What Are the Best Neighborhoods in San Diego, CA?

As the second most populated city in California, San Diego is now home to over 1.4 million residents. With popular attractions ranging from Sea World and the San Diego Zoo to Balboa Park and its amazing beaches, you’ll always have something to do in this west coast city. Even with the high number of tourists visiting throughout the year, locals still consider San Diego neighborhoods to be some of the best in the state.

Whether you want to live right next to the beach or further inland, there are plenty of great options for anyone interested in moving to San Diego. Known for having some of the most comfortable weather in the world, you’ll never need an excuse to go outside and enjoy this beautiful town. To help you find the perfect area suited to your needs, we’ve put together this comprehensive list of the best neighborhoods in San Diego.

1. Carmel Valley

Located just off the coast, in the center of San Diego county, is the neighborhood of Carmel Valley. A beautiful urban area with just over 50,000 residents, the valley is home to strong school districts, office parks, and great shopping.

Carmel Valley

As one of the most sought after areas in the California real estate market, moving to this San Diego neighborhood gives residents a range of housing options including townhomes, condos, and homes for growing families. If you get hungry and you’re looking for a break from the standard fast food options, be sure to check out some of the top local restaurants like Breakfast Republic, Royal India, or Addison.

2. Del Mar

Although it landed within the top 100 on Forbes’ list of America’s Most Expensive ZIP Codes last year, you get what you pay for in this Pacific paradise. Spanish for “by the sea”, Del Mar is a beach town with all the restaurants, ocean views, and activities you will ever need. Stop by either Zel’s Del Mar or Kitchen 1540 for a bite to eat, then head over to Powerhouse Park & Beach so you can enjoy the soft sand, children’s playground, and open picnic areas.

If you’re in a gambling mood, or simply want to experience something new, spend a day at the Del Mar Horseracing Track for exciting events and trackside dining. In an area of around 4,300 people, consisting mostly of married couples, Del Mar is a great place to either raise your children or retire.

3. Rancho Santa Fe

Thanks to its elaborately designed, custom-built homes, Rancho Santa Fe is one of the most affluent San Diego neighborhoods you’ll find. With beautiful golf courses like the one at Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club and its other amenities, this is a popular community for business executives and even celebrities.

Take a day out on one of the 50-miles worth of horse trails or stop by the Rancho Santa Fe Art Guild to see the work of both renowned and local artists. If you are looking for a high-end home in a luxury neighborhood, then Rancho Santa Fe may be the place for you.

4. La Jolla

A truly unique and luxurious area is the small village of La Jolla. It is well known as one of the best neighborhoods in San Diego for families. With numerous local parks, swimming pools, and date night adventures for couples, there are enjoyable experiences for all ages. It is also home to UC San Diego, one of the most renowned universities in the country.

La Jolla

Finding a home near La Jolla Cove or Windansea Beach will offer you beautiful ocean views right outside your door. It is one of the most eye-catching coastlines you will find anywhere in California. Similar to Carmel Valley, La Jolla has access to great school districts and delicious places to eat.

5. Black Mountain Ranch

This upscale San Diego neighborhood joins Pacific Highlands in North County and features some beautiful and sustainable homes. The two main suburban communities in the area, Santaluz and Del Sur, offer 24-hour security and great views of golf courses, mountains, or valleys, depending on which way you’re facing.

Just down the street from Carmel Mountain Plaza, there are plenty of options for shopping, food, and entertainment. If you like to mountain bike or hike, be sure to take a trip over to Black Mountain Open Space Park and check out the view from the top.

6. Poway

Known as “the city in the country”, Poway is one of the more rural neighborhoods in San Diego. The country atmosphere provides a haven for people who enjoy the outdoors. Go on a hike down Mount Woodson Trail to see the popular Potato Chip Rock. Or go animal watching at Blue Sky Ecological Reserve to catch a glimpse of bobcats, coyotes, deer, rabbits, and more.

Covering a larger area, Poway has a population around 50,000 and a median age around 40 years old. With a very low crime rate compared to both California and the nation as a whole, it is also one of the safest neighborhoods in San Diego.

7. Little Italy

Little Italy is a small community with a big personality. With weekly events like the Little Italy Mercato Farmers Market and others at Waterfront Park, you’ll never be bored in this small San Diego neighborhood. Millennials and other young professionals will love the nightlife with a great selection of local bars like False Idol and Italian restaurants like Filippi’s Pizza Grotto.

little italy sign

In a short walk around the neighborhood you will find water fountains, local art and sculptures, and more experiences within the Italian American culture. Just to the south of Little Italy is Seaport Village which offers additionals shops, restaurants, and live shows.

8. Pacific Highlands Ranch

Even though residents in this neighborhood have a San Diego mailing address, Pacific Highlands Ranch gives its residents the luxurious feel of a North County lifestyle. Still in development, most of the homes in this area have been built after the year 2000.

The final phases of construction work are being completed on the community’s new shopping center known as The Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch. It rests in the center of the neighborhood and will feature locations like Trader Joe’s, a fitness gym, Rite Aid, and a slew of new restaurants.

9. Rancho Bernardo

As the only neighborhood on this list with a lake within its limits (Lake Hodges), Rancho Bernardo takes us further inland than most of the other San Diego regions mentioned so far. Though people often think this area caters to the 55+ community, the large acre lots in this market leave plenty of room for growing families.

Rancho Bernardo

There are few options for those looking for bars and nightlife amenities, so it is a quiet and safe place to live. The Poway Unified School District has some of the top public schools in San Diego, with great athletics programs. Because it is further from the beach and ocean, you’ll find the homes are much more affordable than the neighbors to the west.

10. Carmel Mountain

Yes, another one of the best neighborhoods in San Diego is an area called Carmel Mountain. Not to be confused with its coastal cousin of Carmel Valley, this region has a much smaller population and covers less ground.

The Carmel Mountain neighborhood favors a tight-knit community with a nice town shopping center. You can easily enjoy a suburban lifestyle, but take a quick 20-minute drive if you’re ready for a day at the beach.

Planning a Move to a San Diego Neighborhood?

If you found your future home on this list and need help moving to a neighborhood in San Diego, please feel free to contact us. Our professional San Diego movers can assist with local or long-distance moves, as well as provide temporary storage until you are ready to move in.