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Surfing In Encinitas, CA – A Local’s Guide

The Best Spots, Shops, and Eats

Swamis in encinitas surf spot

Encinitas, California is a prime spot for surfing. Located in San Diego County (or North County as the locals call it) at the far end of Southern California, the city is home to miles of pristine coastline and some of the best, most consistent waves in the world. With its beautiful beaches and warm climate, Encinitas provides an ideal environment for both novice and experienced surfers alike. From longboarding to shortboarding, there are plenty of opportunities to catch a wave.

Considered one of Surfer magazines “top 10 surf towns” in the United States, Encinitas has gone from sleepy to happening, and the locals aren’t that thrilled about it.  If you’re visiting, make sure to be respectful.  As is the case for most spots around the world, the locals are friendly if you aren’t a jerk.

Encinitas Surf Spots


One of the most popular surf spots in Encinitas is Ponto. Located near Carlsbad State Beach, this beach break is a great spot for beginner and intermediate surfers. The state beach parking lot also offers plenty of amenities such as restrooms, showers, and picnic tables to make your surfing experience more enjoyable. Ponto proper breaks off the jetty, and on bigger days can produce some expert level barrels.

Level: Beginner to Expert


Grandview beach encinitas surf spot

Grandview is one of the quintessential Leucadia surf spots.  Accessed by a giant wooden staircase, the soft rock reef offers soft breaking lefts and rights.  You’ll find an assortment of longboarders and shortboarders here.  Recent erosion has made the beach rocky, but the reef still maintains the wave shape like most of the other breaks around Encinitas.  Grandview has a shower located on the staircase, and porta-john toilets in the parking lot.

Level: Beginner to Intermediate


Beacon’s was recently closed due to a bluff collapse, however the trail has been reopened. A small parking lot offers spots for early birds and those patient enough to wait.  The waves are much like Grandview – soft breaking lefts and rights.  On good days this spot can get very good, but you won’t get barreled here.  There are no showers or toilets here.

Level: Beginner to Intermediate

Moonlight Beach

Moonlight Beach is popular for beach day trippers thanks to its large sandy area – perfect for kids and laying out.  This is even more prime sand now that many of the other spots have been eroded away to only cobblestones.  However as far as surfing goes, Moonlight isn’t the best.  It’s often closed out. There are showers and toilets at Moonlight Beach.

Level: Beginner to Intermediate

D Street

D Street is one of Encinitas surfing’s best barrels.  A pure beach break, D Street offers fast punchy waves that break left and right, favoring the swell direction.  You will find mostly shortboarders here, and the crowd can be a bit aggro.  Thankfully, the beach break shifts and mixes up the crowd.  There is a shower at D Street but no bathrooms.

Level: Intermediate to Expert


Swamis is one of the best point break waves in the area, producing a very long, bowly right on its best days as well as a bonus left that can be every bit as fun (but not as long).  Swamis offers a main peak and an inside kiddie pool type section, so you will often see two packs of surfers; longboard beginners on the inside wave, and more local longboarders mixed with shortboarders on the main outside peak.  Both peaks are equally as fun, but the main peak produces bigger waves on the sets.  Accessed through the staircase in the parking lot, Swamis has a shower and bathrooms as well as some interesting parking lot characters.

Level: Beginner to Expert

San Elijo Campgrounds

An array of distinct peaks dots the area known as San Elijo Campgrounds, from Pipes at the North end to Turtles on the south end.  There are also several other named peaks, but you’ll have to find those out for yourself.  The crowd varies depending on which peak you are surfing, from mellow beginners to competitive professional longboarders.  However, most people here are friendly.  Waves range from soft to bowly and dumpy depending on the tide and what peak you’re surfing.  Bring all the boards: shortboards, longboards, fish, midlengths.  This is a place that welcomes all types of boards.

Level: Beginner to Expert

Cardiff Reef

Cardiff Reef is one of the most famous longboarding waves in the world.  You’ll often find Joel Tudor, Ryan Burch, Rob Machado, and other famous faces in the lineup.  The reef produces both lefts and rights, although it favors the right ever so slightly.  There are also two peaks, known as Cardiff and Suckouts.  Depending on the swell these either blend together or are completely distinct. On big days Suckouts produces a heavy barrel that is expert level only.  Cardiff has showers and bathrooms and is dog friendly.

Level: Beginner to Expert

Seaside Reef

Seaside Reef is famous for being Rob Machado’s home break.  There are often NSSA contests held here.  There is a very large State Beach parking lot as well as bathrooms.  The wave itself is a peak that wants to be Lowers but isn’t quite there yet.  Mostly Seaside is a good drop and a turn, and can be shifty and hard to surf unless you know the spot well.  You’ll find a LOT of grom shortboarders here, so if that’s not your cup of tea, steer clear.  Almost nobody longboards here, much like Trestles.

Level: Beginner to Expert

What Time of Year is Best to Surf Encinitas?

Encinitas is good for surfing year round, which is why it has become so popular.  The surf spots work their best in Winter north and northwest swells.  South swells in the summer warm up the water but the wave shape isn’t as good.  In the summer months for example, Swami’s turns into two distinct breaks that close out in the middle.  Cardiff works well in the summer, as does San Elijo, Beacons, and Grandview.

Year round temperatures range from low 60’s in winter to upper 70’s and 80’s in the summer.  The idyllic Mediterranean climate is why San Diego has some of the highest costs of living in the USA.

Encinitas Average Water Temperature Guide

Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Temp (°C) 14.4 14.4 15.0 16.1 17.6 19.0 20.6 21.1 20.0 18.3 16.1 14.7
Temp (°F) 57.9 57.9 59.0 61.0 63.7 66.2 69.1 70.0 68.0 64.9 61.0 58.5

Wetsuit Recommendations:

Season Wetsuit Thickness
Winter 4/3 with optional boots and hood
Spring 4/3 or 3/2 in late spring
Summer Spring suit
Fall 3/2

Surf Shops In Encinitas

Hansen’s – Family owned, the biggest surf shop in Encinitas.

Encinitas Surfboards – Also family owned and a local icon

Bing – Longboard fans should check out Bing

Surf Ride (kinda) – located just south in Solana Beach, Surf Ride is a locally owned mega shop

Where To Eat After Surfing In Encinitas

After surfing grab a taco at the Taco Stand or City Tacos.  For healthy eats go to Hago’s Organic Taco in Leucadia.

Brought a date?  Bring them to Union Kitchen and Tap for a great menu and good drinks.  Looking for something unique?  Q’ero in Encinitas has award-winning Peruvian cuisine.

For breakfast, Swami’s Cafe is a local’s absolute favorite.

As for coffee, hit up Zumbar in Cardiff or Philz in Encinitas.

And if Pizza is your jam, either Corner Pizza or Pandora’s will set you up right.

Encinitas Surf Camps And Lessons

Encinitas Vibe Check

As for the vibe of the town, Encinitas is known for its laid-back and surf-centric culture. The town has a mix of surf shops, yoga studios, and healthy restaurants. The locals are friendly and welcoming, and the town has a great sense of community. Encinitas is also home to a number of surf events throughout the year, including the annual Switchfoot Bro-Am, which is a surf and music festival that raises money for local charities.

Overall Encinitas is a surfer’s playground, with year-round waves for all abilities.  Have you surfed in Encinitas?  Leave our community a comment below about what spots you liked, where you ate, where you stayed, and what you thought.


Hayley Gordon

Hayley Gordon has been surfing for over 20 years. Riding both shortboards and longboards, she's traveled the world to surf but mainly sticks to her two home locations of San Diego and Long Island.

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