15 Best Things to Do in Encinitas (CA)

Written by Bart Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Encinitas is a city of about 60,000 people situated in San Diego County. The city is mostly known for its beautiful weather, laid-back ambiance, and stunning beaches with perfect surf conditions, making it one of the world’s top surfing locations.

Encinitas is also recognized as the Flower Capital of the World because of the number of gardens situated in the city.

The city’s vibrant downtown district is where you’ll find many surf shops, cafes, boutique shops, and restaurants. There are also many cultural attractions and shopping areas, such as Encinitas Ranch Town Center, West Village Shopping Center, and Moonlight Plaza.

Various festivals and events take place in Encinitas throughout the year, such as the April Street Fair, Encinitas Environment Day, The Lima Beach Faire, Fall Festival, OktoberFest, and Switchfoot Bro-Am.

Below are 15 of the best things to do in and around Encinitas, California.

1. Learn About Local History at The Encinitas Historical Society

The Encinitas Historical SocietySource: Tim Buss / Flickr | CC BY
The Encinitas Historical Society

When you visit The Encinitas Historical Society, not only are you getting the history of the city and surrounding areas, but you’re also getting a history of the very building it’s housed in.

The museum is situated in a one-room schoolhouse constructed in 1883. Inside this building, you’ll see the original wooden floors and have the opportunity to view a wide variety of items in the exhibits. Old photos, documents, artifacts, and many things related to Encinitas’s history are some of the items on display.

Various historical tours are offered at the historical society, and many events occur throughout the year.

2. Stroll Along Moonlight Beach

Moonlight BeachSource: Marcel Fuentes / shutterstock
Moonlight Beach

Moonlight Beach has always been one of Encinitas’ most popular beaches, and for good reason. The beach is sandy, with lots of space; it’s a perfect place to take the whole family.

It has many amenities, and there’s an abundance of things to do. Swimming, volleyball, picnicking, snorkeling, surfing, and surf fishing are some of the activities drawing people to the beach. Facilities include tennis courts, playgrounds, and a snack bar.

For more than a century, Moonlight Beach has also been a popular spot for late-evening picnics and bonfires under the stars. In fact, that’s how the beach got its name.

3. Get an Interactive Art Experience at the Lux Art Institute

Lux Art InstituteSource: Lux Art Institute / Facebook
Lux Art Institute

At the Lux Art Institute in Encinitas, you’ll see beautiful artwork and have the chance to watch it being created.

The on-site exhibits feature various works by resident artists, including Cosmo Whyte, Beatriz Martiel, and Baseera Khan. As you explore the institute, you’ll have the chance to watch resident artists practice their craft in the studio area.

The institute hosts many different programs and events throughout the year, including art classes, yoga, and tours.

4. Try Something Unique at Everest Himalayan Cuisine

Everest Himalayan CuisineSource: Pikoso.kz / shutterstock
Everest Himalayan Cuisine

At Everest Himalayan Cuisine, you’ll receive excellent service and dine on high-quality dishes. Since 2005, this family-run eatery has been preparing delicious, traditional Nepali, Indian, and Tibetan dishes made using time-honored recipes with an added modern flair.

You’ll find a wide variety of items on the menu, including appetizers, soups, salads, lamb dishes, chicken dishes, and seafood. Vegetarian options are also available.

5. Play a Round of Golf at Encinitas Ranch Golf Course

Encinitas Ranch Golf CourseSource: Tim Buss / Flickr | CC BY
Encinitas Ranch Golf Course

At Encinitas Ranch Golf Course, you’ll tee off while surrounded by spectacular ocean views. This 18-hole course has an attractive layout featuring five sets of tees and open fairways.

For golfers who wish to practice before their game, a driving range is on-site, and professional lessons are available. A golf shop is also located on the property.

The Ranch Grill offers indoor and outdoor dining with ocean views. Many quality items are available on the menu, and there’s also a bar and cafe.

6. Wander Around the San Diego Botanic Garden

San Diego Botanic GardenSource: Ryan William Frederick / shutterstock
San Diego Botanic Garden

The San Diego Botanic Garden is situated in Encinitas, despite its name. It is a beautiful place to spend an afternoon relaxing in a natural environment.

Within the garden, there are four miles of trails. As you stroll through the garden, you’ll see a wide variety of environments, including tropical jungle and bamboo groves.

Some of the plants you’ll see along the way include palms and succulents. Also on-site are desert gardens, a waterfall, a fruit garden, and a children’s garden with a playground and treehouse.

7. Wine and Dine at Solterra Winery

Solterra WinerySource: Solterra Winery & Kitchen / Facebook
Solterra Winery

Solterra Winery is a family-run winery that offers the full wine, dine, and learn experience. Start your visit with a tour of the winery to see how the wine is made.

Following your tour, you’re invited to enjoy a meal in the on-site kitchen and tasting room. Along with your delicious and expertly-prepared meal, you’ll sample some of the wines available, including a variety of reds, whites, and ports. All wines are made using grapes from local vineyards.

8. Browse the Leucadia Farmers’ Market

Farmers MarketSource: Javani LLC / shutterstock
Farmers Market

The Leucadia Farmers’ Market is more than just a market; it’s an exciting place to spend the day shopping, eating, and enjoying live entertainment.

As you browse the market, you’ll have access to more than 75 vendors selling a wide variety of items, including fresh produce, honey, flowers, meat, homemade sweet treats, seafood, pasta, jams, and sauces.

Also on-site is a food court and a playground. Face painting is often available, and live music performances take place on some days.

9. Spend the Day in Nature at San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve

San Elijo Lagoon Ecological ReserveSource: Marcel Fuentes / shutterstock
San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve

The San Elijo Ecological Reserve spans 1,000 acres and is one of the country’s only remaining coastal wetlands.

Within this reserve are seven miles of nature trails. As you hike along these trails, you’ll see some of the area’s flora and fauna. There are 330 different plants, 26 species of animals, and various fish and bird species in the area.

Guided tours of the reserve are offered on certain days of the week, and you can view several exhibits about the lagoon and its history at the on-site nature center.

Many interactive activities take place on-site, including children’s storytime, family days, and educational programs.

10. Visit the San Dieguito Heritage Museum

General Store at the San Dieguito Heritage MuseumSource: The Heritage Ranch, Home of the San Dieguito Heritage Museum / Facebook
General Store at the San Dieguito Heritage Museum

The main goal of the San Dieguito Heritage Museum is to collect, preserve, and share items of historical significance to Encinitas and the surrounding area; they do this through a variety of exhibits and historical properties.

The museum is located on the property of Heritage Ranch. Inside, you’ll see a variety of artifacts, documents, and photos.

Some of the exhibits include the Teten House, General Store and Bunk House, Indigenous Peoples, the Main Street Building, and the Texaco Gas Station and Fire Engine.

Visitors also have the chance to participate in a variety of hands-on activities, including sand painting, butter-churning, bartering for items in the general store, visiting a Native American grass hut, and listening to traditional stories.

11. Spend a Day at Swami’s Beach

Swami's BeachSource: Marcel Fuentes / shutterstock
Swami’s Beach

No matter what time of year it is, Swami’s Beach is a fantastic place to spend a sunny day. You’ll feel safe swimming at this beach because lifeguards are on duty to keep an eye on swimmers.

When you arrive at the beach, you’ll first pass through a pretty park area with benches and picnic areas. This little park is the best location to watch the surfers from.

12. Learn to Surf with Leucadia Surf School

Surfing in EncinitasSource: Simone Hogan / shutterstock
Surfing in Encinitas

If you’ve ever wanted to learn to surf, why not try it out during your time in Encinitas? Leucadia Surf School provides lessons to surfers and would-be surfers of all ages and levels.

During your lesson, professional and well-trained instructors provide an introductory lesson on safety and technique while you’re still on land. Before you head into the water to ride your first wave, a board and wetsuit will be provided.

For those who already know how to surf but don’t have their own equipment, rentals are available.

13. Learn about Orchids at the Cal Pacific Orchid Farm

OrchidSource: Sealstep / shutterstock

The Cal Pacific Orchid Farm features a large 36,000 square-foot greenhouse filled with hundreds of beautiful orchids from around the world.

Inside this greenhouse, you’ll see various orchids at different stages of bloom and a variety of pretty multi-plant arrangements. As you admire these arrangements, knowledgeable staff answer questions about orchids and their care. Bouquets and custom arrangements are available for purchase.

14. Dine on Local Seafood at Fish 101 Leucadia

Fish 101 LeucadiaSource: FISH 101 Restaurant / Facebook
Fish 101 Leucadia

Fish 101 Leucadia is the restaurant to go to for fresh, local seafood. You’ll find a menu filled with delicious, traditional seafood dishes at this family eatery, with modern additions to take each dish to the next level.

Appetizers, burritos, fish and chips, and tacos are just some of the options you’ll find on the extensive menu. The restaurant also hosts happy hour on certain days of the week.

15. Explore Cardiff State Beach

Cardiff State BeachSource: Marcel Fuentes / shutterstock
Cardiff State Beach

Another popular beach in Encinitas is Cardiff State Beach. People come to this beach to swim, sunbathe, surf, and beachcomb. If you would like to do some kiteboarding, snorkeling, or scuba diving, there are shops located in the area where you can rent the equipment you need.

An interesting attraction at this beach are the tide pools situated along it. Throughout the year, guided tours of the beach and surrounding park area are offered.

The beach does have lifeguards, and washrooms with showers are available.


15 Best Things to Do in Encinitas (CA):

  • Learn About Local History at The Encinitas Historical Society
  • Stroll Along Moonlight Beach
  • Get an Interactive Art Experience at the Lux Art Institute
  • Try Something Unique at Everest Himalayan Cuisine
  • Play a Round of Golf at Encinitas Ranch Golf Course
  • Wander Around the San Diego Botanic Garden
  • Wine and Dine at Solterra Winery
  • Browse the Leucadia Farmers' Market
  • Spend the Day in Nature at San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve
  • Visit the San Dieguito Heritage Museum
  • Spend a Day at Swami's Beach
  • Learn to Surf with Leucadia Surf School
  • Learn about Orchids at the Cal Pacific Orchid Farm
  • Dine on Local Seafood at Fish 101 Leucadia
  • Explore Cardiff State Beach