33 Best Things to Do in Encinitas CA, for 2023 (By a Local)

👉 Jump to: Things to Do | Beaches | Food & Drink | Museums & Culture | Sites & Attractions | Wellness Activities

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: 

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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.

Moonlight Beach 

Enjoy a cheerful day at the beach

View of people enjoying their day in Moonlight Beach during sunset
Sunset view from atop Moonlight Beach

📍 Google Maps | 📞 Phone: (760) 633-2740 | Website | 🕐 Hours: 5 am – 10 pm daily, dawn to sunset | Entrance: Free | Parking lot and street parking | No dogs allowed

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

Cactus lined-up on a path to a beach in Encinitas
The garden’s cactus-lined beach meditation path

📍 Google Maps | 📞 Phone: (760) 753-1811 | Website | 🕐 Hours: 9 am – 5 pm, Tuesday – Saturday, 11 am – 5 pm, Sunday, Closed Monday, rainy days | Entrance: Free | Street parking

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 

View of a foot walk in San Elijo Lagoon
Walking path through the San Elijo Lagoon

📍 Google Maps | 📞 Phone: (760) 634-3026 | Website | 🕐 Hours: 9 am – 5 pm daily | Entrance: Free | Street Parking

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

A lady making a candle by hand
Making candles by hand

📍 Google Maps | 📞 Phone: (760) 395-7161 | 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 

Fresh and colorful fruits from the Leucadia Farmers Market
Colorful produce, colorful life

📍 Google Maps | 📞 Phone: (858) 272-7054 | Website | 🕐 Hours: Sundays 10 am – 2 pm | Entrance: Free | Free parking lot

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

View of a plant shaped as a musical band in Sand Diego Botanic Garden
Have you ever seen a musical plant band?

📍 Google Maps | 📞 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.

Lou’s Records

Step back into the 80s at a local records shop

A woman browsing through the vinyl records in Lou's Records
Browsing through vinyl records

📍 Google Maps | 📞 Phone: (760) 753-1382 | Website | 🕐 Hours: 12 pm – 6 pm daily | Entrance: free | parking lot 

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

Relaxing in the Four Moons Spa's koi fish pond
Relaxing before a massage in the garden’s koi fish pond

📍 Google Maps | 📞 Phone: (760) 436-5140 | Website | 🕐 Hours: 10 am – 6 pm daily, winter hours until 5 pm | Entrance: Free | Parking Lot 

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

The author holding a stick in Tide Beach Park
Great compact sand here is perfect for raking ephemeral beach art

📍 Google Maps | 📞 Phone: (858) 720-2400 | Website | 🕐 Hours: dawn – dusk daily | Entrance: Free | Street parking

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

A boy playing fetch with his dog in Encinitas Community Park
Boy playing fetch at the park

📍 Google Maps | 📞 Phone: (760) 633-2740 | Website | 🕐 Hours: 5 am –  10 pm, Dog park closed Thursdays 1 – 3 pm for maintenance | Entrance: Free | Parking Lot 

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. 

Encinitas Beaches


Step on down to a surfer’s paradise

View of a staircase to Grandview
Staircase to Grandview

📍 Google Maps | Website | 🕐 Hours: 4 am – 2 am daily | Parking Lot | No Restrooms

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.

Beacon’s Beach 

Sunbathe in a more secluded neighborhood beach

Scenic and calming view from the Beacon's Beach
Secluded bluffside at Beacon’s

📍 Google Maps | 📞 Phone: (760) 633-2740 | Website | 🕐 Hours: 4 am – 2 am daily | Parking lot | No restrooms 

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. 

Swami’s Beach

Don’t miss all the action at this famous surf spot 

Colorful surfboards on the sand of Swami’s Beach
Major surfer’s hangout at Swami’s beach

📍 Google Maps | Website | 🕐 Hours: 4 am – 2 am daily | Restrooms | Parking Lot | Picnic Facilities 

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

The author with her dog enjoying their day in San Elijo State Beach
Me and my pup having a beach day at San Elijo Beach

📍 Google Maps | 📞 Phone: (760) 753-5091 | Website | 🕐 Hours: dawn – sunset daily | Free street parking or paid parking lot

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

Praeger Brothers

Shop local and support Encinitas small businesses

View of freshly baked bread in Praeger Brothers
Can you smell the freshly baked bread already? You will from the outside of the storefront!

📍 Google Maps | 📞 Phone: (760) 704-8442 | Website | 🕐 Hours: 7:30 am – 4:30 pm Saturday – Wednesday, 7:30 am – 5:30 pm Thursday – Friday | Street parking

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

View of a Mexicali quesadilla on a plate
Try a plant-based raw Mexicali quesadilla

📍 Google Maps

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

Two cups of vanilla latte from Better Buzz and the colorful sunset
Better Buzz vanilla lattes for two with the best ocean view

📍 Google Maps | 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

View from the interior of Modern Times Far West Lounge Brewery
Quirky interiors at Modern Times Far West Lounge Brewery

📍 Google Maps | 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

Close up view of a Baja fish tacos with avocado
Baja fish tacos with avocado

📍 Google Maps | 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

The author holding an ice cream taco in front of the Little Fox
It’s always ice cream taco time at Little Fox women-owned shop

📍 Google Maps | 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

View of a globe and books on top of a table

📍 Google Maps | 📞 Phone: (760) 942-9066 | Website | 🕐 Hours: 10 am – 4 pm Saturdays | Entrance: Free, donations welcome | Street Parking

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. 

The Boathouses

Envision your life on a boat

A sign of Encinitas in Downtown San Diego
Where’s a preview of the blue boathouses? You’ll have to go and see them for yourself 🙂

📍 Google Maps | 📞 Phone: (760) 942-9066 | Website | 🕐 Hours: Tours start 10 am – 4 pm, Saturdays – September – July, self-guided anytime | Entrance: Free tours and self-guided 

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

Coastal Roots

Be a part of the Encinitas community 

View of freshly harvested vegetables
A harvested batch of imperfect produce

📍 Google Maps | 📞 Phone: (760) 479-6505 | Website | 🕐 Farm Hours: 8:30 am – 5 pm Sunday – Thursday, Closed Friday & Saturday | 🦋 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

View while walking on the trail during sunset
Enjoying a sunset walk on the trail

📍 Google Maps | Website | 🕐 Open 24 hours | Entrance: Free

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

View of vintage jewelries on a booth
Vintage jewelry finds at the weekend street market

📍 Google Maps | 📞 Phone: (760) 753-1611 | 🕐 Hours: 10 am – 5 pm Saturdays, 9 am – 5 pm 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

View of seats inside the La Paloma Theater
Old movie theater-style viewing

📍 Google Maps | 📞 Phone: (760) 436-7469 | Website | 🕐 Hours: subject to showtimes | Admission: $10 all seats, cash box office | Street parking

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

View plants and other products inside a boutique shop in Encinitas
Unique Encinitas boutiques with plants, candles, perfume, stationery, and more.

📍 Google Maps | Website | 🕐 Hours: 10 am – 6 pm Monday – Friday, stores vary | Street parking

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

A backyard view from the Center For Creative Renewal
Unbelievable backyard and views of Encinitas

📍 Google Maps | 📞 Phone: (760) 436-3310 | Website | 🕐 Hours: By workshop or event signup | Entrance: $40-$200, adults

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. 

Indigo Dragon

Finetune your health and wellness with some acupuncture or reiki

View of the entrance to Indigo Dragon
Entrance of Indigo Dragon’s beachy spa

📍 Google Maps | 📞 Phone: (760) 652-1116 | Website | 🕐 Office Hours: 7:00 am – 7 pm Sun – Mon, Wed – Fri; 8 am – 6 pm, Sat; 7 am – 9 pm, Tue | 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

View of towel and candles in The Garden Spa
Relaxing spa services inspired by Hawaii

📍 Google Maps | 📞 Phone: (760) 920-6772 | Website | 🕐 Hours: 9:30 am – 5:30 pm, Monday – Friday; 9:30 am – 5 pm, Saturday; 9:30 am – 4:30 pm, Sunday | Treatments: $130 on average 

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

View of a sound healing bowls
Sound healing bowls

📍 Google Maps | 📞 Phone: (760) 818-5318 | Website | 🕐 Hours: By appointment or workshop signup | Parking lot

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 

View of a silver sculptured figure of Ganesha
Ganesha’s ancient wisdom and traditions of India

📍 Google Maps | 📞 Phone: (760) 237-8690 | Website | 🕐 Hours: 10 am – 7 pm Mon – Fri; 10 am – 5 pm Sat; closed Sunday | Services: $35 – $300

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

View of a woman doing a yoga by-the-beach
Yoga on the beach

📍 Google Maps | 📞 Phone: (760) 943-7685 | Website | 🕐 Hours: 8:30 am – 8 pm, daily | Classes: $35 on average | Parking lot

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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