Encinitas

Head to the beaches and surf the gorgeous waves, or paddle board, snorkel, sunbathe or skateboard. If you wish, you can stay inland instead to tour the museums, parks, shopping boutiques and taste the local cuisine at the sidewalk cafés. With an assortment of activities available, there’s something for everyone!
Encinitas
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Surfing
History & Culture
Featured Hotel
Know Before You Go
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Beaches
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Highlights

Encinitas
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Sidewalk Cafés
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Overview
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From Surfing to Shopping, You Will Love Encinitas

Parking Entrance to SwamisGoing to the Beach at Stone Steps in Encinitas

For a luxurious and cozy alternative to San Diego, head north to Encinitas. It's a grand old community with some of the best waves around. Heck, National Geographic has named Encinitas one of the 20 best surf towns in the world (yep, the world, not just the United States).

At 25 miles from San Diego, Encinitas is close enough to the bigger city for tourists to take in attractions such as Balboa Park, Coronado Island and the San Diego Zoo. Back in Encinitas via the South Coast Highway 101, visitors can relax and enjoy the laid-back pace of life.

Golf fans enjoy the Encinitas Ranch Golf Course and nearby Torrey Pines Golf Course. Both spots offer gorgeous Pacific views that are otherwise difficult to find in area golfing.

San Elijo State Beach is a favorite among locals and guests, thanks to its camping, surfing, swimming and snorkeling fun. (Carlsbad, La Jolla and other nearby communities have further recreational opportunities.)

Another beach favorite is Moonlight Beach, which got its name from the moonlight picnics folks enjoyed there in the early 1900s. In olden days, the beach featured a playground and dance hall, among other things. Nowadays, Moonlight Beach still gets lots of attention and is the home of quite a few festivals and events.

Encinitas is well-known for its La Paloma Theatre, an old-time movie house that was among the first to show “talkies.” It's not changed much and continues to show movies.

The historic downtown is a hub of activity with lots of restaurants, coffee shops, galleries, bars and clubs to check out. To combine history and coffee, stop by longtime city spot Pannikin Coffee & Tea. It's housed in the Santa Fe Railroad Station of 1888.

Check out the Lux Art Institute to see works of art in progress (the artists’ work in a studio environment). Various classes are available for children, teens and adults.

Encinitas
Why you'll love Encinitas
Encinitas has activities from surfing, paddle boarding, snorkeling & swimming to hiking and shopping. Visit the museums and enjoy the vibrant nightlife.

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Whale Watching Cruise
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Local Tips
What is a Go San Diego Pass?

The Go San Diego Pass allows visitors to experience more attractions while simultaneously saving money.

With the pass, you can visit San Diego’s top attractions like the San Diego Zoo or LEGOLAND, all while saving up to 55% off on admissions. Plus, the pass gives you the ability to skip the line when visiting select attractions.

Things to Do

Biking
Biking
Museums
Museums
Paddle Boarding
Paddle Boarding
Picnic Tables
Picnic Tables
Skateboarding
Skateboarding
Snorkeling
Snorkeling
Sunbathing
Sunbathing
Surfing
Surfing
Swimming
Swimming

What to Do in Encinitas

Surfing is king and queen in Encinitas, but there’s more to the city than riding the waves.

Golf

Golf is a top pastime among city locals and visitors. For example, the Encinitas Ranch Golf Course offers 18 challenging championship holes amid gorgeous views of the Pacific. This type of view is nearly impossible for golfers to get in the San Diego area, and the course restaurant serves a full menu to go along with the views.

Want more golfing? Of course, you do! Torrey Pines Golf Course is about 12 miles south (20 minutes) from downtown Encinitas, and golfers love this site for its cliffside views and courses of varying difficulty.

San Elijo State Beach

San Elijo State Beach offers camping, surfing, swimming and other activities along the sea. Snorkeling and diving are available as well at a reef nearby. Many campers use the snack bar and camp store at San Elijo for their supplies, including firewood and boogie boards (no need to venture off the beach if you don't want to).

La Paloma Theatre

Then there’s the La Paloma Theatre, the grande dame of Encinitas. This historic movie house opened in February 1928. In attendance was star Mary Pickford, who reportedly cycled all the way from Fairbanks Ranch to the theater (about 10 to 11 miles).

Dining & More

While Encinitas offers plenty of laid-back, cozy charm, it does have its share of more modern attributes. For instance, El Camino Real is a main corridor in the city, providing easy access to big-box stores and dining.

Local Tips
Looking for Good Food?
Le Papagayo is the spot for you. This small joint is big in the flavor department. Don't miss the Happy Hour here!

Surfing

Of course, many Encinitas residents and visitors are surfers. They ride the waves at sites such as Swami’s, Boneyards and D Street Beach year-round (more on this in the next section).

San Diego Botanic Garden

The 37-acre San Diego Botanic Garden features desert gardens, rare bamboo plants, fruit gardens and other attractions. Thanks to its 29 unique gardens, even the locals discover something new on each visit.

Surfing in Encinitas

Encinitas regularly shows up on lists for the top places to surf, and folks of different abilities have various places along the coast to ride the waves.

Surfing at Swami’s

Swami’s can produce some of the best waves in the world, but when that happens, everyone heads here. You should expect droves of folks surfing at Swami's if it’s a good day. Summers are the least-crowded times because that’s when the waves tend to slack off.

D Street Surf

D Street surfing is right next to Moonlight State Beach, and it is fine to think of them interchangeably. Crowds can be a problem, but there’s more space here to find less-populated spots.

D Street is especially popular with surf teams and teenagers, particularly in spring and fall when the combo swells roll. Meanwhile, campers should enjoy the waves at San Elijo. They can camp at night and ride reef breaks during the day.

Nearby Surf Spots

Cardiff Seaside Reef in neighboring Cardiff-by-the-Sea is family-friendly, and you can bring camping vehicles for an all-day experience. The slower waves here also attract longboarders.

Grandview Surf Beach in nearby Leucadia features all types of waves for diverse abilities, but you should bring small-wave gear or lots of foam. That’s because many of the waves are mushy (they’re still a lot of fun!). Expect sizable crowds here.

If you feel like venturing a bit further outside of Encinitas, check out the waves in Carlsbad, Del Mar or La Jolla.

Check the Surf Reports

Wherever you go, research any recommended surfing spot you are thinking of going. Check whether lifeguards monitor the places you want to surf, and look up each spot’s surf report and forecast. One more thing: The tacos in Encinitas are delicious; don’t miss Taco Tuesday after a day of surfing!

Featured Activity

San Diego Harbor Cruise on San Diego Bay at Sunset
San Diego Harbor Cruise
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History and Culture in Encinitas

Residents and tourists love the laid-back yet luxurious vibes that Encinitas offers, but in many ways, geography has shaped the area’s history. After all, its location on the coast has attracted surfers for years, and they tend to practice a relaxed way of life.

The Neighborhoods of Encinitas

Five distinct neighborhoods, Old Encinitas, New Encinitas, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Leucadia and Olivenhain, make up Encinitas. Old Encinitas runs along ocean beaches and features the historic La Paloma Theatre. New Encinitas boasts golf, shopping, big-box chain stores and newer, larger homes.

Meanwhile, Cardiff-by-the-Sea is oceanfront and includes older homes along with the Lux Art Institute. San Elijo State Beach accounts for much of its coastline. The more rural area of Encinitas is Olivenhain. If you fancy a bit of horse country, check it out on the eastern side of town.

Leucadia is where many folks go for shopping, dining and art. In this area, you’ll find diverse cuisines and shops (and gorgeous eucalyptus trees along the Pacific Coast Highway). Be sure to check out the Surfing Madonna mosaic.

Historical Sites in Encinitas

The culture in Encinitas does vary a bit depending on which area of the city you’re in, but the Kumeyaay Indians used to inhabit the area, including what is now Torrey Pines State Park. Spain eventually claimed the area, then it became part of California.

Historical sites in Encinitas include the La Paloma Theatre in the historic downtown. It opened in the 1920s and is still going strong with new releases. There’s also the former one-room schoolhouse dating to 1883. Back then, only eight students lived in the town. The schoolhouse is now the home office of the Encinitas Historical Society.

For seaside history, head to the sandy Moonlight Beach. Early settlers washed their clothes here, and the beach used to house a boardwalk, dance hall, playground and bathhouse, among other structures. Surfing became a big draw in the 1950s, and Moonlight Beach is a popular site for modern-day events such as the Madonna 5K Beach Run/Walk.

Museums in Encinitas

City museums include the San Dieguito Heritage Museum, San Diego Botanic Garden and the Lux Art Institute. The heritage museum explores the history of Encinitas, including its surfing. It’s small with limited hours but well worth a stop if you can make it.

In 2019, a pop-up museum enabled folks to learn more about love in fun ways. Future visitors may be in for a treat with other pop-up exhibits.

Featured Hotel
Inn at Moonlight Beach
Kitchen Amenities at Inn at Moonlight Beach
Boutique
Boutique
Families
Families
Near Beach
Near Beach
3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars
Focus on your wellbeing at Inn at Moonlight Beach. This unique hotel, located in Encinitas, takes a holistic approach to travel accommodations.
Prices Starting at $297
Check Availability

Know Before You Go & Tips

Amazing Sunsets
Amazing Sunsets
Cafes
Cafes
Museums
Museums
Parks
Parks
Shopping
Shopping
Trolley Stop
Trolley Stop

Entertainment Options in Encinitas

Close to it All

Remember one thing: Encinitas is part of huge, wonderful San Diego County. Really, Encinitas is a mere 25 miles north of San Diego. You can easily take in bigger-city attractions while staying in Encinitas.

Restaurants & Bars

Downtown Encinitas, near Santa Fe Drive, features a good number of bars, restaurants and other nightlife spots. Head out for a tasty night on the town after a day on the beach. Sample freshly caught seafood or dishes such as Thai and Szechuan, and get your dance groove on.

Concerts & Festivals

Concerts and festivals include the annual Encinitas April Street Fair and the Encinitas Fall Festival. Throughout the year, you’ll find piano festivals, yoga celebrations, fiddle fests, music by the sea, storytelling and much more.

La Paloma is where locals and tourists go for movies. Despite its somewhat faded glory and acoustics, the theater still projects refined elegance. It’s a step back in time and an excellent spot for classic films and new releases.

Live Theaters

For live theater options, check out the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. It offers readings, variety nights and lots of productions. You don’t need to drive all the way down to San Diego (the drive from downtown Encinitas to the theater is about 5 miles, meaning 15 minutes with some traffic).

Encinitas is near the Carlsbad Performing Arts Academy (also a dance studio). Residents enjoy the parent-and-child classes, and the other classes offered include leaps and turns, pre-pointe, ballet/tap and modern dance. Visitors can watch the periodic competitions and performances.

Fortunately, the Encinitas area isn’t all about surfing. Otherwise, visitors might get bored quickly!

Encinitas
is Famous For:
Beaches
Beaches
Breweries
Breweries
Sidewalk Cafés
Sidewalk Cafés
Surfing
Surfing
Known For:
Hiking
Hiking
Museums
Museums
Nightlife
Nightlife
Paddle Boarding
Paddle Boarding
Sunsets
Sunsets
This Month's Forecast
67℉ / 79℉
Sunny in September
Oct
63℉ / 78℉
Sunny in October
Nov
56℉ / 73℉
Sunny in November
Dec
51℉ / 68℉
Sunny in December

Stay

Hampton by Hilton Encinitas - Cardiff
Family Friendly
3 Star Rating3 Star Rating3 Star Rating
Hampton by Hilton Encinitas - Cardiff
from $158 / night
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Econo Lodge Encinitas Moonlight Beach
Budget Hotel
2 Star Rating2 Star Rating
Econo Lodge Encinitas Moonlight Beach
from $89 / night
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Inn at Moonlight Beach
Boutique Hotel
3 Star Rating3 Star Rating3 Star Rating
Inn at Moonlight Beach
from $297 / night
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Days Inn by Wyndham Encinitas Moonlight Beach
Family Friendly
2 Star Rating2 Star Rating
Days Inn by Wyndham Encinitas Moonlight Beach
from $65 / night
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Alila Marea Beach Resort
Beachfront
4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating
Alila Marea Beach Resort
from $683 / night
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Best Western Encinitas Inn & Suites
Family Friendly
3 Star Rating3 Star Rating3 Star Rating
Best Western Encinitas Inn & Suites
from $131 / night
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