Encinitas sits in the sweet spot 25 miles north of San Diego and 95 miles south of Los Angeles. But the vibe here is decidedly more San Diego chill.
Peder Norby, the Highway 101 corridor coordinator, traces downtown’s novelty back to its incorporation only 24 years ago. “We didn’t want to see what has happened to a lot of beach towns up and down the West and East coasts where they lose the downtown character,” he says. Encinitas implemented a Main Street program from the beginning so business owners and residents take part in the planning process.
When the town asked where the 60,000 citizens wanted their new library, they voted overwhelmingly for a downtown location. Now two years old, the library overlooks the ocean, and its terrace has become the community living room.
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Your View Is:
California bungalows and blue waves being carved apart by surfers.
Your neighbors are: beachy and bohemian. The roots run deep here, but younger generations are bringing healthy living habits to town with more than 12 downtown yoga studios.
Your Main Street has: enough surf shops (seven) to keep the foam industry above water, 1st Street Bar, The Saloon, El Callejon (authentic Mexican like cochinita pibil—slow-roasted chunks of pork in achiote, orange, and onions), and sushi at Sakura Bana. Also, the mass transit runs a half-block parallel to Main Street, with trains connecting to San Diego, L.A., and beyond.
Your favorite restaurant could be: The Beachside Bar & Grill, a family-run local favorite for listening to live music on the patio and digging into The Woody Burger.
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Your Best Beach Is:
Moonlight Beach, a few blocks from Main Street, with a children’s play area and a snack bar serving burgers.
On the weekend you might: learn how to surf on Moonlight Beach’s beginner waves with Leucadia Surf School, or head to Swami’s overlook to watch the big waves. Or, bike, fish, and take mini road trips to Solana Beach (31⁄2 miles) or San Diego.
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Stay a week: The recently renovated Leucadia Beach Inn has Spanish-style accommodations along Highway 101. Rates start at $85; 800/706-7461 or leucadiabeachinn.org.
Stay a month: Cottage by the sea, three bedrooms, three baths. Weekly rates start at $1,500; vacationrentals.com (listing ID 55941).