Often called “the last of the funky beach towns,” Oceanside, California, should be on your radar if you like to be by the ocean, eat, and enjoy modern art. Located at the north end of San Diego County, Oceanside (or “O’side” as the locals call it) offers visitors the chance to enjoy a laid-back beach getaway that can include an itinerary of enjoying cafes and shopping, laying on the sand and watching the “gnarly waves,” or even just hanging out at your hotel and taking in that fresh, ocean air while listening to the seagulls.
Known for some of the best weather in the world year-round (average temperature is 75 degrees), Oceanside offered me so may options in the little time I had on my recent visit that I look forward to returning. Read on to discover some of the highlights of San Diego County’s Oceanside.
A Relaxing Getaway to Oceanside
I enjoyed a smooth drive that was just under two hours from Los Angeles to Oceanside. I felt right at home from the moment I arrived at The Fin Hotel on Pacific Coast Highway. A historic landmark from 1927, The Fin was known for many years as The Dolphin Hotel. When a fire brought an abrupt end to The Dolphin a few years back, the property sat vacant until Western Hospitality Group decided to purchase the building and give it the makeover it deserved. Named The Fin as a homage to its years as The Dolphin, The Fin Hotel opened its doors just in time for Memorial Day 2018, and plans are underway to make it even more inviting when the new kitchen is complete and serving up a full, hot breakfast to their guests later this year.
I quickly got settled and made myself at home. Although my room was intimate, it had everything I needed to freshen up, regroup, and stay connected. Stress Relief bath necessities from The Body Shop and high-speed Wi-fi made it easy to kick back and get some work done in the evening. Since the town was outside my door, I loved parking my car and keeping it there until I checked out.
While I enjoyed a king standard room, if you want to upgrade your beach getaway, consider booking The Fin’s king balcony room. You’ll have a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean and can enjoy a glass of wine on your private balcony as you watch the sunset.
Food in Oceanside
Dining options are certainly not lacking in Oceanside. On my first morning in town, I decided to walk over to Swami’s Cafe. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Swami’s offers a terrific experience with a unique menu that includes a bounty of gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan items among the more traditional plates like bacon and eggs. After placing my order up front, I headed out to their ample patio and enjoyed being among the O’side locals while I devoured every bite of my veggie-rama omelette. Despite the fact that Swami’s was full of eager diners, my order came out promptly, and I appreciated their welcoming atmosphere that includes coffee and tea refills.
If Thai cuisine is on your radar, I found that one of the best Thai restaurants is Oceanside’s Rim Talay Cuisine. The restaurant has a cozy yet busy environment, and it’ll be worth your wait as you anticipate traditional favorites like yellow curry, spicy noodles, and my personal favorite, their pad Thai. Rim Talay also has an extremely hospitable staff and offers most of their menu items with gluten-free and vegetarian options. Just let them know what you need adjusted.
Farmers Markets Galore
A word of advice: try to plan that one of your days in Oceanside falls on a Thursday. Each week, Oceanside hosts not just one, but two of the largest farmers markets in the area. Thursdays from 9am to 1pm, enjoy their Morning Street Market with an array of fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, hot food, snacks, and plenty of this-and-that from local artists.
After the AM faire wraps up, stick around for the beloved Sunset Market from 5pm to 9pm and just a stone’s throw from the pier. Come early, and stay late for an evening of live music, eclectic shopping, and countless dinner options. This fun weekly event is perfect for date night, with the kids, with friends or solo.
Enjoy a Bike Ride
Despite my solo afternoon in town, I decided to throw caution to the wind and hit up Wheel Fun Rentals, which is conveniently located on the Oceanside pier. With their reasonably priced rentals, I grabbed myself a cruiser bike for a few hours and headed on down the San Luis Rey bike trail. Ten miles each way, this path is reserved exclusively for bicyclists and pedestrians and offers a secluded and flat trail that ends at Mission San Luis Rey. If you’re a bird watcher, the San Luis Rey trail also offers visitors the opportunity to see the natural habitat of the region, including a variety of bird species.
Visit some Museums
Since Oceanside isn’t far from San Diego’s Balboa Park, I admit I figured that’s where you go in the area for incredible museums. Not so. While Balboa Park is definitely worth the trip, don’t underestimate the art and history you can find in O’side.
First, I paid a visit to Oceanside Museum of Art (OMA). At OMA, you can immerse youself in an array of contemporary art and many traveling exhibits. Currently, one of their highlights through spring is work from the National Watercolor Society. If you want to feel like a local, you can enjoy one of the many monthly events that OMA offers—coffee and conversation meetups, concerts, and yoga mornings.
Next, I headed over to the California Surf Museum. A fascinating museum that offers guests a detailed glimpse at the history of surfing and its beginnings during the Vietnam war. View several artifacts that chronicle China Beach, where soldiers gathered to return to their surfing roots while deployed. If you’re already a surfer, get ready to enjoy yourself for awhile as you get up close and personal with boards ridden by famous surfers including Kelly Slater and Bethany Hamilton.
Plan your Getaway to Oceanside
Anytime is a good time to visit Oceanside. You can learn more through their Visitor’s Center to start planning your own laidback beach getaway. Oceanside offers ideal weather year-round, so consider a trip before the summer rush begins.
(As common in the travel writing industry, this trip was made possible by Visit Oceanside.)