While we love to travel the globe, our hearts and homes are docked in sunny San Diego. With endless pristine beaches and never ending sunshine, our hometown lives up to its nickname of ‘America’s Finest City’. And while there are endless adventures to be found in America’s 8th largest city, our favorite part may be it’s central location. Not only can we access a variety of areas like LA, Palm Springs, Disneyland, and the Temecula Wine Valley in a one-day trip, but Mexico and the lively Baja California are just a quick jaunt south of the boarder.
There are literally TONS of weekend getaways within a short distance. And yet, for the past four years a staycation in nearby Oceanside always secures a spot on our calendars. Southern California has numerous quaint beach towns, all with charming downtown’s and long wood piers. Why then do we continue to select Oceanside?
Bordered to the north by the massive Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton, and miles of San Diego county beaches to the south, Oceanside is an ideal spot for cyclists seeking a nice ride, surfers chasing big waves, and military personnel on leave. Despite it’s hip beachfront location, Oceanside maintains a super casual vibe. While you won’t find the swanky bars of Carlsbad or the fancy restaurants sprawling around Del Mar, you will enjoy the same beautiful sunsets atop lively (and cheap!) rooftop bars.
This last weekend was our 4th annual overnight visit, and we think we’ve nailed down our favorite stay, activities, and eats!
Our Favorite Time to Visit
It’s no surprise that in San Diego we have weather on our side, and flip flops are common year round. We prefer to travel outside of our area during the summer months, and the Fall is usually our time to road-trip and explore California’s hidden charms. We recommend visiting Oceanside in October or November, when the beach crowds have gone, the hotels are sharing their best deals, and the surf is a bit higher. Better still, the weather is still extremely pleasant (average of 70 F), and the heat of the summer has subsided.
Where to Stay
First and foremost we are budget travelers, and unless it’s our wedding night, we opt for the best deal. Weelll, we take that back–even on our wedding night we shared an AirBnB with 8 of our best friends! In our case, a less costly stay equals more frequent adventures. We have now experienced four budget hotels in Oceanside, and agree that the Comfort Inn and Suites Oceanside Marina is the best bang for your buck. But, if you are like us and need to book a spontaneous getaway last minute, you may find a better deal by opting for a hotel on the ‘Harbor side’, ie. further from Downtown. Don’t let the location fool you! We actually preferred staying north of downtown at the Days Inn, as we were in easy access of the Harbor Village, which is filled with charm.
Directly behind both the Days Inn or Holiday Inn, you can find a footpath that will drop you off right in front of Joe’s Crab Shack, which is in the middle of the Harbor Shops. From there you can either walk along the beach to the Oceanside Pier, OR if the tide is up, you can also walk along the car bridge, which will put you in the town center.
Of course, if you are looking to splurge it would be awesome to opt for the SpringHill Suites just across from the Pier. We’re talking $89 vs. $200+, on an average night.
Searching for a friend/family getaway?! We think that Oceanside is the ideal spot, namely because of THESE charming rental homes. As we dipped our toes into the waves and walked along the beachfront, we were tempted to join in the many BBQ’s and games bursting out of the long row of peach bungalows.
Where to Eat
Ooh wee, we have some recommendations here! We loved Hello Betty Fish House for lunch. The location was ideal as it is in the heart of downtown, just down from Oceanside’s Pier. We highly recommend the tacos (shrimp, fish, AND fried avocado–YUM!). The veggie side dish is also a must, as they are fresh and sauteed in butter, white wine and loads of garlic. We also LOVED the carnitas benedict.
Now for Happy Hour! Take into account that we go to a LOT of happy hours (in college I actually created a ‘Best Happy Hour in San Diego spreadsheet’). One of our favorite spots of anywhere that we’ve traveled to is Davina’s Cabo Grill. It is casual, fun, and yes, ridiculously cheap! SEVEN days a week they serve HH from 4-8pm, and ALL drinks are 2 for 1. Every squirrel loves a good deal, and when Evan was itching for a margarita, the buy one get one free enticed Angela to try her FIRST one!
This place is not only super affordable, it has an awesome rooftop setting with a live DJ on weekends. Last Saturday we had two orders of beef and chicken flautas, two Cadillac Margaritas, AND two Micheladas for $35 (including tax and tip!).
Things to Do
Go to the beach! Regardless of the time of year, it’s ALWAYS sandcastle weather. In October, the water was still warm and kids and surfers alike were diving into the waves. We are not typically beach goers (I know, weird!), but we are sure to head over at golden hour. Our new favorite treat in Oceanside, is to walk the rock jetty just north of the wooden pier. What a treat to explore the rocks and dodge the waves!
A stop into Oceanside is not complete without a stroll down the Pier–it’s one of the longest on California’s West Coast! After strolling 1,942 feet down the wooden planks and spying on seagulls and seals, you’ll want to enjoy a malt shake when you arrive to Ruby’s Diner, located at the very end of the Pier. The 50’s diner is the perfect date spot, if you ask us.
And “when in Rome”, be sure to check out the California Surf Museum. A short walk from the Pier, this museum is authentic and fun. You certainly don’t have to be an enthusiast to enjoy–it interesting to see the variety of boards, the many stories behind them, and how its shaped California culture. If you have $5 to spend, it will round out a charming getaway.
Did we mention that Oceanside is a cyclists paradise? Although it’s just 35 miles north of Downtown San Diego, if you take the slow route (i.e. bikes) it feels like a world away. With wide bike lanes up the historic Pacific Coast Highway, cyclists have the best vantage point. On two wheels you’ll be hugging the coastline, passing through Torrey Pine State Beach, race by the Del Mar Horse track and catch vibes from the Self-Realization Fellowship in Encinitas (to name a few!). We take our time for this journey; grab a coffee, and our favorite acai bowl at Swami’s Café.
If cylcling isn’t your jam, we recommend taking Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner train. The tracks run parallel to the beach, and from it you’ll have a unique view of the seascape. Believe it or not, you can bring your surfboard or bike on board!
Want more information on Oceanside? Visit https://visitoceanside.org/.
What is your favorite staycation spot? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Hugs and Acorns,