Encinitas is less than a 45-minute drive from the San Diego International Airport and is home to some of the most consistent weather and beautiful beaches in Southern California.
I grew up in this lovely town and, before I tell you all the best things to do in Encinitas, I think it might be helpful to start by quickly breaking up this quaint beachside community into four distinct areas—old Encinitas (Olivenhain), new Encinitas (downtown 101), Leucadia, and Cardiff (Cardiff-by-the-sea).
While all of these areas make up Encinitas, each offers something slightly different. With that in mind, let’s explore what to do in Encinitas:
Table of Contents
- 33 Best Things to Do in Encinitas
- Encinitas Beaches
- Food & Drink
- Museums and Culture
- Encinitas Sites & Attractions
- Wellness Activities in Encinitas
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33 Best Things to Do in Encinitas
Need a hotel? Bookmark my guide to the top places to stay in Encinitas.
Enjoy a cheerful day at the beach
The name Moonlight Beach was originally coined by people enjoying sunsets at midnight here years ago. More commonly known, this beach has annual surf competitions and outdoor music festivals usually held in early Summer.
Moonlight Beach has something for everyone, with public picnic tables, volleyball courts, a snack shack, and moonlight tennis courts a few blocks away.
👉 Pro Tip: Check out Dave’s Rock Garden 2 blocks away from the beach. The garden is a beautiful local path and unofficial public art installation lined with succulents and colorful painted rocks from visitors all over the world.
Self Realization Fellowship, Meditation Gardens
Encounter an oceanfront, cliffside garden with cactus and koi fish
The Self Realization Fellowship Meditation Gardens is truly a meditative walk. It sits elevated above the beach with gorgeous greenery, a koi pond, and a variety of benches to stop and enjoy the tranquility. They do have students staying and taking classes at the fellowship so it is common to see people meditating around the Self Realization Fellowship Meditation Gardens.
👉 Read Next: 47 Best Things to Do in San Diego, CA (By a Local)
San Elijo Lagoon
Head to the trails for a beautiful hike
The San Elijo Lagoon includes an Ecological Reserve and Nature Center surrounded by a spacious Lagoon full of plant and animal species. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, this is an area you won’t want to miss during your trip to Encinitas. The lagoon has a variety of hiking and walking trails including one of the best hikes in San Diego, Annie’s Canyon Trail.
Candles On Tap
Get your DIY on with a custom-crafted candle bar
📍 Map It: 687 S Coast Hwy 101 Unit 155 | 📞 Phone: (442) 210-2295 | Website | 🕐 Hours: Tuesday – Wednesday 12 pm – 5 pm, Thursday – Saturday 12 pm – 7 pm, Sunday 12 pm – 5 pm, Closed Monday | Creations: $32-40
One of the newest businesses in town is Candles On Tap, San Diego’s first custom candle bar. This is a great place for crafty visitors and anyone looking to make something by hand. They have a hundred scented oils to choose from to create and mix your scent plus different containers to design the style of the candle.
Leucadia Farmers Market
Support local farmers and try new foods
What’s a better way to sample the local flavors of a town than by visiting the farmer’s market? Hosted every Sunday outside the Elementary School, Leaucaida Farmers Market has a range of fruits, vegetables, plants, and specialty items like kombucha and mineral sunscreen, along with hot food to sit and stay awhile.
San Diego Botanic Garden
Meander through lush groves and native California plants
📍 Map It: Quail Gardens Drive and, Ecke Ranch Rd | 📞 Phone: (760) 436-3036 | Website | 🕐 Hours: 9 am – 5 pm Wednesday – Monday, Closed Tuesday | Entrance: $18, adults, $10 youth, $12 seniors/military/student, free for children under 3
Across the street from the San Dieguito Heritage Museum at the Heritage Ranch, and right near the Encinitas Ranch Golf Course lies the San Diego Botanic Garden (formerly Quail Botanical Gardens). Encinitas is Spanish for small oaks, coined from early settlers embracing the oak trees inhabiting the town. There’s so much to see inside the San Diego Botanic Gardens including these preserved oak trees and many other native plants as well.
Step back into the 80s at a local records shop
Lou’s Records is seen as a historical landmark to locals of Encinitas. So much old-school nostalgia runs through its walls, with musicians like Jack Johnson playing here before rising to fame. You can find a mix of used and new vinyl records, cassette tapes, turntables, and CDs for sale.
Four Moons Spa
Celebrate life with a luxurious spa treatment
You’ll find a lot of establishments in Encinitas California have been converted from houses into new concept shops. One such place is Four Moons Spa. This Spa is great for special occasions if you’re looking for something unique. The space itself is pure beach elegance at its finest.
They are a new-age wellness retreat offering massages, facials, astrology, sound baths, mystical, and healing sessions.
Tide Beach Park
Visit a spacious beach for all sorts of recreational activities
Tide Beach inside Cardiff State Beach is right on the border of where Cardiff area of Encinitas, CA becomes Solana Beach. This lovely park is home to a large reef and tide pools towards the north side. This unique spot is well situated with Fletcher Cove around the corner and provides beachgoers with plenty of room for surfing, snorkeling, body-boarding, and more.
Encinitas Community Park
Head to a top-rated park with space for sports and more
Encinitas Community Park includes 44 grassy acres with a variety of public multi-use open space. The park has a dog park, skate park, children’s playground, picnic tables, restrooms, shaded areas, baseball fields, and soccer fields. No matter if you’re on a solo trip or a family vacation, this park is a great place for sports or to have a picnic, walk around, and simply enjoy nature.
Step on down to a surfer’s paradise
Besides heading to Moonlight Beach, Grandview Beach is another great Encinitas beach. Grandview Beach, on the north side of Leucadia State Beach, with a steep wooden staircase leads to a popular surf break. If you’re looking to lay out, I wouldn’t recommend Grandview because it’s a lot more narrow of a beach than others and sits below high bluffs which can sometimes be unsafe terrain. This beach is mainly a great surf spot and lookout point.
Sunbathe in a more secluded neighborhood beach
Beacon’s Beach, inside Leucadia State Beach, is more on the south side and is another great spot mainly for surfing. It is considered a hidden treasure amongst San Diego beaches. To access this beach I recommend using the staircase trail that leads to the ocean but be careful of the steep bluffs.
Don’t miss all the action at this famous surf spot
Swami’s Beach and Seaside Park is another well-known surf spot right next to the Self-Realization Fellowship. Don’t miss the large tiki statue above the beach at the parking lot that’s said to protect Swami’s surf beach. If you’re with a group that wants to practice surfing I recommend taking a private group surf lesson here. Swami’s has its own charm with quirky art sculptures, a local hangout, and a vantage point perfect for sunset viewing.
San Elijo State Beach
Bring a picnic and soak up the unbeatable weather
Grab your beach gear and head to San Elijo State Beach. Looking for food? Snacks are within walking distance from the highly coveted Seaside Market. This beach connects to San Elijo Campgrounds and is located right next to Cardiff State Beach.
At San Elijo State Beach, experience wide space to roam, walk dogs on leash, watch sand rake artists, and walk the overpass from one beach to another. This is a great spot for relaxing onshore and enjoying the weather.
👉 Read Next: Best San Diego Beaches for 2022
Food & Drink
Shop local and support Encinitas small businesses
Take home artisan baked bread designed by two locally born and raised brothers. Praeger Brothers specialize in natural loaf bread but they also have an assortment of pastries, muffins, sweet treats, and specialty sandwiches. Their bread is truly loved by the local community and this location is their newest shop.
Encinitas Vegan Food Scene
Calling all vegans Encinitas has something special for you
📍 Map It: N Coast Hwy 101
Depending on where you’re from, Vegan food might be nonexistent. A lot of visitors are shocked by the number of vegan options we have in Encinitas and surrounding areas. One of the more niche things to do in Encinitas is taste your way around the vegan scene. Book an Encinitas vegan food tour to try a bit of everything.
From Plant Power’s vegan drive-thru to Plumeria’s vegan Thai food, to the plant-based burger at Nectarine Grove, you’ll be amazed at the styles of Vegan food Encinitas has to offer.
Coastal Coffee on the 101
Sip on cold brews, specialty lattes, pour overs, and more
📍 Map It: Coast Hwy 101 | Street parking
If you’re a coffee-lover, you’ve come to the right city to get your daily dose of caffeine! Encinitas is packed with a diverse lineup of coffee shops on every corner. Check out the Pannikin in the bright yellow house for a nice place to sit and sip.
My personal favorite Better Buzz Coffee has a “best drink ever” menu item which is their version of a vanilla latte. If you’re looking for a pour-over cup, head to Philz. For an old-school vibe, check out Surfdog’s Java Hut. The best part? You’re a nice stroll away from the beach.
Beer & Live Music
Taste a variety of small batched brews while enjoying local bands
📍 Map It: Coast Hwy 101 | Street parking | Great for groups | Popular nights: Thursday – Saturday
If you haven’t already guessed, this beach town is a Southern California mecca for beer tasting. With over a handful of breweries and bars with local beer on tap, Encinitas is a beer lover hot spot. It’s definitely one of the best places for beer near San Diego. And if beer tasting wasn’t enough, many places offer live music while you drink and dine.
Some great spots to check out are Culture Brewing Co, Modern Times, The Bier Garden, and the Roxy.
🛏️Looking to stay overnight? Book a great Encinitas accommodation.
Encinitas-Style Mexican Food
Experience the best Mexican food on the west coast
📍 Map It: Coast Hwy 101 | Street parking
One of the most delicious things to do in Encinitas is taking a bite out of our Mexican food. Being so close to Mexico, we are proud to have such a delicious influence on Baja cultural cuisine.
All around Encinitas you’ll find a variety of Mexican food from huge restaurants to tiny shops, to window-style, and food trucks. Make sure to try our fish tacos, chile relleno, surf & turf, secret menu items like the taquito burrito, and fried cheese shell-style tacos.
Try a Speciality Dessert
Cool off with sweet treats by the beach
📍 Map It: Coast Hwy 101 | Street parking
Dessert time is underrated in Encinitas. Encinitas is home to a large variety of specialty desserts for travelers with a sweet tooth. We have a school bus converted into a Hawaiian shaved ice truck, gelato, and boba at a unique outdoor living room-inspired plantscape, ice cream tacos, ice cream cookie sandwiches, pies, and cakes. Just walk down Hwy 101 and you’ll stumble upon all of these.
Museums and Culture
🎨 Read Next: 17 Best Museums in San Diego County
Encinitas Historical Society
Timetravel to a historical classroom
When thinking of cultural things to do in Encinitas, a trip to the Encinitas Historical Society and 1883 Schoolhouse is a great activity. The preserved house gives you a glimpse into what school was like in Encinitas years ago. The Encinitas Historical Society is passionate about keeping its properties up to date to share this city’s historical landmarks and passion for the community.
🚗 How to Get There: With so much street parking, renting a Discover Car is the best way to get around Encinitas easily.
Envision your life on a boat
Have you ever wanted to live on a boat? Envision your life as a residential captain with a visit to the Encinitas Boathouses. The Boathouses are a historical landmark and part of guided downtown Encinitas walking tours hosted by the Historical Society that starts at 10 am every 3rd Saturday. You can also drive by and view the outside of the houses and take photos without a guided tour.
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Encinitas Sites & Attractions
Be a part of the Encinitas community
📍 Map It: 441 Saxony Rd | 📞 Phone: (760) 479-6505 | Website | 🕐 Farm Hours: 12 pm – 3 pm, Thursdays, 10 am – 3 pm, Sundays | 🦋 Butterflies: 8 am – 4 pm, Sunday – Thursday | 🌳 Nature Play: 9 am – 12 pm, Thursdays, $8/child | Entrance: Free, $18 suggested donations | Farmstand: Pay-what-you-can | 🌿 Public Farm tours: 9:30 am – 11 am, second Sunday of every month
Coastal Roots Farm focuses on regenerative and sustainable farming practices to help strengthen the land and community for years to come. It prides itself on the power of teamwork and you can experience it for yourself through gardening volunteer days, visiting the farm stand for local produce, attending a public farm tour, heading to the nature play area, and stopping by the butterfly farms vivarium next door to the farm.
Coastal Rail Trail
Take a stroll with stunning panoramic views
Walk, run, or bike the Coastal Rail Trail of Encinitas. The trail currently runs in Cardiff before having to make a loopback, but it is being developed to stretch and connect farther on both sides from Carlsbad to Solana Beach. This trail is fairly new with a wide pathway for multiple people to use at once and it sits elevated above the train tracks with a great view of the ocean.
Encinitas Seaside Bazaar
Go shopping for unique souvenirs
📍 Map It: 459 S Coast Hwy 101 | 📞 Phone: (760) 753-1611 | 🕐 Hours: 9 am – 5 pm Saturdays & Sundays | Entrance: Free | Street parking
Looking for rare souvenirs? Check out a more bazaar thing to do in Encinitas with its weekend outdoor flea and street market. Roam the booths for local artist-made trinkets, hippie clothing, jewelry, and other knick-knacks to take home. The market is constantly changing so you never know what you might find.
La Paloma Theater
Watch an old film inside a historical theater
When visiting Encinitas head to La Paloma to discover San Diego’s oldest theater rich in history. La Paloma theater features foreign and indie films, and on occasion hosts festivals as well as concerts. You can expect standard popcorn and candy for sale, but just the basics. If you’re looking to get a drink or food before or after your show, the theater is in the heart of downtown’s major attractions.
Shop the 101
Shop the unique coastal boutiques of Encinitas
Downtown Encinitas has a ton of coastal stores all within walking distance. Most of the shopping includes beach-inspired home goods, apparel, art, jewelry, incense, and accessories if you like something a little more unique. Side tip, if you happen to be visiting during April, don’t miss the annual two-day Street Fair where all the streets are blocked off with live music and vendors galore.
Wellness Activities in Encinitas
Center For Creative Renewal
Nourish your inner creativity with art therapy based events
The Center For Creative Renewal is a hidden gem of Encinitas for art lovers. This property has a private view of the Canyon, a labyrinth, organic veggie and chicken farm, all wrapped around an exquisite art shed for creative workshops. If you like immersing yourself in local culture and off-the-beaten-path adventures, this is your activity.
Finetune your health and wellness with some acupuncture or reiki
📍 Map It: 451 La Veta Ave | 📞 Phone: (760) 652-1116 | Website | 🕐 Office Hours: 7:00 am – 7 pm Monday – Friday, 8 am – 6 pm, Saturday, 9 am – 4 pm, Sunday | Treatments: $120 on average | Street parking
One of the more relaxing things to do in Encinitas is a specialty service at Indigo Dragon. Hosted in a casual beach setting with an outdoor lounge, Indigo Dragon is a comfortable and inviting space for all your health and wellness needs. Some of their specialties include acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, craniosacral, functional medicine, rolfing, reiki, physical therapy, and naturopathic remedies.
The Garden Spa
Encounter the Aloha spirit of Hawaii in Encinitas
The Garden Spa has been in business for many years. With all the newer places popping up in this town, it’s nice to go to some of the more long-standing establishments in the area. The blissful garden environment is nestled in bamboo and surrounded by greenery with a tiny one-room massage studio shed. With massage, skincare, and waxing, Garden Spa offers a Hawaiian oasis in the heart of Encinitas.
Sacred Sound of the Soul
Learn how to play crystal singing bowls
Sacred Sound of the Soul is a 15-minute drive inland from downtown Encinitas. From the outside, it looks like a musical instrument store, which is partly true. Besides selling beautiful drums and crystal alchemy singing bowls, they are also an event space and gallery. Right now they are still having online virtual classes for safety precautions, but they should have more in-person events soon.
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Desha Yoga & Ayurveda
Seek ancient wisdom and reset the mind, body, and spirit
At Desha Yoga & Ayurveda, take a yoga class or learn all about ancient Indian spiritual science. They offer unique Indian astrological readings, Ayurveda, specialty massages, and more. For travelers looking to indulge in the Encinitas spiritual scene, this place has some of the more unique offerings in town that you might not get anywhere else in San Diego.
Soul of Yoga
Breath, stretch, and rest at a yoga class
People flock to the town of Encinitas for its spiritual energy, yoga practices, and attention to all things wellness. The Soul of Yoga is a few minute drive from downtown Encinitas. It’s a great studio for top-notch yoga classes, teacher training, sound healing, writing, and cacao ceremonies. I recommend their yoga Nidra for those that could use deep relaxation.
That’s it for my 33 best things to do in Encinitas, California! Encinitas is most commonly known for its perfect weather, beautiful beaches, and delicious Mexican food. But as you can see, there are so many other less commonly known things to do in Encinitas.
👉 Looking For More Activities in North County, San Diego? Be sure to check out my suggestions in neighboring beach towns including the best things to do in Carlsbad & the best things to do in Oceanside!
For more information about traveling to the rest of San Diego county, bookmark our top San Diego travel tips.
I hope you have a blast in Encinitas!
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