North of San Diego lies the beachfront community of Cardiff-by-the-Sea, or Cardiff to locals. An easy walk from the beach, this charming small town features quaint shops and amazing restaurants & breweries.
For the beach-inclined, dramatic coastal bluffs tower above a long stretch of sand that’s rarely crowded, drawing surfers, snorkelers, and beachcombers. Cardiff State Beach and San Elijo State Beach span the entire waterfront of Cardiff. San Elijo is known for its campground with over one hundred tent and RV campsites and Cardiff State Beach has two day-use access points, North Beach and South Beach aka Seaside Beach.
Cardiff State Beach is also known for its beautiful reefs, drawing divers and snorkelers. But probably the most common beach-goers at Cardiff are the surfers. Both professional and novice surfers flock to Seaside Beach for its waves which result from the offshore reefs. When the tide is out, these reefs reveal themselves with fantastic tide pools where many sea creatures can be discovered.
Just south of the beach lies San Elijo Lagoon, a wetlands area with trails that draw bird watchers and nature lovers.
For those who wander into the town center, Restaurant Row offers a variety of local cuisine. Las Olas is a popular spot for a quick fish taco, while Ki’s offers a variety of healthy and delicious dishes with a view. The Pacific Coast Grill is a prime spot for small plates and seafood with a more upscale atmosphere. For a quick bite on the way to to the beach, VG Donut & Bakery is a local hangout with delicious old fashioned donuts.
Lodging in Cardiff is somewhat limited, but with Encinitas and San Diego on either side, there are plenty of nearby hotel options. Cardiff by the Sea Lodge is close to Cardiff’s beachrd and offers bed and breakfast accommodations in uniquely decorated rooms. Slightly further inland, Holiday Inn Cardiff Beach offers free breakfast and an outdoor pool, and is a quick drive to Legoland.
Picturesque and laid back, Cardiff is the perfect destination for those wanting to escape the crowds while maintaining the charm of golden California beaches.