25 Best Things to Do in Encinitas, CA

Encinitas, CA
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Known for its surf beaches, Encinitas in California is a great vacation destination if you are a surfer.

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, 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.

Interested to know more about this place?

Here are the 25 best things to do in Encinitas, California:

Roam around Moonlight State Beach

Sunny day at Moonlight Beach
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With wonderful delights in store for every visitor, Moonlight State Beach has been a crowd favorite 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 later, Moonlight State Beach is still the place for late-night hangouts and bonfires.

Lifeguard tower at Moonlight State Beach
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The beautiful, wide sandy beach is an excellent spot for family picnics, beach volleyball games, sandcastle fun, and more.

Some popular activities here include surfing, fishing, swimming, and snorkeling.

Scenic sunset at Moonlight State Beach
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Revisit History at Encinitas Historical Society

Located in an old one-room schoolhouse, Encinitas Historical Society offers a detailed history lesson.

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

Exhibits in the Encinitas Historical Society include things related to the city's history, old photos and documents, and artifacts.

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

See a Variety of Plants at San Diego Botanic Garden

Flora at San Diego Botanic Garden
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Spanning four miles, the San Diego Botanic Garden is rife with diversity and variety.

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

The park is divided into arid deserts, tropical rainforests with waterfalls, and subtropical fruit gardens.

Night scene at San Diego Botanic Garden
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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 most enormous bamboo grove, San Diego Botanic Garden is among the top 10 North American gardens worth a trip by American Public Gardens Association.

Light sculpture at San Diego Botanic Garden
Manuela Durson / Shutterstock.com

Visit 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 enroll yourself in art and yoga classes taught by Lux teachers.

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

Relax at Self Realization Fellowship Hermitage & Meditation Gardens

Daytime view of 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, just a few blocks from the retreat center.

Welcome sign of Self Realization Fellowship Hermitage & Meditation Gardens
Wonderlane, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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

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

Gift shop at Self Realization Fellowship Hermitage & Meditation Gardens
Wonderlane from Seattle, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Dine at Everest Himalayan Cuisine

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 for its time-honored 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.

Go Swimming at Swami's Beach

Surfers at 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.

Water waves at Swami's Beach
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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.

Gorgeous view of the sunset at Swami's Beach
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Play Golf at 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 to 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 practice before a game and novice golfers.

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

Pay a Visit to San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve

Marsh at 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 at all times.

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

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

People along San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve's footbridge
Marcel Fuentes / Shutterstock.com

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 challenging trails spanning 7 miles (11.27 km), making it a perfect spot for hikers.

Explore Cardiff State Beach

Tide pools at Cardiff State Beach
DBSOCAL / Shutterstock.com

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.

Rocks on the sand of Cardiff State Beach
Marcel Fuentes / Shutterstock.com

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.

Sunset at Cardiff State Beach
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Try the Mediterranean Meal at Solterra Winery

Solterra Winery is where a foodie and wine connoisseur can enjoy 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 its guests 14 varieties of red wine and white, rose, and late season wines.

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

Shop at Leucadia Farmers Market

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

Children will 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 specialty 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 shopping.

See the San Dieguito Heritage Museum

The San Dieguito Heritage Museum is yet another favorite among travelers who love learning the history of the place they visit.

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 historical records and artifacts.

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

The museum allows you 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.

See the Orchids at Cal Pacific Orchid Farm

Cal Pacific Orchid Farm is a family-owned and operated greenhouse that spans 6,000 square feet.

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 replanting your orchid.

Learn How to Surf with Leucadia Surf School

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

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

The instructors offer on-land classes, explaining the basics, and providing 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 also benefit here, as they can rent out the necessary equipment to surf if they don’t have any at hand.

Venture the Encinitas 101

Road arch of 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 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.

The road of Encinitas 101
Dogora Sun / Shutterstock.com

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

Some notable restaurants on 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.

Signage of Encinitas 101
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Have Fun at Encinitas ViewPoint Park

ViewPoint Park is among the famous parks in Encinitas.

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

Adding to the park's charm are the stunning and panoramic views 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 enjoy the view truly.

See the Virgin of Guadalupe's Painting at Surfing Madonna

View of the Virgin of Guadalupe's Painting at 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.

Play at Encinitas Community Park

People at Encinitas Community Park
Marcel Fuentes / Shutterstock.com

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 traveling 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.

Surround Yourself in Nature and Fresh Air at Weidner's Gardens

Weidner's Gardens is a well-known nursery in Encinitas that produces most of the products it sells in its retail space.

Locally cultivated and straight from their greenhouses equals more significant value for its customers!

They are renowned for being the nursery where you can discover the highest quality annual and everlasting flowers, among other things.

Additionally, Weidner's Gardens maintain an ongoing supply of succulents, various water-wise plants, vegetables, herbs, berries, and fruit trees.

Your inquiries about gardening are answered by the helpful staff, which also sends you home with plants you'll cherish!

Participate in Fun Water Activities at Encinitas Surf Lessons

Since its establishment in 2007, Encinitas Surf Lessons has been dedicated to improving the benchmark for all surf schools in Encinitas and San Diego.

Encinitas Surf Lessons provides individual and small-group surf lessons tailored just for you.

They specifically adapt the class to meet your needs.

Except for a private 90-minute class option, all sessions are 2 hours long.

Enjoy the most cutting-edge tools in the surf instruction industry while getting a real, local experience.

Unwind and Soak in the Scenery at the Inn at Moonlight Beach

Ocean breezes to provide natural ventilation for the five-room boutique hotel.

Each apartment has a patio or balcony, providing both pristine inside and vibrant outside environments.

It features a linked, living, biodynamic urban farm that produces excellent vegetables, fruit, tea, cut flowers, and succulents.

Abundant in nature, encircling the whole site, the Inn at Moonlight Beach also creates breathtaking views.

Enjoy herbal tea bath pouches prepared with freshly dried herbs, Epsom salt, and aromatic oils in their luxurious soaking tubs, which are produced and gathered from their biodynamic garden.

There are numerous peaceful locations on the Inn's grounds where guests may find peace.

Whatever you choose to do—retreat to your exclusive balcony, meditate on the deck, wander around the biodynamic garden, or simply unwind in the charming water garden—their goal is for you to feel loved and uplifted.

The cornerstone of the San Dieguito Art Guild is the Off Track Gallery.

It features more than 100 artists' creations in various media, such as digital art, painting, sculpture, and jewelry.

An artist is constantly on hand to respond to your inquiries throughout open hours.

The artists update and modify the gallery's collection of artwork every two months.

Additionally, they rotate a new "Monthly Show" around the gallery's front area each month.

Explore and admire the gallery, where there is always something interesting and new.

Nourish Your Body at Lazy Acres

Lazy Acres was established in 1991 and immediately proved itself as a reliable supplier in the Santa Barbara neighborhood.

They are committed to serving the local communities and aim to offer a market for anybody who enjoys leading a healthy lifestyle and eating a balanced diet.

The market offers some of the greatest poké in town and a wide range of native hard kombucha and beer.

Lazy Acres is here to nourish your mind, body, and spirit, from health supplements and body care to organic and seasonal vegetables and goods rooted in history.

Their community center, the Moonlight Room, offers free wellness seminars and adult and children's culinary lessons taught by neighborhood chefs.

Final Thoughts

Encinitas embodies the best of Southern California!

Despite the city's abundance of top-notch dining establishments and adorable boutiques, the nicest part about Encinitas is just taking in the laid-back atmosphere.

You can't go wrong if you'd like to catch a wave on this area's magnificent coastline or explore other hotspots on the 101 freeway.

Travel to Encinitas and return home with treasured memories!

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