Referred to as O’Side by locals, Oceanside is a laidback beach town that exudes SoCal charm, minus the arguably uppity or pretentious feel of nearby locales like Del Mar, Venice, Newport and La Jolla. It’s a 90-minute drive from Los Angeles and 45 minutes from downtown San Diego, so Oceanside is a no-brainer for those embarking on a coastal road trip, as well as for first timers who want to make the most of their visit to SoCal.

Once home to missions and ranchos, the area that we now know as Oceanside has had many evolutions. Most notably, it became known as a military town once Camp Pendleton, the country’s largest Marine Corps base, was constructed. The base is still there, as are the several fishermen who keep Oceanside’s modest roots alive, but it’s now also a top destination for foodies and surfers alike. (We have low property taxes, biotech and medtech companies and agriculture to thank for the town’s recent growth.) In short, it’s a beach town with all the perks of a modern city without the cons of overpriced real estate and excessive crowds.

If you live somewhere that has cold winters, we recommend visiting during that time of year to escape frigid temps, but there really is no wrong time to visit Oceanside—the weather is gorgeous year-round, and there’s always something to do. (Although if you’re into surfing, go during the fall for the Super Girl Surf Pro, the world’s largest surf event and music festival.)

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