Welcome to beautiful San Diego County! SD is most known for its year-round sunshine, Ron Burgundy, and Dr. Seuss. You will find that north county San Diego, from Del Mar to Oceanside, is much more slow paced and relaxing than the big city. We have both the small beach town vibe, and the amenities and things to do of a larger city! Explore the best things to do in Encinitas with us!
Our favorite beach town of all is Encinitas. There are actually a couple different communities including Cardiff-by-the-Sea and Leucadia; each community has its own niche, with something for everyone! There is no shortage of things to do in Encinitas, and hopefully this can help guide you on your trip!
My first visit to Encinitas came in 2009 while camping at San Elijo State Beach. This trip became a tradition throughout the next 10 years, and I have seen the different things to do in Encinitas shift over the years. I have seen Surfy Surfy (next to Coffee Coffee) change owners to Bing Surfboards. I remember when Bull Taco was a great place for California Burritos that used tater tots instead of fries.
There is so much to do and see, you will never have a dull moment. I have categorized some of my favorite things to do in below by what it will cost you, but money is by no means a limiting factor in having fun things to do in Encinitas; we have so much else to offer!
Encinitas has made a lot of changes throughout all three of their coastal communities; Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Leucadia, and of course downtown Encinitas. We love providing more curated and customized recommendations, so please feel free to call us if you are looking for something in particular! We have found the best way to explore and find new things to do in Encinitas is by electric bike.
Encnitas and the surrounding areas are ripe with outdoor things to do. We have hiking, biking, and of course the beach! Whatever you and your group is looking for, Encinitas has it!
Beaches in Encinitas
The beach is easily one of the most accessible and enjoyable things to do in Encinitas, year round! There is a kind of beach for every vacationer or local alike.
If you are bringing the whole family and don’t want to worry about parking or crowding on the beach, then Moonlight Beach is the place to be! They have every amenity you could ever need; concession stands, volleyball nets, BBQ pits and picnic tables, amazing waves, and the lifeguard headquarters is on the beach. Moonlight is by far the most family friendly beach, but if you are looking for better waves to surf, then places like Grandview Surf Beach or Beacons will be better, at low tide.
Grandview and Beacons are very close to each other with different stair access points to a beach that will connect. We recommend going to both of these beaches in the summer months at low tide. When the tide is higher, the waves will often break closer to the cliffs, with limited space to lay out on the beach. There are a few different surf breaks between Beacons and Grandview, but they all have a similar feel to them, with varying levels of crowds throughout.
Hiking in Encinitas
There are also some amazing hikes near Encinitas; Annies Canyon and Torrey Pines Reserve come to mind. Torrey Pines is a beautiful ecological reserve with hikes down to the beach, as well as views of the world famous Torrey Pines Golf Course. While the hiking is technically free, there is a charge to park, unless you use the street parking, or bike into the park. Reach out to us about our electric bike rentals to make your hike even more fun!
TACOS TACOS TACOS. Mexican food is deeply ingrained in the cuisine in San Diego and Encinitas has more places than you can imagine. Eating can be the most expensive, or cheapest thing to do in Encinitas. The options for Mexican food are almost unlimited, but here are a few that we frequent. The Taco Stand, El Pueblo, and Robertos are some of our personal favorites.
The Taco Stand has easily the best grilled fish tacos in town. Their fresh tortillas, churros, and homemade chips really are the cherry on top. This place feels authentic and the taste confirms your feelings after waiting. Unfortunately this place is so popular that you can wait 20 minutes in line just to order. But it is worth the wait for everything on their menu.
El Pueblo has the best deal on tacos in town, hands down. This will be the cheapest thing to do in Encinitas while hungry. If you have growing children that eat more than you can fathom, then El Pueblo is for you. Their deep fried fish tacos are just $1.09, all day long. They used to be $.99 but I am more than happy to pay another 10 cents for these surprisingly filling tacos.
Robertos has locations all throughout North County San Diego, but the one in North Leucadia is my favorite (so far!). Their rolled potato tacos are perfect for the dairy and vegan crowd, if you hold the cheese. They also have the California burrito dialed. California burritos (filled with french fries) is an iconic meal that every visitor has to try while in California. Make sure to wash your meal down with a horchata, or a Mexican Lager for the full effect.
Meditation Gardens; while these are technically free to visit, I always recommend a small donation to allow the gardens to continue to be maintained and available for public use. The gardens themselves are on the bluffs above Swamis Point within the Self-Realization Fellowship property. Make sure to look for the old stairs that led to the temple that had to be torn down due to erosion of the cliff side.
The Finer Things
Solterra Winery is hands down the best thing to do in Encinitas, especially if you love good wine, and even better food. They source their grapes from Washington State to Mexico, and it is always a perfect date night. Their gluten and dairy free crab cakes always amaze us, as does every other item on their menu. What keeps bringing us back is the service. Every person from hostess, to waiter/waitress, and bussers, they all clearly enjoy working here and are happy to help.
Cardiff Crack is a staple in any local’s diet. This tri-tip is hands down the best you can find in southern California. Tri-Tip is a California specialty. This cut of meat from the bottom of the sirloin is the perfect cut for families that have some people that like well-done meat, while others like it a little more rare! Traditionally, tri-tip is cooked over an oak burning BBQ, but can also be cooked in the oven or smoked.
Cardiff Crack is sold at Seaside Market in Cardiff-by-the-Sea. They have perfected all of the different seasonings and rubs for their various styles of tri-tip, but you can also buy it unseasoned to do yourself! This is a great alternative for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner as well. Make sure to add some greens, garlic bread, and some mashed potatoes for the full experience.
Extra Things to do in Encinitas
La Paloma Theater is a historical building in the heart of Encinitas. They love showing outdoors films related to surfing, climbing, and everything in between. This place is filled with history and you feel like you go back in time sitting in the seats. The tickets are reasonable and their meet and greet films are a great outing for the whole family.
Surfing is of course another huge thing to do in Encinitas along this scenic coastline. There are numerous surf shops that offer rentals and lessons. Make sure to check out some of the spots before paddling out. Surfline is also a great resource to seeing what the conditions are like at the present, and future! San Elijo State Beach is one of the most accessible and gentle waves in the area.
We hope that this mini guide will help you find the best things to do in Encinitas for you and your group. If there are things you think are missing, or loved some of the recommendations, please feel free to reach out and let us know how we are doing, or how we can improve!
The Cal Coast Team