Eight Ways to Enjoy a Day in Encinitas, California

Updated on March 26, 2020
Nella DiCarlo profile image

I am an online writer who enjoys expressing my thoughts through poetry, sharing travel experiences and more.

Welcome to beautiful Encinitas!
Welcome to beautiful Encinitas!

Exploring Encinitas: 8 Things to See and Do

Last winter, I enjoyed a short visit to the Southern California beach town of Encinitas. One of the few stops on the Coaster train's coastal route, it's an easy—not to mention gorgeous—journey from San Diego by train.

February in San Diego is the low season and a bit cooler, but I lucked out and enjoyed a beautiful time with sunny skies and pleasant temperatures. A well-priced overnight stay made it easier to fit in several scenic stops and some good food and drink (which I mostly fell upon by chance).

It was nice to explore this surf town with a lack of crowds. It had a chill, tranquil vibe, but still offered plenty to keep me interested. All of the stops noted here are located either in Old Encinitas or Cardiff-by-the-Sea and are within walking distance or a short drive of each other.

Checking Out the Marquee at La Paloma Theatre
Checking Out the Marquee at La Paloma Theatre

1. Catch a Flick at La Paloma Theatre

One of the first sights and sounds that greeted me during my stop in Encinitas was this retro theatre with its eye-catching marquee. The gentle sound of music could be heard from a guitar player standing just outside. La Paloma theatre—one of the first theatres in the country to show talking pictures (aka ‘talkies’)—was built in the Spanish Colonial Revival style.

This local landmark opened its doors way back in 1928, and Hollywood starlet Mary Pickford attended its debut. I imagined going back in time to experience the excitement and atmosphere of the day—what fun! This theater is still a great place to catch the latest films. The recent best-picture winner Parasite was playing the week I was in town.

I recommend strolling along South Coast Highway 101, where the theatre is located; there are many other places worth stopping to check out.

Cool down with a stop at Gelato 101.
Cool down with a stop at Gelato 101.

2. Enjoy a Sweet Treat at Gelato 101

Gelato is always a good idea on a warm, sunny day—even better when you are in a city where the middle of winter feels like a glorious spring day. This was one of my first stops in Encinitas, and it was memorable because it helped make the experience of arriving in a new place more welcoming. Between a craving for the comfort that gelato provides and the atmospheric building and charming outdoor space, Bottega Italiana Gelato 101 was calling my name.

The quality of the delicious and refreshing treat reminded me of being in Italy, where quality gelato can be found on almost every corner. But this stop in this Southern California beach town was just as wonderful.

The cortado at Better Buzz Coffee was absolutely delicious.
The cortado at Better Buzz Coffee was absolutely delicious.

3. Grab a Cuppa at Better Buzz Coffee

After checking into my hotel (the Best Western at Moonlight Beach) for a quick stop, I needed a bit of a pick-me-up for some energy before I was to meet a local friend for dinner and catching up. Always in search of coffee shops while traveling, I was absolutely drawn in by this quirky, lively spot.

Over some energetic and eclectic background music, I took a break and enjoyed a smooth and strong cortado and the atmosphere at Better Buzz Coffee. The coffee certainly lived up to the shop's name!

There are several locations of this small-batch roaster to check out. I do wish I would have tried the avocado toast, which looked amazing. There were lots of great menu items to choose from.

Moonlight State Beach is a special place.
Moonlight State Beach is a special place.

4. Take a Stroll Along Moonlight State Beach

Located just a few away minutes away from my coffee stop, I took a stroll along Moonlight State Beach to finally see the Pacific Ocean again up close (it had been way too long). It was approaching late afternoon and there was a pretty glow on the water and a serene vibe in the air. The seagulls were taking it in too. It was just a beautiful time to be out there enjoying the gorgeous view and taking a short walk along the sandy beach in the cool but pleasant air.

I enjoyed a tropical pale ale at Far West Lounge.
I enjoyed a tropical pale ale at Far West Lounge.

5. Sip on Some Craft Beer

Since I still had some time before dinner, I made the spontaneous choice to check out Modern Times craft beer at the Far West Lounge. The place was buzzing, and the beer was cold and refreshing; my favorite selection was a hoppy tropical pale called Fortunate Islands. Modern Times beer can be found in several locations and is California’s first employee-owned brewery.

I also enjoyed an early afternoon stop the next day for a couple of samples at the cool open-air tasting room at Culture Brewing, one of three locations for this young brewery.

The seafood at Pacific Coast Grill didn't disappoint!
The seafood at Pacific Coast Grill didn't disappoint!

6. Savour a Seafood Dinner With a View

Enjoying some delicious, fresh seafood in Encinitas is an excellent choice, especially at a waterfront location as beautiful as Pacific Coast Grill. The menu is impressive, the views are gorgeous and the atmosphere is laid-back. My friend and I enjoyed a nice night out in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, and our meal was another unplanned choice that worked out wonderfully.

This hearty penne dish at Trattoria I Trulli was a delight.
This hearty penne dish at Trattoria I Trulli was a delight.

7. Enjoy Lunch at a Trattoria

As I continued my walkabout in Encinitas, stopping to browse at some shops and for some small craft beer samples, a charming, cozy-looking Italian joint with an adorable patio caught my attention and put me in the mood for a leisurely lunch. The sounds of traditional music in the background sealed the deal to encourage me to stay.

Trattoria I Trulli was a terrific stop for a hearty penne dish along with a fresh salad and a glass of crisp white wine. I was glad there was another train leaving an hour later than I had originally planned to go back to San Diego; I didn’t want to miss the view—it was one of the reasons I made the trip in the first place!

I couldn't get enough of the stunning view above Swami's Beach.
I couldn't get enough of the stunning view above Swami's Beach.

8. Visit Swami's Beach and the Self Realization Meditation Garden

These dramatic views were definitely a highlight. Swami’s Beach is a well-known surfing spot (and noted in The Beach Boys classic "Surfin USA"), but I was just there for the views and the vibe. I was hoping to spot some surfers, and just as expected (but actually exceeding my expectations), the cliff views from the wooden staircase leading down to the beach were stunning.

Located just a few minutes away, the Self Realization Fellowship's Meditation Garden is a great place to enjoy some peaceful moments in meditation nooks and admire the beauty of koi ponds and incredible ocean views. And best of all, entry is free.

Goodbye for now, Encinitas!
Goodbye for now, Encinitas!

All too soon, it was time to head back, pack up my bags and board the Coaster train for my last night in San Diego, which I was looking forward to as well. I am so grateful to have enjoyed such an excellent time in Encinitas, a city I would love to explore more of in the future.

Encinitas, CA, USA

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San Diego:
San Diego, CA, USA

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Questions & Answers

    © 2020 Nella DiCarlo


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      • Nella DiCarlo profile imageAUTHOR

        Nella DiCarlo 

        2 months ago from Guelph, Ontario

        Thank you so much Victoria. I will write an article about San Diego for sure!

      • Victoria Hannah profile image

        Victoria Hannah 

        2 months ago from Sydney, Australia

        Nella I loved learning about Encinitas because that whole Californian coastline looks gorgeous and would love to travel the length of it one day, especially San Diego and Carmel up to San Francisco, an absolute dream of a city. I loved the bit about Swami's in Surfin' USA.

        I looked to see if you have written anything about San Diego but I couldn't find anything. Do you think you will write one?

      • Nella DiCarlo profile imageAUTHOR

        Nella DiCarlo 

        2 months ago from Guelph, Ontario

        Thank you Lorna and Pamela, much appreciated

      • Nella DiCarlo profile imageAUTHOR

        Nella DiCarlo 

        2 months ago from Guelph, Ontario

        Thanks Kyler! I want to keep exploring the area.

      • Pamela99 profile image

        Pamela Oglesby 

        2 months ago from Sunny Florida

        I spent some time in that area many years ago and I remember how beautiful it was. Everything looks new and different in your very good pictures. Thank you for this up-to-date review of this area, Neila.

      • Lorna Lamon profile image

        Lorna Lamon 

        2 months ago

        Your article is full of interesting spots to visit in Encinitas, and like most places I go to,I like to visit out of season. I love the idea of the 'Meditation Garden' in such a beautiful setting. Good food, great coffee and amazing scenery - you paint a wonderful picture of this beautiful place Nella.

      • Kyler J Falk profile image

        Kyler J Falk 

        2 months ago from Corona, CA

        Gotta love San Diego, last time I went down there was for the Greek Festival and before that I was at MCRDSD. Though I don't like many of the beaches down there, definitely the food and entertainment scene are things worth going for!

        Great article!


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