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.
Restaurants, Activities, Events & More!
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.
- Every seat in the two-story Pacific Coast Grill has a view of the ocean. Choose from the fresh seafood, oyster bar, fresh ground premium beef burgers and best-selling lobster tacos, plus world-class margaritas.
- Vigilucci’s Trattoria Italiana serves authentic Italian cuisine in a coastal location with dog-friendly patio seating that provides a wonderful opportunity to people-watch on Highway 101.
- Located in the historic Santa Fe Railroad Station of 1888, the Pannikin Coffee & Tea is a long-time popular hangout, as much for the lack of wireless internet as the coffee, tea and café food.
- San Diego Botanic Garden includes nearly 4,000 kinds of plants from all over the world and more than 37 acres of exhibits including rare bamboo groves (the largest collection in the U.S.), desert gardens, a tropical rainforest, Mediterranean climate landscapes, an undersea succulent garden, a subtropical fruit garden and the largest interactive children’s garden on the West Coast called the Hamilton Children’s Garden.
- A favorite beach for surfing in Encinitas, Swami’s was immortalized in the song “Surfin’ USA” by the Beach Boys. Take in a few waves if you can wait long enough to get your turn or watch the top-notch surfing from the small park at the top of the bluff.
- Named for the midnight picnics local residents used to have in the early 1900s, Moonlight State Beach is a wide and flat family beach with volleyball, tennis courts, recreational equipment rentals and a snack bar. A rarity at most beaches these days, Moonlight Beach features fire rings, for post-sunset bonfires and barbecues.
- Drive down the coastline on Historic Highway 101 from laid-back Oceanside to luxurious La Jolla enjoying the diverse and vibrant communities along the way that capture the true essence of a Southern California vacation.
- The downtown Encinitas shopping district is more than 100 years old. Today, the historic buildings house boutique shops and sidewalk cafes, where shoppers can find treasures old and new.
- Forty percent of the birds in North America pass by the San Elijo Lagoon on their annual migrations. Featuring an array of “green” amenities, the eco-friendly San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center offers free admission and guided nature walks on the first and last Saturdays of each month at 10:00 AM. The interactive exhibits focus on the ecosystem, environment and history of lagoons, and the building’s “green” components.
- The Self-Realization Fellowship is a serene locale featuring meditation gardens, koi ponds and views overlooking Swami’s beach. Its name comes from the Golden Lotus Temple high above it.
- Opened in 1928, the La Paloma was one of the first theaters to show “Talkies” and has hosted many a Hollywood celebrity (Mary Pickford attended the opening gala) and performers from Jerry Garcia, Eddie Vedder and Timothy Leary to Jay Leno, as well as premiering countless surf films.
- Held annually on the 3rd Saturday of September at Moonlight Beach, the Wavecrest Woodies meet is the longest-running and largest gathering of these wood-paneled vehicles in the world. It’s the self-proclaimed “Granddaddy of all Woodie Meets.”
- On the third Thursday of each month from May through September, Encinitas hosts Classic Car Nights. Vintage hot rods, woodies and other classic cars line Main Street, while bands perform 50’s and 60’s music on three stages to set the rock and roll mood.
- The annual Encinitas April Street Fair takes place over two days each Spring. This free, family friendly event features arts and crafts vendors, children’s rides, unique foods and live music on multiple stages.
- Established in 1989, the Encinitas Fall Festival is a holiday street faire with live entertainment on two stages, children’s rides, food and shopping at over 400 vendors plus 200 local stores specializing in arts and crafts, antiques, clothing and items from around the world.
- Bringing the arts outdoors, the Arts Alive exhibition features original art paintings hanging off light poles along Highway 101. The banners are on display between Leucadia and Cardiff-by-the-Sea from their unveiling in early February to May, when they are auctioned off each year.