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Your Complete Guide to Cardiff by the Sea

a man riding a wave on top of a beach

If you plan to visit SoCal, you may gravitate towards the cities you know, like Los Angeles or San Diego. However, you may be missing out on some fantastic smaller communities that offer just as many activities but at a quieter, less crowded pace.

One such beach town is Cardiff-by-the-Sea, located north of San Diego near Encinitas. With less than 12,000 residents, the sleepy town of Cardiff is home to some of the most popular beaches and natural landscapes on the Pacific Coast while keeping you close to other major attractions near San Diego. This guide to Cardiff-by-the-Sea tells you everything you need to know about visiting this charming oceanfront village.

Enjoy Yourself at the Beach

When you visit Cardiff, you have several beaches to stop and see. Cardiff State Beach Park and San Elijo State Beach are the two main spots where people like to spend the day or plan an overnight camping trip. Cardiff State Beach is also a dog-friendly option; just be sure to keep your pup on a leash when you visit.

Most dog lovers love to share their adventures with their canine friends. Lots of folks bring their dogs hiking and some even bring them on whale-watching tours. It’s especially fun to bring your dog to the beach, although there are lots of rules and regulations to pay attention to. While some beaches don’t allow dogs during part or all of the year, there are others that do.

Beaches That Allow Dogs in Cardiff

There is a dog-friendly beach in Cardiff-by-the-Sea and there are half a dozen others close by. San Elijo State Beach, in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, is a dog-friendly destination. Dogs must be kept on a 6-foot leash at all times.

Fiesta Island Park and The Original Dog Beach are both in San Diego, as well as Pacific Beach and La Jolla Shores Park. These are all dog-friendly beaches. North Beach in Del Mar and Cardiff State Beach in Encinitas also allow dogs. Each beach has its own particular requirements for dog visits.

Bringing your pup on family adventures is such a joyful experience. The joy that they experience running around the sand and surf is contagious and makes for a happy outing. Be sure to visit an online whale watch tour operation that caters to dog lovers to schedule a tour and check out any beach’s webpage to see the rules concerning doggie visitations.

Best Hotels To Stay At

Only a few hotels are within the town limits of Cardiff-by-the-Sea. If you want to stay here, book a room at Cardiff-by-the-Sea Lodge, overlooking San Elijo State Beach. This boutique hotel features 17 rooms, each with a different theme, as well as a rooftop deck that’s perfect for viewing the sunset.

For more affordable accommodations, stay at the Hampton Inn Encinitas-Cardiff Beach Area. It is right on I-5, within a few miles of Cardiff State Beach and San Diego Botanic Garden. You also have lots of options throughout the San Diego area.

Local Surf Spots

Perhaps one of the most popular things to do in Cardiff-by-the-Sea is surf. In fact, surfing is so big in Cardiff that it hosts surfing competitions and demonstrations. Some of the locals’ favorite spots include Cardiff Reef, Seaside Reef, and Pipes. George’s, near Restaurant Row, and Swami’s, closer to Encinitas, are also busy surfing beaches, so you may want to check the surf report to pick a beach that fits your experience level.

Top Areas To Hike

When you need a break from the surf and sand, you can find a trail to hike while enjoying the beautiful SoCal nature. Most people think of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in La Jolla when they want to go hiking, but Cardiff-by-the-Sea also has some gems to explore.

Check out the La Orilla Trail or Nature Center Loop at San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve to see wildflowers or indulge in bird-watching. San Elijo State Beach also has trails from the cliffs to the sand that provide stunning ocean views.

Activities for Kids

Family trips need something to keep kids entertained, and here again, Cardiff delivers. Here is just a sampling of fantastic, child-friendly activities to enjoy with your kids:

  •  Tidepooling – Check the tide charts to see the best time to visit the beach. Low tide reveals all sorts of creatures you can see when combing the tidepools.
  • Surfing – Sign up for surf lessons at one of the local surf schools to give your children a chance to experience surfing safely. Younger children may be fine with boogie boards or staying on the sand to dig or make castles.
  • Legoland – This amusement park is a short distance from Cardiff, and it has attractions the whole family will enjoy together.
  • Whale Watching – Make time to go out on the water with a San Diego whale watching to see majestic sea mammals as they migrate along the coast of California.

Are you ready to plan your trip to Cardiff-by-the-Sea? Contact us for more ideas about activities to try during your visit. Next Level Sailing offers fishing trips, sailboat charters, and dinner cruises as well as whale-watching excursions to make memories while on vacation.