Solana Beach has over two miles of coastline if you include the lagoons on either end. Dog Beach at the end of San Diegito Lagoon and Cardiff Beach at the end of San Elijo Lagoon are prime hangouts for residents of the City and neighboring communities. Solana Beach meets the ocean by way of tall bluffs so access is by way of three sets of stairs and through a rampway at Fletcher Cove. The beaches at low tide are sunbathing and picnic locales, interlaced with runners and strollers. The principle sport is, as expected, surfing with Table Rock, Tide Beach, Pillbox, and Seaside are among the places most noted by the locals.
Fletcher Cove, also commonly known as Pillbox is located at the end of Plaza street where Lomas Santa Fe Boulevard meets the beach. There are public showers and restroom facilities as well as picnic tables and a basketball court located on top of the bluffs.
Located approximately 1/2 mile north of Fletcher Cove. The park is equipped with showers, but there are no public restrooms. The beach itself is mostly known for its large reef, or "Table Tops," and its beautiful tide pools located at the park's northern border.
Known to many surfers as Cherry Hill, Seascape Surf is situated approximately 1/2 mile south of Fletcher Cove. Public showers are located above the beach access, but there are no public restrooms.
Del Mar Shores is located approximately 3/4 miles from Fletcher Cove at the City's Southern boarder. There are no public showers or restrooms located at the beach park.
To the East of Solana Beach is a 125 acre county-run park that is the home of Miracle Field, a fully equipped baseball field. The park offers a variety of recreational activities including playgrounds, hiking trails, a basketball court, and exercise stations. It is also a great place for a large gathering such a picnic or wedding with large well-kept lawn areas. There are restrooms and plenty of parking available.
The San Dieguito River runs over 55 miles from Vulcan Mountain to the Pacific Ocean. Along this stretch are trails and paths that allow hikers, bird watches, and others who love nature a place to roam along one of California’s only remaining largely undeveloped river corridor.
To help preserve this heritage the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy, a non-profit, citizen-based organization was formed to help implement the San Dieguito River Park and its Coast-to-Crest Trail that stretches from Volcan Mountain near Julian to the ocean between Del Mar and Solana Beach.
The San Elijo Lagoon is one of few remaining coastal wetlands of San Diego County and home to an exceptional number of animals and plants. It lies along the coast between the cities of Solana Beach and Encinitas of San Diego County, extending inland to Rancho Santa Fe. The lagoon is part of San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve, a county and state regional park of nearly 1,000 acres of diverse habitat including six plant communties: coastal strand, salt marsh, brackish/freshwater marsh, riparian scrub, coastal sage scrub and mixed chaparral. In the reserve you can access over seven miles of trails via eight trailheads and encounter a wide variety of flora and fauna.
Solana Beach is a remarkable place. Incorporated as a city in 1987 and with a population in 2010 of just under 14,000, it is only two miles square but is rich in resources including natural, recreational, and commercial. Solana also has four unique borders. To the West are the beaches and the ocean that gave the City its name, with surfing, swimming and a host of other beach activities to enjoy. To the East are parks and golf courses. To the North and South are estuaries and lagoons stretching from the sea back to the foothills and mountains. These lagoons are managed by state, local, and private entities and have numerous recreational opportunities – hiking, bird watching, or just strolling. One of the State of California’s Fairgrounds occupies a portion of the San Dieguito Lagoon, to the South, which hosts a popular summer Fair, a summer racing season, and numerous other activities every week of the year.
The historic town center of Solana Beach, which runs along Highway 101, has stores only on the West side of the roadway because of the railroad immediately to the east of 101 (did we mention that the City has its own rail station, which is host to both Amtrak and the local Coaster train?). However, along the East side of 101, with the railroad tracks now sunk below ground and out of sight, is the award-winning Coastal Rail Trail (a hiking-biking path) that is beautifully landscaped and stretches the length of the City.
In addition to swimming, surfing, and sunning at the beach and hiking in the lagoons, there are numerous other places to explore and play in Solana Beach. The City boasts two golf courses, one a private Country Club and the second, the Lomas Santa Fe Executive Golf Course, a course which the San Diego Union sports editor calls “A hidden and under used jewel … Fantastic spot for summer evenings”. Solana Beach also has several parks, including its landmark Fletcher Cove Park where many of the City’s festivities take place including its annual Fiesta Del Sol and the summer-long weekly Concerts in the Cove. There are also two performing art venues, The Belly Up, a renowned live rock and folk music venue, and The North Coast Reparatory Theater, an intimate professional theater, which produces award winning live plays and musicals.
There is a Boys and Girls Club originally designed for after-school activities for children. It has a huge outdoor pool and offers a number of other organized activities for all ages. Its clubhouse has a Technology Center, an Arts Center, A Multipurpose Room, and a facility that teaches gardening and the components of a Healthy Life Style. The Club also has a visitors’ program.
Solana Beach has a branch of the County Library system. Our well-equipped local library has a variety of organized activities and offers computer access. As an active supporter of the arts, the library has a ten-panel mosaic at its entryway and displays different kinds of art on a rotating basis.
Finally, for those who like to get educated before or while they party, there is both a micro-brewery at Pizza Port and an operating winery at Carruth Cellars, where you can watch these beverages being created.
The majority of the City’s shopping areas are concentrated along four major streets. Most of these commercial areas have been refurbished or rebuilt over the last few decades but in a way that lends a clean but funky atmosphere to the downtown area. Because of the size of the City, these areas are conveniently located, only about the same distance from each other and from the City’s hotel and time-shares as one would find in a good size shopping Mall.
The largest concentration of shops is on South Cedros Avenue in the Cedros Design District, the jewel of Solana Beach downtown commercial activity. The growing North Cedros area has art galleries, salons, and a new cafe. The historic Downtown, Highway 101, offers a variety of restaurants and other explorable shops along its nearly two mile length.
Since the 1950’s the City of Solana Beach has been one of the active hubs of the thriving Southern California art community. Its art roots are clear on a walk through the downtown Plaza area. The town Center is anchored by a sunburst fountain created by one of the pioneer artists of the City. The buildings that surround the Plaza are from the early days of Solana Beach and have been refurbished and repurposed many times over the decades. A former hotel, built by the developer of the City, is today an office building and has another of the artist’s pieces on display. Fletcher Cove Park has ceramics and sculpture. The Rail Trail, along Highway 101, has art nodes as do the entry ways to the City. On both North and South Cedros multiple art pieces are on display City Hall and the Library display the work of various artists on a rotating basis.
This public art serves as a backdrop in a City with a rich and varied commercial art venue and numerous galleries, photography studios, and jewelry design centers. In fact, there are 40 or so such establishments in the immediate downtown area. For those who are so inclined, Solana Beach also has the latest in wearable art, a Tattoo Parlor.
Because all that shopping is bound to make you hungry, you will be happy to know that the City hosts over 45 places to eat. The variety of food establishments will satisfy every taste: from ethnic restaurants to fast food establishments. Because you are in health-conscious Southern California, every restaurant has vegetarian specials.
In addition to retail stores, offices both large and small call Solana Beach home. There are a number of informal gathering places where this commercial population, as well as the local residents, enjoy starting the morning with coffee and conversation, or meeting for lunch, or having an afternoon coffee. Many of these places have hosted the “regulars” almost every day and have done so for years. In some ways, the ambiance is reminiscent of European and Moroccan coffee shops with a lively and friendly atmosphere.
At the same time, there is a broad range of local restaurants to serve residents, a thriving racetrack, a Fair Ground crowd and summer visitors. These include restaurants, ranging from gourmet French to steak houses and fish houses.
There is also a vibrant Mexican-American community in the City called Eden Gardens where several fine Mexican restaurants serving authentic Mexican dishes are located. An historic part of Solana Beach, several of these restaurants have been serving customers from the same location for over a half century.
Southern California means health. Residents take being in shape seriously. Solana Beach either hosts or is part of the many walking, running, triathlon, and biking events that occur throughout the year. On the weekend, the bike paths are thick with bikers and joggers. Surfers, and sometimes wind surfers, are everywhere along its beaches.
After eating the fine food that this City offers, thoughts turn to a nap or, in Southern California, to working out. There isn’t a block in the downtown area that doesn’t have a gym, a Pilates studio, Yoga, or personal trainer facility.
And, for those who push too hard, nearby facilities offer acupuncture, massage, or other forms of alternative medicine to make you feel more comfortable.
Southern Californians also take ‘casually looking good’ to the next level. The body that they feed so carefully and work out so hard, they take care of with professional help – blondes and beaches seem to go together.
After all that hard work getting or keeping in shape, it’s fun to take time for relaxation and reward, and there are about a hundred and a half salons, beauty parlors, and spas to help that happen.
On the other hand, whether you’ve chosen a busy and active schedule while you’re here or not, you probably owe it to yourself to indulge in some exceptional spa R&R anyway. Pampering yourself is the perfect way to enhance or round out a visit to Solana Beach.