Supposedly, summer is over in our little home town of Encinitas, California, but "local's Summer" is just beginning, and the long, sunny days continue. Cooler temperatures, less traffic, and fewer crowds at the beach this Fall mean this is the ideal time to visit Encinitas, California and Leucadia, California. We've got you covered with an Encinitas local's travel guide to make sure you get the most out of your Encinitas vacation.
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. 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.
A Leucadia neighborhood staple, no Encinitas travel guide would be complete without mentioning "Especial". My husband and I even went here on our first date nine 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). Bring some crayons for the kids.
Super fresh sushi rolls based on local surf spots, cold Sake and draft beer. If you don't order the garlic Edamame you're missing out. This spot is tiny, but I heard they take reservations now.
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. One of my favorite places to relax.
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. Closed Mondays.
WHERE TO SHOP
Okay, we're obviously biased, but there's a reason why we were named in San Diego Magazine's "Best of North County 2019". Come and check out our handmade and fair trade clothing, accessories, home goods and jewelry, and 10% of each sale goes directly to charity. Find ethically- and sustainably-produced home decor and goods from African baskets to Bogolan mudcloth, ceramic planters to Oaxacan rugs, unique earrings to hand-beaded jewelry. Or, shop our handmade surfboard bags, pouches, clutches and more sewn by resettled refugee women.
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. Their boutique also showcases 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. Go on, you deserve it, this is an Encinitas *vacation* guide, 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.
This men's clothing and accessories shop in downtown Encinitas offers contemporary menswear and lifestyle goods with a focus on made in USA and made in Japan denim. They even offer custom tailoring and denim repair, in true eco-friendly Encinitas fashion.
This Southern California lifestyle brand and shop has a variety of coastal styles for men and women alike, including clothing, footwear and accessories. They share a space with Lone Flag and Norden, another local brand offering candles, ceramics and home scents, as well as a pretty impressive indoor plant selection and other home decor.
WHAT TO DO
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 (BYOB). Other great family friendly beaches can be found at Moonlight Beach, Grandview, and D Street.
South Ponto Beach
Technically this is in Carlsbad, at the very north end of Leucadia. This 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 parking at the south end. You can have propane fires here in the Winter, one of our favorite family activities.
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". Four miles of trails wind through its 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 can be found here - we visit at least once a week. If you happen to be in Encinitas for the first Tuesday of the month, entry is free!
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 and are able to visit their San Juan Capistrano location, and keep an eye out for their Maker's Village featuring Thread Spun handmade and fair trade goods from around the world.
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.
We love our funky beach town of Leucadia and our family-friendly beach vacation location of Encinitas. We know you will too! We hope to see you at our retail store on the 101, always selling handmade goods and gifts for the better good.
If you can't plan an in-person visit to our favorite Encinitas spots, you can always get fair trade gift inspo and shop our best-sellers online! Click here to shop now.