Hidden Gems Around Encinitas: 6 Things You Might Not Know

Hidden Gems in Encinitas

Swami’s Tidepools

There are things that anyone who has visited knows about Encinitas, like the fact that Moonlight Beach is the bomb, Trattoria i Trulli has the best Italian food, and Whole Foods is always packed. Always. Then there’s a rather hidden side of Encinitas that perhaps only those who have lived here for years know about this scenic seaside town. Whether it’s where to access the beach to get some privacy, when to visit the tide pools, or where to go to get happy hour all night long, insider tips make us squeal with delight. How about you? Below, we’ve shared 6 hidden gems around Encinitas: 

1. San Elijo Campground: You don’t have to be a camper at San Elijo Campground to park there and enjoy a meal at Bull Taco. There is plenty of seating, the views are amazing, and the food at Bull Taco is absolutely killer (don’t forget the hot sauce!). You can park in the campground or try to find a spot along the 101. Once there, grab a seat on the benches and hit the line, as there is usually a decent sized one from 5 p.m. on (sorry!). The only downside for those who like to imbibe is they don’t allow alcohol in the seating area outside of Bull Taco (some have been known to sneak it, but we’re not putting them on blast). Kids will love to roam around and take in the scenery, and can even take the stairs down onto the beach to dip their toes in the ocean post-meal. Just because you’re not a camper there doesn’t mean you can’t come back for s’more fun!

2. Self-Realization Center: If you’re like us, you thought the Self-Realization Center by Swami’s was just a beautiful and serene monastery. It wasn’t until we had to do some research on something else that we found out that this center is open to the public. You can wander the marvelous meditation gardens there, attend a lecture, or even take a yoga class! While there are monks and nuns at SRF that still adhere to the principles of the center’s founder, Paramahansa Yogananda, it’s also a place where we can all go to get in touch with ourselves. This can be especially helpful in this day and age of iPads, iPhones, and other ways that we are incessantly connected via technology. 

Whether you hit one of the meditation centers, temples, or attend a retreat, you’ll certainly feel at peace once you leave this Highway 101 landmark. Adults are likely the norm here, they also offer programs for children and teens. While spiritual guidance is offered and there are things such as the Worldwide Prayer Circle, this place is more about self-realization than religion. Kriya Yoga is SRF’s practice, as it has been known to calm people mentally and physically, freeing their consciousness and limitations while helping them to feel that God is ubiquitous in our lives. 

Of course, if you’re inclined to pray, love, eat, Swami’s and plenty of other fantastic restaurants are right in the vicinity of the center. 

3. Black’s Beach: While most of us call our fave SoCal town Encinitas, there are some who have been known to call it “Enci-NUDE-as,” and those people like to hang at Black’s Beach. While the beaches in our area are relatively tame compared to those in other countries, Black’s is the one beach (or at least part of it) that caters to those who tend towards exhibitionism. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It is officially part of Torrey Pines State Beach, with the northern portion of it owned and managed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. The southern part – which is the part where you can don your birthday suit if you like – is managed by the city of San Diego. If sunning yourself sans clothing is your thing, you should know the clothing-optional part begins approximately 100 yards south of the Torrey Pines Gliderport trail head. 

Should your eyes wander to – ahem – other things on the beach, you might notice quite a few spectacular and secluded mansions that sit atop the cliffs, including the famous Salk Mansion. This space-age looking fortress has a funicular for access and an elevator that goes down to the beach. What more could a bazillionaire ask for? 

4. Swami’s Tide Pools: Everyone knows that Encinitas has some of SoCal’s best beaches but what many might not realize is our access to seeing sea-life in an up close and personal fashion every fall with the Swami’s tidepools. Just north of Cardiff State Beach is Swami’s, an uber popular surf area. But your mini marine life lovers might be in for something even better than riding the perfect wave. Head north and, if you catch the rocky area at low tide (make sure to check the surf report), you may very well encounter sea hares, octopi, brittle sea stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, Hermit crabs, and more – all while walking along the shoreline. If you look closely, you can also see old fossil shells that have hardened within the sedimentary rock. With the temperature fall weather we’re having this year, a trip to the tidepools is likely to be one you and your children will treasure forever. Don’t forget (or drop!) the camera!

5. Cardiff Crack at Seaside Market: Seaside Market is anything but a hidden gem in Encinitas, as any given day here this Cardiff gourmet grocery store is packed to the gills. However, what some might not take the time to check out is, well, anything other than their famous “Cardiff crack”. Their burgundy marinated tri-tip is so popular, it has its own website … for real, yo. And, while it’s what we serve any time we have company come because it’s that good, this store is no one-trick pony. If you haven’t tried their scallops yet, you are in for a real treat. Of course, any of their fish is fresh and fantastic, but the scallops they sell here are restaurant-quality. And the best part? They are idiot-proof to prepare (yours truly can vouch for that). All you have to do is add some salt and pepper or, and sear them in butter or olive oil for a few minutes on each side. Voila! Your friends will think you went to culinary school. Store manager Adam Zack also highly recommends the Stone Beer Pork Chops. Morning people can’t leave the store without also making their own homemade orange juice in-store. Move over, Folger’s, as THIS is the best part of waking up. 

6. Grandview Beach: While Grandview Beach isn’t a total secret, it’s definitely managed to avoid the crowds that some of the nearby beaches get every weekend. Perhaps it’s the majorly steep stairs off of Grandview that are necessary to get there. Nah, that’s doubtful, as Leucadians are hardly lazy. Either way, though, we’ll take the lack of crowds and the killer views as you descend onto this gorgeous beach. The stairs make it necessary to pack light, though, so keep that in mind, and you might also want to check the tides, as the high tide can sometimes bring the waves all the way to the bluffs! Parking is plentiful, though, and the surfing is unparalleled, so the itty bitty slice of pebbly beach is rarely occupied by those who only like to sun their buns. 

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Marnie is a freelance writer and mom to two boys – Finn, 6, and Declan, 4. She started out as a Copywriter for FOX’s americanidol.com and has since written for sites like LivingSocial, Red Tricycle, and Wetpaint. Marnie has also been published twice in San Diego Magazine’s “best of” segments. Her writing on parenting has been featured several times on the popular Scary Mommy blog and on Disney’s parenting website, Babble. This busy North County resident also hosts a mommy blog called LoveButBlog, which takes a rather irreverent look at the trials of motherhood and marriage. On top of raising two nutty boys, she wrangles two portly pugs named Olive and Fred. When she’s not writing or wiping noses and buns, she’s working out, indulging in her trashy TV addiction with her equally addicted husband, cracking a bottle of Malbec, or fantasizing about her dream trip to the Amalfi Coast in Italy.

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