15 of the Most Fun Pup-Popular Beaches in Encinitas, CA

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Located in northern San Diego between Carlsbad and Del Mar is the city of Encinitas, California. This coastal town boasts over 62 thousand residents. It is home to many different events like the April Street Fair, Oktoberfest, the Wavecrest Woodie Meet, and the Switchfoot Bro-Am surf competition and music festival. Some of the top attractions here include the San Diego Botanic Garden, the La Paloma Theatre, and several popular wineries. 

Besides all that, Encinitas has 19 community parks with over 150 acres of space, including playgrounds, miles of trails, an award-winning skate park, and several sports parks. There are even some off-leash dog parks. And with the average temperature year-round of about 80 degrees, beaches are numerous as well. Some of the most popular include Moonlight State Beach, Swami’s Beach, and San Elijo State Beach. To help you choose, we reviewed 15 of the top pup-positive beaches in Encinitas, where you and your canine companion can catch some waves. 

Cardiff State Beach

Located just over a mile from downtown Cardiff, Cardiff State Beach is a pooch-friendly beach on the San Diego Coast. As long as you keep your pup leashed at all times, he is totally welcome anywhere south of Tower 16. This includes Seaside and Cardiff Reef, which are two of the most popular surfing beaches in the city. However, due to the riptides and currents, these spots are dangerous swimming sites for both humans and dogs. Talk to the lifeguards on duty to get some swimming suggestions. 

While you are there, you and your fur buddy can also enjoy fishing, snorkeling, geocaching, and picnicking. There are many eateries nearby where you and your pup can grab a bite to eat and have a seat in one of the picnic areas in the park. Or bring your own food in a cooler and barbecue or have sandwiches. There are restrooms and showers as well as drinking water available as well but bring your own doggie poo bags.

Del Mar North Beach

From the Del Mar Shores Solana Beach Stairs at the end of Del Mar Shores Terrace to the end of 29th Street, there is a whole mile of golden sand and beautiful blue waters for you and your canine companion to enjoy. In fact, the official name is North Beach, but the local pet parents know it as Del Mar Dog Beach because dogs are allowed off the leash from Labor Day until June 15th. Yep, pups are allowed all year long, but during the off-season, they can run around without leashes!

This is a lovely area with your choice of the ocean or the San Dieguito River to play in. The river is typically shallow near the bank, so it is safe for pups and youngsters who are not as familiar with the water. Just make sure your pup is voice-controlled if you let him run without his leash because there are no fences here. 

Powerhouse Park Beach

If it is too crowded at North Beach, continue on down south to Powerhouse Park Beach, where pups can play from the day after Labor Day until June 14th as long as they are on a leash. Except from dawn until 8 AM, when they can be let off the leash to play. However, during the busy season from June 15th until Labor Day, you and Fido will have to go to North Beach or one of the others on the list. 

If you have kids with you, they will enjoy the playgrounds, and your fur baby can join them at the one for the older kids. Dogs are not allowed in the Tot Lot. Also, if you and your pup are into water sports, there is a rental site where you can get wetsuits, paddleboards, and surfboards, among other items. You will also be able to grab a meal from Jake’s Poseidon or the Snack Shack while you are here.

South Beach

Just a few more feet south, and you will be at South Beach, which runs from Powerhouse Park to Torrey Pines Beach at the end of 6th Street. You will not have to worry about what day it is here because your dog is allowed to play here all year long. The only catch is that he has to be on a leash. But you and your fur baby can have just as much fun with a leash on! 

In fact, right next door at Seagrove Park, this hidden gem is almost always secluded and has some fantastic views from atop a high grassy bluff where you can enjoy a picnic or just take a walk. But Seagrove does not have beach access, so you will have to take the path back down to the beach. Also, along this stretch of sand, there are small eateries like Board & Brew, Del Mar Seaside Grill, and En Fuego Cantina & Grill in case you get hungry. 

La Jolla Shores Beach

Keep going south past Torrey Pines Beach because they do not allow dogs. However, the city of La Jolla has one whole mile of golden sand at La Jolla Shores Beach, where your pup is welcome from before 9 AM until after 6 PM from April through October and after 4 PM from November through March. That means you and Fido are still welcome to play at the beach in the mornings or evenings during the summer months, though. Which is good because that is usually when the beach is less crowded. 

This area is especially popular for kayakers, paddleboarders, and snorkelers because of the vast array of different marine wildlife to see here. It is common to spot guitarfish, stingrays, and leopard sharks in these waters. Although it is a good idea to keep your pup away from all marine creatures, there have been no reported attacks on people or their pups from any of these. 

La Jolla Cove Beach

Right next to La Jolla Shores, La Jolla Cove Beach follows the same set of rules about dogs, so you and your fur buddy can visit in the mornings or evenings any time of the year. The evenings are actually the best times because that is usually when the tourists head back to the hotel for dinner, and the water is the warmest. And it is located on the northeastern tip of Ellen Browning Scripps Park, which also features two other dog-friendly beaches. 

This is considered to be one of the most photographed spots in southern California due to the stunning cliffs, bluffs, and wildlife. You will often see marine life in the water, but here you can also see a lot of sea lions and seals that come up on the beach to lie in the sun. But keep your pup away from them and observe them from afar. Make sure your canine companion is on a leash at all times, and bring doggie cleanup bags to pick up after him. 

Boomer Beach

Around Point La Jolla from La Jolla Cove, Boomer Beach is exposed to the ocean and has some incredible waves. This makes it popular for the body surfing crowd but not so much for swimming and families. That is what makes it such a good spot for you and your pup. As long as he is kept on a leash, he can play here before 9 AM and after 4 or 6 PM, just like other beaches in the area. And he is welcome to splash in the water but keep him in the shallows. 

The beach is a wonderful spot for a picnic with your pup, too, with several tables and benches and a grassy area where you can sit as well. Like La Jolla Cove, you will often see seals and sea lions about, and if you look out on the water, you may even see some whales. The best time to spot gray whales is from December until April, and blue whales can often be seen from March through August. 

Shell Beach

The next beach on the list is at the southwestern tip of Ellen Browning Scripps Park. Shell Beach allows canine companions in the morning and evenings, like many of the other beaches on this list. You and your fur buddy will have to walk down a long set of stairs from the park to get down to the sand here, but it is worth every step. They call it Shell Beach because of the many shells you can find here. Whether that is because it is less popular or for some reason, we are not sure. 

It is not a large beach, but you and your pup will probably have the place to yourself before 9 AM, and you will not see many people after 6 PM either. The tidepools here are teeming with wildlife from crustaceans to shellfish but keep your fur baby on a leash, so he does not get too close. Do not forget to bring doggie cleanup bags to pick up after your pup too. 

Calumet Park

Keep on heading south down the coast, and you will find Calumet Park by the Bird Rock Waterfront. It is not a large piece of sand, but it is dog friendly before 9 AM and after 4 or 6 PM like the other San Diego beaches. Just be sure to keep him on a leash the whole time you are here and bring doggie waste bags to pick up whatever he drops. If you start from the street, you will have to walk down a dirt trail instead of steps, so be careful. 

During low tide, this is an especially nice place where you can walk quite a ways below homes up on the bluff. During high tide, it is a great place to let your pup splash in the water and dig in the sand. It is a popular surfing spot and is often rented out for weddings, too but if you are just going to the beach, you can ignore all of that. 

Pacific Beach

From Tourmaline Beach all the way to Mission Beach, Pacific Beach has two sections. North Pacific Beach is north of the Crystal Pier and is a wide sandy expanse below the steep bluffs. It is almost always crowded except for before 9 AM and after 6 PM, which is when your canine companion is welcome to join you here as long as he is kept on a leash. Also, bring along plastic baggies to pick up whatever your pup drops. 

The boardwalk, also known as Ocean Front Walk or Trail, also starts here, and you will find all sorts of grassy parks as well as some shops and eateries. Be sure to ask permission before bringing your dog into any establishment, though. The beach is a fun place to swim as many spots are shallow and calm in South Pacific Beach past the pier. Other activities you will find here are volleyball, biking, fishing, bodyboarding, and surfing. 

Mission Beach

A very popular beach in San Diego is Mission Beach, which actually includes many different individual beaches and islands, as well as an amusement park called Belmont Park. Even though you have to follow the same hours before 9 AM and after 4 or 6 PM, you and your fur baby can play some games or scarf down some carnival food here but keep his leash attached the whole time you are there and make sure you pick up after him. 

People come from all over to swim, surf, and fish here, as well as to visit the amusement park. The Ocean Front Walk also continues here and goes to the end of the peninsula past South Mission Beach. It is packed with bars, shops, and restaurants, as well as street vendors and food trucks. You will definitely not get bored in this neighborhood even after you are done at the beach!

Vacation Isle Park

Instead of heading south this time, go east past Ventura Cove to Vacation Isle Park. This is another pup-positive place with the same rules for canine companions, so you can bring him along on a leash before 9 AM and after 4 or 6 PM. There are two main sections to this island, which are Vacation Isle West on the west side of the pond and Vacation Isle East on the eastern side of the pond. 

This pond is one of the focal points on the islands where people flock to watch the model yacht and sailboat races. But on both sides of the island, you can find grassy parks with picnic areas and restrooms, several sandy beaches, and a shoreline full of fire pits for bonfires. North Cove Beach and Paradise Cove and best for swimming, while the rest of the beaches are typically used for skiing, surfing, and fishing. 

Fiesta Island Park Beach

Right next to Vacation Island, you will find one of the best spots to take your fur babies to swim and play. Fiesta Island has many spots on the island where your pooch is allowed to play off his leash any time of the day or year. In fact, just about the whole island is leash-free for friendly dogs that are voice-controlled. Be sure to bring doggie waste bags because although some beaches have dispensers, they are often empty due to the crowds. 

The Sneaky Fiesta Island Dog Park is a fun spot in the middle of the island where your pup is safely fenced in for those dogs that are not as good at following voice commands. However, you should still be able to call him to you if needed. The other fenced dog park is on the southern end across from Sea World. If your dog does not like loud noises, check the fireworks timetable for the park because they can get pretty loud from here. 

The Original Dog Beach

The Original Dog Beach can be found right across the San Diego River from Mission Beach at the northernmost section of Ocean Beach. All dogs are welcome all the time here, off or on the leash, any time of the day and year. This special section is clearly marked, so you will not have to worry about knowing where you can and cannot go. Your pooch and you will have access to the river as well as the ocean, so you have plenty of spots to choose from. 

But as one of the most popular dog beaches in San Diego, you should know that it will be crowded with locals as well as visitors from all over. It is a large beach, though, so you should not have a difficult time stretching out. And your fur buddy will love having so many fur buddies to play with. Swimming here is considered safe as well since they have a permanent lifeguard on duty. 

Dusty Rhodes Park

Right next to The Original Dog Beach you will find Dusty Rhodes Park, which is also a pup-popular park. This park boasts a large space for all, which includes a special section for dogs that is fenced and full of grass. There are two sections of the dog park; one for small dogs and one for large dogs. There are a few big trees for shade and some seating for the pup parents too. You can also find dog poop baggie dispensers and water fountains here.  

Outside the pooch park, there is a large playground for the human kids as well as a huge soccer field with a fitness club featuring basketball courts, softball fields, and tennis courts. There are also restrooms and water access at Smiley Lagoon and the San Diego River. This is a good place where your pup can get his paws wet and sniff at the dirt while on the leash. 

The Final Woof

Thinking about a glass of wine? Well, you can take your canine companion along with you to try some of the local wineries at your leisure. Many of them have outdoor seating where you and your dog can relax while you try the wine and cheese. The Beach House Winery is an award-winning spot in Oceanside where leashed dogs are always welcome. If you would rather have a brew, Societe Brewing Company in San Diego loves dogs. In fact, they make special dog treats out of the grains they use, so he can enjoy a treat while you have a beer or two. 

Photo of author
Patty Oelze is a freelance writer who is also in the process of getting her PhD in Psychology. She has been writing about dogs and other critters for about 10 years and has a plethora of animals at her home including several cats, some chipmunks, a dozen raccoons, two foxes, one coyote, and herds of deer. She and her husband have been living in the Missouri Ozarks for years where she enjoys taking care of wildlife, fishing, photography, boating, and of course, writing.

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