Fletcher Cove in Solana Beach, California
Solana Beach, California

Maybe you’ve noticed, but I think it’s safe to say that the concept of wellness and its expanded definition in modern times (as a verb, and more broadly and perhaps more recently, a social construct) has gone mainstream, beyond spa services and retreats. We now live in an age where wellness, also known as self-care, can mean everything from yoga, to the latest plant-derived face mask, meditation to dedicated no-tech time. Though wellness isn’t anything new—the commercialization of it is. According to one citing, the Global Wellness Institute traces wellness back to ancient civilizations, where traditions and rituals were just… part of life.

For all that today’s wellness opportunities offers, my version of wellness tends to fall into quiet, intimate moments; mostly surrounded by nature and my favorite humans. And I think that’s the point; to sift through the barrage of options and find what works for you. And in San Diego’s northern regions (and my home base), for example, there are numerous opportunities to define what wellness might mean for you. That said, call me a typical Millennial if you want, but I am one of those people drawn to seamless, approachable experiences like the ones I’ve highlighted below. Bonus points for personalization. I’ll plan to update my picks as I discover them, but for now, these are my go-to wellness activities in North County, San Diego.

My Wellness Picks in North County, San Diego

For Classical Pilates With a Twist: Pilates Republic, Encinitas

Customized pilates reformers in a bright, minimalist space make for an inviting studio experience that blends traditional pilates exercises, musicality, and a focus on form and technique that can be as restorative or as challenging as you make it. Follow the verbal cues, like choosing the triangle loops over the long loops, opting to release your hands during certain holds, or challenging yourself to lift higher, bend or reach further in a series of core stabilizing and strengthening movements. Class types vary, but are based on traditional Pilates principles, which I prefer over studios that offer bootcamp style classes, or other fusion styles that seem to prioritize complicated choreography to posture and technique. Which is why my favorite is the Align class, though Renew fuses elements of yoga, while Tone includes barre movements.

For a Trail to Yourselves: Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve, Santa Ysabel

Not knocking Torrey Pines Natural Preserve or Mission Trails Regional Park, but to truly feel like I escaped the crowds without leaving the county, head to rural mountain town Santa Ysabel. There are two trails to choose from: East and West. A combined 15 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails route through 3,800-acres of rolling hills, clusters of Oak trees, Santa Ysabel Creek (rainfall permitting), and picnic areas along the way. Passing through a herd of grazing cattle is also likely. They, as I’ve experienced, could care less about your presence as long as you don’t get too close to the calves (as I’ve read.) Occasional, steep inclines make panoramic views from the top that much sweeter, or in my case, grant permission to hit the wineries along Julian Road afterward.

For Gathering: Campfire restaurant, Carlsbad

My multi-faceted version of self-care includes spending quality, tech-free time with friends and family. So whenever I’m (usually) tasked with coordinating a group brunch or dinner in North County, Campfire Restaurant in Carlsbad Village is my go-to. The airy, well appointed space is adorned with outdoorsy touches like what looks like a painted sketch of mountain peaks along a slatted wood wall. Ensconced in the outdoor dining area is a tipi for kids, and kids at heart (I have definitely climbed in there at least once.) Food is a balanced, mostly wood-fired selection of animal proteins and plants. Think grilled brassica—or, all manner of cabbage family veggies—with creamy burrata, and smoked duck with citrus. The inviting bar is great for a polished, pre-dinner cocktail. Lately, I’ve been ordering the Lower East Side: Gin, mint, spirulina—refreshing.

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For a Cozy Day: Tide Beach Park, Solana Beach, or Buccaneer Beach, Oceanside

When I’m in the mood for an intimate beach experience (maybe I’m an introvert? Large crowds DO NOT appeal to me), I head to Tide Beach Park in Solana Beach or Buccaneer Beach in South Oceanside, a wedge of sand known to North County locals and the area’s vacation rental set. Both beaches require some navigation into a residential area, and parking is available on the street or in the free lot, respectively. As a result, these beaches seem hidden and therefore, less trafficked than beaches flanking PCH. On the other hand, it’s fun to participate in the communal sunset viewing experience at Cardiff State Beach, which remind me of sunsets at Polihale, on Kaua’i—a sandy, serpentine strand, people dotted throughout, all in awe of the sun.

Wellness Resources in North County, San Diego

  • Get Outside San Diego: This interactive website and free mobile app, thanks to The San Diego Foundation, aggregates city, county, and state parks and outdoor recreational spaces. Search by activity of choice—hiking, biking, watersports—zipcode, or amenities like bbq areas and skate parks.
  • Touring Bird: Google’s travel tool features a number of tips when traveling to San Diego. Check out their Nature & Outdoors, Day trips, and Get Active pages for inspiration. Full disclosure: I’ve contributed a few write-ups to Touring Bird, including a spot in Encinitas where you can meditate over the sea.
  • Farmers Markets: From Oceanside to Rancho Santa Fe, find fresh produce, local products, and (likely) live entertainment and food vendors at a North County farmers market. I am also a fan of Golden Door Spa’s seasonal, non-profit farm stand during summer and early fall. Find them in San Marcos; the selection is smaller than a county farmers market, but I always end up driving away with a bag of sweet, juicy oranges, flavorful eggplant, and squash grown on property. One of these days, I’ll scoop up a jar of their honey (I just need to get through the several jars, sticks, and travel packets I already have).

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