The 10 Best Places to Live in San Diego in 2024

San Diego boasts a variety of vibrant neighborhoods, each offering unique charms and amenities. From the beachside bliss of La Jolla to the bustling urban vibe of Downtown, there’s something for everyone. Family-friendly communities like Carmel Valley provide excellent schools and parks, while areas like North Park and Little Italy are perfect for young professionals seeking a lively cultural scene. Whether you prefer coastal living, suburban tranquility, or city excitement, San Diego has an ideal spot for you.

Living in San Diego has been an incredible experience, with its diverse neighborhoods offering something for everyone. I first fell in love with the coastal charm of La Jolla, where the ocean views are breathtaking. Later, I explored the vibrant scene in North Park, filled with trendy cafes and art galleries. For a more family-oriented environment, Carmel Valley’s excellent schools and parks stood out. Each area in San Diego has its unique appeal, making it easy to find the perfect place to call home.

When searching for the best places to live in San Diego, several key factors come into play to ensure you find the perfect neighborhood for your needs. One of the most important factors is the cost of living. San Diego can be expensive, so it’s crucial to find a neighborhood that fits your budget while still offering a high quality of life. Areas like North Park and University Heights are known for their more affordable housing options compared to upscale neighborhoods like La Jolla.

Another important factor is proximity to work and amenities. Commuting in San Diego can be time-consuming, so choosing a neighborhood close to your workplace can save you significant time and stress. Additionally, having amenities such as grocery stores, parks, and entertainment venues nearby can greatly enhance your living experience. Neighborhoods like Downtown and Little Italy are ideal for those who prefer an urban lifestyle with everything within walking distance.

Safety is also a critical consideration when looking for the best places to live in San Diego. Researching crime rates and talking to locals can give you a better understanding of how safe a neighborhood is. Family-friendly areas like Carmel Valley and Del Mar are known for their low crime rates and excellent schools, making them ideal for raising children.

Lastly, the overall vibe and community of a neighborhood play a significant role in your decision. Each area in San Diego has its unique character, from the laid-back beach culture of Pacific Beach to the artistic energy of South Park. Finding a neighborhood that matches your lifestyle and interests can make your experience in San Diego truly enjoyable. Whether you seek vibrant nightlife, family-friendly environments, or peaceful coastal living, the best places to live in San Diego offer something for everyone.

The 10 best places to live in San Diego in 2024

1. Downtown San Diego Gaslamp District

Vibrant and beautiful, downtown San Diego overlooks San Diego Bay. The historic Gaslamp District is buzzing with activity and is great for a night out, whether a romantic evening or dinner with the family. You’ll find lots of entertainment, from music to comedy to dancing, nightclubs, bars, theaters, art galleries and museums.

Much of the excitement downtown is within walking distance. Catch a baseball game at Petco Park, then head to Seaport Village for waterfront dining, shopping and entertainment. The complex has over 50 one-of-a-kind shops and plenty of places to wine and dine.

The Saturday morning farmer’s market in the Little Italy district of downtown San Diego is one of best and largest in the county, with six blocks to shop. Fresh from the farm, the market features produce, eggs, poultry, meat, nuts and honey, along with fish, olive oil, bread and sauces.

Many people think it’s mainly young professionals who choose to live downtown, but a lot of families also enjoy the lifestyle and want their children to experience it. Downtown San Diego is a great choice for a neighborhood with highly rated schools. San Diego City College is also located downtown.

The median price for a home is approximately $770,000. Rental prices are 28% lower than the San Diego average.

The crime rate in the Gaslamp Quarter is 3% lower than the national average, but 10% higher than the San Diego average.

Sharp Coronado Hospital provides quality healthcare and is close to downtown San Diego.

2. Mission Beach and Mission Bay

All of the beach neighborhoods and towns of San Diego County have their own distinctive attractions and unique qualities. Mission Beach, just like Pacific Beach to its north and Ocean Beach to the south, is a thriving community. Mission Beach is a two-mile peninsula that is two blocks wide, with the Pacific Ocean on one side and Mission Bay on the other side.

Enjoy surfing, paddle boarding, boating and many other water sports. You can buy or rent equipment and lessons are available.

Sea World is an animal theme park featuring sea lion and dolphin shows, up-close views of many animals, and thrill rides. It’s not the only place in the area with a roller coaster, though. Belmont Park in Mission Beach is a small amusement park that features the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster, a historical icon of the San Diego beachfront. Originally built in 1925, it’s a classic wooden coaster that moves up to 48 miles per hour, with thrilling dips and turns and an ocean view.

Mission Beach and Mission Bay are fun neighborhoods to visit or live in. If you’d like to buy a home in the area, the median price is $2,162,500. Rent for a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment is typically over $2,000 a month.

Mission Beach has excellent health clinics and is about a 15-minute drive to Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego.

The 10 Best Places to Live in San Diego in 2024

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10 Best Places to Live in Southern California in 2024

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3. Encinitas

Located in San Diego’s North County, Encinitas is a delightful city famous for its beaches, such as Moonlight State Beach, Cardiff State Beach and Swami’s Beach. Surfers from around the world line up at Swami’s. The name comes from Swami Paramahansa Yogananda, who was an Indian Hindu monk, yogi and guru. In 1920 he founded the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), which still stands on the cliffs overlooking Swami’s Beach. The SRF gardens are amazing, complete with meditation benches, and the view from the gardens is spectacular. They are open to the public at no cost.

Encinitas is also home to the San Diego Botanic Garden, which features spectacular plants and flowers plus a number of classes and events.

Just a short jaunt to the north of Encinitas is Carlsbad. You can rent equipment at the Carlsbad Lagoon for water sports — boats, kayaks, paddleboards and more. It’s also home to Legoland, where the family can enjoy an adventure of rides, attractions, shows and many mini cities made out of lots and lots of Legos. During the spring, you can view the majestic flower fields in Carlsbad. The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch are a spectacular 50 acres filled with a rainbow of flowers.

Encinitas is a great town for singles, couples and families. Home prices are among the more expensive in California, with a median price of $2,047,500.

According to U.S. News and World Report, Scripps Memorial Hospital in Encinitas is ranked #8 in San Diego.

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4. La Mesa

La Mesa

The inland valleys, mountains and deserts have a lot to offer, too. La Mesa is one of the cities located in San Diego’s East County. Its nickname is “The Jewel of the Hills.”

Typically, you can get from La Mesa to downtown San Diego or the ocean in approximately 20 minutes.

La Mesa Village is the historical center of La Mesa. This quaint neighborhood hosts annual events such as Christmas in the Village, Oktoberfest and the Antique Street Faire.

If you love the outdoors, you’ll find plenty of places near La Mesa to walk, hike and bike. Some trails are also open for horseback riding. Mission Trails Regional Park has numerous trails around features such as Lake Murray, Cowles Mountain and Old Mission Dam.

Old Mission Dam is both a California Historic Landmark and a National Historic Landmark. Built between 1813 and 1816 by Franciscan padres and Kumeyaay laborers, it was one of the first irrigation projects on the West Coast.

Not too far from La Mesa is the Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve, a 190-acre park and campground with a chain of seven small lakes stocked with sport fish. This is a great place for bird watching and photography, with approximately 230 different species of birds. It has an interesting history. It began as a water recycling facility in the late 1950s. Two million gallons of water are recycled there daily. About 50% of the water is used locally to water golf courses, parks and schoolyards. The park hosts annual events year-round.

La Mesa is located just down the freeway from San Diego State University, which is ranked #148 among national universities by U.S. News and World Report.

It’s a great place to live and raise a family. The median price for homes is $862,500.

Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa is ranked #6 in San Diego.

5. Kensington


If strolling through charming neighborhoods and admiring architecture and immaculate lawns is something you enjoy, Kensington is an ideal destination for you. Residents also like having restaurants and grocery stores within walking distance.

Kensington is a small, unique community of 115 acres with Spanish-style single family homes on peaceful, winding streets with stone gateways and ornamental lighting. The median home price is around $1,190,000.

Adams Avenue is where you’ll find coffee shops, restaurants, businesses, the library and a park in this small, older urban neighborhood. Founded in 1910, its name comes from a borough in London, England.

Quality healthcare is nearby at UCSD Health Hillcrest, which is ranked #1 in San Diego, along with its La Jolla facility. It’s about a 15-minute drive.

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6. La Jolla


Breathtaking ocean views of a curving coastline along the Pacific Ocean is what you’ll see in La Jolla. Surrounded by ocean bluffs and beaches, this hilly upscale community within the city of San Diego is referred to as “the jewel.” And jewels can be pricey — the median price for a La Jolla home is $3,725,000.

The University of California San Diego (UCSD) is one of several educational institutions in La Jolla. It includes the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. UCSD is ranked among the best universities in the world and its campus has been recognized globally and nationally for advancing health care, producing powerful research, and much more. Also located in La Jolla are the Salk Institute, Scripps Research Institute and the headquarters of National University.

The Birch Aquarium at Scripps sits on a bluff overlooking the ocean. Visitors can view a variety of marine life there, with more than 60 habitats featuring fish and invertebrates. The oceanographic museum shares research discoveries by Scripps Oceanography scientists on climate, earth and ocean science.

Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial, at the top of an 822-foot hill, honors service members with thousands of plaques. And what a view! With a 360-degree panoramic look around San Diego, when the weather’s clear, you can see as far south as Mexico and to the mountains of Los Angeles to the north.

La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores are beautiful places to picnic, stroll, snorkel, swim, surf, kayak or scuba dive.

The central area of La Jolla is called the Village, and this is where you’ll find many of La Jolla’s high-end boutiques and upscale restaurants.

The Torrey Pines Gliderport in La Jolla offers paragliding and hang gliding, with tandem paragliding available. Flight lessons and equipment sales are available, too.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is a beautiful stretch of land along the coastline. The view is wonderful, and the hike is serene. The animals and rare plants at Torrey Pines are protected. Residents and travelers from all over visit this clean, beautiful and peaceful environment.

As for healthcare, UCSD Health La Jolla ranks #1 in San Diego, as does its Hillcrest facility; Scripps La Jolla Hospital is ranked #2. La Jolla is also home to the San Diego VA Medical Center.

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7. North Park

The 10 Best Places to Live in San Diego in 2024

A community of cultural diversity, North Park is conveniently located and offers easy access to many different places. The Gaslamp District is just a little over 10 minutes away, and the San Diego Zoo is about a five-minute drive.

North Park borders Balboa Park, where you can visit the Fleet Science Center and smell roses in the garden. It’s been described as a cultural wonderland, and with good reason. It’s easy to walk around and check out the shops, outdoor art and various museums. It’s a place for recreation, arts and culture, performing arts and community gatherings.

Check out the ornate Spanish Renaissance architecture and roam around the 1,200 acres of beautiful gardens at Balboa Park.

The San Diego Air and Space Museum, San Diego Automotive Museum, San Diego Model Railroad Museum, San Diego Natural History Museum, WorldBeat Center and San Diego Museum of Art are just a few of the 17 museums in Balboa Park.

North Park has a mix of architectural styles from many eras, including hundreds of classic Craftsman houses. The tree-lined roadways are welcoming. The North Park Historical Society has walking tours of the neighborhood. The median home price is $1,212,500.

There’s variety in North Park’s nightlife, and it’s easy to stroll from place to place. Dance the night away or kick back and relax.

It’s close to UCSD Health Hillcrest, a top-rated facility in San Diego.

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8. Hillcrest

Hillcrest is a vibrant, lively, upbeat neighborhood that is located just to the west of North Park — so it, too, is close to downtown San Diego and Balboa Park.

Hillcrest is charming. Homes in the area cost a little more than in neighboring North Park. The median home price is around $1,575,000.

Hillcrest is the heart of San Diego’s LGBT community and is known for its acceptance, equality, diversity and inclusion — it’s a place where everyone is welcome. The neighborhood naturally has a large presence of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents.

Many of the businesses are locally owned, with a wide array of popular thrift stores, boutiques, unique shops and specialty stores, vintage clothing shops, cafes, bars, restaurants, sidewalk patios and clubs.

The annual San Diego Pride Parade is full of color and is among the largest in the country, attracting over 300,000 spectators. It’s the largest single-day civic event in the region.

The Hillcrest CityFest, a celebration of community spirit, is another annual event featuring live music, arts, crafts, food and, of course, fun.

The weekly Hillcrest Farmers Market has a reputation for being the best and one of the largest farmer’s markets in the county. Over 175 vendors offer a wide variety of locally grown produce, arts and crafts, flowers, gifts, clothing and other unique goods. There’s a wide range of prepared food, too, with hot and cold cuisine, including international cuisine. Entertainment is a part of it, too, with an assortment of local musicians performing. U.S. News and World Report has UCSD Health Hillcrest ranked #1 in San Diego, along with its La Jolla facility.

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9. Del Mar

Del Mar is an extravagant yet quaint village by the sea. It’s a prestigious, affluent and upscale community in San Diego’s North County. Del Mar Village has a small-town vibe, and visitors from around the world come to visit the beautiful beaches, eat international cuisine and watch the sunset over the Pacific. Summertime brings residents and tourists to the town for the renowned Del Mar Racetrack and the San Diego County Fair.

While it’s a sophisticated little town, it’s also casual. Locals enjoy the restaurants and bars overlooking the water for a get-together with friends any time of day or for a romantic dinner in the evening.

It’s an exceptional place to live for singles, couples, families and retirees, but it comes with a price. The median price for a home is $3,900,000. With many half-timbered, Tudor-style structures, the town creates a European feel. It’s a great place to raise a family and the schools in Del Mar are excellent. High-quality healthcare is available at Scripps Clinic Del Mar.

From the end of July to the beginning of September, thousands flock to the racetrack for one of Southern California’s most popular summer events: opening day at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. When the club opened in 1937, Bing Crosby was there to greet the first fan to come through the gate.

Thousands attend opening day, which features the traditional Opening Day Hats Contest. Create a winning hat and win money on more than just the horses. Prizes are given in four categories in the contest: Best Racing Theme, Most Glamorous, Best Fascinator and Best Flowers.

You know it’s the start of summer when the San Diego County Fair gets underway in Del Mar. (It used to be called the Del Mar Fair.) There’s all the fun you’d expect and plenty of animals, food, games, rides, a number of musical acts, and wine and beer festivals.

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10. Coronado


Across the bay from downtown San Diego is the island paradise of Coronado, with the charm of the Hotel Del Coronado (designated a National Historic Landmark) and wide, sandy beaches. Immaculately manicured lawns, elegant gardens, lovely mansions and quaint shops are all part of Coronado.

You can get to Coronado via the magnificent San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge, which is a little over two miles long, or by driving on the Silver Strand, or by taking a ferry or water taxi. The ferry travels from the Coronado Ferry Landing to the San Diego Broadway Pier. From there you can walk to Seaport Village, where you’ll find plenty of shops and eateries.

Coronado’s Ferry Landing also has lots of shops, art galleries and restaurants. It’s a nice place to relax and enjoy the amazing view. Bike cruises are popular, too.

Beaches on both sides of the Silver Strand State Beach make the area a popular recreational destination. In one direction is the Pacific Ocean, and in the other is San Diego Bay. Locals and visitors enjoy camping, swimming, surfing, boating, water skiing, volleyball, picnicking and fishing for perch, corbina, grunion and yellow-fin croaker.

Other water activities on the waters of Coronado include sailing, stand-up paddle boarding, surfing and kayaking.

It is one of the most sought-after places to live in San Diego County. The median home price is around $3,477,000.

According to Public School Review, Coronado has one of the highest numbers of public schools in the state that are top ranked.

Sharp Coronado Hospital offers everything from quality care for serious medical conditions to wellness classes.

Coronado has one of San Diego’s several military bases: Naval Air Station North Island and the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. It has an on-base population of 5,000 military personnel and 7,000 students and reservists. Naval Amphibious Base Coronado and its adjacent beaches provide training for Navy SEALs.

FAQs about Best Places to Live in San Diego

1. What are the best places to live in San Diego for families? For families, I recommend Carmel Valley and Del Mar due to their excellent schools, safe neighborhoods, and numerous parks. These areas provide a great environment for children and offer plenty of family-friendly activities.

2. Which neighborhoods are the best places to live in San Diego for young professionals? Young professionals often prefer areas like North Park and Downtown. These neighborhoods have a vibrant nightlife, trendy cafes, and convenient access to workplaces, making them ideal for a dynamic lifestyle.

3. What are the best places to live in San Diego near the beach? La Jolla and Pacific Beach are top choices for beach lovers. They offer stunning coastal views, easy beach access, and a relaxed atmosphere that’s perfect for enjoying the ocean.

4. Are there affordable best places to live in San Diego? Yes, neighborhoods like University Heights and North Park offer more affordable housing options compared to more upscale areas. These neighborhoods still provide great amenities and a lively community feel.

5. What should I consider when choosing the best places to live in San Diego? Consider factors like cost of living, proximity to work, safety, and community vibe. It’s important to find a neighborhood that fits your budget, lifestyle, and personal preferences.

6. What are the safest best places to live in San Diego? Carmel Valley and Del Mar are known for their low crime rates and are considered some of the safest neighborhoods in San Diego. These areas are particularly popular with families due to their security and excellent amenities.

7. What are the best places to live in San Diego for a vibrant cultural scene? If you’re looking for a vibrant cultural scene, check out North Park and Little Italy. These neighborhoods are known for their artsy atmosphere, diverse dining options, and lively events throughout the year.


Before moving to San Diego, it’s essential to do thorough research, visit the city if possible, and have a well-organized plan in place to make your transition as smooth as possible. San Diego County is an amazing place to live. Great weather, beautiful beaches, entertainment, education, sports — there’s typically some event to attend and definitely a place to enjoy. You can take your dog, too. San Diego has plenty of dog parks and dog beaches. Several restaurants allow you to bring your pets when you’re seated in the patio area. Regardless of where you live in the county, it’s easy to get around; it’s just a short drive, for example, from the inland valleys to the sandy beaches.

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