Setting: Encinitas lies 25 miles north of San Diego, 40 miles north of Mexico, and 90 miles south of Los Angeles. Temperatures fluctuate between the mid 50s and low 70s for most of the year; the sun makes almost daily appearances.
Attractions: Serene town (population 60,000) where surfboards, not cell phones, rule; renowned beaches; thriving arts scene; Quail Botanical Gardens and the Meditation Gardens; ethnic cuisines; excellent schools.
Drawbacks: Sky-high real estate costs keep rising. This area doesn't experience much change in the seasons.
Housing Options: Old Encinitas parallels the ocean, running along the west side of Interstate 5 and divided by the Pacific Coast Highway. New Encinitas, home to most of the city's strip malls, lies along El Camino Real. Cardiff-by-the-Sea enjoys its own zip code, and many of the houses boast splendid water views. Leucadia, to the north of Old Encinitas, guards its hippie roots. Olivenhain is the most rural area.
What It Costs: Beachside (there are few) or cliff-top homes go for no less than $1 million, and most cost far more than that. Waterfront condos wear $850,000 price tags, and those away from the water fetch around $350,000. Few properties west of the Pacific Coast Highway sell for below $750,000, as these homes―most of them small, historic cottages―have easy access to the beach. Homes east of the Pacific Coast Highway go for $300,000 and up.
Your Next-door Neighbors: Biotechs, telecommuters, yoga trainers, restaurateurs, surfboard-shop owners, professional surfers, professors, artists, retirees.
Where You'd Spend Your Free Time: At Swamis Beach, a haunt of surfers, and Moonlight Beach, a favorite of families; at the Artists' Colony; enjoying fine dining; visiting San Diego's zoo; strolling the walkable downtown; taking in a show at La Paloma Theatre; relaxing at Pannikin Coffee and Tea; playing the Encinitas Ranch Golf Course.