Day Trip: 5 Things to Do in Oceanside After the Beach

This California beach town keeps its low-key vibe but adds some upscale touches

The casual and unassuming coastal town of Oceanside, California, located just south of Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base, is in the midst of a transformation. With a revitalization effort under way, new shops, restaurants, and breweries have been popping up in the area over the past few years, giving day-trippers plenty of things to do, see, and eat.

As the culinary landscape expands, it’s attracting talented chefs, many of whom are SoCal locals keen on introducing upscale dining while preserving the city’s funky, low-key vibe. And organic-farm chefs are having produce grown specifically for them at nearby Cyclops Farms.

Do

At Apotheque Lifestyle Spa, folks can create personal oil fragrances, and shop the on-site boutique. 322 N. Cleveland Street. 760-967-7727; apothequespa.com.

Learn about the evolution of surfboards—from wooden plank boards to fiberglass boards to the short-board revolution—at the California Surf Museum. Browse surfboard wax collected from the past 50 years, see Bethany Hamilton’s shark-bitten board, and shop the surf-themed gift shop. 312 Pier View Way. 760-721-6876; californiasurfmuseum.com.

Take a two-hour whale-watching excursion on Oceanside Adventure’s 50-foot catamaran while tour operators share their extensive knowledge of whales and whale-migration habits. 256 Harbor Drive S. 888-507-1130; oceansidewhalewatching.com.

Located a few blocks from the pier, Sunset Market draws both tourists and locals for its specialty foods, shopping, and live music. Pick up a colorful handwoven basket from Ghana or sample such treats as Polish pierogi, Maine lobster rolls, German-style plank-roasted salmon, Brazilian stuffed hash browns, and house-made fudge. Thursday evenings. Pier View Way and Tremont Street. 760-754-4512; mainstreetoceanside.com.  

Eat

In Oceanside’s rapidly gentrifying downtown, newcomer Jalisco Cantina honors one of Mexico’s principal tequila-producing regions both in its name and on its bar list, which offers tasting flights of tequila and mescal. In a small space dominated by a copper-topped bar, Jalisco presents a menu of traditional specialties such as posole (a lavishly garnished stew of pork and hominy, $9.50) and contemporary dishes such as yellowtail in a spiced miso called “sea broth,” with roasted tomatoes, green chiles, and red jalapeño ($17).

Jaliso Cantina's kitchen delights in frank spiciness most of the time, and even the suavely stuffed vegan burrito ($14) is served with hot sauce. For something different, try the boldly seasoned beef birria rellano ($16.50), an intriguing dish with a variety of delicious garnishes. The dessert Jalisco Jericalla ($7.50), a better-than-most crème brûlée, follows spicy dishes very nicely. 213 N. Coast Highway; 760-429-1679; thejaliscocantina.com.

Top photo by Stephanie Hager