Moonlight State Beach vs Fletcher Cove Beach

Is the family-friendly Moonlight State Beach your next stop? Or are you dreaming of Fletcher Cove Beach? Our rundown will help you decide where to go next.
Amanda Rosa
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means if you make purchases through them, I may be compensated at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
Moonlight State Beach vs Fletcher Cove Beach
Overview of Beaches
Comparing the Scenery
Save on Gear
Beach Activities
Shore Atmosphere
Getting There + Parking
Safety First
Our Verdict

Highlights

Moonlight State Beach vs Fletcher Cove Beach
Scenery
Parking
Final Verdict
Moonlight State Beach vs Fletcher Cove Beach
Scenery
Parking
Final Verdict

Loved by Locals - You Don’t Want to Miss These Waves

Aerial View Just South of Fletcher Cove BeachMoonlight Overlook Compass

Deep blue waves. Pristine sandy beaches. Surfing, swimming, and fun. Whether you’re going to Fletcher Cove or Moonlight State Beach - both promise plenty of gorgeous surf, sunshine, and memories you’ll cherish for a lifetime.

Sand, Beach Umbrella and Cliffs at Fletcher Cove Beach
Sand, Beach Umbrella and Cliffs at Fletcher Cove Beach

Fletcher Cove Beach

Fletcher Cove Beach, lovingly nicknamed the Pillbox after a WWII gunnery, is a hidden gem in the City of Solana Beach.

Locals head to this secluded beach for breathtaking views, surfing, and soaking in the sun.

Belly Up Tavern and its Marquee
Belly Up Tavern and its Marquee

Solana Beach Local Attractions

The crescent beach, picnic area, and playground are only the beginning when visiting Solana Beach and the San Diego area.

Things to Do Nearby:

  • Belly Up Tavern
  • North Coast Repertory Theatre
  • Pizza Port with its delicious pizza and famous locally brewed beer

Swimming Pool with An Ocean View at Lauberge Del Mar Resort and Spa
Swimming Pool with An Ocean View at Lauberge Del Mar Resort and Spa

Where to Stay

L'Auberge Del Mar Resort and Spa offers guests ocean views, easy access to nearby attractions, and plenty of opportunities for shopping.

L'Auberge Del Mar Resort and Spa is also near both Torrey Pines State Beach and the beaches of Del Mar, so you can spend your San Diego visit surrounded by pristine sand and deep blue water.

Beach Umbrellas at Moonlight Beach
Beach Umbrellas at Moonlight Beach

Moonlight State Beach

EncinitasMoonlight State Beach is the family-friendly beach, perfect for a day filled with plenty of fun.

One of San Diego’s top rated beaches, it combines wide, sandy beach space and some of the cleanest water in Southern California to create a popular seaside destination.

Local Attractions

Encinitas’ beautiful beachfront jewel isn’t the only must see attraction in the area.

Things to Do Nearby:

Inn at Moonlight Beach
Inn at Moonlight Beach

Where to Stay

The Inn at Moonlight Beach eco-innovation and commitment to wellness makes it one of San Diego’s most extraordinary hotels.

Guests will be minutes away from Moonlight State Beach, the Carlsbad Flower Fields, and the Del Mar Fairgrounds - perfect for everyone who is looking forward to a fun and relaxing San Diego visit.

La Jolla Shores South End of Beach
La Jolla Shores South End of Beach

Getting The Most Out of Your San Diego Visit

Are the surf, fun, and sun calling your name? If your time here brings you to Moonlight State, Fletcher Cove, or other excellent local beaches including La Jolla Shores Beach, Cardiff Reef, or Del Mar Beach - we have you covered.

Are state parks and beaches like Leucadia State Beach, the South Carlsbad State Beach, or San Elijo State Beach more your vibe?

Don’t forget the tourist and local favorite - La Jolla Cove!

The Go City San Diego pass is your ticket to experiencing more. Get discounted tickets using code GVSD5OFF to attractions and more through the city plus gear rentals for surfboards, snorkels and masks, bikes, and kayaks.

Local Tips
Safety First!
Don't worry! Lifeguards are available at both beaches beginning at 8 AM.

Fun in the Sun: What You Need To Know

Let’s dive into the size of the beaches and what they are like.

Moonlight Beach and Waves
Moonlight Beach and Waves

What to Expect at Moonlight State Beach

The beautiful Moonlight State Beach consistently appears at the top of “Best Beach” lists and there’s a reason.

It’s the warm, golden sand that stretches across the natural cove. This is a beach enthusiast’s paradise.

Moonlight consistently offers some of California’s cleanest water and sand to visitors. Its pristine sandy beach delivers plenty of space to have fun both in and out of the water.

Moonlight’s soft sand stretches for 25 acres, perfect for swimming, picnicking, surfing, and beach volleyball.

This is one of my favorite spots to watch the sunset. It’s soft, warm, and comforting as the sun dips into the Pacific.

Hanging Out at Fletcher Cove Beach
Hanging Out at Fletcher Cove Beach

What You’ll Encounter at Fletcher Cove Beach

At the heart of Solana Beach’s 2 miles of beachfront lies Fletcher Cove. This picturesque, classic Southern California wide sand beach is hugged by bluffs with magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean.

Visitors looking to do more need only wait for low tide, or follow the staircases at the top of the bluffs. Go snorkeling at the Del Mar Shores Beach to the south. Or explore the tide pools at Tide Beach Park to the north.

Be aware as the tide rises, the beach shortens and access to Del Mar Shores Beach and Tide Beach Park is limited to the bluffs.

Pillbox’s high bluffs not only give visitors amazing views of the Pacific Ocean but also brilliantly red sunsets that reflect off the rocks and glittering high tide.

Be aware while swimming or surfing, rocks can be an issue - especially for beginner surfers.

Easy Access to Fletcher Cove Beach
Easy Access to Fletcher Cove Beach

Our Preferred Beach Based on Layout

The landscapes of both these beaches are fairly similar, but I prefer Fletcher Cove Beach just a bit more. The beach is a bit smaller, and on a hot day you can escape the crowds by walking toward either end.

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La Jolla - Surf Board Rental
La Jolla - Surf Board Rental
La Jolla is home to some of the world's best beaches for surfing, and with your Go Pass, you can enjoy this experience. Whether you are a rookie or a pro, get a full day Surf Board rental. The waters are perfect for those learning.
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Local Tips
What activities does the Go City San Diego pass include?

There’s a variety of activities included with the Go City San Diego pass such as: The San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, LEGOLAND, SeaWorld, Hiking Tours, Whale Watching, Museum Tours, Speed Boat Adventures & more!

For the most popular attractions and water-sport rentals as well as the biggest discounts, consider the All-Inclusive Pass.

Use our exclusive discount code GVSD5OFF to save an extra 5%!

Fun on Land and Sea: Make the Most Out of Your Visit

Surfer with Child at Fletcher Cove Beach
Surfer with Child at Fletcher Cove Beach

The best time for surfing in both Moonlight State and Fletcher Cove is during the winter months - with November being the best overall month.

While many surfers find the waves inconsistent for the rest of the year, they’re perfect for beginners.

Swimming, sunbathing, and paddleboarding are also available at both beaches. Here’s a breakdown of some of the activities on offer.

Main Walkway to Moonlight Beach
Main Walkway to Moonlight Beach

Go for a Dip at Moonlight State

Moonlight State Beach gets its name from the residents who would picnic on the beach at midnight at the turn of the century.

Today, visitors can still enjoy picnics in the park - dedicated tables are behind the beach.

Other Recreational Opportunities at Moonlight State Beach:

  • Equipment Rentals
  • Beach Volleyball
  • Firepits
  • Grass Park
  • Playground
  • Tennis Court

Moonlight State Beach seasonal events are all about community. Both visitors and locals come together for beach clean-ups and the annual Moonlight Beach Fest.

The one-day event is all about live music, food, and the spirit of Encinitas.

Nice Wave Forming at Fletcher Cove Beach
Nice Wave Forming at Fletcher Cove Beach

Ride the Waves at Fletcher Cove

Fletcher Cove has been a family favorite beach for years. Locals flock to its shores for swimming and enjoying a leisurely stroll along the water.

While Pillbox offers several options for fun, it’s also perfect for quiet relaxation and sunset watching.

Other Recreational Opportunities at Fletcher Cove:

  • Basketball Court
  • Bodyboarding
  • Kayaking
  • Playground
  • Picnicking
  • Tide Pooling

San Diego’s North County is no stranger to seasonal fun, and Fletcher Cove has a great selection of events throughout the year!

Fletcher Cove is home to the Fiesta del Sol summer music festival. Attendees get to dance the night away plus vote for their favorite band during the two-day event.

The dog days of summer bring in athletes competing in the Solana Beach Triathlon, Duathlon & Aquabike. The race begins and ends in Pillbox.

Aerial View Just North of Fletcher Cove Beach
Aerial View Just North of Fletcher Cove Beach

The Best Beach for Active Beach Goers

Most classic seaside activities are doable at either beach, but I prefer the surf at Fletcher Cove, giving it the edge here. The surf conditions are especially great at the southern end of the beach.

Coastal Vibes: Before You Go

Having Fun at Fletcher Cove Beach
Having Fun at Fletcher Cove Beach

One of the best parts of going to the beach is taking in the atmosphere. See what makes these beaches special and what kinds of crowds you can expect to encounter.

A Lasting Impression at Moonlight State

This tourist and local favorite is all about being calm. Everything you need is on the beach itself.

Be aware, this is one of San Diego’s most visited beaches year-round, and it can sometimes be hard to find space to set up your towels and umbrella. If you’re visiting when it’s crowded, though, you can still have fun. Just do like the locals do: grab a volleyball or enjoy a bonfire.

The Vibes at Fletcher Cove

The locals in Southern California and San Diego are all about enjoying the outdoors and Pillbox keeps that vibe going. With winds blowing in the east and groundswells coming from the southwest, this San Diego beach calls to surfers and embodies Southern California’s trademark laid-back atmosphere.

Whether your day keeps you surfing at Pillbox, walking along to Tide Beach Park, or spending time in Fletcher Cove Park, you can expect fun, relaxed, and chill vibes.

Like Moonlight State, Fletcher Cove Park sees an influx of visitors in the summer. However, the smaller parking lot usually means thinner crowds, which can make for a more enjoyable experience if you prefer to have a little corner of the beach to yourself like I do.

The Beach with the Best Atmosphere

Since Fletcher Cove Beach is usually less crowded, it’s my preferred suggestion for those who place a heavy emphasis on a beach’s atmosphere.

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Inn at Moonlight Beach
Inn at Moonlight Beach
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Near Beach
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Accessibility, Parking & Amenities

Parking at Fletcher Cove Beach
Parking at Fletcher Cove Beach

Most beaches in the Solana Beach and Encinitas area require you to walk down stairs to reach the shore, but both Moonlight State and Fletcher Cove have ramps instead, making them wheelchair-accessible and easier to access.

Both beaches offer the following amenities and facilities:

  • Lifeguards
  • Picnic Tables
  • Public Showers
  • Restrooms
  • Shade
  • Trash Cans

Here’s some additional info about the parking and other beach conditions.

Coaster Train Pulling into Downtown San Diego
Coaster Train Pulling into Downtown San Diego

Getting to Moonlight State Beach

Moonlight State is located at 400 B St (at the end of C St in Encinitas), Encinitas, CA 92024.

Free lots are available next to the beach, but they can fill quickly during the summer.

Alternative parking is available on the side streets. Paid lots are available within walking distance as well.

If you’re traveling by public transit, you can take the COASTER to the Encinitas station.

Visitors can also take the one of the following buses to the Encinitas station: 101, 304, 309, or 604.

The station is approximately a 3-minute walk from the beach.

Surfliner Train Waiting at the Santa Fe Train Depot in Downtown San Diego
Surfliner Train Waiting at the Santa Fe Train Depot in Downtown San Diego

Getting Around Fletcher Cove

Fletcher Cove Beach Park is located at 111 S Sierra Ave (the west end of Lomas Santa Fe Dr at S Sierra Ave), Solana Beach, CA 92075.

A small parking lot is available. This can fill up quickly, especially during the summer.

Visitors can find parking alternatives a few blocks away on Pacific Avenue, North Sierra Avenue and North Acacia Avenue.

Traveling without a car? One option is to take either the Amtrak train or the COASTER to Pillbox. The station is just a few yards away from the beach, approximately a 40-minute walk.

Visitors can also take either the 101 Bus to Oceanside or the 308 to Solana Beach. The bus stops are approximately 5 minutes away from the beach.

While Fletcher Cove and Moonlight State share most of their amenities, one standout feature that parents will appreciate at Fletcher Cove Beach is a playground.

Our Choice for the Easiest Experience

Moonlight State Beach has a much larger parking lot, which makes getting to the beach a breeze, netting it our recommendation here.

Safety First! The Rules You Need to Know

Main Lifeguard Tower at Moonlight Beach
Main Lifeguard Tower at Moonlight Beach

Ensure your beach day is worry-free when you know the rules and safety regulations at your beach of choice.

Safety Regulations at Moonlight State Beach

Lifeguards are available at Moonlight State Beach from 8:00 AM until dusk.

We encourage visitors to check in with lifeguards regarding ocean conditions.

Make sure to follow all safety-related rules when at the beach. For Moonlight State Beach, these include not climbing on the bluffs, refraining from smoking and drinking alcohol, and not bringing glass containers to the beach.

Dogs and cats are not allowed on Moonlight State Beach.

Policies at Fletcher Cove

Like Moonlight State Beach, lifeguards are posted at the towers along Fletcher Cove starting at 8:00 AM. They’re on duty as late as 8:00 PM during the on-season.

Prohibited items and activities at Fletcher Cove Beach are:

  • Alcohol
  • Climbing on Bluffs
  • Fireworks or Sky Lanterns
  • Glass Containers
  • Smoking

Though pets are not allowed on Fletcher Cove Beach itself, they are allowed at Del Mar Beach and Tide Park Beach, both of which can be accessed from Fletcher Cove. Pets must remain on a leash at all times.

How the Experiences Compare

Overall, the regulations at both beaches are fairly similar, so we consider this category to be a tie.

Moonlight State Beach vs Fletcher Cove Beach: How to Pick Where to Go

Dozens of beaches across Southern California all fight for the bragging rights of who is the “best beach.” But in our opinion - these two are tops.

Know this insider info before you go so you can decide which beach is right for you.

What to Know About Moonlight State Beach

Here are some final facts and things to know about Moonlight State Beach:

  • Moonlight State Beach is open daily from 4:00 AM to 2:00 AM
  • Plans to prevent further erosion to Moonlight State Beach are in progress. Sand dredged from San Elijo Lagoon is sent to both Moonlight State and Cardiff State Beach to reduce both human and natural degradation of coastal habitats.

Some Things to Keep in Mind About Fletcher Cove

Use these tips and other info to decide if Fletcher Cove Beach is the right choice for you:

  • Fletcher Cove Beach is open daily from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM
  • Visitors to Fletcher Cove will soon see the freshly placed 700,000 cubic yards of sand. The USACE Coastal Storm Damage Reduction and Beach Replenishment Project will replenish sand every decade for the next 50 years, to replenish habitat loss.

Our Verdict for the Best Beach Between the Two

There’s a good chance that you won’t be unhappy spending the day at either of these two beaches, but for my money, Fletcher Cove Beach is the overall winner. It's more intimate and scenic feel, plus its excellent surf, make it one of our team’s favorite beaches!

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