Mission San Luis Rey

Location: 4050 Mission Ave, Oceanside, CA 92057

Phone: 760-757-3651 (Fax: 760-757-4613)


Hours: 10:00am to 4:00pm daily.

Fees: Check website for current ticket prices, discount offers and combination packages.

Comments: Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, located in Oceanside, California, is the eighteenth in a line of twenty-one California Missions. Founded on June 13, 1798 and currently operated by the Franciscan Friars of California, the mission provides both guided and self-guided tours, a museum, gift shop, Franciscan Retreat Center, and Cemetery as well as various functions and events. Visitors are welcome to stroll through the Mission Church and surrounding grounds and to attend weekend mass.

The mission quadrangle, approximately 500 feet square, overlooked fruit trees and grain crops. Containing a fountain and various plants and shrubs for needed shade, the patio of the quadrangle was surrounded by work areas. It was in this courtyard that the first pepper trees brought to California were planted. Sailors brought the seeds from Peru in 1830 and the trees, schinus molle, produced red peppercorn berries used in cooking. One of the original pepper trees still stands in this quadrangle, and can be seen from the original carriage arch. The patio of the quadrangle, however, today is much smaller due to the rebuilding which occurred after 1892 when the Franciscans returned. During this period the present enclosed quadrangle was built to house the smaller community of Friars. Now called the O’Keefe Quadrangle, it is the part of the museum complex.

The cemetery continues to be the oldest burial ground in North San Diego County still in operation. The Franciscan Crypts house the remains of many of the Friars who have served this mission, while recent expansion makes it possible for area residents of all faiths to be buried here. The skull and crossbones on the cemetery gate traces its origin to the 1950’s when the Walt Disney Studio was filming the television show “Zorro” here.

To the South of the Mission lay the lavanderia, or open air laundry area. This shallow valley in front of the mission proved ideal as both a bathing site and a place to wash clothes. An extensive water conservation system by even modern standards, the lavanderia was surrounded by an adobe wall and entry was through an arched and pillared gateway. A turnstile kept wildlife out. Additionally, the structure provided a means of channeling the water into the mission's gardens and fields for irrigation. Water from the San Luis Rey River was diverted to the site. Flowing down from both sides of the tiled stairway, water spouted from the mouths of carved gargoyles. From the lavanderia it is still possible to look upward through the adobe arch and view the Mission's magnificent dome silhouetted against an azure sky.

Still an active religious site many buildings and grounds are actively in use and not available for visitor access. The interior of the historic buildings that are accessable are generally poorly light and thus can be a photographic challenge but buildings exteriors and surrounding grounds offer many excellent photographic opportunities.

Directions: From Interstate 5: Exit Highway 76; Head East approximately 4 miles to Rancho del Oro exit. Mission will be on your left.  From Interstate 15: Exit Highway 76; Head West approximately 15 miles to Rancho del Oro exit - Mission will be on your right.

Return to top