The California Bucket List: Your daily guide to the best adventures and experiences in the Golden State

Plenty new to enjoy in Oceanside, Calif.

Become one with the magical garden in Succulent Café's patio in Oceanside

Oceanside rarely makes the list of best places for a Southern California beach getaway. This rough-around-the-edges town may not have the panache of La Jolla or the Rodeo Drive-ish allure of Newport Beach, but what it lacks in bells and whistles it makes up for in other ways: wide, sandy beaches; top-notch surfing and water sports; a Cape Cod-style village at the harbor; and a historic pier. And there's even more reason to visit now: The compact beachside downtown has a new ocean-view hotel and a flurry of new eateries and breweries. Leave your car at home and take Amtrak to the downtown station (which links to the local train to San Diego). The tab: Room rates for a night at SpringHill Suites by Marriott start at $139 (before taxes and parking); meals and extras cost my husband and me about $100.

The bed

SpringHill Suites by Marriott (110 N. Myers St.; [760] 722-1003, is a welcome addition. The LEED-certified 149-room hotel has great ocean views and is just one block from the beach. Guest rooms are large with a comfortable living area, which includes a sleeper sofa and desk; most bathrooms have only a shower. Opt for an upgrade to an ocean-view room — city-view rooms face the train tracks, and blaring train horns may keep you awake. Good news: There's a complimentary buffet breakfast and a rooftop pool. Bad news: Parking is $24.

The meal

A Denver-based group gobbled up a prime location adjacent to the hotel to open the Hello Betty Fish House (211 Mission Ave.; [760] 722-1008,, a Baja-inspired eatery featuring fish tacos, seafood and a wide-open, nautical-themed interior. There's patio seating and a large bar; an ocean-view, upper-level deck will open soon. The hubs and I enjoyed tacos and drinks for lunch. Dinner was at That Boy Good (207 N. Coast Highway; [760] 433-4227,, a casual Southern barbecue joint. Fried chicken and waffles, ribs and pulled pork are the lure. For me, the true star was the BBQ Bloody Mary: Three meaty ribs garnish the drink. Whatever you eat, top it off with a sweet treat from Petite Madeline Bakery (223 N. Coast Highway; [760] 231-7300,

The find

We stumbled upon this secret garden. Hidden behind a gate, we entered the Succulent Café (322 N. Cleveland St.; [760] 717-9612,, a small, peaceful outdoor courtyard with a coffee cart in the back. Its walls are covered with playful displays of succulents. Sip a cappuccino and become one with this magical space; on your way out, take home a plant. The café is on the patio of Apotheque Spa (322 N. Cleveland St.; [760] 967-7727,, itself a find. Housed in a historic brick building, the spa sells custom-blended bath products (you choose the fragrance); massages and other spa services are offered upstairs.

The lesson learned

Budget your time. We didn't have time to visit a new nearby brewery, Surfside Tap Room (507 N. Coast Highway;, ride bikes on the new link of the Coastal Rail Trail or eat at the hipster sushi joint Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub (1815 S. Coast Highway; [760] 271-0531, But we managed to dash in to see the now-closed exhibit "Jean Wells: Icons of Desire" at the Oceanside Museum of Art, and it was worth the effort.


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