San Diego is a thriving area with a great variety of wonderful neighborhoods. From the luxurious coast of La Jolla, to the resort-style ambiance of Rancho Santa Fe, to the historic homes of Mission Hills, there is an exciting tapestry of communities to explore. Each with their own unique appeal.
We've compiled a list of the very best places to live in San Diego. We considered essential things like housing, location, schools, shopping and dining, outdoor recreation, crime, and access to services. But more importantly, we considered the overall experience of living in these communities. That which gives them their unique character.
If you are moving to San Diego and would like to know more about any of these neighborhoods, contact SD Home Guide today. We will connect you with a trusted REALTOR® who is an expert in your area.
Rancho Santa Fe
Rancho Santa Fe is a bucolic community in North San Diego County covering a 6.8 square mile area. Eucalyptus-covered Rolling hills merge with acres of orchards in this beautiful affluent neighborhood. One of California's first planned communities—defined by stunning Spanish Colonial Revival architecture—is located in Rancho Santa Fe.
Rancho Santa Fe is home to Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa. Part luxury hotel, part restaurant, part spa, and all relaxation, this five-star resort is a popular local spot. Its Spanish Colonial architecture includes 49 private luxury 'casitas'. Enjoy memorable Coastal Ranch cuisine in a welcoming al fresco dining atmosphere.
At the center of 'The Ranch' one finds the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club, offering members a myriad of ways to enjoy their day. Visitors can enjoy lunch on the patio, casual dining, a peaceful horse ride, and more. Its Max Behr designed golf course opened in 1929. It has been recognized as one of the top 100 walking courses in the country.
With top-rated schools at various levels, Rancho Santa Fe is an ideal place to raise kids. R. Roger Rowe Elementary School and R. Roger Rowe Middle School receive a 10/10 and 9/10 from greatschools.org. Private schools include Horizon Prep and The Nativity School.
Rancho Santa Fe is a luxury real estate market consisting almost exclusively of multi-million dollar properties. There are mostly single-family homes, with some condos, and townhomes. Many in private, gated subdivisions with impeccably maintained grounds. Multi-acre custom estates can include features like private movie theaters, resort style pools, tennis courts, and world class architecture. For those looking to build a home from the ground up, there are various desirable lots for sale. Living in Rancho Santa Fe can feel like having your own private sanctuary, with all the amenities one could ever need.
It would be impossible to find a list of best neighborhoods in San Diego that does not include La Jolla. Ideally located along seven miles of coastline, La Jolla earns its name as 'The Jewel of America's Finest City'. With a rich history that includes the whimsical tales of Dr. Seuss and 'Old Hollywood', La Jolla further adds to its unique appeal. While the city's majestic natural landscape is its main attraction, countless activities, experiences and adventures await.
With its incredible beaches, diverse fine dining, posh boutiques, unique museums, and exclusive art galleries, La Jolla offers the ultimate Southern California experience. Top attractions include La Jolla Cove, La Jolla Shores Park, Birch Aquarium at Scripps, Windansea Beach, and the Torrey Pines Gliderport.
Education in La Jolla is highly ranked by both parents and teachers. Moreover, test scores are consistently above average. And according to GreatSchools.org, La Jolla includes many schools with a 9-10 rating across all grade levels.
Public elementary schools include Bird Rock Elementary School, La Jolla Elementary School, and Torrey Pines Elementary School. For middle school there is Muirlands Middle School. High schools include La Jolla High School and Preuss School UCSD. Private schools are very popular in La Jolla. There are very prestigious ones at all levels, from preschool to high school. Click here for a full list of La Jolla private and charter schools.
La Jolla is one of San Diego's premier luxury real estate markets. It is known for its stacked hillside homes overlooking the ocean, many with direct access to the beach via private stairways and passages. From ultra-exclusive beach front estates, to perfectly maintained single-family homes, to luxury condominiums, La Jolla real estate has it all.
Mission Hills is a very popular San Diego neighborhood just north of Downtown, west of Hillcrest, and south of Mission Valley. Residents enjoy breathtaking views of the city skyline, San Diego Bay, and Old Town. It is one of the city's oldest and most sought after neighborhoods.
The first homes were built on the best spots in the early 1900s. More modern homes were built to infill the hillsides and canyon rims starting in the 1950s. Any list of the best places to live in San Diego is sure to include magnificent Mission Hills.
Though a primarily residential area, Mission Hills features various independent shops and restaurants. These are concentrated in the business district that runs along West Washington from Hillcrest. Enjoy new American cuisine at Harley Gray Kitchen & Bar, farm-to-table at Farmer's Bodega, or fine Italian dining at The Red Door. For Chicago-style pizza there is famous Lefty's. Or you can enjoy gourmet cheeses from around the world at Venissimo Cheese. The charming Mission Hills Nursery on Fort Stockton Drive is one of San Diego's oldest and most popular nurseries.
Being a smaller residential neighborhood, the only school within Mission Hills is Mission Hills Community Preschool. However, given its central location, there is an abundance of great schools near by. Notable schools include St. Vincent De Paul, Grand K-8, and Old Town Academy K-8 Charter.
Mission Hills is distinguished by its impressive array of custom luxury and historic homes. Marveling at these beautiful estates, it becomes clear why Mission Hills is one of the best neighborhoods in San Diego. It also happens to be the most architecturally impressive. Old majestic homes, cozy craftsman bungalows, and renovated mansions populate this immaculately maintained San Diego gem.
Mission Hills is a far cry from the cookie-cutter subdivisions that tend to define newer neighborhoods. Each home has its own unique character and charm.
Located north of ritzy Del Mar and south of eclectic Encinitas, Solana Beach offers a laid back, small-town atmosphere that compels you to slow down and smell the roses. Seaside bluffs provide immersive views of the tranquil shoreline and expansive ocean. Not to mention one of the best shopping districts in all San Diego County. Its impressive variety of restaurants and nightlife serve to round out this dreamy coastal town.
The heart of the Solana Beach community is the renowned Cedros Design District. With its varied arts and music venues, art galleries, antique shops, local breweries, European-style cafes, and prized restaurants, you will never run out of things to see and do.
The historic venue Belly Up has attracted countless musical legends since its inception in 1974. Recent major artists include The Killers, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Willie Nelson, and Tom Jones. Most famously, the Rolling Stones played a private event in 2015.
For the more cultured among us, North Coast Repertory Theatre stages award-winning productions by established and emerging playwrights in an intimate setting. Its doors have been open for almost 40 years going back to 1982.
Solana Beach is an outdoor haven—a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Coastal Trail is a 1.7 mile beachside path perfect for walking, jogging, and biking. Along the trail, one encounters award-winning artwork and landscaping. It is a truly unique experience. Fletcher Cove Beach is a small inlet popular for swimming, surfing, kayaking, and fishing. Over at Tide Beach Park one encounters a large reef and tide pools bustling with life.
Every Sunday, Cedros Design District adds to its repertoire with a locally sourced farmers market. Seasonal fruits and vegetables, baked goods, and all sorts of artisan wares are on wonderful display.
Solana Beach hosts a delightful array of unique restaurants. Claire's on Cedros is a LEED-certified cottage focused on sustainable cuisine. Fresh-baked pastries and bread are complemented by exceptional California-style comfort food. For pizza there is Pizza Port, a long-time favorite offering wholegrain beer crust. Meanwhile, Tony's Jacal has been serving old-school Mexican food since 1946.
Solana Beach is an affluent community with many high-performing private schools and top-ranked public schools. Solana Vista Elementary School enjoys a 10/10 rating on GreatSchools.org. Notable private schools include Fusion Academy Solana Beach, Santa Fe Montessori School, and Keystone Academy. Click here for a full list of Solana Beach schools.
Solana Beach has a good mix of condos and single-family homes with prices ranging from below $1M to over $8M for the most exclusive properties. More upscale homes boast impressive features including panoramic ocean views, award-winning architecture, direct beach access, beautiful landscaping, and all types of luxurious upgrades.
Solana Beach real estate has appreciated considerably over the years. Most listings sell quickly and attract multiple offers. Inventory remains perpetually low. If you want to buy a Solana Beach home, it's important to act quickly and be ready for competing offers. In the end, the effort is well worth it. Solana Beach is undoubtedly one of the best places to live in San Diego.
Connected to Downtown via the iconic Coronado Bridge, Coronado is consistently voted one of the best places to live in San Diego. Even more impressive, Dr. Beach places Coronado among the top ten beaches in the country. Its majestic coastline that attracts visitors from far and wide throughout the year.
Sunny weather, wide sandy beaches, gentle surf, an enchanting main street, historic mansions, eloquent gardens, and the infamous Hotel Del Coronado add up to a perfect island paradise. It is little wonder this charmed San Diego neighborhood has been dubbed 'The Crown City'.
There are so many wonderful ways to spend your time in Coronado. Take a day to relax at the beach—or for something more active—tour the island via bike along the boardwalk. For shopping and dining a stroll down Orange Avenue brings delightful discoveries. Coronado's main artery is lined with independent shops, fine dining restaurants, art galleries, and the one of a kind Coronado Museum of History & Art.
On the opposite side of the island, Coronado's Ferry Landing features an eclectic collection of shops, restaurants with breathtaking waterfront views, and art galleries. You can even take a ferry to Seaport Village across the bay, courtesy of Flagship Cruises.
For those who wish to venture beyond the beach there is sailing, surfing, kayaking, stand-up paddling, and even Venetian gondola cruises.
Enjoy top-tier golf on Coronado's Public Golf Course, lauded as 'the best value in the United States' by Golf Digest. The Coronado Flower Show, held every spring since 1922, attracts locals and tourists alike.
No Coronado experience is complete without a visit to the iconic Hotel del Coronado. Built in 1888, this National Historical Landmark has a rich and storied past that includes presidents and royalty, celebrities and socialites, and even legends of ghosts! Its classic Victorian architecture makes its one of the most distinct hotels in the United States.
With its high performing schools from preschool through high school, Coronado is a great place to live and learn. The Montessori preschool experience is available five days a week at Sandpiper Montessori School. Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church offers a highly regarded weekday preschool at its historic location.
The City of Coronado is served by exceptional public schools including two elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. Silver Strand Elementary, Village Elementary, Coronado Middle School, and Coronado High School all enjoy very high ratings on GreatSchools.org.
There are also great options for specialized education. CoSA School of the Arts—an arts conservatory at Coronado High School—offers instruction for grades 9-12 in dance, film, theater, music, graphic arts, and much more. It is the ideal place for those creative types. Meanwhile, Palm Academy—also an adjunct of Coronado High School—offers an alternative educational approach.
Coronado schools are consistently recognized for their academic excellence. Not only in San Diego County but throughout the state of California.
Coronado boasts a large collection of exquisite homes and luxury condos. Enjoy the beach and everything Coronado has to offer, but be ready to pay a premium. Coronado home prices are among the highest in San Diego County. The lowest priced properties, just under a million $1,000,000, are mostly condos. On the opposite end of the price spectrum, the most exclusive estates list for $10,000,000 and above. With everything Coronado has to offer, the high price of real estate comes as no surprise.
From bayfront architectural masterpieces, to historic gems on spectacular lots, to modern condos with sweeping oceanic views, there is no shortage of highly desirable properties in Coronado. Most homes are custom built and in great condition. Though land is extremely limited, there are usually a handful of new construction projects.
When it comes to the best neighborhoods in San Diego, there are few that compare to Coronado. This centrally located San Diego treasure is an enchanted place, and living there a unique pleasure.