The 20 Best Places to Live in San Diego

Via de la Valle

Before we get started, we should probably address the elephant in the room…. property prices. If you plan on making San Diego your next home, be prepared to dig deep. With some of its most exclusive neighborhoods charging more than one million dollars (and in one, albeit extreme, example, over 2) for a decently sized family home, it’s not the kind of place to set up camp without some serious words with your bank manager beforehand. That said, few would question whether it’s worth the investment- with a sublime coastline, no end of stunning scenery, and superbly friendly, laid back communities, it’s the kind of place we all secretly dream of living. If you want to make your dream a reality, don’t miss our roundup of the 20 very best places to live in San Diego.

20. South Park

If you want something edgy, cool, and just the right side of unique, South Park may be for you. Its eclectic mix of shops and restaurants makes a refreshing change to the chain store dominated streets we’re used to, while its Craftsman-style homes, stunning surrounds, and friendly community elevate it to something very special indeed.

19. University City

University City, a large neighborhood of 61,518 residents, makes it to our list thanks to a low crime rate, a job market that’s able to sustain the very healthy median household income of $77,115, a good crop of stellar schools, a small-town vibe and active community, some great shopping outlets, and great access to the best of San Diego’s attractions. At $503,425 for a decently sized family home, it’s certainly not cheap, but few would argue about whether it’s worth the price.

18. Encinitas

As one of the best suburbs to live in San Diego, Encinitas has a lot to recommend it. Its healthy population of 62,595 are well served by an excellent range of local amenities and services (including, as San Diego Magazine reports, over 30 miles of trails for bikers, cyclists, and equestrians, and a new 2-acre dog park) while its safe streets, abundance of quirky local shops and businesses, and fun, laid back vibe increase its desirability to a point where realtors can happily charge $862,300 for a family home, and still have customers lining around the block to get a piece of the action.

17. Old Town

With only 2606 residents to its name, Old Town may be small, but its packs a mighty punch. Crime is low enough to barely warrant a mention, while salaries are high enough to support the more than healthy median household income of $121,478. Most of its citizens are highly educated (36% have a bachelor’s degree and a further 35% have a masters), while its excellent state schools and abundance of services and amenities attracts a healthy population of families to the area.

16. Torrey Highlands

If you’ve got kids, Torrey Highlands make a great choice of home. The schools serving the neighborhood are some of the best in the state, while the streets are safe enough for them to hang out on without undue concern. Amenities are abundant, with everything you need within an easy ten-minute drive.

15. Carmel Mountain Ranch

If you want to live in the kind of place where you can expect almost twice the income most US residents enjoy, a healthy, outdoorsy lifestyle, no shortage of shops, restaurants and bars for you to spend that very unaverage disposal income, clean, safe streets, and a welcoming, friendly community, you won’t go far wrong with the sublimely attractive neighborhood of Carmel Mountain Ranch.

14. Miramar Ranch North

If Niche decides to award a place an A+, you know it can’t be bad. And Miramar Ranch North doesn’t disappoint. Crime, unemployment and poverty are all reassuringly low, while the number of shops, bars, restaurants, first-rate schools, and outdoor spaces are all reassuringly high… as, indeed, is the median income, which, at 109,927, stands at almost twice the national average.

13. Black Mountain Ranch

Despite the large sum of $897,496 it takes to buy a family home in Black Mountain Ranch, the neighborhood has still managed to attract almost 40,000 residents… and it’s a number that seems in no danger of going down. Thanks to its superb schools, countless wining and dining opportunities, and fantastic range of outdoor leisure facilities, it’s an area whose popularity is unlikely to wane anytime soon.

12. Sabre Springs

Considering the very high cost of buying a property in most districts of San Diego, Sabre Springs’ average home value of just $566,418 is more than reasonable. Throw in some great amenities, fantastic access to the surrounding landscape, and a relaxed, family-friendly vibe, and it’s easy to understand why so many San Diego residents dream of living here.

11. San Pasqual Valley

If you want to live in a family-friendly community that’s large enough to support a diverse, welcoming community (not to mention an abundance of conveniences and amenities), but small enough to have a low key, peaceful vibe, you may want to start saving towards the $712,426 it takes to buy a property in the eternally desirable San Pasqual Valley.

10. La Jolla

With its low crime rate, superlative range of amenities, thriving job market, great schools, and family-friendly environment, La Jolla gets an A+ all the way. Combine all those great features with a median income of $140,278 and the benefit of having the beach in your backyard, and you can well understand why people are queuing up to lay down the $1,478,578 it takes to buy a home here.

9. Rancho Penasquitos

Low crime rates? Check. Excellent schools? Check. Incredible natural beauty? Check, Check, Check. Compile a checklist of all the things you’d like your dream home to have, and Rancho Penasquitos is likely to tick all the boxes. Idyllically situated among a majestic series of canyons and hills, its central location makes accessing the ocean, mountains, and surrounding wine country a positive breeze. The local amenities, meanwhile, are just as superb as the scenery, with a vast cannon of shops, bars, restaurants, and recreational venues. The only thing you might need to consider before you set your heart on moving in is the average property price, which at $710,259 for a family home, is, to put it mildly, slightly above the national average (although, fortunately, most residents are probably too busy earning the substantial median salary of $133,026 to notice those hefty mortgage payments).

8. Rancho Bernardo

With its sizable population of 71,891, Rancho Bernardo is nothing if not diverse. Property prices are still way above the national average, but compared to what we’ll see on some of our upcoming entries, they’re eminently affordable for San Diego at just $646,279 for a single-family home. Despite its size, crime is almost unheard of, while the laid back, outdoorsy lifestyle on offer is more than worth shouting about. Its vibrant community is home to a range of great, international restaurants (Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Greek, Indian, Middle-Eastern, and more besides), while its excellent golf course, great libraries, and plentiful community organizations guarantee a fun time for all.

7. Solana Beach

Property at Solana Beach doesn’t come cheap (expect to pay a little over a million dollars for a family home here), but few would quibble over the price when they realize just how desirable this little suburb is. If you don’t want to take our word for it, check out some of the glowing reviews left by local residents on Niche. “A slow-paced beach town, Solana Beach is full of athletes, entrepreneurs, and craftsmen. With craft coffee shops, organic cafes, and microbreweries, the dining experience is nothing less than excellent. The kids grow up surfing and swimming and are beautifully connected to the ocean. People are open and friendly, making it a delight to establish new relationships throughout the town,” enthuses one, while another notes” I loved Solana Beach for the fact that it was not a super popular destination. Neighboring cities got so crowded that it was hard to breathe. Solana Beach stayed like a little safe haven for those who actually lived there and knew about the city itself. It is also a great city because everyone is so friendly. I know a lot of people from my neighborhood and see them everywhere.”

6. Pacific Highlands Ranch

For just over a cool mill, you could move into Pacific Highlands Ranch, a small neighborhood of San Diego that’s well and truly on the rise. The bountiful range of stores and boutiques compete for attention with a sterling line up of cute cafes and exemplary restaurants, while the profusion of outdoor spaces and parks is a joy. The schools are all highly rated (with Canyon Crest Academy, Torres Pine High School, Westview High School, San Dieguito High Academy, and Carmel Valley Middle School all coming well above average in graduation rates and test scores). The job market, meanwhile, is doing well enough for itself that most residents are living contently on median household incomes of $163,706.

5. Carmel Valley

With its sizeable population of 53,449, Carmel Valley is a buzzing, vibrant community with a lot to offer. Property might be at a premium (if you manage to snap up a decently sized home for less than $939,074, count yourself lucky), but there’s plenty to justify the high prices. The schools rank among the best in the state, with Torrey Pines and Canyon Crest Academy each having some seriously impressive credentials. The neighborhood’s proximity to the beach (and several open-air malls) makes sure the community has plenty of places to spend their leisure time, while the median income of $147,960 is suggestive of a seriously healthy job market. Safe, clean streets and an almost complete absence of poverty and unemployment complete the very pretty picture.

4. Via de la Valle

With its small but mighty population of 2,723, Via de la Valle has the kind of friendly, laid back vibe that most of would love to experience. Most of us wouldn’t mind a crack at the $146,067 median household income, great schools, and excellent outdoor attractions either. Just be prepared to dig deep if you want to live here: at $1,386,443 for a decently sized property, houses are anything but cheap.

3. Torrey Pines

If you can afford the $1,069,272 it takes to buy a chunk of real estate in the bewilderingly desirable neighborhood of Torrey Pines, you’re in for a treat. Its thirteen plus thousand residents enjoy the kind of lifestyle most of us can only dream of: no end of great schools, a fabulous range of coffee shops, restaurants and bars, a welcoming, friendly community, crime-free streets, next to no unemployment or poverty, a job market that allows most households to boast a $120,399 median income, and absolutely beautiful natural surrounds. If you want to spend your morning at the mall, your lunchtime at a world-class restaurant, and your afternoon at the beach, this is the place to do it.

2. Torrey Hills

Narrowly missing out on a place at the top of the leader board is the delightful Torrey Pines. With a population of just 15,695 residents, it’s by no means the largest neighborhood in San Diego, but its most certainly one of the best. The average home does come in for the staggeringly high amount of $1,096,321, but its highly desirable qualities make it one of the most sought-after locations in San Diego, nevertheless. Among its extensive list of attributes includes a handful of excellent schools, an unfeasible low crime rate, a great combination of chain stores and mom and pop stores, and some of the most beautiful Pacific Ocean sunsets you’re likely to encounter anywhere else.

1. Del Mar Mesa

If you fancy living the high life in San Diego’s premier destination, then pack your bags and head on down to Del Mar Mesa, where the schools are first class, the economy is thriving, the job market is healthy, the amenities are excellent, and the properties are… expensive. And when we say expensive, we mean expensive. If you set your sights on owning a home in this exclusive suburb of San Diego, you’d better have a serious amount of cash at your disposal. Single-family homes cost an average of $2,000,001 (and no, that’s not a typo), while rental properties come in at around $2130. That said, no one ever said desirability comes for free, and with its sublime beach side location, superb seasonal festivals, rocking race track, and stunning nature reserves, Del Mar Mesa certainly puts the D in “Desirable”.


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