10 Cheap Thrills In Paradise: Encinitas, CA

Tidepools at Swami's Beach

Tidepools at Swami's Beach

 A  San Diego Beach Town Offers Low-Cost  Fun
by Lydia Breen

Looking for a  relaxed getaway?  Entinitas, California is an iconic Southern California beach town with lots of low-cost outings for nearly everyone – sports enthusiasts, nature buffs, art lovers, music fans, gardeners, readers and food enthusiasts.  Take a look at this list:

Ducky Waddles Emporium

Ducky Waddles Emporium

 1. Go Low-brow     

Ducky Waddles is a hidden treasure for aficionados of pop surrealism, low-brow and outsider art. The largest after-market selection of Shepard Fairey’s works are here.  Also on offer is a wide assortment of books on a art technique, criticism, and artists’ biographies. There’s also a good selection of early and first edition fiction, including Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jack Kerouac and others.  Store owner and sububculture-lover Jerry Waddle  calls his place as a  “a book store, art gallery and center for cultural studies.”  Patrons are encouraged to hang out, browse the shelves, access the free WiFi and chat..  Bring your own caffeine or other non-alcoholic drinks.   Check their website for poetry readings, music and other special events.     

Down the street, Lou’s Records has a wide assortment of used and new CD’s, DVD’s and LP’s. Get a tattoo next door at 454 Tatoo and Body Piercing. Popular eateries along the Leucadia strip include the long-time hang-out, Pannikin’s and Mozy’s Cafe, specializing in healthy Carribbean, Mexican and vegan eats (although service can be slow).  The somewhat more upscale Turkish restaurant, The Bird House Grill, is also nearby.
Ducky Waddles Emporium: 414 N. Coast Highway 101, Encinitas: (760) 632-0488;www.duckywaddles.com / Lou’s Records: 434 North Coast Highway 101, Encinitas;(760) 753-1782. http://www.lousrecords.com/ 454 Tatoo and Body Piercing: 454 N. Coast Highway 101,(760) 942-2333/Pannikin Coffee & Tea: 510 Highway 101(760) 436-5824; http://pannikincoffeeandtea.com/ Mozy Cafe: 698 N. Coast Highway, Encinitas: (760) 944-9168: www.yelp.com/biz/mozy-cafe-encinitas/ the Bird House Grill 250 N. Coast Highway 101, Encinitas (760) 944-2882. www.yelp.com/biz/bird-house-grill-encinitas
Susan Hauptman

Self-Portrait with Dog, 2001 charcoal, pastel, and hair on paper © Susan Hauptman, courtesy of Forum Gallery, New York.

  2. Go Hi-brow    

Two miles inland (still in Encinitas) the Lux Art Institute offers an unusual opportunity to consider the creative process over time of a world-class artist. Visitors are guided on a liaison-led tour where they observe an artist-in-residence at work. Examples of their finished pieces are on display in a gallery next to the studio. Invited artists live on the grounds for two weeks to several months, during which time visitors are encouraged to return to observe how the artist’s work has evolved. (The price of admissions allows one person to make two separate visits.) The Institute’s serene setting LEED-certified building were designed to reflect “an open relationship between the artist and the site.” A path featuring sculpture and sustainable landscaping takes visitors through part of the Institute’s four-acre site that overlooks the San Elijo Lagoon. Contemporary artist Iva Gueorguieva will be in-studio Jan. 16 – Feb. 6, 2010. After your visit, return downtown to unwind at the E Street Café, where owner/artist Dominic Alcorn has an exhibits his own and other artist’s on his walls.  E Street offers a large selection of specialty coffees, teas and juices. Ask Dominic to suggest a drink.  Try a “Monkey Love” made of espresso shots, dark chocolate , banana, whipped cream, chocolate syrup and nutmeg ($4).Their soups are yummy (try their Thai Red Pepper Soup.). So, too, are their sandwiches, vegan treats and deserts. Lux Art Institute.    

You’ll find a wide range of patrons,  from little kids to business people, also lots of bohemians, artists  and students.  Alcorn’s love of people and the arts is evident in the events he works hard to organize there.   Tuesdays it’s open mic night, which often includes poetry as well as music. (6-9:30). Thanksgiving weekend, concerts are scheduled for Friday and Saturday evenings (7:30-9 p.m.). Thanksgiving Day hours: 7a.m. – 1 p.m.  Check out their calendar of events.     

Luxe Art Institute: 1550 South El Camino Real Encinitas, CA 92024. Hours:  Thursday & Friday 1-5 p.m.; Saturday, 11 – 5.  Under 21: free;  others: $10: (760) 436- 6611. Evenings of music, art and refreshments are free and open to the public every third Wednesday of the month. http://www.luxartinstitute.org/E Street Café: 128 W. E Street, Encinitas:  (760) 230-2038.  Hours:  7 a.m.-8 p.m Sun – Wednesday.  Friday and Staurday 7 a.m. – 10 p.m. www.estreetcafe.com
Leucadia-Encinitas Farmers Markets: Sundays 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Leucadia-Enciniatas Farmer's Market

  3. Slow and Loco     

If it’s in season in Southern California, you can probably find it at the Leucadia-Encinitas Farmer’s Market. Geared for locovores, there are plenty of families and young people who come (many on their bikes)  to shop for food then stay on for brunch, live music and to chat with the farmers about gardening techniques, recipes, sustainable agriculture, etc,  All produce comes from certified California farmers; most within San Diego County.     

Locally-grown flowers

Locally-grown flowers

   Seven of the growers have certified organic farms.  Fresh fish, tuna jerky, goat cheese, local honey, even vegan dog biscuits (natch) are on offer.  Indian, Mexican, Jamaican and other food stalls offer tasty treats. Annel and Drew’s Kitchen is a favorite, offering scrumptiously presented food.  Try their Loco Veggie Salad ($6/$8), grilled organic artichokes or lamb sliders ($6/$9/$12)     

 Leucadia-Encinitas Farmer’s Market, every Sun 10 a.m.-2 p.m., except Easter. Paul Ecke Elementary School, Union & N. Vulcan Sts (858) 272-7054. Annel and Drew’s Kitchen (they also do catering): (858) 246-6962, cell: (858) 210-5094.

photo credit: San Diego County

   4. Explore a Treasured Ecosystem     

The San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve in Encinitas  is one of the few intact coastal wetlands left in Southern California.   Fresh water and salt water meet in this peaceful shallow water estuary near San Elijo State Beach.  Up and down the coast of California our coastal wetlands have been reduced by pollution, erosion, land development and lack of rain, providing all the more reason to value the Reserve and the many species of flora and fauna it protects.     

Blue Heron (photo: Dennis Ancinec, San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy)

   Forty percent of the birds in North America pass by this lagoon on their way to Mexico, Canada and places in between.  Fall and Spring are migratory months, a peak time to visit this birders’ paradise. There are lots shore and water birds to spot, including herons, egrets, avocets and stilts. With luck on your side, you might see an endangered clapper rail, which is on many birders “get” list.Take the 

Coyote Photo Credit: Dennis Ancinec

Coyote (photo credit: Dennis Ancinec, San Elijo Conservancy

half-mile loop around the visitor’s center. Alternatively, there’s another trail around the lagoon that starts at the Rios Avenue trail head. The Conservancy offers free, docent-led tours every Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Nature Center. Another two-hour tour at the Rios Ave. trail head takes place the second Saturday of the month at 9 a.m. There are lots of up-country trails east of the I-5 Freeway, where you can spot mule deer, bobcat and other critters in coastal sage scrub and chaparral habitats. The Reserve’s 915 acres are yours for discovering – admission is free.  Hike early;  it is  the best time to spot animals.    

For advice on the trail that best suits your needs, call the Nature Center. After your walk, visit the Center to learn about the cultural history of the area that was once populated by Native Americans living in coastal villages. Picnic tables with a lovely view of the lagoon and ocean are available on the Center’s upper deck. Watch a lonesome fish jump as you peacefully much your sandwich. The San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Center partners with the non-profit San Elijo Conservancy, another useful source of information. More information rules, regulations and maps can be found on the two organizations websites. The Reserve is open during daylight hours.If you are taking one of the longer trails, don’t forget to carry in drinking water!The Nature Center at the Reserve is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily but Christmas. Address: 2710 Manchester Ave. Encinitas.Tele: 760-634-3944. 

Self Realization Fellowship, Encinitas Photo Credit: Jeff Dowler

 5. Seek Truth and Beauty     

 The Self-Realization Fellowship Retreat and Hermitage is an iconic Encinitas landmark that helped popularize mediation and anchor the community as a home for the counter-culture lifestyle.   Sunday afternoons you can tour the Hermitage, the home where Paramahansa Yoganda wrote his classic spiritual guide, The Autobiography of a Yogi. The room in the Hermitage where he received many distinguished guests in the 1930’s is now preserved as a shrine. Exit through the upper gardens that hug the cliffs, offering  a stunning ocean view.  Then make your way through the luxuriant meditattion gardens. Before your visit, have lunch  across the street at Swami’s Café, a local haunt not affiliated with the ashram.     

   The Hermitage is open Sundays 2-5 p.m., except in inclement weather; admission  is free.  The Meditation Gardens are also free; open Tues.-Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sun. 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. Swami’s Café: 7 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday – Sunday.   

Meditation gardens Credit: Lydia Breen

photo credit: Surfrider Foundation

 6. Score a great ride   

 If you can afford to splurge just once over the holidays, this may be the time and place. Winter is the best time to surf. Local surfer say  they’d have to kill you if they divulged their favorite spots. But you can’t go wrong if you surf at Swami’s or San Elijo State Park.  Surf shops and schools along Northern San Diego County’s coast offer friendly, helpful advice.  The Leucadia Surf Shop is one of many.  If you don’t have gear, you can rent a wetsuit ($10/24 hr.) and board ($5/hr; $20/24 hr.)  Private or group surfing lessons can be arranged through  Kahuna Bob’s Surf School. Another favorite is the Eli Howard Surf School at the San Elijo State Campgrounds. Rent boards and suits ( $15/item/day) or take a two-hour group lesson ($60/person including equipment). For lessons in the winter call a couple of days ahead; most classes this time of year are in the morning, the best times to surf. Bull Taco’s offers a low-cost must eat experience at the San Elijo State Campground for surfers, bikers, campers or other sun worshippers. Don’t pass up on one of their amazing daily specials. Call ahead if you’re in too much of a hurry to chill on the deck while they prepare your food. Park outside the campground along Hwy. 101.  

Believe it or not, surfers have a serious side. The Surfrider Foundation works to protect the ocean water, beaches and surrounding wetlands. The non-profit organization recently won a lawsuit against a major oil company in which the court recognized for the first time, that  “breaking waves are natural resource deserving protection.” For locally-sponsored Surfrider Foundation events, great info. and resources – including a report on water quality at local beaches – see link to their website, below.  

Wednesday nights (6-9 p.m.) you’ll find plenty of surfers groovin’ to ukulele music at Today’s Pizza and Salad. (Copious amounts of beer may help you acquire a musical taste for ukuleles). A traditional hula dancer performs at 4:30 p.m. Thursdays it’s bluegrass; most Tuesdays they break out the accordions. Call ahead for details.  

Sam Breen

Leucadia Surf Shop: 1144 Coast Highway 101 Encinitas, La. (760) 632-1010, www.yelp.com/biz/leucadia-surf-shop-encinitas. Eli Howard Suf School at San Elijo State Park  in Cardiff and Moonlight Beach, Encinitas. (760) 809-3069, www.elihoward.com/contact-us/index.cfm. Bull Taco’s at San Elijo State Park in Cardiff. Hours:  Mon-Sat: 8 -6; Sundays,  8-5 p.m. check out their website or call the Encinitas chapter at (858) 792-9940. For the Encinitas Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation about local events,  call: (858) 792-9940 or check their website at www.surfridersd.org.  The California Surf Museum: 321 Pier View Way, Oceanside, CA 92054; (760) 721-6876. Hours: open daily 10 am -4pm; Thursdays until 8pm. $3 adults; $1 students/seniors/military. Free on Thursdays. 101 Cafe: 631 S. Coast Highway, Oceanside; (760) 722-5220‎. http://www.101cafe.net/ Surfcam – by beach. Weather Underground (Encinitas forecast)    For schedule of local Surfrider Foundation events: check their site or call the  Encinitas chapter. For more on Bull Taco: see my previous post     

The Rock Horror Picture Show plays Fridays at midnight, La Paloma Theatre7. Act Horrid

 7.  Act Horrid     

Appropriate dress is appreciated but not required at the Friday midnight showings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at the historic La Paloma Theatre in downtown Encinitas.  The second Friday of the month at midnight is Monster Lingerie Night, with prizes.  This historic theatre was opened in 1928 at a gala attended by silent film star Mary Pickford (a.k.a.”America’s Sweetheart”).  Rumor has it that Pickford rode her  bike to the gala from the ranch she owned with her husband, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. of “Zorro” fame.  La Paloma currently hosts community events, music concerts as well as art house and mainstream films.  If you have forgotten your Goth clothes, downtown Encinitas has plenty of hip, used clothing stores.  Some of the best bargains can be found at the Community Resource Center’s Thrif Store, across the street from     

La Paloma Theatre in downtown Encinitas

the theatre.  Women’s tops go for $3-5; pants and sweaters range from $5-$8.  Their designer rack is more expensive, but well with a look.  They’ve also got bathing suits, towels, picnic gear, etc.  Once every three months everything in the store is half off; the next sale is in December.  Proceeds from the store support the Center’s domestic violence shelter.  You won’t find better bargains or consistently kind people at any other shop in Encinitas.  Ask Karen, the store manager, for help putting your Garth garb together; her brother owns La Paloma.     

The Encinitas Public Library - the patio looks out to the ocean

 Back to Mary Pickford..La Paloma Theatre recently held a retrospective showing of her films.  To compliment the event, the Encinitas Branch of the San Diego County Public Library has put some of her personal items and letter on display in the front lobby.  (There’s also a letter to Mary from Clark Gable.)  The library ‘s community meeting room hosts many exhibits; currently it’s featuring an exhibit of digital art.  The library is truly a beautiful gift to the community.  Located on a hill, two blocks from La Paloma, downtown.  You can hang out there for hours on the patio overlooking the ocean. Inside, there’s lots of magazines and Wi-Fi.  Non-members can sign up to use the library’s computer for one hour.  Grab an expresso outside at a cart operated by Global Grind Coffee.     

La Paloma Theatre: 471 S. Coast Highway 101, Encinitas; (760) 436-5744; http://www.lapalomatheatre.com. General admission: $9; $7 matinees.  All tickets are cash only/ Community Resource Center’s Thrift Store: 111 C. Street, Encinitas. Hours:  open every day except holidays from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. /Encinitas Branch of the San Diego County Public Library: 540 Cornish Drive, Encinitas (760) 753-7376.  Hours:  Mon-Thurs 9:30-8 p.m.; Fri and Sat 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun 1-5 p.m. (closed holidays). http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/library/locations_EN.html     

Ecke YMCA Pool

7.  Get Physical     

For $10 ($4.50 for under-20’s) you can spend the day at the the superb Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA. You’ll feel instantly at home here.  No hype, no hustle.  Swim in the (comfortably heated) Olympic-sized pool, sauna, Jacuzzi and weight rooms.  Take any number of yoga, dance or other classes. Check their daily schedules on-line. Exit through  the back lobby; there’s free coffee and Wi-Fi, good company and a huge T.V. for après-sports.     

Kids take a break at Ecke YMCA Skatepark

While you’re there, pul-ease go see the  Y’s skatepark.  Some of the best skaters in the country hang there – along with lots of daredevil little tykes.  You’ll feel like you should be paying to watch.  (The skatepark is located  in the back of the Y’s site, near the baseball fields) .  You’ll need your i.d. when you check in at the courtesy counter.Magdelana Ecke Family YMCA: 200 Saxony Road, Eincinitas, 92024; (760) 942-9622. or (760) 635-3055.  Skatepark:  (760) 635 – 3055 xt. 1038.     


photo credit: Davey Boyd

8. Build Your Dream Home     

Moonlight Beach is a hyper-relaxed hang-out for families and young people.      You can boogey-board down sand hills (rent them for $3/hr.; $12/day) watch the sunset and then stoke up a fire pit for a BBQ with S’mores chasers.   Sunday evenings, join in on a drum circle..     

Sunset at Moonlight Beach


9. Rally!     

South Carlsbad State Beach has lots of opportunities for volleyball enthusiasts.  Bring a net and ball or ask to join others.  Lots of activity at night – bonfires, etc.  For all-day breakfast or lunch walk up the hill to Roberto’s Very Mexican Food Restaurant. Their California Hash Brown Burritos ($4.25) are popular.      

Roberto's Very Mexican Food

 Try a Lite (a misnomer) Burrito ($3.10) or one of the Combo Special, like the Enchilada and Chile Relleno Plate ($5). Address:  1900 Coast Highway 101, Leucadia. (760) 634-2909.     


Hula Hoop Dancing at Swami Beach parking area

10.  Whatever goes around…     

Take a hula hoop dancing lessons at Swami’s Beach on Saturdays, at 1:30 p.m. ($10)   Jam after.     

Watch or join the surfers on the beach.  Walk down to San Elijo Campground and eat at Bull Taco’s (see my previous post). Make designs in the sand. Swami’s: Located directly south of the Self-Realization Center.   http://www.beachcalifornia.com/swami.htmlqqqu     

Divine Design at Swami's



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