The Best Things to Do in North County San Diego
Tucked just 25 miles north of downtown San Diego but far away from the hustle and bustle, you’ll discover a hidden gem. Encinitas, CA, is a small, seaside town in North County San Diego that brings an immediate sense of calm, peace, and healing to its visitors. Whether you’re traveling here to catch a wave alongside professional surfers or discover your healthiest, most awakened self, you’ll find exactly what you’re seeking in beautiful Encinitas.
In Encinitas, farmers markets and historical sites recall the town’s quiet past as a farming community. Yoga studios, spas, acupuncturists, chiropractors, and Natural Medicine specialists help you get in touch with your best mental, spiritual, and physical health. Our botanic and meditation gardens are spectacular and soothing. There are countless hiking and biking trails where you can inhale a breath of fresh air and take in ocean views. To the many who make Encinitas a home away from home, the only difficult thing about this town is leaving it! Below, we’ve compiled just a handful of ways to find inner peace in Encinitas, CA.
The Best Things to Do in Encinitas/ North County San Diego
For the Spiritual Traveler
The stress of everyday life can be taxing on our health, but Encinitas feels worlds away from the hustle and bustle. If you need to recalibrate at a world-class yoga studio, heal your senses with a renowned naturopathic professional, or discover a tranquil place for profound meditation, Encinitas offers a wide variety of holistic services that will leave you feeling brand new.
For the Gourmand
Wellness is at the core of everything we do at The Inn at Moonlight Beach. Aside from our freshly harvested biodynamic fruits, vegetables, and herbs, you’ll love our gluten-free and organic refreshments. Venture out into downtown Encinitas and find countless organic and vegan-friendly restaurants! No matter what kind of food you’re in the mood for, you’ll be treated to nourishing and delicious fare.
- Carlsbad State Street Farmers Market, Wednesday 3:00 - 7:00pm
- Oceanside Pier View Way Farmers Market, Thursday, 9:00am - 1:00pm
- Del Mar Farmers Market, Saturday, 12:00 - 4:00pm
- Leucadia Farmers Market on Sunday Leucadia Farmers Market, Sundays 10-2 pm
- Solana Beach Farmers Market, Sundays 1:00 pm –5:00 pm
BEST SPOTS FOR VEGAN, GLUTEN-FREE, AND ORGANIC EATS
LOCAL FAVORITE RESTAURANTS
QUICK EATS AND DESSERT
- Chiko - Korean and Chinese Fusion
- California Creamery Ice Cream
- Raul’s Taco Shack
- Gelato 101
- Moonlight Beach Concession Stand
HAPPY HOUR SPOTS
BREWERIES, WINERIES, AND TASTING ROOMS
For the Surfer
As one of the top five surfing destinations in the world (according to National Geographic), Encinitas offers a variety of gorgeous, cliff-framed beaches where you can test out your surfing skills. Whether you’re a seasoned surfer, beginner, or just want to catch a wave alongside the professionals, Encinitas is the perfect place to hang loose.
- Moonlight Beach
- Beacon Beach
For the Outdoor Enthusiast
Though Encinitas offers plenty of indoor experiences, it’s also perfect for those who love fresh-air activities. Hike a natural trail by the sea, paddle our pristine Pacific waters, or hop on your bike and explore. You can't go wrong spending time outside in oceanfront Southern California.
LOCAL FARMS AND GARDENS TO VISIT
HIKING AND BIKING TRAILS
ADDITIONAL HIKING NEARBY
San Elijo Lagoon
La Orilla Trail begins on the eastside of San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve and continues westward for about 3.5 miles. Enjoy a stroll through four distinct plant communities: from the shade of riparian woodlands, further down to the marsh, along hillside chaparral and coastal sage scrub. Listen for the tapping of woodpeckers, or watch for mule deer grazing vegetation along creek banks. Directions: I-5 to Lomas Santa Fe exit. Drive east off exit. Turn left on Highland Rd (4-way stop). Turn left on El Camino Real. Look for the parking area on the left before the 90-degree bend in the road.
Santa Carina Trail starts on the Southeast side of the San Elijo Lagoon. Enjoy a walk through this coastal sagebrush community towards the north to Tern Point. From there, you can look for birds in the marsh below. Along the way you can look for signs of the Kumeyaay people who left shells and other clues to their way of life in middens found around the lagoon. Directions: I-5 to Lomas Santa Fe exit. Head East. Left at first street: Santa HelenaLeft on Santa Rosita, Left on Santa CarinaDrive to end of Santa Carina, and park curbside.
Rios San Elijo
This walk will take us on San Elijo Lagoon’s south side. We will ramble through riparian woodlands and coastal sage scrub, with great views of the salt marsh We usually see a wide variety of birds and plants. Directions: From I 5: West on Lomas Santa Fe. Right on N. Rios Avenue. Drive to the end of N. Rios Avenue, and park curbside. http://www.sanelijo.org/rios.htm
San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center
You can stroll along the Loop Trail through the reserve and see excellent wetland views. The level, half-mile loop provides close-up encounters with the salt marsh and a boardwalk that traverses a riparian woodland. Interpretive displays highlight animals and plants of these habitats. The Nature Center provides a fun and interactive scavenger hunt for all ages. There are many opportunities for bird watching. Directions: 2710 Manchester Avenue Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA 92007. Take the I-5 to Manchester exit, and drive west on Manchester Avenue.
Upper San Dieguito Park
San Dieguito is a 125-acre park located in Solana Beach. There are fantastic trails winding throughout the park’s native habitat. You can hike through the park to find lookouts, wooden bridges, ladders, and ponds. Directions: Take I-5 to Lomas Santa Fe exit east. Turn left at Highland Dr. The park is on the right. Just past the empty toll booth at the Highland Dr. entrance area there are picnic tables. We will meet and pick up at this location.
For the History Buff
Encinitas plays an important role in California’s history. Numerous luminaries have called this town home through the years, and there’s so much to learn about their spiritual legacies. History buffs love exploring the countless attractions in Encinitas that feature photography, exhibits, and artifacts from the region’s interesting past.
Museums and Historical Sites
- Encinitas Historical Society and 1883 Schoolhouse
- Olivenhain Meeting Hall
- San Dieguito Heritage Museum
For Those Who Love to Shop
Need a little retail therapy? In addition to rejuvenating spiritual experiences, Encinitas offers a variety of local shops to browse. Whether you’re shopping for healing stones, sustainably sourced clothing, books, or furniture, you’ll discover your new favorite shopping spot in Encinitas.
Best Shopping Spots
- Carlsbad Premium Outlets
- Earth’s Elements
- Soulscape Gift and Bookstore
For the Festival Lover
No matter what time of year you visit historic Encinitas, you’ll be greeted with plenty of lively festivals, cultural events, and local happenings. It doesn't matter if you're athletic, easygoing, young, or old—there's a special celebration (and plenty of positive energy) waiting just for you!
- Encinitas April Street Fair
- Fiesta Del Sol
- Busker Festival
- Annual Taste of Encinitas
- Summer Horse Race Season in Del Mar
- KAABOO Del Mar
- Moonlight Beach Bash
- Encinitas Oktoberfest
- Fall/Winter Horse Race Season in Del Mar
- Garden of Lights
- San Diego International Auto Show
For Those Who Want to Experience a Rejuvenating Getaway
There’s only one place in Encinitas that offers a perfect blend of private location, storied past, WELL-certified features, and nourishing amenities. The Inn at Moonlight Beach is a family-owned inn nestled in the heart of downtown Encinitas. Here, your health is our central focus. From our complimentary Healthy Start Breakfast Baskets (packed with locally sourced treats) to the memory foam beds and air purifiers in each room, every detail of your spacious, modern suite is carefully crafted. You’ll love the bright, airy decor and luxurious perks like a private deck (perfect for yoga and meditation), a large soaking tub, and ocean views. No matter what calls you to The Inn at Moonlight Beach, you’ll experience a truly rejuvenating, unforgettable stay.