I’ve had a handful of friends reach out and mention they’re considering moving to San Diego and ask what life in San Diego is really like.
The question is hard to answer because there’s a handful of pros and cons of living in San Diego.
San Diego is one of the most beautiful and cleanest cities in America, making it hard to imagine that living in San Diego would have too many downsides.
But I’ll be the first to admit that there’s a handful of downsides that sometimes make me question my decision to move to San Diego from time to time.
To that end, I can confirm that life in San Diego is peachy most of the time for plenty of folks, but is moving to San Diego right specifically for you?
Today, I’d like to cover the honest pros and cons of living in San Diego for anyone considering living in or moving to San Diego.
The list below is based on my personal experience, so keep in mind that not everyone will feel the same way about these pros and cons.
Drop a line in the comments below if you have any questions, I’m always happy to help!
Table of Contents
Living in San Diego
- Pros of Living in San Diego
- #1. The weather is pure bliss
- #2. There’s a plethora of outdoor activities
- #3. Access to the beach
- #4. Great food options
- #5. San Diego’s craft brew scene
- #6. San Diego is a diverse city
- #8. Living in San Diego has a laid-back vibe
- #9. It’s a great city for millennials
- #10. San Diego has good public schools
- Cons of Moving to San Diego
- #11. Housing is too expensive
- #12. Homelessness
- #13. California has the highest state income taxes in the country
- #14. You’ll need a car to get around (general lack of public transportation)
- #15. The traffic is a nightmare
- Pros and cons of living in San Diego (Post Summary)
- Pros of Living in San Diego
Note: This post is part of the Local Living Series, wherein locals share honest insights of living in a specific city through comprehensive pros and cons lists. If you’d like to reach out to the author directly with questions, please do so in the comments below and our team will ensure it gets to the right person.
Pros of Living in San Diego
#1. The weather is pure bliss
With average temperatures hovering around 70° year-round, it’s not hard to see why San Diego is considered “America’s Finest City.”
One of my favorite things about living in San Diego is that planning around the weather is seldom a consideration because 95% of the time, it’s going to be great outside.
I can’t stress enough how big of a perk it is to live in a sunny city. I lived in Portland, Oregon where most of my plans revolved around rain and the forever looming gray clouds (which I grew to love, but still — constant rainfall is hard to manage).
So if you’re craving a move to San Diego to escape dreary winters and single-digit temperatures, the city will not disappoint.
Just note that constant sunshine practically guarantees you won’t be experiencing all four seasons while living in San Diego. But hey, who can complain about spending Christmas under a palm tree?
#2. There’s a plethora of outdoor activities
The outdoor recreation was a big draw for me and a huge factor in my decision to move to San Diego.
After two years of living San Diego I still find myself amazed at the plethora of outdoor activities. There’s never a shortage of recreational opportunities to choose from.
You’ll never have a reason to be bored while living in San Diego because it’s an outdoor enthusiast’s dream! For starters, you’re a mere stone’s throw from the beach and have access to world-class surfing.
Full disclosure, I’m a terrible surfer! But that doesn’t stop me from getting into the ocean on a board, it’s a great way to spend the day with friends.
In fact, I was surprised to learn that a ton of my coworkers start the day by surfing before starting the work day. I mean, how many other cities give you the opportunity to surf before starting the workday?
If you’re not into surfing, no worries, there’s plenty of other activities to choose from, like biking, hiking, fishing, snorkeling and much more.
Also, yoga culture is huge in San Diego. Sign up for a yoga class on the beach and see what all the hype is about.
#3. Access to the beach
I just touched on this lightly but it warrants mentions, a huge advantage of living in San Diego is that you’re always within a reasonable drive of the beach.
What you’ll learn quickly after moving to San Diego is that life revolves around the beach in one way or another because it’s home to some of the best beaches for surfing in the country.
Most of my new friends start the weekend at the beach either sunbathing or surfing. Plus, more often than not, an evening meal is walked off along the sandy shoreline.
With 70+ miles of coastline and an average of 266 sunny days per year, San Diego’s beaches are prime for exploration and play a big role in daily life in San Diego!
Like most people, I’m all for sunshine and Vitamin D. If you’re looking for great beaches in San Diego, my favorite are La Jolla, Coronado Beach and Pacific Beach.
P.S. Living in San Diego means that quality sunscreen is non-negotiable. Here’s the ONLY sunscreen brand I use, (I discovered it in France and now buy it in bulk, you’ll never catch me without it!).
#4. Great food options
With more than 7,000 restaurants within city limits, San Diego is guaranteed to please foodies looking to call this city home.
San Diego’s food scene is more diverse than most people realize and I’ve actually been able to find great ramen, sushi and pho. But make no mistake, Mexican food takes the cake.
Mere miles from the Mexico border, it’s hardly a surprise that San Diego has some of the BEST Mexican food outside of Mexico.
Tacos are a way of life and completely acceptable for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the fish tacos! Some of the best I’ve had in my life.
I consider myself a serious foodie (my lifestyle and travel revolve around meals – ha!), and thankfully living in San Diego has proven quite easy because there’s so much great food to choose from.
#5. San Diego’s craft brew scene
San Diego is home to more than 150 local breweries, suffice it to say that beer culture is a huge perk of living in San Diego.
San Diego’s brewery scene is so good, in fact, that a handful of the San Diego’s breweries rank as the best in the world. Ale Smith Brewing Company was ranked the 6th best brewery in the world in 2019.
You’ll never go thirsty and there’s no shortage of awesome breweries to spend an evening catching up with friends. I highly recommend trying Modern Times, their sours are out of this world.
Fun Fact: San Diego is often credited as having one of the strongest craft brew scenes in the country, earning the moniker of America’s Craft Beer Capital.
#6. San Diego is a diverse city
With an impressive population of 1.4 million, San Diego is the 8th largest city in the country. What’s more, due to its close proximity to Mexico, it has a fairly diverse population — 28% of San Diego’s population is of Hispanic origin and 59% is white.
A lot of my coworkers make an effort to teach their kids Spanish and say it’s easy for the kids to learn the language because they’re exposed to it daily.
You’ll notice that many signs are written in both Spanish and English, especially outside the downtown core, so teaching kids Spanish makes a lot of sense for daily life in San Diego.
#7. The arts & culture scene
San Diego knows how to impress many different interests and palates. Take, for instance, Balboa Park — the largest cultural urban park in the country.
Boasting 15 museums, beautiful art galleries, botanical gardens and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. It’s easy to spend lazy weekend mornings exploring this local gem.
After moving to San Diego, you’ll quickly learn that there’s always something going on during the weekends — whether it’s catching the numerous live bands peppered throughout the city, gathering at sporting events, joining beach parties or impromptu visits to a beer garden with friends.
There’s always something to do and great weather is practically guaranteed to boot!
#8. Living in San Diego has a laid-back vibe
One of my favorite things about living in San Diego is the easy-going and laid-back culture of the locals. I guess living near a beach does that to you.
Miles of stunning shorelines, great breweries, constant sunshine, what’s not to like?
The relaxed vibes inherent to beach towns imbues the entire city with a slower pace, which varies drastically from our larger northern sister, Los Angeles.
So if you’re looking to slow down, relax and enjoy life without constant chaos and quick pace, moving to San Diego might be just what the doctor ordered.
#9. It’s a great city for millennials
The median age in San Diego is 34.9 so you can bet there’s plenty of millennials that call the city home. Thanks to great outdoor recreation, ample sunshine and beach access it’s no surprise that so many millennials have decided to move to San Diego.
Small businesses cater to a plethora of millennial hobbies and interests, it’s not hard to find quaint cafes, great breweries, charming restaurants and dreamy plant shops throughout the city.
#10. San Diego has good public schools
San Diego is a great place to raise a family because the public schools are some of the best in the country. My husband and I don’t have kids but if we chose to in the future, we would consider living in San Diego while raising them because of the great school system.
Cons of Moving to San Diego
#11. Housing is too expensive
San Diego consistently ranks as one of the top 10 most expensive cities in the country so you can bet that living in San Diego won’t come cheap.
The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment clocks in at a steep $2,400 and the median home price is currently $765,000 (rising annually).
As two well-employed 30-year olds, we can’t even afford to entertain the idea of buying a starter home in San Diego (or most cities in America for that matter).
But it doesn’t change the fact that living in San Diego isn’t even in the same timezone as affordable and the high cost of housing/rent is a huge part of that.
Time and time again, San Diego makes the list as having one of the highest homeless populations in the country.
And it’s true, you can’t walk the city streets without seeing the detrimental effects of homelessness around you.
I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know what the right solution for homelessness is, but I want to be transparent about it for anyone considering moving to San Diego.
The discrepancy between the haves and the have-nots is painstakingly clear on the streets and practically impossible to avoid.
#13. California has the highest state income taxes in the country
Clocking in at an arresting state income tax up to 13.3%, it’s no secret that California taxes are the among the highest in the nation.
The high tax rate should be taken into strong consideration while considering if moving to San Diego is right for you because it will greatly reduce your take-home pay.
If helpful, below is a chart that show the state income tax depending on your income bracket.
#14. You’ll need a car to get around (general lack of public transportation)
Unlike other large cities, the public transportation infrastructure in San Diego is not effective, in my opinion.
Relying on public transportation while living in San Diego means you’ll be adding up to 1+ hour to your daily commute. Based on my personal experience and that of my coworkers, most locals have come to the conclusion that you can’t live in San Diego without a car.
The fact of the matter is that San Diego is a car-centric city and parking is an absolute bear as a result.
Due to the severe parking problems, some of my coworkers have started trading in their cars for scooters and motorcycles to avoid the hassle of finding parking and paying heavily for it.
Oh, and lest I forget, California has some of the highest gas prices in the country to boot. Lack of transportation is a huge con of living in San Diego.
#15. The traffic is a nightmare
This goes hand-in-hand with San Diego being a car-centric city, but the constant traffic is such a hassle. Thankfully the downtown area is walk-able, but getting there is another story.
Considering the population of San Diego is 1.4M and since most households have at least one car, traffic is all but guaranteed while living in San Diego — seriously, it will become a part of your daily life.
Fact: On average, vehicle trips take 60% longer during rush hour in San Diego.
Pros and cons of living in San Diego (Post Summary)
In sum, these are the honest pros and cons of living in San Diego, based on firsthand experience.
- The weather
- The beaches
- Plethora of outdoor activities
- Arts and cultural scene
- Food scene
- San Diego is a millennial city
- Beer scene
- San Diego is diverse
- Laid back vibe
- Great school system
- High cost of living
- California taxes
- You’ll need a car
- Traffic is a nightmare
And there you have it! I hope you found this list of the pros and cons of living in San Diego helpful. Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions you may have, always happy to help!
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Until next time!
What are the negatives of living in San Diego? ›
Con: There's a lot of traffic
With that said, the city is spread out over more than 4,000 square miles. With so much space to traverse, most people living in San Diego are car owners. That's what makes traffic one of the biggest cons of living in San Diego.
With some of the best weather, food, schools, and beaches in the world, San Diego is one of the best places to live in the entire country. Known for its high quality of life and relaxed atmosphere, living in San Diego is often considered better than living in Los Angeles.Why do people choose to live in San Diego? ›
Not only is America's Finest City one of the best places to live on the West Coast and one of the best places for veterans to retire, but it also has great employment opportunities, a plethora of beautiful beaches, top-notch cuisine, affordable neighborhoods, and much more!Is Los Angeles or San Diego better to live? ›
Quality of Life Stands Out in San Diego
This measure shows there is really no competition: San Diego is better than Los Angeles regarding the Quality of Life. Indeed, the Numbeo.com Quality of Life Index gives Los Angeles a 130.45 score. The same Index awards a 183.43 score to San Diego.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said Thursday the city's three biggest challenges are homelessness, housing and sustaining the overall quality of life, and promised a new approach to each in 2018.What do I need to know before moving to San Diego? ›
- Industry hotspot. ...
- Cost of living. ...
- Weather. ...
- Be water wise. ...
- Hop on public transport. ...
- Easy to navigate. ...
- Big city, chilled vibe. ...
- Feel the Earth shake.
San Diego is one of the "happiest" cities in the country, according to a new report. The study conducted by WalletHub ranked cities based on things like job security, depression rates, and the frequency of divorce to determine the happiest cities in America. "Location plays a hand in how bright or gloomy our days are.What is a comfortable income to live in San Diego? ›
To put things in perspective, the median salary in San Diego is $63,739. This is a good salary to aim for if you're thinking of moving to San Diego.Are people in San Diego attractive? ›
Number 2: San Diego
This SoCal city has consistently ranked as the first runner-up for good looks in T+L's survey, even if readers tend not to be so impressed with the locals' conversational skills. San Diegans do, however, score well for being tech-savvy.
The best places to live in San Diego include Encinitas for being a classic, well-rounded beach town with top-notch schools, East Village for excellent nightlife and walkability, and La Jolla for sheer luxury and sophistication.
What are social problems in San Diego? ›
SAN DIEGO (CNS) – San Diego's key issues in the coming year will be chronic homelessness, housing shortages, rising crime and increasing infrastructure needs, Mayor Todd Gloria said Wednesday in his second annual State of the City address.Is San Diego friendlier than LA? ›
While many can be exhausted by the frenzy of LA life, San Diego is a low-key alternative that feels considerably more suburban. The people are generally considered to be much friendlier as well, with some surveys ranking San Diego as the friendliest city in America.Why is San Diego so popular? ›
San Diego is renowned for its idyllic climate, 70 miles of pristine beaches and a dazzling array of world-class family attractions. Popular attractions include the world-famous San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park, SeaWorld San Diego and LEGOLAND California.Where is the safest place to live in San Diego? ›
Safe Neighborhoods and Areas in San Diego
Del Mar – suburban neighborhood on the coast with a quaint downtown area. Encinitas – trendy neighborhood with both substantial downtown and residential areas. Carlsbad – north county town with a family-oriented, suburban feel.
In the latest count from the Downtown San Diego Partnership, the largest population of homeless people was in East Village, which had 760 people. The southwest area of East Village had the most homeless people, with 437 individuals.Is there a big homeless problem in San Diego? ›
San Diego's homelessness crisis deepened in 2022 – and it appears likely to worsen in the new year. Rent hikes and eviction filings are surging.Is San Diego in decline? ›
San Diego is seeing a significant decline in population.Where do millionaires live in San Diego? ›
Here's a quick rundown of our list: Carmel Valley. Del Mar Heights. La Jolla.What is the best walkable San Diego? ›
With a Walk Score of 98, the Little Italy section of San Diego is the most walkable area of the city. You can run most errands on foot, and there are quite a few restaurants within walking distance from most places in the community.Where should I move to in San Diego? ›
Carmel Valley. Carmel Valley is one of the best places to raise a family in San Diego County. It rates highly for the public schools serving the community, and most homeowners have a college degree or at least some college education. It gets higher marks from the residents for being safe, family-friendly, and clean.
What is the most affordable part of San Diego to live? ›
National City is the cheapest San Diego neighborhood to live in – the average rent for an apartment is $1,335. Renters living in this affordable community have easy access to a plethora of conveniences and two major roadways: Interstate 5 and Interstate 805.How much money do I need to make to buy a house in San Diego? ›
San Diego homebuyers need $212,577 annually to afford a home, study says. SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Homebuyers across the country need to earn substantially more money than they did a year ago to buy a home. The increases are especially big in California, which includes America's Finest City.What month is best to move to San Diego? ›
The peak moving season is in the summer months between May and early September, which means you'll have more flexibility in the fall. Many movers will have relatively free schedules, giving you the freedom to choose when you move into your new San Diego home.Is San Diego Liberal or Republican? ›
The city of San Diego itself is more Democratic than the county's average and has voted for Democrats Clinton, Gore, Kerry, Obama twice, Clinton, and Biden respectively, in the last eight presidential elections.What is the happiest place in California? ›
Overall, Sunnyvale was found to be the happiest city in the U.S. Located just north of Cupertino outside San Jose, Sunnyvale had the highest quality of life score of any city analyzed.What is the happiest place on earth in California? ›
Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California is where the Disney dream began in 1955 and it's still the 'Happiest Place on Earth', never failing to impress with fun attractions for every member of the family.Is $25 dollars an hour good in San Diego? ›
A good hourly wage in San Diego is $25.0 per hour. That works out to a good weekly wage of $1,000 per week and a good monthly wage of $4,333 per month.What is middle class salary in San Diego? ›
Paul-Bloomington, Minnesota-Wisconsin region, families making between $58,000 to $175,000 are middle income. The range in San Diego, Chula Vista and Carlsbad, California, is $61,000 to $182,000.How much rent should I pay in San Diego? ›
The average rent for an apartment in San Diego is $2,989. The cost of rent varies depending on several factors, including location, size, and quality.What is the best suburb in San Diego? ›
- Solana Beach.
What are the main causes of homelessness in San Diego? ›
- Costly housing.
- Low wages.
- Mental illness.
- Substance abuse.
- Domestic abuse.
Homicides increased 4 percent — from 49 to 51 — and robberies were up by 15 percent. The top motives for homicides were arguments, at 62 percent of the total cases; gang involvement, at 13 percent; and domestic violence at 9 percent, according to the report.What is the hippest neighborhood in San Diego? ›
Two miles east of Hillcrest is North Park, San Diego's hippest neighborhood, with trendy thrift shops and retro bars – Coin-Op has dozens of vintage arcade games, and Polite Provisions is a smart apothecary and old soda shop-style bar.Why is San Diego so amazing? ›
Besides being an ideal vacation spot, San Diego is also one of the best places to live in the Golden State and maybe even the country. With gorgeous weather, great job opportunities, and plenty of fun things to do on the weekends, San Diego has a lot to offer anyone who's looking for a new city to call home.Is San Diego walkable? ›
According to WalkScore, San Diego is the 18th most walkable large city in the United States and is considered “somewhat walkable.” If you're on the hunt for the most walkable city, that might not sound like much.What is the life expectancy in San Diego? ›
The life expectancy has since risen to 80.6 years in 2021 in San Diego County. While life expectancy is increasing across the board, there is variation in estimates by communities within the San Diego County region.What do locals call San Diego? ›
Some may scoff at San Diego's nickname- “America's Finest City”- but this SoCal metropolis offers more than just temperature year-round weather.Why is San Diego so healthy? ›
Cities like San Diego that have idyllic weather, lots of green space, and access to fresh foods are commonly ranked high on city wellness scales. So it's no strange fact that cities with fewer issues with social determinants of health are less prone to disease and mental illness.Where not to stay in San Diego? ›
Unsafe Areas of San Diego
But, as with any city, there are a few areas that you may want to avoid. University Heights, City Heights, National City, as well as parts of downtown, can be a bit seedy, especially at night. Imperial Beach, which is the town in San Diego next to the Mexican border, can also be sketchy.
- Use Public Transportation. ...
- Find an Apartment in a Less Expensive Neighborhood. ...
- Consider Co-living. ...
- Use Craigslist. ...
- Eat Out at Local & Authentic Restaurants. ...
- ITH will waive the $25.
- CoLive application fee.
- when you mention this article!
What is the safest beach in San Diego? ›
Hands-down, Mission Beach is the go-to San Diego beach for families. You've got it all here, including a 2-mile long boardwalk for walking or biking, an amusement park and plenty of sand and water!What salary do you need to live in San Diego? ›
To put things in perspective, the median salary in San Diego is $63,739. This is a good salary to aim for if you're thinking of moving to San Diego.Is San Diego prone to earthquakes? ›
Every year approximately 500 earthquakes occur in the state of California that are large enough to be felt. San Diego County, in comparison to other southern California areas, has sparse seismicity. However, since 1984, earthquake activity in San Diego County has doubled over that of the preceding 50 years.What is the best paying job in San Diego? ›
|Rank||Job Title||Average Salary|
|2||Obstetricians and Gynecologists||$322,640|
|4||Physicians, All Other||$272,610|
- Development Project Manager. ...
- Leasing Consultant. ...
- Business Intelligence Analyst, Petco Park. ...
- Crew Member Entry level. ...
- Lab Specimen Processor. ...
- Pharmaceutical Sales Rep – Diabetes (Entry Level) ...
- Document Administrator (Insurance) ...
- Owner-Operator/Carrier Partner with own MC/DOT.
Due to unforeseen circumstances related to our ongoing legal battle to emancipate ourselves from the production company we signed with when we started our Why Don't We journey, we regretfully have to cancel our 2022 Good Times Only Tour. Refunds will be automatically processed at the point of purchase.What percent of San Diego is white? ›
The largest San Diego racial/ethnic groups are White (42.0%) followed by Hispanic (30.1%) and Asian (16.9%).Where are people moving to from San Diego? ›
The top places San Diegans move to are Riverside County, Los Angeles County, Orange County, Phoenix and Las Vegas, said Internal Revenue Service data from 2016. In an area as big as San Diego County, people are bound to leave for a number of reasons.What is the most common natural disaster in San Diego? ›
When people think about natural disasters in the San Diego County area most thoughts are likely put towards wildfires and landslides, but residents of the San Diego Area are far more susceptible to earthquake damage than most think.Do tsunamis happen in San Diego? ›
More than two dozen tsunamis have been recorded in San Diego since 1806, seven of which have caused damage, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tsunami research (see list).
What is the safest place in California from earthquakes? ›
The state capital of California is an overall safe choice as it falls outside the major fault lines that follow the western coast.