Nowhere else in San Diego County can you find a six-mile coastal strip complete with unrivaled beaches ideal for world-class surfing, a 100-year old seaside shopping district, the county’s largest coastal wetland reserve and several world-renown botanical gardens. As a best-kept secret nestled in Southern California’s coastline, Encinitas makes for a marvelous destination worth cashing in a few sick days for this summer.

Getting There

Just a short, 60-mile drive from Orange County and about a two-hour drive for Angelenos, Encinitas extends from south of Carlsbad to north of Solana Beach and includes Cardiff-by-the Sea, Old Encinitas, Olivenhain, New Encinitas and Leucadia. From Orange County and Los Angeles, head south on the I-5 south and exit Encinitas Boulevard toward Encinitas. Turn left onto South Coast Highway 101 and you will arrive.

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The Kate Stanton Inn
1904 Leucadia Scenic Court
Encinitas, CA 92024
(760) 473-9640

Click here for prices and availability

The Kate Stanton Inn brings Cape Cod to Encinitas. Only a 10-minute walk to the beach, enjoy the benefits of bed and breakfast bliss: an every day invitation to wine and cheese, a hearty homemade breakfast, and of course, all of the comforts of a country beach house. Wake up happy to handcrafted culinary delights ranging from vegetarian crust-less quiche, whole-wheat blueberry bran muffins, and homemade lemon curd with homegrown lemons from the backyard. Check out the Nantucket Room for a private, picturesque patio and fireplace set against the backdrop of a lush garden. As the only bed and breakfast in the area to accept children, families are welcome.

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Leucadia Surf School
399 C Street
Encinitas, CA 92024
(760) 635-7873

Click here for prices

You can’t go to San Diego and not take advantage of the famously gorgeous beaches in North County. Better yet, if you’ve always dreamed of riding a surfboard but have no experience, Leucadia Surf School in Encinitas has a 99.99 percent success rate in getting everyone up on their first time out, usually within the first few waves. The school takes the stage on Moonlight Beach, known to be one of the best beaches for first-timers for its beginner waves. Perfect for ages 7 to 55, take advantage of the three-hour group surf lesson for $65 dollars from late June to mid-August.

Related: Best Beach Getaways in SoCal

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San Diego Botanical Gardens
230 Quail Gardens Drive
Encinitas, CA 92024
(760) 632-0917

Price: $2 parking/$12 adults/$8 seniors, students and active military/$6 children ages 3 to 12/free children 2 and younger

Quail Botanical Gardens hosts the west coast’s largest children’s garden. Four miles of trails on 37 acres with unique landscapes ranging from tropical rain forest to the Seeds of Wonder Children’s Garden, makes for the perfect, affordable escape, especially if you’re with the family. Expect not only beautiful gardens from around the world, but annual kid-friendly events and fundraising galas perfect for any day out on vacation.

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The Encinitas Café
531 South Coast Highway 101
Encinitas, CA 92024
(760) 632-0919

After a few hours at the beach or after your surf lesson, there’s no doubt you will have worked up an appetite. Luckily, just four blocks from Moonlight Beach, downtown Encinitas boasts dozens of sidewalk cafes, shops and historic landmarks. Strung out along Coast Highway 101 with a concentrated area of dining options around D and E street, check out The Encinitas Café for a classic, casual beach diner offering breakfast, lunch and dinner. A local’s favorite since 1989, it serves breakfast all day and is best known for its banana walnut pancakes, mimosas and healthy items such as Dave’s acai bowl special complete with flax seed, fresh fruit and coconut.

Photo Credit: The Salon/Facebook

The Saloon
546 S. Coast Highway 101
Encinitas, CA 92007

After a long day of surfing and sun, there’s no better way to kick back and rock it out than at Encinitas’ best known local dive bar. The Saloon, also known as The Daley Double Saloon, serves as North County’s favorite watering hole since 1934. There’s never a dull night at this place as some of San Diego’s most loved DJs including Gabe Vega, DJ Kingsley, Chamberlin, Adam Salter, Pleasure Victim and The Vinyl Garage. Pay homage here. Catch local bands on Wednesday nights and play your own tunes on the jukebox Tuesdays for the perfect mix of classics and cheap drinks.

Related: Best Happy Hour Spots in Orange County

Jessica Blotter has over 10 years experience in the advertising industry and is Founder of Publicly Loved, a Los Angeles media agency at the heart of brands, causes and events. As a published travel writer, she has written for CBS Local, LA Examiner, 944 Magazine and Fairways and Greens Magazine. Her passion for charitable endeavors has led her to volunteer and fundraise for Habitat for Humanity, Much Love Animal Rescue, and Toys for Tots. Her work can be found at