If you like looking at beautiful beaches and have an extra vacation day, head north from La Jolla through the coastal communities of Del Mar, Solana Beach, Cardiff by the Sea, Encinitas, Leucadia, and Oceanside.
Of these, I think Swami’s Beach in Encinitas is the most scenic. The best view of the surf and sand is from the garden at the Self-Realization Fellowship Retreat. You’ll also have a good view from Sea Cliff Roadside Park, right off Highway 101. Swami’s produces consistently good waves, and this park is a great place to experience North County’s surf culture.
To hang with the locals for a while, treat yourself to coffee at the Pannikin Cafe on the ocean side of Highway 101 in Encinitas. Housed in an historic Santa Fe Railway Station, built in 1888, the Pannikin is also known for their baked goods.
If you’d like a look at some Orange County beaches, take I-5 through Camp Pendleton, then turn onto Highway 1 at Dana Point. Laguna Nigel, Laguna Beach, and Newport Beach are more built up than San Diego coastal communities, but they all have great beaches. In Huntington Beach, north of Newport, the locals have managed to retain their all-surfing-all-the-time lifestyle.
Walk out onto the lovely old HB pier (built in 1904) and watch surfers riding waves back to the shore. This is the real “Surf City USA” – a fact that was proven in court where the words to the Beach Boys’ song were offered as evidence. This is also a great spot to watch beach volleyball – and be sure to check out the International Surfing Museum.
By the end of the day, you will have seen Southern California’s most beautiful beaches and witnessed that, while Gidget may be past her prime, our surf culture is alive and well.
Which beach is your favorite? Please feel free to post a comment and share your opinion with other travelers.