Cardiff by the Sea

Charming coastal town known for its stunning beaches and laid-back Southern California vibes.

Locally known as Cardiff, this charming beach community is part of the city of Encinitas but with a separate ZIP code. An oasis of beaches and surf spots famous for their smooth, powerful waves, Cardiff has become a classic surf destination over the years, attracting both amateur and professional surfers year in, year out. It is served by two excellent schools, and the scene of vibrant, seasonal town events like the Cardiff Dog Days of Summer, where locals gather to celebrate doggie contests and adopt new pets. Most of Cardiff’s restaurants are perched on the waterfront, commanding breathtaking ocean views and culinary varieties.

What to Love

  • Big waves for surfing
  • Scenic beach town with a laid back atmosphere 
  • Excellent schools
  • Vibrant town events
  • Restaurants with ocean views

Local Lifestyle

While residents of Cardiff enjoy a quiet, laid-back lifestyle, it’s worthy of note that this is a community of some of the most active recreation lovers, festival-goers, and bon vivant. Locals gather annually for town festivals, head out to the beach often for relaxation and eat in restaurants boasting gorgeous views of the ocean. Its perfect waves no doubt make Cardiff a community defined by surfing, whether you want to head into the water on your board or sit and watch others ride the waves.

Dining, Entertainment & Shopping

If you’re looking for the perfect stop for breakfast burritos, pancakes, and burgers, the surf-themed Pipes Cafe is the way to go. Their menu features everything from french toast to scrambled eggs, muffins, and espresso, you never have to wake up to make breakfast yourself anymore.
Overlooking the scenic waterfront, Pacific Coast Grill is an airy spot for classic seafood dishes, mussels, and sushi savored with the ocean breeze in your face. Go for their popular tempura banana split or sesame-crusted ahi coconut rice smothered with ginger-ponzu sauce and mushrooms and finish off with a glass of beer. At Las Olas Mexican, the delicious menu is made up of classic Mexican dishes prepared with an innovative flair, whether you want to have carnitas or quesadillas paired with a margarita flight. They even have dessert and health-focused options like the Puerto Nuevo lobster plate and vegetable quesadilla. New York-style pizza slices can be had at the East Coast Pizza, a cozy nook with casual decor also offering salad and garlic rolls.

Things to Do

Local restaurants and sip stops gather yearly to fill up the community with culinary flavors and specially crafted libations characteristic of Cardiff-by-the-Sea to mark the Taste of Cardiff festival. With live music, lots to eat and drink, locals come out in droves to celebrate the divine taste of their town’s unique cuisines, while also getting to vote for who wins the coveted Taste of Cardiff Golden Fork Award!
Get your cute pup in a sunshade to mark the Pupologie Cardiff Dog Days of Summer at the lush Encinitas Community Park, where dog contests reign with food trucks and live music. You can even adopt a new pup! Camp out on the dazzling San Diego coast at San Elijo State Park, a popular campground spread along the top bluff overlooking the ocean with convenient access to a camp store, fast food restaurant, and hot showers. Surfers, divers, snorkelers, and anglers love to comb this beach campground, the latter casting their lines into the surf. And because Cardiff falls under the city of Encinitas, some town events are held at the Encinitas Community Park, while locals enjoy access to 44-acres of recreational space with multi-use sports fields, open green space, and a huge skate park.


Cardiff by the Sea is home to some of California’s excellent schools. Top educational opportunities include:

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