The friendliest beach town with 1.7 miles of gorgeous coastline
Voted Southern California’s “friendliest beach town,” Solana Beach is the ideal place to call home. Nestled along the northern coast of San Diego County, Solana Beach is approximately a 30-minute drive from downtown San Diego but is also home to a vibrant train station that serves both Amtrak and the Coaster, one of only three in San Diego County. Solana Beach is heralded as an upscale town with a vibrant community and a strong connection to beachside living. It’s a fantastic place to set down roots or to retire!
Locals describe a laid-back, active community where the beaches, bike trails, and gyms are packed at 6 a.m., and the streets quiet down significantly after nightfall. And while Belly Up Tavern pulls in big crowds for live music and Carruth Cellars Urban Winery fills up during happy hour, residents in Solana Beach prefer staying active and being outdoors to the bar scene.
The parents in town are involved and active in the top-rated school district, and many joke that even an errand could take a while since you almost always run into someone you know.
Cedros Avenue is the main drag in Solana Beach and is chock full of fantastic boutiques, beauty salons, cafes, and eateries. There you’ll find Homestead Cafe & Market (with a fantastic beer garden!) along with Culture Brewing and, of course, the famous Belly Up Tavern with year-round concerts and shows. The 2.5 blocks of businesses feature great spots to grab a quick housewarming gift or shop for your daily threads. And you cannot miss the Sunday Farmers Market on Cedros, which is beloved by all for its locally-sourced goods. For beach-lovers, you’ll want to head down to the PCH and across from Tide Beach Park for Mitch’s Surf Shop, an institution in Solana Beach and a regular haunt of the avid surfers in town.
Any local will tell you Fidel’s Little Mexico is the go-to for homestyle Mexican food with festive decor and lively ambiance. Other popular spots include The Fish Market, Claire’s on Cedros, ALCE 101, and Pillbox Tavern for a night out with friends. For more upscale dining, Brigantine is a classy seafood restaurant closer to Del Mar, and Pamplemousse Grille is a highly-rated French eatery for a night out.
Like with most seaside towns in Southern California, the beach and surrounding bluffs remain the most popular thing to do, especially with so many residents who love to stay active. Surfing, wind sailing, swimming, running, and biking are at the top of the list in Solana Beach. You’ll find the hiking trails at Annie’s Canyon, and biking trails around the ocean are packed by 6 AM most days. At the northern tip of Solana Beach is Seaside, a good surf spot with an outer reef called Table Tops that breaks on big southwest swells. Tide Beach has the best sand in the area and a patch of reef that offers tide pooling - great for kids! For a great full-day with the family, Fletcher Cove Park is a popular recreational park with a playground, picnic tables, and a grassy area.
Belly Up Tavern is easily the most popular “night out” spot for locals since it offers up such great shows in such a buzzy atmosphere, but lots of adults enjoy heading to The Fish Market, Homestead, Pillbox, or Pamplemousse for dinners out with friends as well.
For kids and teens, the Junior Lifeguard Camp is a very common summer activity and great first job exposure while teaching them the dangers (and joys!) of the ocean. Ask me any questions about this as my kids participated in it!
Solana Beach’s public schools are among the highest-rated in San Diego County. The Solana Beach School District operates seven elementary schools, including the top-rated Skyline Elementary. When students reach middle school, they join the San Dieguito Union High School District, which also serves the nearby communities of Encinitas, Del Mar, Cardiff, and Rancho Santa Fe. The top-rated Earl Warren Middle School and top-rated Canyon Crest Academy are amongst the public schools in that district.