A place to find yourself again

THE NEXT TIME YOU FEEL SCATTERED and need a day to center yourself, spend a day in Encinitas. This friendly coastal city has a mellow vibe and a worldwide reputation as a great place to hang ten. In fact, Surfer Magazine has named Encinitas one of the top ten surf towns in the United States. But surf is only the beginning. Encinitas has exceptional gardens, unique boutiques, engaging art displays, and historic buildings and museums inviting you to dive in and reconnect with yourself.

If you’re a surfer and the surf report looks promising, bring your board and head straight for Moonlight State Beach. From there, depending on the conditions, local surfers may point you to Seaside, Cardiff Reef, Swami’s, or one of the several tidal beach breaks and jetties in between. Prefer to hang loose? Head straight to D Street Beach, just south of Moonlight Beach.It’s an exceptional place to watch waves rolling in and seagulls riding the winds.

Shutterstock.com / Sherry V Smith
Shutterstock.com / Sherry V Smith
Shutterstock.com / littlenySTOCK
Shutterstock.com / littlenySTOCK
Shutterstock.com / DBSOCAL
Shutterstock.com / DBSOCAL

When you’re ready to look inward, drive south on Coast Highway to the Self-Realization Fellowship Meditation Gardens. This beautiful sanctuary in the bluffs above Swami’s Beach has reopened its iron gates after a two-year closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. Stroll through the spectacular gardens and behold the colorful foliage, meditation nooks, koi ponds, and ocean vistas. Take time to appreciate this inspirational setting where visitors from around the world come to pray, study, and meditate.

Spending the morning connecting with surf, sand, and self builds up an appetite, so your next stop is Encinitas 101 Main Street (also known as South Coast Highway 101). This laid-back strip of one-of-a-kind shops and eateries has more than eighty retail shops to investigate. This historic downtown strip captures the Encinitas vibe with vintage thrift shops, busy coffee bars, and creative retail spaces. Grab a latte, window shop, and pop into the stores that intrigue you.

Two shops you don’t want to miss are directly across the road from one another. At Queen Eileen’s, the inviting window display is only the beginning, so be sure to walk in—and expect to be there a while. This amazing gift emporium, which began as a singing and dancing telegram service, is a treasure trove of imaginative and fun gift items. Even if you don’t have any gift-giving occasions on the horizon, the merchandise is sure to make you smile. On the opposite side of the street, Bliss 101 is another great store to explore. It provides a gallery for local artists in addition to a well-curated collection of home furnishings, houseware items, handcrafted jewelry, and a heavenly assortment of scented candles.

After enjoying some retail therapy and great food downtown, drive over to San Diego Botanic Garden. Online reservations are encouraged prior to your arrival, so be sure to book a mid-afternoon reservation on the day before your trip. Your tickets will have a one-hour time window. Plan to stay until closing time because there is so much to explore in this amazing oasis of more than 5,000 plant species and varieties in fifteen separate gardens, each representing a different region in the world. There are also twelve demonstration gardens, the largest children’s garden on the west coast, and the nation’s largest collection of bamboo plants. Find a spot or two along the way that call to you and linger awhile.

At the end of a sun-filled day, Encinitas is a great place to watch the sunset. A few favorite spots are the top of the stairs at Swami’s Beach, the top of Beacon’s Beach along Neptune, and the steps leading to Grandview Beach in Leucadia.

For more ideas and information, visit encinitasvisitorscenter.com and, if you’re there on a weekday, stop into the Encinitas Visitors Center in the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce building and tell them About Town sent you.

Old World Desert Garden at the 
San Diego Botanic Garden | Rachel Cobb
Old World Desert Garden at the San Diego Botanic Garden | Rachel Cobb


Take I-5 North to Encinitas and exit at Encinitas Blvd. Head west to Encinitas Main Street 101 and the beaches.

Self Realization Fellowship Meditation Gardens
215 West K St (between 2nd St & 3rd St)
Open Tue–Sat 9–5; Sun 11–5
Closed Mon and rainy days

Queen Eileen’s | Angela Sterling
Queen Eileen’s | Angela Sterling

Queen Eileen’s
548 S Coast Hwy 101
Open Mon–Thu 9:30–8
Fri–Sat 9:30–9
Sun 9:30–7

Bliss 101
553 S Coast Hwy 101
Open Mon–Thu 11–6; Fri 11–7; Sat–Sun 10–7

San Diego Botanic Garden
Quail Gardens Dr and Ecke Ranch Rd
Open Wed–Mon 9–5
Closed Tues

Encinitas Visitors Center
Encinitas Chamber of Commerce
535 Encinitas Blvd, Ste 116
Open Mon–Fri 9–5
Closed Sat–Sun