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Brother and sister Cambria and Gage Escribano and Ashton Lassig came from Temecula for the shave ice and Moonlight Beach. Photo by David Boylan
ColumnsLick the Plate

Licking the Plate at Moonlight Beach

One of my favorite weekend activities is to get on my bike and ride into Encinitas to run some errands. My route always takes me through Moonlight Beach and in the summer I will make a pit stop at the concession stand called the Aqua Café and enjoy lunch or a shave ice and some great people watching.

Folks flock from all over San Diego County and beyond to enjoy the fabulous amenities at Moonlight. Several I talked to came from Escondido, Vista, Valley Center, Rancho Bernardo and as far away as Temecula. All shapes, sizes and ethnicities are represented and it’s a nice melting pot of people beating the high temperatures where they live and enjoying mild beach temperatures and the refreshing ocean.

Did you know the two boat houses on Third Street in Encinitas were built in 1929 with wood from the burned-down dance hall at Moonlight Beach? In the 1920s, land prospector J.S. Pitcher, who owned much of Encinitas, built a bathhouse, playground, boardwalk and the dance hall where Moonlight Beach. Horse racing on the beach was not uncommon. So yes, this place has a lot of history.

Another highlight of Moonlight is the world-class volleyball happening there. It’s hard not to notice the tall, talented volleyball players on beach courts at the north end of Moonlight. They all look like they have played at least in high school and many of them at a much higher level. Since the early 1950s, two-man volleyball has been played at Moonlight Beach and many players from the Pro Tour frequent the courts.

And, of course, the annual Switchfoot Bro-Am happens every summer along with regular live music events. There is always a wide range of music coming from speakers at the pop-up tents that reflect the diversity of people at Moonlight on any given summer day.

The aromas wafting from Moonlight are always a treat with the smell of campfires and people grilling the standard beach cookout fare of hot dogs, hamburgers and more. More frequently these days I see local restaurants delivering to the beach, which is a convenient service for beachgoers. My last time through I saw Phil’s BBQ making a huge delivery to a large family gathering. Leucadia Pizzeria is another common local restaurant seen delivering to the beach.

Speaking of hot dogs, the beach and a baseball game are my favorite places to eat one and the Aqua Café at Moonlight serves up a delicious 100% beef Nathan’s famous with a bag of chips and a Coke that hits the spot every time. I’ve made it a point over several visits this summer to eat my way through the rest of the menu at Aqua Café and was quite impressed. The “hand-crafted” sandwiches, as they call them, are really nice, though I’m not quite sure what hand-crafted means, but hey it sounds good.

The North Shore has roasted turkey breast, mozzarella, basil, sprouts, arugula and red onion on squaw bread. The Lanai Wrap is another favorite with Black Angus roast beef, smoked turkey breast, Havarti cheese, red onion, sprouts, cucumber and organic mixed greens in a spinach wrap served with garlic ranch. There is also a really good Veggie sandwich and a PBJ with cashew butter and strawberry jam. All are a very good value at $6. Chicken, roast beef and veggie paninis are also solid and only $7.

The Hawaiian Shave Ice and Premium Shave Dessert are what the kids are lining up for though, and they are a perfectly refreshing treat and so fun to eat. It’s fun hearing the kids debate what combo they prefer as they stand in line. The Build-A-Bowl lets you pick any three flavors of shave dessert topped with honey graham crackers and white cap.

The beverage selection is extensive as well with a nice variety going on including their Aqua Drinks that have alkaline water infused with fruit and electrolytes, perfect to hydrate during a day at the beach. Specialty drinks include a Shirley Temple, Blue Cream Soda, Cherry Vanilla Soda and M Kombucha on tap.

I’d say Aqua Café raises the bar on beach concessions and is another reason to visit this fine slice of Encinitas. I’d also like to give a big shout-out to the Encinitas Lifeguards who do a fine job of keeping the large crowds of beachgoers safe and following the rules they put in place to make it an enjoyable experience for everyone.

Check out Aqua Café at

Top: Brother and sister Cambria and Gage Escribano and Ashton Lassig came from Temecula for the shave ice and Moonlight Beach. Photo by David Boylan