We are updating our local's travel guide to Encinitas, California to reflect the strange experience that is traveling in 2021! School is about to be out for summer, the sun is shining, and the beach is waiting. Health regulations related to COVID-19 do remain in California, and are changing every day, so please check the CDC and other relevant sources for up-to-date information before traveling. Once you're ready to visit North County San Diego this summer, we've got you covered with an Encinitas local's travel guide to make sure you get the most out of your Encinitas vacation, including recommendations for shopping, dining and activities that are all COVID-safe.
Photo by Carlos Bastias
Photo by Joshua Brown
Photo by Teagan Maddux
WHERE TO EAT
Best pizza in Encinitas. I said it. Neopolitan-style pizza plus fresh, daily specials and reasonable prices. This place is teeny tiny with a great outdoor patio that has safely spilled out into the street out front as the City of Encinitas works hard to accommodate small businesses seeking to add safe dining space. No reservations, so come early or be prepared to wait. Super friendly staff that accommodates even the unruliest of three year-olds.
Mexican cuisine inspired by my one true love, Baja California. They had me at amazing margaritas and fresh vegetables - but meat and fish-eaters will be equally happy here. Plus, this restaurant supports local businesses from farms to their handmade tableware, which we love. On the pricey end, with loud music. Good for a date night in downtown Encinitas, again with expanded outdoor dining options.
A Leucadia neighborhood staple, no local's Encinitas travel guide would be complete without mentioning "Especial". My husband and I even went here on our first date ten years ago. Located just south of Leucadia Boulevard on Coast 101 Highway, this Mexican food restaurant serves up classics, cold beer, and amazing soups. Very reasonably priced and casual. Great for families.
Organic Thai food for lunch and dinner - and I would eat here every day if I could. Amazing vegan and vegetarian options, with my favorite (local) Duck Foot beer on tap and a casual atmosphere. Good prices and family friendly, although sometimes a longish wait for food (made-from-scratch takes time). Please note that since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, this restaurant is only offering food to-go. Grab yours and head down to Beacon's for sunset.
Super fresh sushi rolls based on local Leucadia surf spots, cold Sake and draft beer. If you don't order the garlic Edamame you're missing out. This spot is tiny, but since COVID, they've been taking reservations. They've also greatly expanded their outdoor dining with some quirky alleyway seating that actually reminds me of NYC.
Casual vegan restaurant in downtown Encinitas open for lunch and dinner and offering pizzas, burgers and bowls. Kids eat free! Just ask. Has a truly crunchy feeling with kind people and a beautiful living plant wall.
Leucadia locals' favorite lunch spot - you'll find me here at least once a week seeking vegan soup or fresh veggie tacos. Fresh fish and meat options also available. This Wes Anderson-themed restaurant is a must-see on your Encinitas vacation.
WHERE TO SHOP
Photography by Nicole Capri Creative
Okay, we're obviously biased, but there's a reason why we were named in San Diego Magazine's "Best of North County 2019". Thread Spun is a woman-owned and run brick and mortar and online boutique in Encinitas, California, offering a curated selection of sustainably-produced goods and apparel from around the world. We also host a selection of products by local makers at no cost to them to encourage small and independent business. Come and check out our handmade and fair trade clothing, accessories, home goods and jewelry, with 10% of all profits going directly to charity.
Find everything from ethically- and sustainably-produced home decor and goods like African baskets and handmade wall hangings to sustainably-produced apparel made in the USA. We've got clean beauty products, hand-beaded jewelry, gifts in every price range, and proudly support the Shop Local movement. Since COVID, we have taken extensive precautions to protect the health of our staff and community; masks are strictly required. Please note we also no longer accept cash.
Just up the street from Thread Spun you will find this serene escape, which features a beautiful boutique offering a variety of goods and gifts made by local vendors. They also showcase natural and clean-beauty offerings. After you're done shopping, take a yoga class, book an acupuncture session or hot stone massage, or perhaps receive an astrology reading. You could easily spend half a day here safely relaxing in their gorgeous outdoor space that allows plenty of space for social distancing. Go on, you deserve it, this is your Encinitas vacation, after all.
Our almost-next-door neighbor, this Leucadia staple is a little slice of Americana featuring (duh) surfboards and motorcycles. They've also got vintage and new clothing and a variety of goods and gifts perfect for your dude. No Encinitas or Leucadia local travel guide would be complete without its mention.
Located in The Lumberyard in downtown Encinitas, the Nada Shop is another women-owned small business we love! The Nada Shop is a zero-waste shop offering everyday essentials for low waste living and refillable home and body care products with natural, clean ingredients in sustainable packaging. Their mission is to make low waste living easier and more accessible to everyone. This is a mission we can get behind! The Nada Shop has refill stations for over 50 household and body care products, shop here and bring the containers home to your local zero waste store to keep the sustainability goodness flowing.
WHAT TO DO
Photo by Katie Rodriguez
No Encinitas travel guide would be complete without mention of our many beaches, especially Beacons. Check out the world famous (not really) Beacons bumps (local surf break). This is a family-friendly, locals beach with decent waves and an even better happy hour at sunset. Other great family friendly beaches can be found at Moonlight Beach, Grandview, and D Street. If you're with the family, stop by our favorite donut shop, Leucadia Donut beforehand - arrive early.
South Ponto Beach
Technically this is in Carlsbad, at the very north end of Leucadia, but it is our favorite family beach. It's got a good surf break, wide open sandy beaches and public bathrooms. Free parking along the 101 and in designated paid parking at the south end. You can have propane fires on the beach here, one of our favorite family activities.
This is our neighborhood farmers market, and we attend every Sunday for the variety of fresh organic fruits and vegetables in addition to local food vendors, artisan makers and more. They are up and running again with strict COVID precautions; masks are required, as is social distancing, and only 50 people will be allowed to enter at a time. There is usually a small but quick moving line to enter. The Leucadia Farmers Market is a Family Friendly Certified Farmers Market consisting of 75+ vendors. Find everything you'll need for a delicious farm to table dinner including vegan cheeses, kombucha, organic vegetables and fresh pasta, or take it easy and grab a meal from one of the diverse food vendors. Our very favorites are authentic Kenyan food from Rafikiz Foodz (try the vegan platter) and also the vegan crunch wrap from Leucadia locals Nomad Eats. Founded in 2005 the proceeds from the market go to support the Paul Ecke Central School P.T.A. and the Leucadia Main Street Association. We LOVE supporting causes like these.
* Please note the Gardens are currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic; I am leaving it up here because it is truly a treasure of our community and I surely hope that by the time you are reading this they are able to safely reopen. If you need a break from the beach, head to the Meditation Gardens at the Self Realization Fellowship in downtown Encinitas. Don't worry, you'll still have jaw-dropping views of the ocean from its bluff top location overlooking the ocean. The gardens were founded by Paramahansa Yogananda to disseminate the universal teachings of Kriya Yoga, a sacred spiritual science originating millenniums ago in India. They are peaceful, serene, welcoming to everyone, and free. Kids will enjoy the meandering paths and koi ponds.
Right in the heart of Encinitas, these Botanic Gardens are designated one of the “Top 10 North American Gardens Worth Traveling For". This Encinitas Travel Guide would not be complete without mention of its four miles of trails that wind through 29 uniquely themed gardens, among them a tropical rain forest, a bamboo garden, and regional desert landscapes. Two acclaimed Children's Gardens offer plenty of fun and activities for kids, and a Family Education Conservancy was just completed on the grounds. A full day of family fun in Encinitas can be found here - we visit at least once a week. This is such a great family-friendly and COVID-safe Encinitas activity. Masks and social distancing are required, as are advance reservations, so make sure you get yours on their website, where you can also learn more about special planty events.
Photo by Pawel Czerwins
In 2018, the Ecology Center broke ground on an Encinitas location at our local Farm Lab, expanding beyond its San Juan Capistrano Roots. This site now serves as a hub for sustainability education and an opportunity to connect with and learn about our ecosystem. Volunteer a few hours and walk away with new knowledge, or attend a farm-to-table dinner without a renowned chef in the garden at one of their Community Table Dinner Series. If you have an extra day of vacation, visit their San Juan Capistrano location.
*Please note the La Paloma Theatre is currently closed due to COVID. I am leaving it up here because it is truly a treasure of our community and I surely hope that by the time you are reading this they are able to safely reopen. After your farm to table meal grown right here in Southern California, head to the renowned La Paloma Theatre (or La Paloma), a historic treasure of Encinitas. Built in 1928, this theatre shows everything from Hollywood movies to independent surf films and hosts concerts and community events. This is the perfect way to cap off your Encinitas vacation, but if a beautiful sunset is more of your vibe, we have those too.
Photo by Nick Abrams