Ultimate Local's Guide to North County San Diego

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Advisor - Jaclyn Hulburt
Curated By

Jaclyn Hulburt

  • San Diego

  • Beaches

  • Active Travel

  • California

  • Hidden Gems

  • Laid back

  • Sightseeing

View of the beach in North County San Diego,
Curator’s statement

One visit to North County San Diego will get you to appreciate the unique charm and allure of this hidden gem. While it may not be as widely recognized as other parts of San Diego, this destination is perfect for a laid back trip. Discover the distinctive charms of North County has to offer from a delightful blend of authenticity, to natural beauty and culinary excellence.

The Fora Difference

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Insider knowledge

Expert advice from people who’ve actually been there

Where to stay in North County San Diego

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Things to do in North County San Diego

Del Mar Race Track is a thoroughbred horse racing from Southern California.

For the Active Person

Golfing at Aviara Golf Club: Tee off at this world-class golf course in Carlsbad, which offers stunning landscapes, challenging fairways, and impeccable service.
Golfing at Omni La Costa Resort and Spa: Tee off at one of the premier golf destinations in Southern California, featuring two championship courses and luxurious amenities amidst the picturesque La Costa landscape.

Hike Elfin Forest: Escape the city and explore Elfin Forest. With a range of hiking trails, you will find yourself strolling through lush vegetation, and towering oak trees. A favorite trail is Way Up Trail for the beautiful panoramic views.

Hike Cerro de la Calavera: Located between Carlsbad and Oceanside enjoy a moderately challenging about 3-mile loop on this plug dome volcano.

Activities/ Sights

San Diego Botanic Garden: Delight in the tranquil gardens, offering an array of native plants, exotic species, and scenic walking paths, this is the perfect spot for a peaceful nature retreat. With four miles of trails and an amazing children’s garden with a treehouse you are guaranteed to enjoy your time exploring this urban oasis.

Self-Realization Fellowship Hermitage and Meditation Gardens: Immerse yourself in tranquility at this locals secret, boasting lush gardens, stunning ocean vistas and serene meditation spaces.

Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park: Step back in time and explore this historic ranch, which showcases Spanish-style architecture, peacocks roaming freely and beautiful walking trails.

California Surf Museum: Delve into the rich history and culture of surfing at this fascinating museum, featuring exhibits on legendary surfers, iconic boards and the evolution of the sport.

Del Mar Race Track: If you enjoy horse racing a visit to where “the turf meets the surf” at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is must. Open late July- September, and November- December for the Bing Crosby Season you will enjoy horse racing, as well on select dates various festivals or concerts.

Hidden Gem

Carlsbad Oyster Farm is a coastal gem nestled in the heart of Carlsbad. With its pristine waters and sustainable farming practices, this oyster farm cultivates some of the freshest and most delectable oysters in the region. A visit to the Carlsbad Oyster Farm promises an opportunity to savor the briny flavors of locally harvested oysters while enjoying the picturesque coastal surroundings.


Be sure to visit the many beaches North County San Diego has to offer. Some favorites include - Moonlight Beach, Swami's, Cardiff State Beach, Cassidy Street Beach, Tamarack Beach and South Ponto Beach.

Day trips

Laguna Beach, San Diego, Baja California- Tijuana, Valle de Guadalupe, Ensenada

Places to eat & drink in North County San Diego

Valle is recognized in California's distinguished MICHELIN Guide.


Valle: Chef Roberto Alcocer brings Valle de Guadalupe to Oceanside at his one MICHELIN-starred restaurant Valle. Indulge in a sophisticated dining experience, where farm-to-table cuisine takes center stage, featuring locally sourced ingredients and innovative flavor combinations that showcase the essence of North County's culinary scene.

Alce 101: Be sure to try the roasted duck breast paired with either a suggested wine or one of the many cocktails, and you're in for a delightful and upscale meal.

The Plot: This eco-friendly spot serves up inventive dishes bursting with flavor, all made with the freshest local produce in a charming setting.

Jeune et Jolie: One Michelin Star. Experience refined French cuisine at Jeune et Jolie. Each dish is a work of art, showcasing exquisite flavors and meticulous attention to detail, served in an elegant and inviting atmosphere.

Flying Pig Pub & Kitchen: Savor the robust flavors of elevated comfort food in a laid back style. Owners Roddy and Aaron Browning bring comfort food to new heights with their farm-to-table ingredients transformed into mouthwatering dishes. Be sure to ask Roddy for his wine recommendations for your meal and don’t miss out on the roasted garlic confit.

Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub: Dive into a unique seafood experience, renowned for its creative sushi rolls, fresh catch of the day and a fusion of global flavors.

Need to Know

Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, Explore Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo.

Advisor - Jaclyn Hulburt

Travel Advisor

Jaclyn Hulburt

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to San Diego.