R. logo. Another $92,000 was donated by the people of Anjo Japan, one of Huntington Beach's sister cities. With this money, construction of a new pier began in October 1990.
The pier was completed and opened on July 18, 1992 at 1,856 feet (566 m) in length. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was performed to dedicate the pier. By the end of the grand opening day, over 500,000 people had come to visit the new pier. Due to the pier's rough history, the city has established careful management and observation to keep the pier lasting long into the future.
The pier was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) on August 24, 1989, deeming the structure worthy of preservation by the federal government. This allows the city of Huntington Beach to qualify for tax incentives derived from the total value of expenses incurred preserving the pier.