The Southern Californian beach town of Oceanside is cool in an unimposing way. Once a sleepy surf spot, it has undergone a renaissance: boutique hotels, independent shops, trendy eateries, and eclectic galleries now populate its main business district. It’s much more than just the beach, to say the least. To all who want to experience “The Golden State’s” newest culture capital (but actually, it’s one of 14 areas accoladed as a “California Culture District”), check out our specially-curated “Oceanside Destination Guide” below.
This boutique hotel sits across from the beach, equipping a boho surfer-chic interior sporting rattan furnishings, varied blues, and neutral tones. But, unarguably, its most famous edifice is the Graves House in its backyard: a preserved Queen Anne-style home known for its role in the iconic film, Top Gun (today, it operates as High-Pie, a tasty dessert shop).
Located in South O — a hipster-y thoroughfare in Southern Oceanside — The Green Room is a laid-back, oh-so-California hotel housing 12 individually curated rooms. Its 1960s-esque aesthetic is a nod to the hotel’s hometown surfing subculture: custom art from local artists, preserved pieces of mid-century modern furnishings, unique Moroccan rugs, playful bathroom tiling, and in some units, kitchenettes with whimsical touches like retro-style appliances and private patios with outdoor seating. Its communal hot tub is ideal for a post-beach night soak.
A dimly lit space with clean-wood finishes, Matsu is a Modern Japanese restaurant that feels refined to its core. Gastronomically helmed by William Eick, order the 10-Course Omakase for a meal you won’t forget (to all our herbivore friends, there’s a vegan omakase option).
With a Balinese-inspired menu, this Indonesian-meets-industrial-chic haunt is just one of five restaurants in San Diego to be named on Michelin Bib’s Gourmand List. We recommend the Nasi Goren, which melds fried rice, shrimp, pork belly, chicken, and egg yolk.
Beach House Winery
For varietals with a view, the town’s Beach House Winery — dubbed Oceanside’s “Vineyard at the Sea” — is an experience that should be on your trip’s to-do list. When here, have a glass of wine, participate in a wine tasting, or do both, all the while peering across the hills to the Pacific.
Located on the rooftop of the new Brick Hotel, Cococabana is a vibe and a half. Upbeat furnishings and rattan touches decorate the Caribbean-style cocktail bar, which boasts a menu replete with creative cocktails and small bites (the Pulpo Ceviche is a must-try).
Oceanside City Beach & Oceanside Pier
With 3.5 miles of sandy beaches, Oceanside City Beach is undoubtedly one of the best spots to soak up the sun. By day, spend the afternoon lying on a beach towel in the sand, or dive into the water and take a surf lesson with Learn to Rip, Whitlock Surf Experience, and Surfride. Come sunset, stroll down the Oceanside Pier: a historical 1,942-foot-long wooden walk-out that’s the perfect place to spectate surfers gliding through wave breaks. The pier also hosts signature O’side events each year: outdoor concerts, the Super Girl Pro surf contest, the IRONMAN triathlon, and US Open Adaptive Surfing Contest are a few of many.
California Surf Museum
Given Oceanside is an official training location of the USA Surfing team, the California Surf Museum is a cultural gem. Founded in 1986, the museum depicts the history of surfing through its renowned collection of archived surf wear and storied surfboards — the infamous Bethany Hamilton shark-bitten surfboard is among the assemblage.
Oceanside Main Business District
Oceanside’s Main Business District — compromising Downtown Oceanside and Oceanside Design District — boasts a slew of trendy eateries (opt to join one of Carla & Linda’s Walking Food Tours so you can try them all); independent boutiques such as The Ozone, Brixton and The Rising Co; and galleries, especially along Artist’s Alley. Two fun art-worthy experiences in Downtown Oceanside include the Oceanside Mural Tour and the Oceanside Museum of Art.
Mission San Luis Rey
Known as the “King of the Missions,” due to it being the largest one in the state, Mission San Luis Rey is a time capsule to the days of Spanish colonial rule in California — its colorful walls, wood-carved doors, and original baptismal font are a few of many preserved design elements. With all the resident Franciscan Friars and Native Americans, the site brims with history and unique anecdotes — opt to visit the museum and experience a self-guided or guided tour.
Partnership: Visit Oceanside x Hotels Above Par