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Cardiff by the Sea

Cardiff is a quaint and charming seaside village with a long surfing history. Sandwiched between Solana Beach to the south, and Encinitas to the north, with terrific views of the Pacific and the San Elijo Lagoon from many areas. In Cardiff, also know as Cardiff-by-the-Sea,  you will see lots of surfboards heading down the hill under arms, on bikes, in the backs of trucks, and running across the coast highway to the beach. Enjoy all that Cardiff has to offer from Italian restaurants to the world famous Seaside Market and more.

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Homes for sale in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA

Welcome to Cardiff-by-the-Sea, your personal paradise in Encinitas, California. Surrounded by several bodies of water on the west and the south, this beach community tucked away in the Flower Capital of the World offers that perfect blend of natural beauty and modern convenience for the ultimate Southern California coastal living.

Calling this place home is a one-way ticket to year-round sunshine, everyday joys set against a beautiful backdrop, and a rewarding real estate investment. So, if you’re interested in available homes for sale in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA, you’re in for a treat.

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Cardiff-by-the-Sea or Cardiff, as it’s fondly called by the locals, is a treasure trove of sights to behold, complemented by a relaxed vibe. It is known for its surf breaks that draw surfers of all levels from all corners of the earth. Moreover, strolling through its streets is akin to walking through a storied phase of San Diego’s history while simultaneously engaging with the present as you mingle with the community and visitors.


Cardiff-by-the-Sea is a gorgeous beachside community within the city of Encinitas, which is located around 25 miles north of San Diego and about 95 miles south of Los Angeles. Going inland to the east, you’ll find the rolling hills of Rancho Santa Fe. Down south along the coastline is Solana Beach, followed by the upscale community of Del Mar. In the opposite direction still along the coastline is Downtown Encinitas. All these coastal areas face the Pacific Ocean to the west. This means you have gorgeous ocean views and a variety of natural settings, plus a host of options for outdoor recreation, retail, and dining within easy reach in a region largely known for its classy and laid-back beach vibe.

The nearest airport to Cardiff-by-the-Sea is McClellan-Palomar Airport should you need to fly out to some local destinations. But for both local and international flights, San Diego International Airport is more than 20 miles away (around 30 minutes by car) south via the I-5.


Cardiff was first inhabited by the Kumeyaay natives, who were horticulturists, hunters, and gatherers. The area was soon transformed into farmland at around 1875 by the Mackinnons – Cleveland natives who became the area’s first settlers. Almost four decades later, Boston developer J. Frank Cullen saw the area’s potential, bought the land from the Mackinnons, and began to sell plots for as low as $30. His wife, a native of Cardiff, Wales, suggested that this new community be named after her hometown. The “by-the-Sea” was later added to Cardiff by a German musician.

In just a few years, Cardiff saw massive changes that transformed it from a simple farming community to a boom town. In 1912, Cullen built the first pier and hotel in the area, which were followed by the first school district, library, post office, and train station. By the 1920s, the town had a consistent source of water.

Today, Cardiff brings in thousands of tourists every year to explore the waterways in and around it, as well as its many other natural attractions. People looking for a quaint and quiet town with easy access to modern comforts also find the area appealing and a great place to raise a family.


Cardiff-by-the-Sea is a favorite haunt among surfers, particularly because of Cardiff Reef. Extending for about a quarter of a mile, this surfing spot features a reef break that is a delight to ride on for both seasoned pros and beginners. Surfing here is so popular that the area can get quite crowded on weekends. The most ideal time to hit the waves in Cardiff Reef would be on weekdays when the crowd is thinner and in winter when the waves are bigger and more consistent.

The community also boasts a long stretch of beaches, made better by its almost perfect weather year-round. Even if you’re not into surfing, you can have the time of your life just lounging on the sandy shores, relaxing with friends and family, and taking in the views.

Finally, Cardiff has a great sense of humor. One notable local fixture that is widely (in)famous in the community is a statue of a surfer with bad form. Officially named “Magic Carpet Ride,” the statue earned a more popular moniker – the Cardiff Kook. Situated right along State Coast Highway 101, you’ll often spot the Cardiff Kook dressed up in outlandish outfits – a testament to the fact that people here know how to have fun.


It’s interesting to note that while Cardiff-by-the-Sea is considered an unincorporated community within Encinitas, it has earned itself its own zip code: 92007. Suburban in nature and covering a total land area of approximately 2 square miles, it is considered home to less than 12,000 people. A healthy mix of homeowners and renters live here in a neighborhood that’s considered established but not historic, as most homes here have been built from the 1970s to just before the turn of the new millennium. Those looking for homes with some Old-World charm won’t be disappointed, though, as there are some residences built as early as the 1940s that still stand here.


A majority of the people who own properties in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA are affluent, holding high corporate or professional positions in their respective places of employment. This financial ranking of residents gives them better opportunities to acquire and maintain million-dollar homes for sale in Cardiff. Prices of real estate here are among the highest, not only in the Golden State but also in the whole country.

Housing market overview and general trends

The real estate market in Cardiff-by-the-Sea has been strong and steady in the past three years, with price points hovering around the $2 million benchmark. A scarce inventory and an ever-present demand give sellers the bigger advantage, receiving multiple offers and getting their asking price. Buyers need to make compelling offers to win sellers’ attention, and this could be done with the help of a local Realtor with years of experience in handling home-buying transactions in luxury real estate.

Available property types

Almost all homes for sale in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA consist of single-family homes, with a few condos, townhouses, and vacant land. Most homes are small- to medium-sized, with an average of three or more bedrooms.

When it comes to architecture, the prevailing styles in the area are influenced by Cardiff-by-the-Sea’s colorful history and coastal location, such as:

  • Craftsman
  • Mid-century Modern
  • Contemporary
  • Spanish Colonial Revival
  • Cape Cod
  • Beach cottages
  • Mediterranean-inspired villas

Typical and special amenities

Typical Cardiff-by-the-Sea real estate amenities feature modern conveniences that highlight comfort and a lot of natural lighting. Almost every property also has an outdoor living area, such as a balcony or a patio.

Special amenities in Cardiff include overlooking oceanfront views and walking access to the beach. Many luxury homes have swimming pools or even spas. The houses are usually within easy access to restaurants, retail stores, and parks, as well.

Popular neighborhoods

When it comes to the best places to consider for your new address, these neighborhoods stand out.


The aptly named Walking District boasts a pedestrian-friendly layout that brings everything you need within walking distance. It’s hard to deny the strong influence of the Pacific Ocean in shaping its laid-back, oceanside vibe.

The Walking District has a large concentration of locally owned boutiques and food stops that help in shaping the area’s character. Public spaces and art galleries also abound here.


Featuring streets named after famous composers, the Composer District treats residents to panoramic views of the ocean from every vantage point.

The variety of architectural styles in this neighborhood makes for a visual feast, from airy beach cottages or Mediterranean villas to homes with classic Spanish Colonial Revival or Contemporary influences.

Parents with school-age children will be glad to know that schools under the San Dieguito Union High School District, one of the best school districts in the country, are in and around the area. Add to this the strong sense of community here and you have a wonderful environment for raising them well.


If your choice of neighborhood is one that blooms with Mother Nature’s graces, Poinsettia Heights is the place to be. Its streets are lined with – yes – poinsettias that add a distinct touch to the appeal of the community.

This neighborhood is also located near Cardiff Sports Park, which features spaces for relaxation, recreation, and fun for all ages. It’s also a stone’s throw away from the magnificent beaches in the area.


Living in this beautiful community combines the unhurried pace of a coastal lifestyle with the unassuming charm of a small town. The result: an easygoing enclave of natural wonders and friendly people.

Getting around

Cardiff-by-the-Sea is a small community where places are within walking distance of each other. It only takes residents around 15 minutes to get from Point A to Point B. If they need to go to other destinations for work or school, more than half of the population do so in private vehicles or via a short commute.

Cost of living

With real estate in Cardiff being among the most loftily priced in the country, the cost of living usually follows in the same direction. Housing, along with food and transportation, has brought the cost of living to a level that’s 50% higher than the national average.

However, more than housing, figures from show that energy is taking the biggest cut out of residents’ expenses after seeing a 33.6% rise compared to the national average. Housing takes second place at 25.6%.

Nevertheless, given the affluence of property owners in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, they could easily absorb the effects of a high cost of living. Moreover, compensation for this manifests in the excellent quality of life provided by the neighborhood and the city of Encinitas itself.


The Cardiff school district features two award-winning schools catering to early childhood and primary education. Cardiff School serves K-2 students while Ada Harris School caters to students in grades 3-6.

Other good schools within the periphery include:

  • San Dieguito High School Academy
  • The Grauer School
  • Lighthouse Christian Preschool
  • Pacific Academy
  • Ocean Knoll School

Economy and employment opportunities

As a whole, the city of Encinitas is powered by several industries ranging from hospitality to healthcare. Cardiff-by-the-Sea benefits in part from these said industries but largely has its own economic drivers hoisting this unincorporated coastal community.

Making the most impact on Cardiff’s economy is the tourism sector. The beautiful beaches that are conducive to surfing and the community’s proximity to other tourist magnets like San Diego act like beacons to visitors from all over. With high tourist arrivals to the area, more tourism-related sectors also prosper like the food and hospitality industries, resulting in more employment opportunities for residents.

Local businesses also thrive under this setup as the influx of visitors to the area results in a higher demand for products and services, from regular grocery items to souvenir shops, seafood restaurants, and specialized boutiques for beach or surfing needs.

Higher tourist arrivals also translate to a wider audience to entertain, which is why the art and culture scene in Cardiff-by-the-Sea is also rich and colorful. Creative professionals, including musicians, theater performers, and artists, have more opportunities to share their gifts. This is evident in the large concentration of performance venues, art galleries, and studios found in and around the area. Festivals here are also well-attended, including the Kook Run, the Encinitas Street Fair, and the Cardiff-by-the-Sea Dog Days of Summer.

Dining and shopping

For a coastal community, you’d think that all you’ll find in Cardiff is seafood restaurants. Of course, seafood is easy to come by but the food scene here is more diverse than you could imagine. Here are some choice restaurants for your Cardiff-by-the-Sea food crawl.


2526 S. Coast Highway 101

Here’s where you can have your seafood complete with spectacular views of the Pacific expanse. You can opt to dine on this award-winning restaurant’s patio where the salty sea breeze will give you a hefty appetite to better savor scrumptious dishes such as Porcini-crusted scallops and miso-glazed Chilean seabass. Complement these with drinks from their extensive list of spirits, ales, and brews.


2588 S. Coast Highway 101

Seafood and ocean views are the stars of the show in this Cardiff institution but even local meat lovers can vouch for their premium steaks. Come here for an exquisite SoCal fine dining experience and order specialties like mac nut mahi or prime rib. This restaurant is also available for special events and gatherings.


Cardiff branch: 1933 San Elijo Avenue

You can’t go wrong with authentic Italian cuisine cooked by a true-blue Italian chef who lends his name to the brand. Chef Gaetano Cicciotti’s dishes have become renowned, not just in Cardiff but the rest of San Diego County. Pizzas are baked in a wood-fired brick oven, just like any good Neapolitan pizza should be done. Pastas use the finest and freshest ingredients. Enjoy all of these culinary masterpieces while live music plays every Friday and Saturday night.

For your shopping requirements, Cardiff-by-the-Sea won’t offer the typical shopping malls; instead, you’ll be enchanted by the lovely specialty shops, cafes, galleries, and other establishments found in the Walking District. Some standouts in the area for your retail needs include:


2087 San Elijo Avenue

You’ll be amazed by the variety of merchandise at this open-air market at the heart of Cardiff. Apart from the standard fresh seafood and local produce, you’ll also find interesting food finds like chef-prepared dishes and various options for every dietary requirement. Unique trinkets, home decor, and artisan-made crafts are also available here.


154 Aberdeen Drive

Find finely-curated luxury apparel and designer labels at this local Cardiff boutique. They have women’s garments that reflect that laid-back yet classy SoCal vibe, as well as an apothecary loaded with choice fragrances and body care essentials. Most of the merchandise here is from rising SoCal designer brands like Salty Bitch, Pauly Jen, and Sol Angeles.


2075 San Elijo Avenue, Suite 103

Needing a surfboard to conquer the waves at Cardiff’s beaches? Look no further than this specialty store for surfers – by surfers! You can choose from various boards and fins at their showroom or have one custom-made to suit your style and preferences.

Attractions, entertainment, and outdoor recreation

Cardiff-by-the-Sea also offers a ton of things to do for all ages – both on or off the water!

For beaches, you can explore San Elijo State Beach or Cardiff State Beach. Alternatively, you can head out to Fletcher Cove, Swami, Moonlight, or Boneyard Beach in nearby Encinitas and Solana. For surfing, there’s Cardiff Reef and the surrounding surf spots in Moonlight, Table Tops, Pipes, Beacon, and Fletcher Cove, Encinitas.

There are also nearby parks and reserves, such as the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve, San Diego Botanical Garden, and Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. Coast Highway 101 itself offers various venues for recreation and many other exciting activities. Further out north in Carlsbad, you and the rest of your family can visit Legoland.


It pays to have a trusted local Realtor by your side in your home-buying journey in Cardiff-by-the-Sea. Their experience and knowledge of the market can save you time and effort, as well as keep you within budget.

Drawing from more than 20 years of experience in luxury coastal real estate, our team at Sean Caddell & Associates specializes in leading buyers like you toward their dream properties in Cardiff-by-the-Sea and surrounding areas. As trusted and experienced Realtors, you can expect us to deliver personalized service that meets your every need and protects your investment.

Our team also works with a network of real estate professionals, leveraging various skill sets to ensure that you have a seamless, delightful experience. Whether you’re looking for a vacation home or a forever home in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, you can call on us to help.

Tell us your requirements today by calling 858.472.1074 or sending an email here.