Home Issues Volume 5 Disover San Diego's secrets
Disover San Diego's secrets

A short drive north will provide coastline vistas, restful gardens, music venues & unique shops


There’s no question that relaxing at the beach and soaking up the rays is a wonderful way to spend your time in San Diego, but if
you crave adventure, there are some hidden treasures you should know about.


Drive along North County’s Highway 101 to find some adventure. My favorite part of this historic road begins just north of Torrey Pines State Park and continues through Encinitas. During this scenic stretch, there are some amazing stops that get very little mention in the tour books. It’s especially nice at sunset – a perfect way to end your day!


On the way to Encinitas check out Del Mar, Carlsbad, Solana Beach and Cardiff for some off the beaten path treasures.


From 101 take Encinitas Boulevard and head east, you’ll find one of the finest botanical gardens in all the land. The Quail Gardens are on 230 Quail Gardens Drive. It’s a 30-acre attraction with oaks, palms, cycads, cacti, hibiscus and the largest bamboo collection in the country. There’s also a waterfall, which makes a great background for photos.


When you leave the gardens, go west on Encinitas Boulevard and head to Moonlight Beach. This North County treasure has sandstone cliffs surrounding the sand and water. On Sunday afternoons in the summer, you can dance to classic rock, cover bands, calypso and reggae at the free concerts. Information on the concerts is available at (760) 633-2740. It’s usually a 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. monthly show.


When you leave Moonlight Beach, make a right and go south on the 101. You’re now traveling through the downtown village of Encinitas. Make a right turn on K Street and check out the gardens on 215 K Street at the Self Realization Fellowship Ashram and Meditation Garden. On the northwest corner of the ashram grounds, a meditation garden, meticulously maintained by monks, is a cool, quiet retreat with lush vegetation and koi ponds, and a spectacular view of the famous Swami’s surfing spot.


When you’re back on the road and heading south, another great stop is the village of Del Mar (near 15th Street). This is an excellent stop for coffee, food and unique shops.


One of the more unique stores is the Frustrated Cowboy Shop. There are lots of unique hats and other western-themed items. Two shops that always score big with our tour groups is Leaping Lotus and Muttropolis in Solana Beach. Leaping Lotus has one-of-a-kind gifts while Muttropolis specializes in unique gifts for your favorite pooch. If you’re a music hound, check out The Belly Up Tavern on Cedros Street. A favorite among locals, Belly Up features live music from 5 to 8 p.m., making it a fun way to end a day trip. On the third Thursday of every month, the shops and galleries stay open until 8:30 p.m. Most galleries have special Third Thursday promotions.


La Jolla also has its fair share of colorful shops. The Sea Cave Shop in La Jolla features fine art by local artist Paul Strahm as well as a sea cave visitors can explore. There are six other caves you can see from a wooden deck that’s perched on a cliff, not far from the Cave Shop.


Marc Menkin is co- owner of Where You Want To Be Tours, an adventure company that specializes in Secret San Diego. Marc and his wife Darlynne have a fun staff that does unique open air double decker bus adventures, walking tours, biking tours with no steep hills and team building scavenger hunts. Log onto http://www.wheretours.com/ or call 619.917.6037.

From the Mission Beach Area, take Grand Ave./Balboa/Garnet to Mission Bay Dr. Turn left on Mission Bay Dr. and merge onto I-5. Exit at Carmel Valley Road and go west/north until it turns into Camino Del Mar, which becomes Highway 101. Take 101 north to Encinitas, stopping for views, music venues and shopping along the way. For a guided tour, check with Where You Want to Be Tours at www.wheretours.com.