Credit: Mary Carol Fitzgerald

A Local’s Guide to Spending a Day in Encinitas

Spend Sunrise to Sunset in This Charming Beach Town

Vintage surf culture, sandy beaches, salty seawater, cozy coffee shops, friendly locals and renowned restaurants all meet in Encinitas, San Diego County’s underrated gem. Just 25 miles north of downtown, this quaint beach town retains classic coastal California vibes. Trust us: among the common sights and sounds of surf-report conversations, longboard-toting e-bikes and California burritos, Encinitas is the epitome of a SoCal surf town. And while you can certainly spend a full day catching waves at Moonlight or Swami’s Beach, Encinitas has dozens of new spots to explore and enjoy. So, pack your bags and get ready to experience the best of this laid-back city by the sea. Explore Encinitas San Diego


9 a.m.

Fuel Your Day at Bird Rock Coffee Roasters 

Credit: Mary Carol Fitzgerald


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New to the suite of shops peppering the sides of the 101, the ninth location of Bird Rock Coffee Roasters is here for the caffeine kick you need to start your day. The award-winning coffee shop is known around town for their responsibly sourced, sustainable, direct-trade beans, bold cold brew and smooth craft beverages. Splurge on an aromatic and complex pour-over or indulge in our favorite (and aptly named, given the location!) Sandpiper Latte, which uses their delicious house-made hazelnut syrup with the coffee shop’s signature Monkey Bite Espresso. We recommend kicking back with your favorite beach read in the cafe or strolling to I or J Street for an epic viewpoint to sip your morning java amidst the salty air. Don’t forget one of their sweet treats in the pastry case too—a visit to Bird Rock Coffee wouldn’t be complete without it.


10 a.m.

Shop Local

Encinitas Self
Credit: Encinitas Self Realization Fellowship

Downtown Encinitas’ main thoroughfare is surrounded by dozens of shops and boutiques, offering everything from custom hats and activewear to meditation accessories–Encinitas does boast the scenic Self-Realization Fellowship Meditation Gardens, after all! Prep for a day by the ocean by popping into Black Book Bikini for a chic bikini or cover up, Catch Surf for a rad board and San Diego-based Blenders Eyewear to protect your peepers. If you’re with little ones, a stop at Magical Child is a must too.




Feast on Lobster Rolls at Lobster West

Break Fast
Credit: Lobster West

Did you even spend a day at the beach if you didn’t nosh on seafood? We think not. Lobster West’s perfectly seasoned and super-stuffed classic lobster roll is a must-order to fuel up for the rest of the afternoon. Paired perfectly with a blonde ale or Mexican lager, this East Coast dish fits right in on the shores of the Pacific. If you’re not already satisfied, taste test with the restaurant’s soup flight: lobster bisque, New England clam chowder and Maryland crab soup.


2 p.m.

Hit It Hard at Moonlight Beach’s Community Court

Community Court
Credit: Renith R / Unsplash

Tucked into Cottonwood Creek Park just a few blocks from the famed Moonlight Beach, Encinitas’ local community tennis courts offer the perfect place to perfect your ace—no reservations required. If pickleball is more your speed, don’t fret. These courts can be swapped over. Between sweat-inducing volleys or working on perfecting your serve, soak up the park’s lush greenery and pretty paths or spread a blanket on the grassy knolls for an impromptu picnic.

Explore Encinitas San Diego

5:30 p.m.

Dine During Golden Hour at Herb & Sea

Dustin Bailey
Credit: Dustin Bailey

Celebrity chef and former “Top Chef” finalist Brian Malarkey is the brains behind this seafood-centric hotspot. Kick off the meal with fresh oysters before feasting on daily catch, housemade wood-fired pizza and of course, a craft cocktail like the restaurant’s activated charcoal-infused paloma. The Art Deco interior is cozy and cool, but snag a spot on the striped umbrella-lined patio so you can soak up the golden light and sunny warmth before catching the sunset over the ocean.

Explore Encinitas San Diego

7:30 p.m.

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth at The Baked Bear

Baked Bear
Credit: Josie Gonzales

What’s better than closing out a sunny summer evening than with ice cream? We’ll up the ante: close it out with an enormous ice cream sandwich at San Diego’s newest location of The Baked Bear. It’s all about having it your way at this sweet treat spot, so pick your cookie or brownie top/bottom (we love the Nutella Chocolate Chunk!), ice cream and toppings. For an extra-gooey experience, ask to get your sandwich warmed up.

8:30 p.m.

Dance the Night Away at Shelter Encinitas

Keep the evening going by popping into Shelter Encinitas for a late-night rendezvous. This open-air bar and lounge along the 101 is illuminated by stunning market lights, the moonlight, stars and a communal fire pit for a nightclub experience unlike anything else. Sip on your favorite cocktail or champagne in a cozy booth or hit the dance floor with your best moves. Rotating live DJs supply good vibes at Shelter Encinitas.

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