A relaxed atmosphere, beautiful weather, and the sense of small towns within a larger city are what draw people to the quaint, beachy town of Encinitas, California.
Rich in historical culture and scenic beauty, Encinitas CA is located along six miles of Pacific Ocean coastline in the northern county of San Diego, bordered by Solana Beach and Carlsbad, with just under 60,000 residents proudly calling it home. This laid-back and picturesque Southern California town is known as the “flower capital of the world” and grows miles upon miles of poinsettias. And with their long surfing history and water renowned for its waves and breaks, Encinitas has been named as one of the top surf towns across the globe.
Encinitas was named for Encina Canada, a Spanish term meaning “hills of live oaks,” describing what Gaspar de Portola saw in 1769 when he led an expedition through the coastal area. From the La Paloma Theatre built in 1927, to the mission-style Self Realization Fellowship Temple that dates back to the early 1900s, much of the architecture in Encinitas maintains a historic feel.
- Koi Pond along the path in the Meditation Garden, Self-Realization Fellowship temple.
Photo: CC 2.0 Wonderlane via Flickr.
Encinitas: An Eclectic Collection Of Five Unique Communities
As coastal Highway 101 passes through the area of Old Encinitas and Leucadia, the iconic Encinitas welcome arch greets guests and residents as they explore the tree-lined streets, eclectic restaurants, and cafes, and quaint shops that inhabit the area. Promising both adventure and relaxation, the city of Encinitas is made up of five main communities, each having their own unique identities and distinctive characteristics.
- Old Encinitas: Locals and out-of-towners enjoy walking the wide sidewalks of historic Encinitas to explore its many sidewalk cafes, shops, and restaurants. Attractions include the Encinitas Historical Society, City Hall, the San Dieguito Heritage Museum, La Paloma Theatre, and the famous Encinitas Station Farmers Market.
- New Encinitas: A low-lying coastal ridge separates Old Encinitas from New Encinitas, a newer region to the east featuring many contemporary shopping centers, schools, a favorite golf course, large tract homes, condominiums, and a more suburban feel.
- Olivenhain: German for “olive grove,” Olivenhain is the city’s most eastern neighborhood and boasts upscale country living. Private equestrian facilities, luxury single-family homes on acreage, gently rolling hills, and walking, biking and horseback riding trails that meander throughout the neighborhood offer a more rural way of life.
- Leucadia: Leucadia is a coastal community of the city, famous for its giant Eucalyptus trees. The community features art galleries, unique storefronts, fantastic restaurants, and single-family homes. With three secluded beaches (Grandview, Beacon’s, and Stone Steps), a quaint downtown area, and breathtaking views, Leucadia is a prime destination for those wanting a place off the beaten track.
- Cardiff-by-the-Sea: Encinitas’ southernmost oceanfront community is Cardiff-by-the-Sea, made up of homes dotting hillsides above the ocean, natural scenery, beachside campsites, the San Elijo Lagoon, and streets named after British cities and classical composers. Cardiff Reef is one of the most popular surfing spots in San Diego County, producing waves that both professional and novice surfers find appealing. The Lux Art Institute and the San Elijo Campus of Mira Costa College reside in Cardiff. The Cardiff Kook must be mentioned here, as it is a popular, quirky statue of a surfer that locals dress up in various costumes throughout the year. You won’t miss it if you’re in Cardiff.
Old Encinitas, New Encinitas, Leucadia, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, and Olivenhain incorporated as the City of Encinitas in 1986, with each retaining their separate identities while being governed under one body.
- Scene from downtown Encinitas, Calif.with the Welcome Arch and La Paloma Theater.
Photo: Mike Fairbanks via Wikimedia Commons.
Enjoy Encinitas’ Perfect Weather
In Encinitas, you’ll rarely need to allow for a rainy day while planning your trip. Many come to live here because of its very mild, Mediterranean climate. The daily high temperature is 72°F, there are an average 150 clear days per year, and the average ocean water temperature is 63°F. Bouts of rain and fog are frequent in the spring, but other than that, the weather is pretty much perfect.
Beaches and Other Things to Do in Encinitas
Whether you’re in Encinitas to visit or you’re thinking of living there, here are some places you’ll want to put on your local bucket list.
Moonlight Beach: A local hotspot for generations, this is the main central beach of Encinitas and is family-friendly, popular, and usually packed. It’s a broad, sandy beach known for its swimming, surfing, and fishing. There are picnic tables, fire rings, volleyball courts, a playground, a tennis court, and a snack bar. Folklore holds that Moonlight Beach was named for its essential role as a drop-off for rum runners during the Prohibition Era. Others say the name comes from the fact that local residents used to come to the area for midnight picnics early in the early 1900s. However it got its name, one thing holds true: It is one beachy spot in the city that you will want to explore.
Torrey Pines: Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, located on the cliffs above Torrey Pines State Beach, is a 1,750-acre reserve dedicated to preserving the Torrey Pine tree and other native wildlife in the area. Home to pine forests, canyons, trails, and cliffs, visitors come here to hike, explore, and take in breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.
- Torrey Pines State National Reserve in Encinitas, Calif.
Photo: CC 3.0 Lo2013 via Wikimedia Commons.
Downtown Encinitas: While the natural attractions are spectacular, downtown Encinitas also boasts an array of charming restaurants, shops, art galleries, coffee cafes, and more. The La Paloma Theater also hosts indie films, plus bands, plays, and other live performances. There’s also a flea market every Saturday and an array of local farmers markets. From there, you can also take the Coaster train for a jaunt to San Diego.
Swami’s Beach: Swami’s Surf Beach is a famous surfing mecca at the south end of the city known for its big waves and breaks, a sense of community, and a certain spiritual aura. While best known the surf, divers, joggers, and photographers are also drawn to this beachy spot. The surroundings are uniquely rich in beauty, with tide pools, rocks jutting out of the sand, tall cliffs, and plants and palm trees growing out of the sculptured bluffs.
- Swami Beach, as viewed from the entrance.
Photo: CC 2.0 Jason Rosenberg via Flickr.
For many years, Swami’s was somewhat of a local secret, but the surfing boom in the ‘60s and a mention in The Beach Boys’ 1963 classic, “Surfin’ USA,” put an end to this well-kept secret, and it is now visited by avid surfers from around the world. Swami was named after Swami Paramahansa Yogananda, an Indian yogi and guru who introduced millions to the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga. The grounds and hermitage of the Self-Realization Fellowship ashram, founded by Yogananda and built in 1937, overlooks this reef point. Local lore holds that Yogananda used to surf and enjoyed walking along the beach before tending to his devotional studies.
Self Realization Fellowship: The Encinitas Temple is a branch of the Self Realization Fellowship. Thousands come to The Temple for its inspirational lecture services, scriptural reading and meditation services, kirtans (devotional chanting), Sunday School and Teen classes, and other spiritual practices.
Encinitas: Where the Yoga Movement in North America Began.
Known as the fountainhead for yoga in North America, yoga and meditation are huge in Encinitas. Yogis from all over the world are drawn to the coastal region to connect spiritually and practice yoga. Swami Paramahansa Yogananda completed his Autobiography of a Yogi in the coastal town in 1945, spawning a spiritual legacy that continues to through the Self-Realization Fellowship. And with the arrival of Sri K. Pattabhi Jobs to Encinitas in 1974, the city was anointed as the birthplace of Ashtanga yoga in America.
Encinitas: Home to the San Diego Botanic Gardens
Part of the reason for its notoriety as the “flower capital of the world,” Encinitas is home to is home to the San Diego Botanic Gardens, in Balboa Park, featuring 37 acres of more than 3,300 plants from all over the world, majestic palms, budding trees, restful vistas, and the largest bamboo collection in the United States. It’s definitely a must-see for plant-lovers and even the everyday average Joe.
- Entrance to the San Diego Botanic Gardens.
- Photo: Public Domain via San Diego Botanic Gardens at Balboa Park.
Escape to Encinitas
Whether you live in Encinitas or are just passing through, all over North County, you’ll see people outside. Walking, running, cycling, swimming, surfing, camping, shopping, and connecting. The weather beckons people out of their homes, and the amenities are laid-back, unspoiled, and offer a sense of escape. Encinitas is a beloved and warm, friendly community—it is definitely one place you will not want to leave once you’ve experienced its unique flavor.
Featured image: CC BY-ND 2.0 Joe Wolf via Flickr.