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Last updated on December 1, 2022 by Wandering our World

Sunny Southern California boasts many surf towns, but Encinitas is the only one to make it onto the World’s 20 Best Surf Towns list! The laid-back beaches, surfer hotspots, shops, and breezy vibe, and fun bars have earned Encinitas that well-deserved spot.

The relaxed nightlife scene here certainly makes it worthy of recognition, especially with all the fantastic outdoor seating and entertainment on offer. And whist dive bars characterize the nightlife in Encinitas, other fantastic alternatives from cocktail bars and breweries, to beach bars and happy hours that last most of the day, all add pops of excitement and diversity to the Encinitas bar scene.

As we know this laid-back surf town well, we’ve put together our favorite 12 bars in Encinitas just for you.

We show you what they offer, what makes them special and why locals love returning to them again and again. You won’t be disappointed!


  1. The Three Best Cocktail Bars In Encinitas
  2. The Three Best Brewery Bars In Encinitas
  3. The Three Best Bars for Live Music
  4. The Three Best Bars In Encinitas For Food
Encinitas Sign in Encinitas, San Diego County CA

The Three Best Cocktail Bars In Encinitas

1. Shelter

Upscale retractable ceiling bar that offers specialty cocktails, an outdoor area, and live DJ performances.

The zig-zag fairy light rows and wooden facade will let you know you have arrived at Shelter. This classy roofless bar’s interiors are warm-colored and inviting, featuring sofas, elevated booths, dim lighting, and hanging vintage light bulbs.

Despite the cozy look, the live DJs, mirrorball, and retractable roof make Shelter an excellent and unique place for you and your friends to dance under the stars. There is also an outdoor patio where you can gather around a fire pit and chat.

Enhance those experiences by ordering a specialty cocktail from the bar. The drinks at Shelter are known for being its best attribute: first-rate, original, and carefully crafted. They are definitely worth the splurge! The bar also offers bottle service and plenty of beer — draught and canned.

Shelter opens on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 pm and closes at 2 am. Make sure to take your ID or any other identification that certifies your age to enter and enjoy this exciting bar.

Address: 540 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA

Photo for illustrative purposes only: iStock.com/iMaximFesenko

2. Death By Tequila

Mexican bar that serves incredible cocktails and authentic food with a laid-back atmosphere.

Walking up to Death By Tequila, you will be surprised by the simplicity of the decor, which is not usually the norm in Mexican bars and restaurants. The facade is white, and there are a couple of outdoor tables with fairy lights hanging above them. Inside, the numerous sitting options consist of wicker chairs and wooden tables paired with some plants and a discrete bar. Overall, it has more of a café atmosphere.

It is the gastronomic and drink offerings that attracts the customers rather than the aesthetic of the venue. The cocktails are the main attraction at Death By Tequila, and the bartenders impress clients with their deep knowledge of mixology, tequila, mezcal and craft cocktails as if it was an art.

And the flagship cocktail, ‘Death By Margarita’ is arguably the public’s favorite drink. The presentation is almost as good as the flavor: the margaritas come in six different colors, with a sugar brushstroke decorating one side of the glass and edible flowers on the surface. If you can’t get enough of this drink, the bar offers margarita pitchers, which are super convenient for group gatherings.

On top of that, the margaritas, micheladas, wine, and lager are all included in this bar’s happy hour! You can pair them with one of the authentically Mexican, flavorful dishes — oysters, ceviche, tempura shishitos, and black bean sope — that are also part of happy hour, or you could order some tacos and nachos from the regular menu, too.

Death By Tequila opens at 11 am every day and closes at 9 pm except for Fridays and Saturdays when the doors are open until midnight.

Address: 569 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA

Photo for illustrative purposes only: iStock.com/santypan

3. The Shanty

Classic bar with games, an outdoor patio area, and inexpensive quality cocktails.

The Shanty is far from modern (in the best way possible). Its interiors have remained the same for over 50 years, displaying an all-wood-everything look, a traditional bar with leather stools, foosball, pool tables, and vintage posters.

From the look of it, you would think The Shanty specializes exclusively in beer, but the cocktails act as the element of surprise. They are strong and never watered down, which is ideal for cocktail connoisseurs, especially considering the price — this is easily one of the most affordable bars in Encinitas.

You can enjoy them after a fun day at the beach while watching sports on one of their numerous TVs or playing pool. You can also take your cocktails to the patio area, which has gorgeous ocean views, excellent pop-up food trucks, and is pet-friendly.

The Shanty opens at noon and closes at 2 am on Fridays and Saturdays. During the rest of the week, they close their doors at midnight. Happy hour deals are available until 9 pm.

Address: 126 Chesterfield Dr, Encinitas, CA

two cocktails
Photo for illustrative purposes only: iStock.com/Alessandro Biascioli

The Three Best Brewery Bars In Encinitas

1. Encinitas Ale House

Picturesque dive bar that has an international beer menu and excellent food options.

If you want the dive bar experience, Encinitas Ale House is the place for you. This is a family-run narrow venue with numerous seating options, hundreds of posters and pictures on the wine-colored walls, and a heavily adorned bar with wooden stools.

Don’t let the simple decor mislead you though, as it is easily one of the best bars in Encinitas. The food is incredible, and their burgers are locally famous and the most favored meal on the menu.

However, it is the ever-changing, international, endless craft beer list that makes this bar stand out from the crowd: Belgian, German, lagers, IPAs, DIPAs, stouts, etcetera. There isn’t a beer that you can’t find in Encinitas Ale House! In total, they have over a hundred beers, of which fifty are served directly from the taps on the bar.

The staff are friendly and willing to chat with all the customers, which is yet another remarkable aspect of this bar and makes it deserving of each and every one of the hundreds of five-star reviews it receives.

Unfortunately, Encinitas Ale House is closed on Mondays, but it welcomes you from 4 pm to 8 pm Tuesday through Friday. On Saturdays and Sundays, operating hours are from noon to 8 pm.

Address: 1044 S Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA

Beer and burger display
Photo for illustrative purposes only: iStock.com/NatashaPhoto

2. The Brewers Tap Room

Brewery with unique local beers and a trendy patio.

The smooth concrete floor, industrial lamps, and metal chairs give this brewery an industrial look. There aren’t that many seating options indoors, but the venue has an outdoor patio with a couple of tables, which has a nice atmosphere.

The Brewers Tap Room selects and sells beers from small local breweries that wouldn’t usually get the chance to showcase their work otherwise. However, that beer menu never gets boring, as the beers are always rotating, making way for new ones to make their appearance.

Like Encinitas Ale House, the beer list here is varied and includes almost every type of beer, even some rare ones like Nova Easy Kombucha. We recommend trying that one to experience new flavors!

You can also ask the bartenders for advice if you’re feeling lost — they are highly knowledgeable brewers and happy to guide you through the sea of beer options.

Regarding food, The Brewers Tap Room only offers a few snacks, but you can bring any food into the premises if you plan on having lunch or dinner there.

The Brewers Tap Room opens at noon and closes at 9 pm Sunday through Wednesday. From Thursday to Saturday, it remains open until 10 pm. It is not suitable to attend with kids, and it is also one of the most dog-friendly bars in Encinitas too.

Address: 1456 Encinitas Boulevard, Encinitas, CA

beer with friends outdoors
Photo for illustrative purposes only: iStock.com/William87

3. The Lost Abbey

Brewery with unique decorations, first-rate self-brewed beers, and a variety of seating options.

The Lost Abbey has four different venues that present very original concepts: The Church, The Confessional, The Sanctuary, and The Tasting Room. Encinitas is home to The Confessional, which has a super unique aesthetic.

The Christian cross welcomes you at the front door, alongside an outdoor counter with stools. After entering the place, you will see some elevated tables, a fake tree with another counter and more stools around it, and a bar. Behind it, the numerous taps serve an incredibly wide range of self-brewed beers, carefully classified into Seasonal, Year-Round, and Non-Denominational. You can also buy those beers bottled in three different sizes to take home.

The Confessional doesn’t have a kitchen, so it doesn’t sell any food. However, you are allowed to order pizza next door and eat it there while enjoying your brews, which is a great bonus!

The Lost Abbey is open from 1 pm to 9 pm Monday through Thursday, from 11 am to 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and from 11 am to 8 pm on Sundays.

Address: 2007 San Elijo Avenue, Encinitas, CA

Selection of beer
Photo for illustrative purposes only: iStock.com/blizzard_77

The Three Best Bars In Encinitas For Live Music

1. 1st Street Bar

Dive bar that hosts live music performances every day and has a beautiful patio area.

This is the second dive bar on the list and it has that characteristic laid-back look: wooden floors, a long classic bar with endless stools, a pool table, and some surfboards as decoration.

So, what’s special about it? Behind all the tables and games stands a narrow stage where some of the best small bands play for customers! There are concerts and open mic sessions from Monday to Saturday and many spectators get up and dance during the performances, setting a fun, lively atmosphere for the night. On Sundays, the bar also hosts karaoke sessions. This is definitely one of the funnest bars in Encinitas!

But that’s not all! There is also a trendy outdoor area where live DJ performances take place. You can also find many picnic tables to sit down and savor the various food options that range from loaded hotdogs to fresh açaí bowls.

The drinks menu is extensive as it includes cocktails, tequila, vodka, gin, whiskey, beer, and wine. As you can see, this bar has something for everyone.

The 1st Street Bar opens at 1 pm and closes at 2 am every day.

Address: 656 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA

bartender pouring drink
Photo for illustrative purposes only: iStock.com/MaximFesenko

2. The Kraken

Surf bar that hosts Rock N’ Roll concerts and offers ice-cold beers and stunning views from a patio area.

The Kraken has previously been voted Best Beach Bar for years in a row, so it’s little surprise it has made our list of the best bars in Encinitas. The venue is a surf cottage, so from the outside, it goes a little unnoticed. However, once inside, it is a picturesque bar with surfboards and license plates attached to the ceiling, a bottle-filled bar, pool tables, and, most importantly, a stage and dance floor.

The Kraken holds (mostly Rock N’ Roll) concerts seven days a week, which visitors always appreciate and praise. Sticky Sweet and Rolling Heartbreakers are just two examples of the many bands that frequent this bar and delight everyone with their talent and attitude.

While waiting for the concert to start, you can catch views of the lagoon and the sunset from the covered patio at this waterfront bar, while sipping an ice-cold beer or a cocktail and eating The Kraken’s famous grilled sandwich.

Hours of operation are noon to 2 am, except on Mondays when The Kraken opens at 2 pm.

Address: 2531 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA

Photo for illustrative purposes only: iStock.com/Pro2sound

3. Mr. Peabody’s Bar & Grill

Classic bar that serves excellent meals and cocktails and hosts many types of live music performances.

Mr. Peabody’s wooden bar, stools, and walls make for quite a classic decor. However, when the colorful signs, red lights, and the stage is lit up at night, the atmosphere shifts completely.

And that’s when the live performances start. On Sundays, it’s a jazz night from 6 pm to 10 pm; on Mondays, there are open mic sessions; and on Tuesdays, karaoke! The rest of the days, the bands that play rotate, so there’s always something new. You can check the calendar on Mr. Peabody’s website for each night’s specifics.

This bar also excels in gastronomy. The food options are endless, but we recommend the fish or turkey tacos, which are included in the happy hour offer, valid from 11 am to 6 pm. There’s also a lengthy drinks happy hour from 8 am to 6 pm that offers bloody marys, cabernet wine, well cocktails, and more.

Mr. Peabody’s opens seven days a week from 8 am to 2 am: you can have breakfast, lunch, dinner, or just sit at the bar to get some drinks!

Address: 136 Encinitas Boulevard, Encinitas, CA

Photo for illustrative purposes only: iStock.com/sarra22

The Three Best Bars In Encinitas For Food

1. The Bier Garden

German bar that offers excellent family recipes, one of the widest beer selections in the area, and an outdoor patio.

The tree in the middle of this bar is surrounded by big wooden tables, ideal for group gatherings. The light-colored bar perfectly aligns with the venue’s simple, soft decor, and the whole place feels Instagrammable.

There are more seating options in the outdoor area, paired with parasols and heaters. There are stools, too, as one half of the bar is built outside.

The name of this bar refers to its incredible beer selection, constituted by over four hundred biers! Wine and craft cocktails abound on the menu, too. However, we think its the tasty food that really wows customers to The Bier Garden’s doors and is its main selling point.

The extensive menu features German cuisine family recipes (like Goulash and Bratwurst), options for kids, vegetarian dishes, and simpler alternatives for those who prefer to stick to their usual flavors. We can’t choose a particular dish to recommend as they are all excellent, but customers enjoy the pretzels and the Cubano sandwich the most. The service in this bar is known for being friendly, efficient, and fast, so you won’t have to wait too long for your food.

You can delight your taste buds from 11 am to midnight on work days and from 10 am to midnight on Saturdays and Sundays.

Address: 641 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA

Photo for illustrative purposes only: iStock.com/WinzenT

2. Beachside Bar & Grill

Bar near the waterfront that offers an extensive menu of quality, fast-food style options and good happy hour deals.

Beachside Bar & Grill‘s interiors look like your typical sports bar: TVs streaming different matches at the same time, pool and shuffleboard tables, a wooden bar, and some seating options, which, in this case, are regular-sized tables and stools.

However, there are many more tables on the outdoor patio, which is heated and lit by fairy lights. There is where most customers sit and enjoy quality burgers, tacos, burritos, flatbreads, fries, and onion rings. Beachside also offers chicken wings, which we recommend the most out of all the dishes. Those have various levels of spiciness, which you can read about on the menu.

In case you are thirsty, the bar has twenty-four taps on display, each serving a different local or international craft beer brand. They also have wine and a short-but-tasty cocktail menu, including drinks like Aperol Spritz and Sangria.

You can take advantage of the happy hour offers, which are available from 3:30 pm to 6:30 pm Monday through Friday. They include some dishes — tacos, nachos, quesadillas, loaded or seasoned fries, and pretzels — and drinks — pints, wine, and well cocktails.

Beachside Bar & Grill operates the whole week from 11 am to 10 pm.

Address: 806 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA

Many types of tacos on the table.
Photo for illustrative purposes only: iStock.com/Gulcin Ragiboglu

3. Tower 13 – Cardiff Beach Bar

Beachside bar with a laid-back vibe, award-winning food, sports on TV, and trivia nights.

This bar is located directly on the beach. The sand, palm trees, and ocean views create a unique, relaxed atmosphere, perfect for unwinding after your day.

Passing the outdoor picnic tables and entering through the front door, you will be met with various large tables and a round bar with TVs all around, where you can order a beer from the local craft selection or cocktail menu.

However, drinks are not all Tower 13 has to offer. Award-winning dishes come out of the kitchen and go directly to your table. They cook everything from sandwiches, to tacos, to salads. However we recommend having one of Tower 13’s burgers. They are considered some of the best around the area and come accompanied by delicious and crunchy seasoned fries.

This waterfront bar in Encinitas also has some good happy hour deals that include all-you-can-eat wing specials, beer, and many more alternatives. They are available Tuesday through Friday from 3 pm to 6 pm. Definitely check that out!

In case you are interested in games, Tower 13 hosts Sunset Trivia sessions on Tuesdays at 7 pm. Customers love this dynamic — some visit the bar exclusively to play!

This lovely bar opens at 11:30 am and closes at 9:30 pm Tuesday-Friday. On Saturdays, it operates from 8:30 am to 10 pm and Sundays from 9:30 am to 9 pm. It is closed on Mondays.

Address: 2633 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA


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