Oceanside is known for perfect weather, beautiful beaches and laidback vibes. Known as O’side by locals, and now SoCal Life readers, this cool Cali town is located in the heart of SoCal. This popular surf spot offers a beachy escape, with activities ranging from relaxing to heart racing. Whether you enjoy lounging on the beach, diving deep into history, eating amazing food or exploring someplace new, this eclectic area is filled with hidden gems only found in O’side.

A fun way to explore Oceanside while getting a taste of history, culture and local favorites is with Carla and Linda’s Food Tour. These awesome ladies know the ins and outs of the best O’side eateries, and you’ll hear some fun facts along the way. They offer a variety of tours and often change things up to incorporate their new favorites. Come hungry and leave full!

Oceanside can definitely be walked, but to cover ground fast, pick up an electric scooter or bike.  While riding around, check out the vibrant street murals. Get in touch with your creative side as you browse the beautiful artwork during a self-guided tour. O’side has around 30 murals with nine more on the way … more reason to plan your next visit.

O’side has a thriving arts and culture scene. Check out local museums to learn about the history of this beachy town. Inside Oceanside Museum of Art, guests will find a variety of exhibits in various art forms ranging from jewelry to photography.

A must visit for surf fans is the California Surf Museum. The museum offers an in-depth history of surfing – from boards to famous athletes. One unique treasure on display is the surfboard from Bethany Hamilton’s shark attack – shocking but interesting. Don’t let this display scare you from the sea. O’side boasts numerous beaches that pair wonderfully with SoCal weather. Cool off from the summer heat by splashing in the ocean.

Get in touch with your inner Kelly Slater, and hang ten at one of the many surf spots. If surfing isn’t your forte, Whitlock Surf Shop offers lessons sure to help you catch some epic waves. This family-run business offers good vibes and even better tips. Hang loose and BYOS (bring your own sunscreen).

While there are many activities to enjoy in O’side, thrill seekers should check out skydiving. Don’t blink … you won’t want to miss the full view of the Pacific Ocean. If jumping out of a plane isn’t your thing, a helicopter tour may be the least frightening choice. Helicopter tours offers picturesque and jaw-dropping views, from beaches to the Carlsbad Flower Fields all the way to Temecula.

Harbor Village – Kayak – Photo Credit Visit Oceanside

Keep the exploration going by checking out one a dolphin- and whale-watching tour. Oceanside Adventures Luxury Cruises offers guidance from a certified naturalist and experienced Captain. With their combined knowledge, they know exactly where to find marine mammals. Though it isn’t always certain you will see whales, you will always see dolphins – sometimes by the hundreds.

Once back on land, head over to South Oceanside. Dubbed South O by locals, this funky part of town is filled with local businesses, coffee shops, breweries and a speakeasy. 101 Proof is a gastropub known for its extensive whiskey selection. This hidden gem has a romantic ambiance making it perfect for a date or intimate gathering. Guests are encouraged to stick to a dress code, making the speakeasy feel even more exclusive for patrons.

While SoCal is known for having amazing farmers markets, Sunset Market can hold its own against top contenders. Each week, visitors indulge in fresh produce, flowers and global cuisine. This food fest provides entertainment and fun for all so make sure to bring friends and a big appetite. You’ll want to take a bite of everything.

Oceanside has a special flair unlike most SoCal towns. This artistic area is filled with numerous local businesses making it one in a million. From countless coffee shops to catching waves, O’side is a must add to your SoCal list. Be sure to tag us in your adventures! @socallifemag

(on separate page) Additional O’side Musts

Must Eat:

  • Privateer Coal Fired Pizza – Located in South O, this joint is home to mouthwatering pizza, pasta, subs, salads and brews. They offer unique flavors by utilizing farm fresh produce.
  • Steel Mill Coffee – Riley Hawk, son of skating legend Tony Hawk, recently opened this cool coffee spot. The shop features a mix of music, skateboarding, motorcycles … and of course, coffee. The menu brews anything from chai lattes to your average cup of joe.
  • Masters Kitchen and Cocktail – Located across the street from Fin Hotel, this eatery features yummy bites, craft cocktails, happy hour specials and live music. The perfect place to unwind after a busy day exploring O’side.
  • Petite Madeline Bakery & Bistro – This downtown bakery is the place to go for breakfast or lunch. The menu ranges from crepes to sandwiches, and it is all made from scratch.
  • Banana Dang – This place is so good you’ll want to stop in more than once to try the whole menu. Banana Dang offers a fun range of items with unique flavors like Dirty Banana Mylk and a Pink Cacao Latte. Go bananas for the Crunchy Honey Happy Toast. We hear Jason Mraz is a major fan of Banana Dang– visitors can find his chocolate bars at the register.

Must Stay:

  • Fin Hotel is the newest member to the hotel family, re-opening in May last year. The boutique property, originally established in 1927, has been updated with modern and colorful décor and major beach vibes. The outdoor area features a shower for those sandy feet – surfer approved and tested. Fun fact: the mosaic tile in the lobby is original – if the tile could talk.

Must Play:

  • Vital Climbing Gym – Walking distance from Fin Hotel, this gym offers silks, training services, yoga and multiple climbing structures. There’s no need to be a pro at climbing– the gym offers various color-coded levels.
  • Wheel Fun Rentals – Hop on a surrey bike and pedal along the harbor with three of your closest pals. For an extra workout, take the nine-mile San Luis Rey bike trail.
  • Waverider Helicopters – Ever wonder what it feels like to be a bird? This helicopter tour takes you up above to experience picture-worthy views. Fun fact: they also offer a tour that puts you at a winery. Wine not?
  • Go Jump Oceanside – This company offers tandem skydiving for all skill levels. Freefall through the clouds, and get an aerial view of O’side.
Oceanside Harbor Village – Photo Credit Visit Oceanside

Must Visit:

  • Mission San Luis Rey – Take a peak at California’s history at one of the many Spanish missions. Founded in 1798, this landmark boasts Franciscan heritage, artifacts and incredible architecture. Mission San Luis Rey is the largest California Mission, known as the “King of Missions.”
  • Buena Vista Lagoon – This 234-acre ecological reserve serves as a border between O’side and Carlsbad. Visitors are able to walk, hike, fish, bird watch and swim.
  • Oceanside Pier – Stroll down one of the longest wooden piers in SoCal. The pier offers optimal surf-watching views, fishing and Ruby’s Diner.
  • Oceanside Harbor and Harbor Beach – From waterfront dining to paddle boarding, visitors can enjoy a plethora of sea activities at Oceanside Harbor Village.
  • For additional nearby attractions, check out The Flower Fields and LEGOLAND. Peak season for The Flower Fields is in May, so be sure to mark your calendars in advance. This stunning display offers the perfect family photo op. Just 10 minutes from the blooming display, you’ll find yourself at LEGOLAND. From the aquarium to numerous rides, this Lego-themed amusement park is sure to keep the kids entertained.
Caitlin Pieh
Latest posts by Caitlin Pieh (see all)