Recently named among the 20 best surf towns in the world by National Geographic, Encinitas wears its surf history proudly. Located along six miles of Pacific Ocean coastline, Encinitas is an unspoiled reminder of the historic Highway 101 beach culture that thrived in the mid-1900s.
The city's eclectic downtown has long drawn surfers and hippies with its unique and dynamic blend of San Diego’s top surf shops, coffeehouses and record stores, not to mention the beaches in Encinitas are coveted by locals as hidden gems. Encinitas is alternately known as the “Flower Capital of the World,” because of its extensive collection of unique nurseries and gardens, most extensive of which is the San Diego Botanic Garden, and the world's leading grower of the Christmas flower, the poinsettia. So visit Encinitas!
Weather – When to Visit Encinitas
In Encinitas, the summers are short, warm, arid, and clear and the winters are long, cool, and mostly clear. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 49°F to 77°F and is rarely below 44°F or above 84°F. From July thru October, the average daily high temperature is
75°F. Between November and April you will have average temperatures between 49°F and 65°F. The best time of year to visit Encinitas for general outdoor tourist activities is from early June to mid October. The busiest months are from May thru July. Prices for hotels and flights will be most expensive during these months, though you can save if you purchase well in advance.
What Should You Pack?
When figuring out what to pack for the beach, there are two tips to keep in mind. First, forgetting an item isn’t the end of the world. Unless you’re heading for a remote, deserted island, chances are you can find a store where you can pick up the extras. Second, don’t stress out over making a packing list when there’s a stress-free beach travel essentials list for you below:
- Sunglasses and hats offer much-needed sunscreen and flip flops are perfect for navigating hot, sandy beaches. Go pack them now so you’re not kicking yourself later.
- What about those little items that make beach visits so much more enjoyable? For a little extra comfort on your trip, make sure you pack: Lip balm, sunscreen, bug spray.
- Beach toys and goggles are a must for kids. Building sandcastles and viewing the underwater wonders are perennial favorites.
- Take a first-aid kit with you. Hopefully you’ll only have to worry about a few minor scrapes from seashells, but having your own kit handy is a good precaution.
- Beach Bag – Your beach bag will likely contain a few of the items mentioned above. For a well-rounded bag, consider tossing in sunscreen, lip balm, bug spray, first-aid kit and water-proof baggies.
- Beach Gear – No matter who’s supplying the gear, look to have the following items on hand: beach bag, beach chairs, beach towels, beach umbrella or tent, beach cart and a cooler.
- Remember: Don’t wait until you’re parched to drink. When you’re out in the heat and sun, it’s important to stay hydrated by drinking regularly. So take along a water bottle as well.
Top 5 Encinitas Beaches
Moonlight State Beach
This is the main central beach of Encinitas. It has a grass park with a kids play area in addition to a large family-friendly beach. The slope of the beach is gradual which makes playing in the surf more fun and a lot safer. Lifeguards have a significant presence here too. This is a popular beach so during the summers the park and the beach will be packed.
Cardiff State Beach
Cardiff State Beach is managed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation and is popular for sunbathing, swimming, and surfing. There are many businesses where you can rent gear for surfing, kiteboarding, snorkeling, and scuba diving. Visitors will also find a lot of people beachcombing and looking for valuable and interesting things – equipment can be rented for those looking to join in.
During the winter when the swells are particularly good, surfers often put on quite a show at Swami’s Surf Beach, one of the area’s most popular and most famous beaches. The best spot to watch them is from the park on the cliff above the beach. This beach park has many benches in the shade, several picnic tables, and a well-tended shady lawn.
San Elijo State Beach
San Elijo State Beach is a long beach that takes up most of the ocean font land in the community of Cardiff-by-the-Sea in Encinitas, CA. This state park has a large campground facility and a day-use parking area at the north end as well.
Surfers and sunbathers are the main users, but if you just need to take off your shoes and walk on a beach this one is great. Just be aware that during high tides the beaches in this area are very narrow or all wet.
San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas
As you stroll along four miles of trails, the San Diego Botanic Garden will amaze you with the diversity of its environments and the stunning plants that adapted to them – you’ll see everything from arid deserts to a tropical jungle and bamboo groves. The plants thrive, and you will enjoy different vistas, numerous flowering trees, majestic palms, and the largest bamboo collection in the country.
Self Realization Fellowship Hermitage & Meditation Gardens
Whether you want to visit beautiful gardens on the cliffs overlooking the ocean, spend a few days at the Retreat, or simply browse at the Books & Gifts store, Self-Realization Fellowship Hermitage, Retreat & Meditation Gardens is an interesting place to visit.
San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve
The 1,000-acre San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve is one of the county's largest remaining coastal wetlands. Visitors can explore seven miles of trails hosting a diversity of plants and animals, including: 6 plant communities, 300 species of plants, 26 mammal species, at least 23 species of fish, and more than 300 bird species.
Leucadia Farmers Market
The Leucadia Farmers Market is a wonderful place to spend the day, and they are open every Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm. There are over 75 vendors at this certified market, which offers everything from fresh flowers and plants to meats and baked goods. Visitors will find specialty foods like beef, seafood, marinades, pastas, and sauces, etc.
Lux Art Institute
Lux Art Institute isn’t just a museum where you view spectacular art; guests are presented with an opportunity to make their experience one of learning, understanding, and beauty. See the artistic process firsthand and observe artists as they practice their art in the studio. Kids, teens, adults, educators – there’s something for everyone.
Things to do in Encinitas
Leucadia Surf School
Leucadia Surf School does just what you’d imagine – they provide surfing lessons. Whether you’re looking for private lessons or group lessons, there’s something for everyone. Open seven days a week, the school provides visitors with a softboard and a wetsuit and offers basic instructions before students ride the waves. Telephone: 760-635-7873 Web: Leucadia Surf School
Compass Balloons offers hot air balloon tours in sunny San Diego, and the scenic Temecula wine valley. During your flight you will see all the area has to offer from the coastlines of San Diego to the grape vines of the Temecula wine valley. Whichever flight you choose you will experience the joy of flight in its first form, as you calmly drift across the open skies. Telephone: 760-704-7407 Web: Compass Balloons
Aloha Stand Up Paddle
Learn the exciting sport of standup from Tom English, world class waterman and expert instructor. Your 2 hour Lesson will teach you how to safely enjoy the thrills of paddling. Telephone: 760-213-4133 Web: Aloha Stand Up Paddle
Kip Puterbaugh Aviara Golf Academy
Brush up on your swing or start with the basics at this golf school for students at all levels. Located in a gorgeous setting, the academy employs the latest technologies to help perfect your game. Private lessons, golf schools, Short Game and Playing schools, the Ultimate School with club fitting. Telephone: 760-438-4539 Web: Kip Puterbaugh Aviara Golf Academy
Do you know the basics of surfing but aren't ready to paddle out alone? Want to connect with a community of other surfers and make new in the line up? Wavehuggers is excited to offer this fun, affordable, community class to SoCal surfers! Telephone: 310-910-9099 Web: Wavehuggers
Best Encinitas Restaurants
$-Inexpensive $$-Moderate $$$-Pricey $$$$-Ultra High End
$$ – $$$ Union Kitchen & Tap
Union Kitchen and Tap is a large rustic tavern with a massive bar, long communal tables, brick walls, and very comfortable seating. Executive Chef Michael Lina is a wizard with shared plates that include delights such as Thai Coconut Mussels or Octopus Lyonnaise. The menu is huge and changes seasonally. Union has a nice wine selection and a range of imaginative cocktails. Dogs are allowed on their small patio, and there is even a special menu for man’s best friend. Telephone: 760-230-2337 Web: Union Kitchen & Tap
$$ – $$$ Lobster West
Lobster West is a must-visit for seafood fans. Fresh lobster is imported from friendly Maine fishermen and flown in each day, and the toasted and buttered fresh rolls are baked that morning. Each roll is made with generous chunks of lobster and accompanied by house-made coleslaw and Cape Cod chips. Telephone: 760-634-1684 Web: Lobster West
$$ – $$$ Swami's Cafe
Healthy home cooking“ is the specialty of this inexpensive San Diego chainlet turning out fresh juices, smoothies, wraps and heartier fare, plus breakfast all day; the ambiance is low-key with order-at-the-counter service, and though it can get ”crowded“, the staff is generally ”efficient” in getting you your order. Telephone: 760-942-2741 Web: Swami's Cafe
$$ – $$$ Trattoria I Trulli
This charming Encinitas restaurant offers excellent, authentic Italian food at reasonable-for-the-quality prices. The upbeat atmosphere can feel lively or just plain noisy depending on your perspective, but everyone agrees it's always busy for good reason. Telephone: 760-943-6800 Web: Trattoria I Trulli
$$$$ Chart House
When it comes to the cuisine, Chart House serves the best steak and seafood Cardiff has to offer, with dishes just as jaw-dropping as the view. Taste famous Chart House specialties like Mac Nut Mahi, Savory Shrimp Scampi, or the best Prime Rib Cardiff diners have experienced. No matter what you're looking for, Chart House has a new waterfront view of fine dining. Telephone: 760-436-4044 Web: Chart House
Best Encinitas Nightlife
The Bier Garden of Encinitas
The Bier Garden of Encinitas is a great place to hang out with friends after work or after a day on the beach. You can perch on a vivid green stool in front of 32 tap handles offering some of the best craft beer from Southern California. Telephone: 760-632-2437 Web: The Bier Garden of Encinitas
The 3rd Corner
The 3rd Corner is a wine lover’s idea of heaven: wall-to-wall wine. Most of the time, there are about 600 bottles of wines from all over the world stacked all around, with small dining tables tucked between them. Called a “wine restaurant,” 3rd Corner is a wine shop that also serves food. Telephone: 760-942-2104 Web: The 3rd Corner
Lumberyard Tavern is a neighborhood saloon, a perfect spot for visitors to get a sense of old Encinitas when lumberyards were as common as surf shops are today. It is spacious, fun, and lively, with a number of large TVs for sports fans and comfortable booths for families and groups of friends. Telephone: 760-479-1657 Web: Lumberyard Tavern
Daley Double Saloon
Once Encinitas’ most notorious dive bar, it’s now Encinitas’ hippest dive bar. Fantastic Old West saloon–style murals make a great backdrop for good old-fashioned sipping and flirting. Expect a line out the door on weekends. Telephone: 760-230-1213 Web: Daley Double Saloon (The Saloon)
SHELTER is a trendy cocktail lounge and bar with an eclectic, funky vibe. The spot boasts a retractable ceiling that allows the night sky to illuminate the interior, which includes booths and a patio area featuring a large fire pit. If you’re looking for cocktails, this is the place to go – SHELTER offers a wide array of specialty cocktails. DJs play most weekend nights. Telephone: 760-753-1366 Web: Shelter
Best Encinitas Hotels
Inn at Moonlight Beach B&B
The Inn at Moonlight Beach has been completely redesigned and transformed into a thoroughly new and contemporary inspired lifestyle space. If you are looking for an Encinitas hotel near the beach to relax, renew, and rediscover, look no further. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room visit the Inn at Moonlight Beach.
Cardiff by the Sea Lodge
Cardiff By The Sea Lodge features a rooftop garden with views of the Pacific Ocean. A refrigerator, a cable TV and a private bathroom with a hairdryer are included in each individually decorated and spacious room at Cardiff Lodge. A continental breakfast is served each morning and guests can relax in the hot tub. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room visit Cardiff by the Sea Lodge.
Kate Stanton Inn
Kate Stanton Inn is a premier Southern California bed and breakfast, providing unpretentious luxury. Located in the heart of the charming North County beach town of Encinitas, each of our four amenity-filled guest rooms is uniquely decorated, offering a rare combination of Baja-style relaxed living and the gracious charm of New England. At Kate Stanton we don’t just hand you a key, we welcome you to our home. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room visit the Kate Stanton Inn.
Surfhouse Boutique Hotel
Surfhouse embodies the spirit of Southern California and aims to give guests an authentic local experience. Grab a morning coffee and hop on one of our complimentary beach cruiser bikes to explore the local spots around town. Enjoy a surf at the local break, then rinse off in our outdoor shower and share a meal and some drinks with friends at a local bar. It’s all in a day’s work at Surfhouse. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room visit the Surfhouse Boutique Hotel.
Holiday Inn Express Encinitas
Located a short distance from San Elijo State Beach, this hotel features an outdoor pool and an on-site fitness center. It serves a daily continental breakfast that includes juice and coffee. A cable TV with pay per view channels, a small refrigerator and a coffee machine are available in each guest room at Holiday Inn Express Encinitas Cardiff Beach-Legoland. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room visit the Holiday Inn Express Encinitas.