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.