The Beaches of North County San Diego: Your Go-To Guide
Visitors to our lovely areas are seldom disappointed by what we have to offer: great food, kind people, sunshine, and, of course, our beaches. One of the first stops for many once they cross to the west of the I-5 is the beach. A quick google search may bring up our most famous beaches: Moonlight and Tamarack for Encinitas and Carlsbad respectively. There are others sprinkled in between these two hot spots, and each has its own special charm and character that makes it diverse from its siblings. Just a quarter mile walk down from one beach brings one to a different experience entirely. So here is your guide for choosing the right beach for your day’s excursion; perhaps the most important decision you make on beach day is which beach will host your festivities.
We’ll start with Swamis beach, the southern-most in our little area. Swamis beach is the most local of the beaches we will talk about. It is known for being a good surf spot and it is the most locally protected beach. It was named after the temple that sits atop its cliff: The Self-Realization Fellowship founded by Paramahansa Yogananda in 1920. A Swami in Hinduism is a yogi or religious guru.
Swamis beach is an excellent stop to gaze at the ocean or grab a photo or two in front of the steps, however, do not be surprised if the locals seem displeased with your presence. This beach is sacred to the surfers and despite their amiable demeanor when encountering you elsewhere on the 101, they do not take kindly to many visitors clogging up the parking. In addition to this, Swamis is difficult to have a beach day at simply due to the nature of the beach and the water – the beach is short and often flooded by the waves, making chairs or blankets difficult. The reef is covered with rocks and can be dangerous for an inexperienced swimmer, so be wary if you choose to swim here.
Moving up to D Street we have arrived at the teenage dream beach. While only ¼ mile south of Moonlight beach, it has a very different vibe from its larger counterpart. Teens from around town tend to gravitate towards D Street and are known to play loud music on boomboxes. D Street can be a real party on the right day. Family groups may want to head a little north towards the more family-friendly Moonlight. D Street is a great spot, though, if you enjoy being in the midst of a younger crowd and won’t mind some music here and there. Be prepared for a long climb when you leave, though, as the steps up are known to bring even the most athletic to their knees!
As mentioned before, Moonlight Beach is very family-friendly and is the most frequented beach in Encinitas. The beach is very easily accessed and has a parking lot on top of the hill as well as street parking in the surrounding neighborhood. It has bathrooms, a playground, a food vendor, volleyball courts, and plenty of space for all its guests. Due to it being so well-known it is a good idea to get to Moonlight earlier in the day to reserve a good spot for you and your family or friends. Once there, you are in for a day filled with (hopefully) lots of sunshine and smiles.
A little further north brings one to Stonesteps beach. It is named, as one might guess, for the stone stairs leading down to the beach. Stonesteps is family-friendly and is often less crowded than Moonlight as it is a little off the beaten path. The only downside for a large group with kids is that there aren’t any facilities, though one could certainly take the walk down to Moonlight if necessary. Stonesteps is also a good place to get a photo as you’re more likely to find spots that aren’t crowded with other tourists or locals.
Beacons is a great spot for a long walk. While sunbathers do frequent this spot, if the tide is high you will be hard-pressed to find a dry spot of beach for your towel and bag. Beacons does have some dedicated parking, which is a plus if you can find a spot – it is a small lot and is often packed. Due to this, though, getting to Beacons early to find parking and camping out all day can mean having a much more quiet beach experience than some other spots that are more accessible to people driving to the beach.
Carlsbad State Beach Campground
This beach is included due to the absolutely unique experience it offers. For the more adventurous and outdoorsy-type travelers, the Carlsbad beach campground is a fantastic spot for your trip. During the summer it is packed with families and travelers that are looking to have an enjoyable time. Very kid-friendly, it is the perfect spot to set up a tent and enjoy the sunset right on the beach every evening of your stay. Locals camp here as well, and you are likely to meet some very kind people. Another plus is that one can get food deliveries here now from apps such as Doordash and Grubhub. It is not uncommon to see families grubbing on Chipotle or Taco Stand while kicking back to watch the waves.
We finish our beach tour with Tamarack beach – a long stretch of soft sand that is a great spot to kick back for a day of sunbathing and beach sports. There is a large parking lot for this beach, though it does fill up on nice days. A nice feature of this beach is the long sidewalk that stretches along the back of the beach with a seawall. One can bike, skate, or walk along this to see the beach without necessarily getting all sandy. The seawall is host to many people enjoying a snack and watching the waves as well. Tamarack is like Carlsbad’s Moonlight beach and is friendly to families and large groups wanting to spend the entire day at the beach.