20 Best Things to Do in Encinitas, CA

Encinitas, CA
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Known for its surf beaches, Encinitas is a great vacation destination if you are a surfer looking for miles of the Pacific Ocean.

However, the city’s highlights are not limited to its stunning beaches.

Encinitas is also renowned for ornamental plants like poinsettias.

With a historic highway littered with retail shops and restaurants along with numerous patches of green, the beach town is a perfect break from city life.

Located just 25 miles (40.23 km) north of San Diego, a trip to Encinitas has much to offer tourists, with its golden coasts and natural beauty.

Moonlight Beach

Moonlight Beach
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With wonderful delights in store for every visitor, Moonlight Beach has been a crowd favourite in Encinitas for years.

In the late 1900s, the beach was a popular spot for midnight picnics and bonfires, lending it its name.

A century and more later, Moonlight Beach is still the place for late-evening hangouts and bonfires.

The beautiful and wide sandy beach is a great spot for family picnics, beach volleyball games, sandcastle fun, and more.

Some popular activities here include surfing, surf fishing, swimming, and snorkelling—you can easily rent out gear for these activities from nearby rental shops.

Encinitas Historical Society

Are you a history buff?

Then Encinitas Historical Society is right up your sleeve.

Located in an old one-room schoolhouse, built in 1833 for 8 attending students at the time, the site offers a detailed history lesson.

Inside the building, the original wooden floors are still kept intact, giving an authentic taste of the time far gone.

Exhibits in the Encinitas Historical Society include things related to the history of the city, old photos and documents, and artefacts.

Aside from the dive into local history, it is a great place to mingle with the locals.

San Diego Botanic Garden

San Diego Botanic Garden
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Spanning across four miles, the San Diego Botanic Garden is a place rife with diversity and variety.

As you explore the garden, you will find a variety of plants suitable in different climatic conditions, including Arid plants, bamboo groves, and tropical vegetation.

The park is divided into arid deserts, tropical rainforest with waterfall, and subtropical fruit gardens, among others.

A popular spot within the Botanic Garden is the Hamilton Children’s Garden, where children can play with and tend to plants.

With 4-mile trails and the world’s biggest bamboo grove, San Diego Botanic Garden is among the top 10 North American gardens worth a trip by American Public Gardens Association.

Lux Art Institute

Lux Art Institute is the perfect spot for art enthusiasts and budding artists.

Not only can you walk through and see the beautiful exhibits, but you can also observe native artists at work.

With tours called “excursions,” visitors can visit the artist’s studio, exhibition areas, and sculpture installations.

Aside from this, you can also enrol yourself in art and yoga classes taught by Lux teachers.

Works of artists like Cosmo Whyte, Baseera Khan, and Beatriz Martiel are among those featured in the institute.

Self Realization Fellowship Hermitage & Meditation Gardens

Self Realization Fellowship Hermitage & Meditation Gardens
jeffrey tucker, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Those into yoga and spirituality will have a wonderful time at Self Realization Fellowship Hermitage & Meditation Gardens.

Here, you can visit stunning gardens overlooking the ocean, spend days at a retreat or browse books and gift stores on the premises.

The site is close to the SRP temple, located just a few blocks away from the retreat centre.

Being a part of the Self-Realization Fellowship, a non-profit organization, the temple is the centre of spiritual science in Encinitas.

At the temple, you can attend numerous spiritual events like meditation, Sunday school, and lectures.

Everest Himalayan Cuisine

After a revitalizing experience at the Self Realization Fellowship Hermitage & Meditation Gardens, get the best Nepali, Indian, and Tibetan food in the city at Everest Himalayan Cuisine.

At this restaurant, you will receive good food and better service.

The restaurant is flocked by locals and tourists alike for its time-honoured recipes and delicious dishes.

Armed with a contemporary menu with a wide variety, Everest Himalayan Cuisine is bound to keep you coming back for more during your Encinitas trip.

Swami's Beach

Swami's Beach
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Located just below the Self Realization Fellowship Hermitage and Meditation Gardens, Swami’s Beach is often dotted with surfers.

During winters, when the swells are stunning, the beach is a delight to witness.

The beach is a popular spot among surfers of all levels.

The entrance to the beautiful beach is through a pretty park with benches.

On your Encinitas trip, you can either stand at the park and observe the surfers in their zone or go down the staircase to walk along the beach.

Whatever you do and wherever you do it, Swami’s Beach is a definite backdrop for your enviable Instagram photos.

Encinitas Ranch Golf Course

If the Golfer in you has been looking for a place to practice your golfing skills, make this trip to Encinitas count.

The Encinitas Ranch Golf Course takes golfing into a whole new level of beauty with its open fairways, lush green grounds, and ocean view.

Golfers would love this 18-hole course for its five sets of tees and driving range.

Professional lessons make the Golf Course a perfect place for professionals looking to practise before a game and novice golfers alike.

The cherry on top is the Ranch Grill, a restaurant on the premises with indoor and outdoor dining, bar, and café.

San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve

San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve
Rickbramhall, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve is a great family spot with a host of fun activities scheduled here at all times.

Some of these events include nature-themed family days and Children’s Story Time.

Housing over 300 bird and plant species, 6 plant communities, at least 23 species of fish, and 26 animal species, the 1000-acre reserve is a must-visit.

On weekends, naturalists at the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy offer guided tours of the grounds that cover the exhibits on the lagoon’s history and features (cultural and natural).

Furthermore, the reserve is home to easy, moderate, and difficult trails spanning 7 miles (11.27 km), making it a perfect spot for hikers, as well.

Cardiff State Beach

Tide pools at Cardiff State Beach
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Encinitas is known for its beaches and among the popular ones is Cardiff State Beach.

Managed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, the beach is a crowd-puller for swimming, sunbathing, and surfing.

However, you will also find people beachcombing here with specialized equipment.

If you feel like joining in on any of these activities, the beach has shops for renting the necessary tools.

You are bound to have a wonderful and comfortable time here with the availability of basic amenities like bathrooms, showers, and lifeguards.

What’s more?

You can go for guided explorations of the tide pool, located down the coast.

Solterra Winery

Solterra Winery is where a foodie and wine connoisseur can have a great time enjoying two things they love.

At the winery, you get to observe how wine is made and later enjoy it with a delectable Mediterranean meal.

Being a family-owned business, this place offers you a complete, wine and dine experience.

The winery currently offers 14 varieties of red wine along with white, rose, and late seasons wines to its guests.

With bold food and fine wine, Solterra Winery is an experience you mustn't miss on your trip to Encinitas.

Leucadia Farmers Market

Every Sunday, between 10 am and 2 pm, Leucadia Farmers Market is the place to be with your family.

Children will have a blast with a playground, face painting, and balloon twisting facilities.

On certain Sundays, you may even be treated to live band performances as you shop around its stalls.

Housing over 75 vendors, the certified market offers everything—from fruits and vegetables to speciality foods like marinades, beef, seafood, pasta, etc., and baked goods.

At the market, you will also find a covered food court for those looking to grab a quick meal during or after their shopping.

San Dieguito Heritage Museum

The San Dieguito Heritage Museum is yet another favourite among travellers who love learning the history of the place they are visiting.

Built and founded in 1988, the museum aims to preserve the local history with its display of stories of the San Dieguito River Area and historic records and artefacts.

A visit to the museum will familiarize you with the heritage and culture associated with Encinitas and San Dieguito.

The museum gives you a chance to explore Native American stories and grass huts along with a tour of grinding stone exhibits.

Through interactive activities like building homestead shanties and churning butter, you can get a glimpse into how the settlers lived.

Cal Pacific Orchid Farm

Cal Pacific Orchid Farm is a family-owned and operated greenhouse that spans across 6,000 sq.ft.

Here, you will also find hundreds of orchids in varying stages of growth, tended to by experts.

At the Farm you can learn more about planting, growing, and caring for orchids along with a tour of a museum-like exhibit of stunning flower arrangements.

If you have orchids or wish to grow them at home, Cal Pacific Orchid Farm is a great place to visit for guidance, plant boarding, and to replant your orchid.

Leucadia Surf School

There is no better place to learn to surf than Encinitas, with its popular surf beaches.

If you are an aspiring surfer, Leucadia Surf School should be on your must-visit list.

The instructors offer you on-land classes, explaining the basics, and provide you with a wetsuit and surfboard before you ride the waves.

Classes at Leucadia are available as private and group sessions.

What’s more?

Experienced surfers are also benefited here, as they can rent out the necessary equipment to surf if they don’t have any at hand.

Encinitas 101

Encinitas 101
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Encinitas 101 or Hwy 101 is the main street that runs through downtown Encinitas.

As part of historic preservation, the area has its own association, Encinitas 101 Main Street Association.

On your trip to Encinitas, this is a street you shouldn’t miss because you are in for a treat at the numerous cafés, restaurants, and shops in this area.

With pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, it’s the perfect stretch for a lazy walk at the end of your sightseeing.

Some notable restaurants in Hwy 101 include Lobster West, The Bier Garden of Encinitas, Union Kitchen and Tap, and more.

While here, check out retail stores like Europtics, Bliss 101, and Nixon.

Encinitas ViewPoint Park

ViewPoint Park is among the popular parks in Encinitas.

The park is segmented into areas for off-leash dogs and dedicated playgrounds for kids.

Adding to the charm of the park are the stunning and panoramic views that visitors can see during their visit, giving the park its name (ViewPoint).

Afternoon and just before sunset are the best times to visit the park to truly enjoy the view.

Surfing Madonna

Surfing Madonna
rubywhite (Flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Surfing Madonna is nothing short of a landmark in Encinitas.

First installed in 2011 by local artist Mark Patterson and his friend underneath the train bridge, the painting aims to spread the importance of the world’s oceans.

In the painting, the Virgin of Guadalupe is on a surfing board, praying.

Since its initial installation was illegal and without the permission of the city of Encinitas, the mosaic went from place to place.

Later, it was reinstalled in Moonlight Plaza Shopping Center, next to Encinitas Boulevard sidewalk.

Today, it is a chief tourist attraction, with tourists crowding to take a picture with the mosaic.

Encinitas Community Park

Encinitas Community Park
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Encinitas Community Park is a relatively new addition to the city.

The 44-acre park has something to offer every age group and promotes a unique community life.

Pet owners and those travelling with their dogs can have a great walk at the park’s 88,000 square feet (0.82 ha) Maggie Houlihan Memorial Dog Park.

Skaters, too, can have a great time here with a 13,000 square feet (0.12 ha) skate park.

Finally, children can play with their peers at the dedicated playgrounds at the community park.

All this makes Encinitas Community Park a spot not to miss during your Encinitas trip.

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