LEED Platinum-Certified San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center

Begin your visit to the County-owned and operated,
LEED-certified nature center.

Welcome to the visitor center for San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve. Enjoy expansive views of the lagoon from the second-floor Observation Deck. Inside, you'll discover interactive museum exhibits about the history and ecology of San Elijo Lagoon. Displays tell the interconnected stories of the reserve's iconic plants, animals, and artifacts that are protected. Meet several living animals that provide glimpses into how food chains exist in this rare environment. The center is operated daily from 9-5 by two rangers, and volunteers with County of San Diego Parks and Recreation, our local partner in restoring and protecting the reserve.

An ADA-accessible Nature Center Loop trail provides an overview of the lagoon and is wheelchair accessible (half-mile). Information panels help identify plant communities and animals along the loop and boardwalk. 

Free, naturalist-guided Weekend Walks begin at the Nature Center every Saturday at 10 am.

Restrooms and water fountains are available only at the nature center (not elsewhere in the reserve).

The Green Nature Center
The nature center provides a unique glimpse for the public to see “green” building concepts in use. The 5,600-square foot building is Platinum-Certified by U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The two-story building is made from recycled materials and relies on solar energy, natural light, and ventilation. Visitors can see solar panels and irrigated roof plants. Recycled water is used in landscape irrigation. The Nature Center opened to the public in Spring 2009, replacing the former center that opened in 1988. 

View video highlights of the LEED-Platinum Certified Nature Center.

(Closed Dec. 25)

2710 Manchester Avenue
Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA 92007

(760) 634-3026

Bike Racks Available
One Legend 3-Wheel Outdoor Wheelchair is available by request at time of visit.


Children's Story Time
3rd Tuesday and Thursday monthly: 11 am
$1 Suggested Donation

Family Fun Days (1st Sundays)
Kids will get closer to nature. See and touch artifacts. Stop in for story time and hands-on crafts. This conservancy-county monthly program embraces the TRACK Trails: Kids in Parks initiative that aims to unplug our kids and rejoin with nature. $1 Suggested Donation. More info.

Family Discovery Days: October 18-19
Meet creepy and crawly lagoon critters through live animal presentations, crafts, and trivia hikes. Kids in costume are welcome for trick-or-treating along the salt marsh loop trail. Free Event.  More info.

Nature Center Loop Trail
More Information

Google Map and Directions

The Nature Center is owned and staffed by County of San Diego Department of Parks & Recreation, part of the management of the ecological reserve. Two County Parks Rangers and volunteers staff the center daily.

North County Transit District 
Breeze Bus 101

Signal Chesterfield Drive stop

Note: SELC staff offices are not located at the nature center. Get directions.