Undoubtedly one of North County’s gems, Solana Beach constantly beckons with its idyllic waterfront location and homegrown charms. These range from some of the best shopping in this part of San Diego County to entertainment and recreation. We’ve compiled a list of the most essential things to do in Solana Beach below.
Content at a glance
Sights to see
Cedros Design District is a two-block section of Downtown Solana Beach that’s widely considered as one of San Diego County’s shopping meccas. Over 85 merchants have set up shop in the neighborhood, including fashion boutiques, artists, and cafes. It also has its own farmers market, held every Sunday afternoon.
Fletcher Cove Beach Park just off South Coast Highway 101 is a local favorite for water and beach recreation. The sandy moon-shaped cove has plenty of space to lay out for a tan, as well as specific sites that guarantee unobstructed vistas of the ocean. Multiple pathways weave in and out of Fletcher Cove, connecting it to smaller beaches in case the main area gets too crowded and you want to escape. A variety of cafes and restaurants are a short walk away.
The North Coast Repertory Theatre at Lomas Santa Fe Plaza is the base of a Solana Beach theater group that regularly produces high-quality productions every year. This is one of the best places to sample some of the local culture and get to know up-and-coming playwrights from North County. Aspiring thespians as young as four years old can also sign up for classes at The Theatre School @ North Coast Rep.
Tide Beach Park offers a different kind of day at the beach especially when the tide is low and the tide pools in the area are revealed. On a good day, you may be able to spot some sea urchin and different types of crabs and sea stars, among other tidal marine life. To get to Tide Beach, you have to climb down a long flight of steep stairs from the street. If you are coming from Fletcher Cove, Tide Beach is approximately a half mile away.
Historic Highway 101 travels down the length of the Southern California coast, offering a scenic road trip through San Diego’s famous beach towns. You can start in Solana Beach and head up north to Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Oceanside or drive down to central San Diego County all the way to Imperial Beach in South Bay.
Belly Up at 143 South Cedros Avenue is a mainstay in the local entertainment scene, having been around since the 1970s. So far, this intimate live music venue has played host to a number of musicians and artists, from legends like Etta James and BB King to today’s hottest acts, including Childish Gambino, The Killers, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Restaurants to try
Solana Beach Fish House along Lomas Santa Fe Drive is the preeminent seafood spot in the city with nearly 30 years of stellar reputation to hold. This beloved and family-owned Solana Beach institution uses fresh and seasonal fish sourced from local fisherman to create local favorites such as their classic fish ‘n chips, fish tacos, and poke bowls.
Tavern, the restaurant right next to legendary live music venue Belly Up, offers “music-inspired” dishes so you can dance the night away. This is the second coming of the old Belly Up Tavern, which was established in the 1970s but had to close down sometime in the early 2000s. Menu headliners include popcorn shrimp with Cajun fries on the side, surf-and-turf enchiladas suizas, and the Tavern burger deluxe made with premium Wagyu beef.
Bangkok Bay along South Highway 101 has been the go-to restaurant in Solana Beach for authentic Thai cuisine since 2004, and the place shows no signs of slowing down. There’s no need to hop on a flight to Southeast Asia to taste the wide variety of noodle dishes, curries, and soups Thailand is well-known-for. Don’t forget to end your meal with a serving of Bangkok Bay’s mango sticky rice for the complete experience.
Pamplemousse Grille by chef Jeffrey Strauss knows that diners eat with their eyes first. And so, the restaurant has made it a mission to deliver beautifully garnished plates with New American flair from the kitchen and straight to your table. It’s not all for show either. Everything, from the lobster and truffle grilled cheese to the Wagyu surf and turf, taste as good as it looks.
Tony’s Jacal has been around since 1946. And in the past 70+ years, the restaurant remains one of the best Mexican eateries not only in Solana Beach but in the entire San Diego County. What started out as a 26-seater diner that’s only open on weekends has grown into a beautiful restaurant serving Mexican specials like chile relleno, different types of mole, and other favorites on a regular basis, drawing customers from all over Southern California.