You're trying to figure out where to live — let's help you figure out the best neighborhoods in San Diego for you.
San Diego Neighborhood Guide: Breakdown of the Most Popular Areas for Renters
If you're looking for a weird (mostly useless) "Where should you live in San Diego?" quiz that asks you what your favorite movie is and then gives you a neighborhood recommendation, then you're in the wrong place!
This article is designed to give you the information and resources you need to determine which neighborhoods might be a good fit for your move to San Diego.
What are the best neighborhoods in San Diego, CA, and which community would be nicest to move to and live in? That’s a complicated question with a complicated answer, since every one of the area’s many different communities has something distinct to offer.
It’s all about what you’re looking for: Do you want the area that’s safest for your family, or would the trendy part of the city be best? San Diego neighborhoods range in culture, feel, and style. Here’s a simple breakdown of some of the top attributes of the best neighborhoods to live in.
Image source: alphacoders.com
There are distinct communities packed into this tiny area of “Centre City”: the Gaslamp Quarter, Columbia, Marina, Little Italy, Core, Cortez, and the East Village. This is the part of the city visited most by tourists, since it borders the famous museums and hosts some of the most beautiful restaurants. Each one of these communities within this community boast their own charm, with Little Italy becoming a favorite “cool” neighborhood for young families.
- Urban feel and touristy area, with world-famous dining
- Readily available public transportation (but notorious parking)
- Near the water
- Not the safest section of the city
Here's the Downtown San Diego neighborhood on the map.
And here's a street-level view of the Downtown San Diego neighborhood. Feel free to "walk" around!
On the other side of the San Diego Zoo is land-bound Hillcrest, which is among the best neighborhoods in San Diego to live in in general, but it’s particularly the best if you’re gay. With a high population density and putting you close to Balboa Park, this is a favorite for young families.
- Post-gentrification, with many locally owned businesses
- High population density (9,591 per square mile)
- More reasonable rents
Here's the Hillcrest neighborhood on the map.
And here's a street-level view of the Hillcrest neighborhood.
This neighborhood is possibly the most metropolitan, with mansions on the coastline and luxury boutiques dotting the landscape. It’s ideal for celebrities and the wealthy; there’s a reason why it’s referred to as “the jewel” of the West Coast. The University of California, San Diego (USCD) is located there as well. Within La Jolla is Torrey Pines, which is one of the safest neighborhoods in the city with some of the best schools and possibly the most exclusive area.
- Urban feel and ideal for good shopping
- Some of the best schools in the city
- Very exclusive, with high rents (average of $2,998 per month)
Here's the La Jolla neighborhood on the map.
And here's a street-level view of the La Jolla neighborhood.
Mission Hills and Mission Valley
Some believe that these two areas are simply the best San Diego neighborhoods to rent in, and while we may argue, we do agree that this area has a beautiful mix of grandness and humility wrapped up in a lovely charm. This is the historic neighborhood, one that seems to hold the city’s identity. Don’t forget classy Old Town, which borders Mission Valley and is considered to be the birthplace of the city.
- Some of the best schools
- Historic feel and one of the oldest neighborhoods
- Ideal for young professionals
- Near many sporting venues (the stadium of the Chargers borders Mission Valley)
Here's the Mission Hills neighborhood on the map.
And here's a street-level view of the Mission Hills neighborhood.
One of the best “hipster neighborhoods” in the country, this is considered to be the place for cool kids and their craft breweries (there are quite a few) and coffee shops. This area also has a more reasonable average rent, at about $1,910 per month.
- Culturally diverse
- Post-gentrification with many locally owned businesses
- Still relatively affordable rents
- Very trendy and hip
Here's the North Park neighborhood on the map.
And here's a street-level view of the North Park neighborhood.
There are quite a few areas of San Diego that are right on the water: Ocean Beach, the Marina, Mission Bay, Point Loma, Harbor Island, and Shelter Island, just to name a few. All of these areas have a lot to offer, their own cultures, and pretty high rents. You may find a gem, though. Coronado is definitely a favorite out of these neighborhoods. Point Loma is very posh and idyllic, but Coronado has wide bike paths and an active beach culture that gives it a more laid-back attitude.
- Touristy area with beautiful beaches
- Coastal community on the water
- Less diversity
Here's the Coronado neighborhood on the map.
And here's a street-level view of the Coronado neighborhood.
Popular Suburbs Near San Diego, California
It’s important to note that that some of the best neighborhoods in San Diego, CA, actually lie outside of the city itself. When you look at a map, you’ll find numerous cheaper places that have a relatively easy commute. Some of the most loved suburbs are Carlsbad and Oceanside, which have fair rents with the perks of being very close to the beach culture and water. That comes with a longer commute, though, about an hour each way.
Other suburbs, though, are much, much closer and sometimes feel as though you’re still in the city, with Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, and La Mesa being the favorites and only about half an hour away. The area with the lowest cost of living near San Diego may be El Cajon.