Sun, sand, surf, and plenty of tourist spots, San Diego is an idyllic city that encompasses a vast range of communities. It doesn’t take a lot to convince people to move here, from the good food and drink to the easy access to natural beauty. However, with the large area and the number of neighborhoods within county lines, deciding on the right San Diego neighborhood to live in can be difficult, whether you are a newcomer or have lived in San Diego for decades.
Having trouble looking for a San Diego real estate agent to help you in your search process? Thankfully, our Southern California REALTORS® in San Diego can guide you through each step in the process and make sure that you find the perfect home in a neighborhood that has everything that you need.
To help you decide, here is a list of some of the best places to live in San Diego.
Home to about 34,000 residents, La Jolla is a bustling, coastal neighborhood that is emblematic of what San Diego county as a whole has to offer: art, culture, luxury shopping, a wide range of eateries for all tastes, and easy access to nature and outdoor fun. The community comprises a mix of families, older residents, and college-aged kids, thanks to the neighborhood being home to UC San Diego.
Three of La Jolla’s three main sub-communities are La Jolla Village, Bird Rock, and University Town Center. Each sub-community offers something unique within the La Jolla area.
Located along the coast, so you’re never more than a short walk or drive to a sandy beach and the La Jolla Cove. This also makes living in La Jolla desirable for water enthusiasts of all kinds, including surfers, kayakers, and snorkelers. For more laidback days, there are plenty of areas along the coast to have picnics and enjoy scenic views.
Bird Rock is along the outer edges of the neighborhood, offering a quieter, more relaxed mood that doesn’t sacrifice easy access to the beach. Bird Rock features more small businesses, including art galleries, boutique stores, and surf shops.
UTC features a mix of hotels, research facilities, and telecom businesses. For tourists and locals alike, the main draw to UTC is the Westfield Mall. The mall has your usual favorite brands, but the Westfield UTC goes above and beyond to make it more than just your average shopping experience with fitness centers, top-ranked restaurants, a luxury movie theater, and even a speakeasy.
Along with the sights, great weather, and proximity to the beach, La Jolla has some of the consistently top-rated schools in the country. The walk score tends to be low, so expect to own a car and drive to wherever you need to go. This makes it a top contender for the best San Diego neighborhoods. The average rent for an apartment in La Jolla is about $2,409, while the median home value is about $1.48 million.
Just southeast of downtown proper and central San Diego, and north of Chula Vista, North Park and South Park have become some of the best neighborhood centers of activity for hip, young locals, offering a unique mix of coffee shops, art venues, restaurants, boutiques, and more. The intersection at University Ave. and 30th Street acts as the center for North Park, a San Diego neighborhood that has quickly gained its claim to fame as the best beer neighborhood in the nation. It earned that title from the sheer amount and quality of small craft breweries in the area, including Toronado and Modern Times.
Not to be outdone, South Park features plenty of its own craft beer spots, like Hamilton’s Tavern, along with plenty of unique shopping opportunities. The gem of South Park is the dining, which centers on restaurants that use local, seasonal organics and sustainable meats to create a cuisine and dining experience that is unique to the area. You can’t go wrong with virtually any restaurant in this area!
While there are plenty of family homes in North Park and South Park, the two neighborhoods do tend to cater to younger residents. According to Zillow, North Park has a median rent price of about $2,195 and a median home value of about $649,000. South Park has a median home value of about $800,395, with an increase of about 9.7 percent over the past year.
With a population of over 6,700 residents, Torrey Pines offers a more suburban neighborhood that still has plenty of shops and dining opportunities throughout. Located just north of La Jolla and west of the Torrey Highlands, Torrey Pines State Beach features one of the wildest stretches of coastline in the country, with jaw-dropping natural cliffs that give way to amazing views of the sea, surfers, and occasional hang gliders.
For those wanting to delve deeper into the area’s natural beauty, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve offers 1,750 acres of preserved land located on the cliffs above Torrey Pines State Beach. The park features coastal pine forests, sandstone canyons, and plenty of well-kept trails that allow locals to hike and surround themselves in the natural splendor and see the rarest pine tree in the country.
Torrey Pines is also a welcome home for golf enthusiasts, thanks in part to the Torrey Pines Golf Course. This golf course regularly makes it on best-of lists and is ranked among America’s Best Municipal Courses by Golfweek Magazine. It’s not just the picturesque views of coastlines and ravines. It offers two 18-hole golf courses that offer plenty of unique but fun challenges, along with one of the largest on-course golf shops and expert golf schools.
Homes in Torrey Pines have a median price of about $1.19 million. Median rent in this coastal neighborhood is about $2,121.
Located in North County near Del Mar and Solana Beach, Encinitas is about 26 miles north of Downtown San Diego proper. Encinitas claims a title as one of the best surf towns in the world, and it has the history and geography to back that up.
Stretching along six miles of coastline, Encinitas has been rooted in beach culture and surfing history, so it’s no wonder that it is one of the best neighborhoods in San Diego for beach-lovers from all walks of life. Not to mention all the surf shops and a beautiful, sandy beach that’s just a short walk from most homes. Top among them is Swami’s, which welcomes surfing enthusiasts every single day. For those non-surfers or times when you just want to relax, Moonlight State Beach offers a large, flat space for family lounging, along with volleyball courts, tennis courts, and a snack bar. Moonlight State Beach is also one of the few beaches that have built-in fire rings for beach bonfires.
At the heart of the neighborhood is Highway 101, which runs through an eclectic mix of local shops, like record stores, coffee shops, and restaurants, all with an incredible view of the coastline. Whether you want to shop for a new wetsuit or grab yourself an espresso, Encinitas has it all.
According to Niche, homes in Encinitas have a median value of about $913,000. The median rent in Encinitas is about $1,886.
Best known as the heart of San Diego’s LGBTQ+ community, Hillcrest is just a few miles north of Downtown San Diego and just south of University Heights. This uptown San Diegan neighborhood features an expansive array of restaurants, bars, cafes, boutiques, and more, all showing an inherent pride for the LGBTQ+ community. This is marked by the San Diego LGBTQ+ Community Center on Harvey Milk Street.
Unlike many of the other San Diego neighborhoods, Hillcrest is an increasingly pedestrian-friendly area, making it safe and easy to walk to your favorite shops and coffee houses. This starts at the east end of University Avenue and Normal Street, marked by a large rainbow Pride flag. Going west from the Pride flag offers a unique tour of diverse restaurants, bars, and clubs, alongside boutiques, shops, and Hillcrest Brewing Company. The stretch of a dozen blocks also hosts one of the largest farmers markets in the city every Sunday.
Fifth Avenue gives way to even more restaurants and dessert-specific spots, along with a theater, vintage and thrift shops, and book outlets. If you are looking for a place with a lot to do in San Diego county, this is the place to be!
The high walk score, a diverse range of shops and restaurants, and proximity to other desirable attractions, like Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo, make Hillcrest a popular area to set your roots. The population offers a mix of families and younger, just-out-of-college residents. The median home value in Hillcrest is about $584,000, and the median rent price is about $2,500.
Ocean Beach, or “OB” to the locals, is a well-trod, old town neighborhood, a place that nearly every local has lived in or existed around at some point in their San Diego tenure. Ocean Beach is a vintage beach town, one of the last true vestiges of Southern California culture. Just north of Point Loma, this neighborhood is a hodge-podge of California beach culture from tanned surfers to skaters to beachcombers lounging in old VW vans.
Along with the friendly locals and beach vibes, Ocean Beach offers plenty of restaurants, craft breweries, bars, and clubs to satisfy all tastes. The local business scene is incredibly supportive and welcoming, giving locals and tourists a diverse selection of antique shops, surf boutiques, thrift stores, and more.
Ocean Beach is also close in proximity to other neighboring beach cities such as Mission Beach or Pacific Beach. Located beachside, it’s definitely hard to beat OB’s location!
Ocean Beach Pier is one of the longest piers in Southern California. It is one of the few spots you can fish without a license, but even if you’re not reeling in the big catch, the pier extends about a half-mile into the ocean, giving you incredible views of the sun setting into the horizon. Dog Beach is another popular destination, and the name gives it away. Pets are encouraged to visit, take off their leashes and collars, and enjoy the sand and surf with their other furry friends.
Zillow estimates the median home value in Ocean Beach at about $920,000. The median monthly rent price in Ocean Beach is about $2,995.
Finding the best place to live in San Diego can be difficult, mostly because every San Diegan neighborhood offers so much, from friendly people to incredible shopping opportunities. Especially if you are a first-time home buyer in San Diego, the wide variety of neighborhood options, like city versus suburbs, mountains versus beach towns, can be overwhelming. However, our REALTORS® can help you find a home that you love that fits all of your personal needs, whether it’s good schools or proximity to beaches. Contact us to start the journey to living in San Diego today.