What’s Living in San Diego REALLY Like?

We created this article to be the only guide you ever need to discover what it’s really like living in San Diego. Everything gets covered, including pros/cons, lifestyle, local insider tips, activities, schools, beaches, quality of life, safety, family life, and so much more.

The best place to start is this video below, where we consider the Top 5 advantages and disadvantages of San Diego living.

San Diego Pros

1. Weather

Hands down, San Diego has the best weather in the US. Most days, temperatures hover in the low 70s. It’s hard to undersell this San Diego benefit. There are so many advantages to great weather besides being able to wear flip-flops year-round.

Local Insider Tip: “Dress for spring in the morning, summer in the afternoon, and autumn at night.”

  • Al fresco dining and picnicking
  • Lush beer gardens and breezy rooftop bars
  • Easy to connect with nature
  • Baseball games, BBQs, and hiking trips don’t get rained out
  • Exercise is easier and more enjoyable
  • Easy to pick up outdoor hobbies
  • Cloudless skies improve stargazing
  • Pets enjoy a higher quality of life and more outdoor time
  • Many common home maintenance problems become non-issues
  • Plenty of locally-sourced food options
  • Kids and adults can play all sports year-round
  • Amazing outdoor movie venues on the beach, roofs, and parks
  • Vitamin D is well-documented within scientific studies for its positive impact on cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and even type-2 diabetes.
  • Sunny weather can play a direct role in the treatment of mood and sleep disorders such as depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
  • Being outdoors more often significantly reduces your chance of catching the flu or a cold.
  • Warm air is good for our heart and our lungs, and it lowers our blood pressure.
  • Research shows that your overall alertness & mental performance is at its best when your body temperature is high.
  • Elements in the seawater activate the body’s healing mechanisms and support healing for diseases, asthma, bronchitis, arthritis, and localized aches and pains.
  • Seawater and negatively-ionized ocean air helps release stress, relax your muscles, and promote deep sleep.

Because it’s located along the same latitude as Greece and Italy, San Diego is classified as a Mediterranean climate. Another way to think of it is as a coastal desert.

That means about 265 sunny days, 90 cloudy or partly cloudy days, and only 10 rainy days per year. In other words, it’s basically eternal Summer.

July can get a little muggy with humidity around 66%, and winter nights can get chilly into the 40s. But for the most part, the climate doesn’t get much better or healthier.

Local Insider Tip: If you want to invite family for a visit, avoid the months of May and June. While the temperature is great, these months have the most cloud cover and fog. It can put a damper on your beach day if your family was hoping for perfect weather.

2. School Systems

  1. Many schools are outdoor campuses.
    That means hallways and even lunch rooms are typically outdoors. It’s also common to see outdoor amphitheaters and large open-air quads. We love this pro about San Diego schools.
  2. Some schools do not provide free transportation.
    Most neighborhood schools are within walking distance for many students. It’s not that schools are being skimpy with their budgets. Instead, there just isn’t much demand for bus transportation.
  3. There are great before and after-school programs.
    ESS (Extended School Services) also include summer camps beyond the extra-curricular programs during the school year. At $250-$300/month, we find them quite affordable. It solves a problem for two-worker households when there’s no free school bus transportation.
  4. Coastal schools offer lots of aquatic sports.
    Another great pro of schools in San Diego is the availability of really cool sport programs. Think surfing, beach volleyball, diving, and water polo. On the flip side, be aware that some schools opt out of traditional sports like football or volleyball.

Excellent schools are one of the biggest draws for living in San Diego. Watch the video for the full rundown of this huge benefit. Or check out the highlights in the text below.

Public Schools

All five school districts in San Diego are in the Top 30 of California.

One little con about this San Diego pro is the Mello-Roos tax, which contributes to maintaining our excellent school systems. We think it’s more than worth it, since it helps our children succeed.

Best Public School Districts 

  1. San Dieguito

San Dieguito is the number one school district in San Diego. There are two high schools, Torrey Pines and Canyon Crest Academy. Torrey Pines is a more typical high-school experience, while CCA is highly academically-focused.

  1. Poway Unified

Not only the largest school district, Poway Unified is also where our kids attend. I’d say that basically all of the schools are excellent quality. It’s a big reason why families move to this area.

  1. Coronado Unified

Coronado is a little island (well, technically a peninsula) very close to the coast. That fact alone makes for an interesting school experience for your children.

All of these school districts and others are rated A+ by authoritative websites. If you want to learn about more school districts, I encourage you to check out the video above. It’s exactly the video I wish I could have seen before moving here.

Insider Local Tip: Different schools, even in the same district, have varying start times. So as you choose a school, be aware that you have different options to fit your work schedule.

Private Schools

The main private schools to consider are the following.

As you can tell from the names, these schools have quite different vibes. What they all share is highly-acclaimed academics.


You don’t need us to tell you that California has many excellent universities, no matter what major your children want to pursue.

In case you’re considering a move to San Diego from out of state, we’ll leave this little reminder that there are plenty of great options for in-state tuition. Obviously university debt is a huge issue. California provides colleges that soften that blow while remaining prestigious.

3. Beaches

We go to the beach a lot, and we feel spoiled for choice. San Diego’s beaches are one of the biggest advantages of living here.

Personally, one of the biggest factors I think about is parking, which varies a lot. Watch the video above to find the best spots to get in and out without paying an arm and a leg just to rent a tiny slab of asphalt.

Local Insider Tip: The Pacific Ocean is pretty cold. People often wear wetsuits year-round. Don’t be surprised by this, and consider choosing an extra warm day to enjoy the beach. August and September are the best months for a refreshing dip.

Best Beaches By Category

  1. Moonlight Beach has some of the best features, like beach volleyball.
  2. Beacon’s Beach is the most hidden with lots of locals.
  3. Seaside has some of the best surfing.
  4. Black’s Beach is the only nude beach in San Diego
  5. Del Mar Beach is touristy and energetic, but also allows dogs.
  6. Pacific Beach is best for the young crowd in their 20s.
  7. Mission Beach is great because it has an amusement park.
  8. Coronado is the best local beach town with great vibes.
  9. Torrey Pines is wonderful because it’s also a state park with hiking.

Local Insider Tip: Try the California Burrito Roberto’s Taco Shop near Torrey Pines.

4. Great Outdoors

Killer beaches are just the beginning. Another one of the greatest pros about San Diego living is the wide range of outdoor activities and nature. You can literally ski and surf on the same day.

From adventure sports to relaxing getaways, there are enough options to keep locals occupied with new experiences for years.

Adventure Sports

Excellent skiing is one of the great perks of living in San Diego. If you’re on a budget, it’s possible to find solid deals.

  1. Big Bear Mountain is the largest and most popular ski resort for San Diego. It’s only 3 hours away. Plus, it features 59 runs, a halfpipe, and a mini pipe. It’s also the best resort for beginners with plenty of easy runs and the best ski school.
    Day Lift Tickets cost between $75-$150.
  2. Snow Valley Mountain Resort is great for experienced skiers and snowboarders. It has half as many runs as Big Bear, but they are 86% for intermediate and above.
    Day Lift Tickets cost between $65 and $140
  3. Mammoth Mountain could be the best ski resort in the West. However, it’s 7 hours away from San Diego. Elevation peaks at over 11,000 feet. The 3500-acre resort features a wide variety of terrain with 151 runs and 13 terrain parks accessed by 28 lifts.
    Day Lift Tickets cost between $100 and $230.

Floating through the marine world can be a magical experience. One moment you’re noticing the pregnant belly of a male seahorse, then you turn your head and Bam, there’s a huge wall of glimmering fish swirling before your eyes.

The best dive sites near San Diego include these four:

  1. La Jolla Cove is the world famous kelp forest just 165 meters off the shore.
  2. La Jolla Shores features kelp, coral, angel sharks, leopard sharks, rays, and the giant California Sheephead.
  3. Point Loma is best for advanced divers as it starts at 45 feet (14 meters) and bottoms at 120 feet (36 meters).
  4. Wreck Alley features a Canadian destroyer at 100 feet and a 165-foot Coast Guard Cutter at 75 feet. It’s a rewarding dive for advanced divers, but you’ll have to watch your deco time.

The Kaweah River near Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park is about a six-hour drive from San Diego. One day trips cost between $150 and $200.

Here are the 5 best mountain biking trail centers within an hour or so from downtown.

Further away, ski resorts like Mammoth Mountain and Squaw Valley become mountain bike havens during the summer.

Other great adrenaline-fueled activities include skydiving and paragliding over the ocean, wind and kite surfing in the Bay Area, and ATV riding at Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area.

Active Recreation

Try your luck with pier fishing, local trout streams, and chartered deep sea fishing.

Though widely available, Lake Tahoe to Monterey Bay, and Balboa Island offer especially great SUP sites.

Try a moonlit paddle on Tomales Bay along the Point Reyes National Seashore

There are way more ways to get active outdoors in and near San Diego, including:

  • Golfing
  • Horseback Riding
  • Beach Volleyball
  • Snorkeling
  • Waterskiing
  • Hiking/Trekking
  • Canyoning
  • Snorkeling

Relaxed Activities

Some of the greatest locations include Lassen Volcanic National Park, La Jolla Cove Beach, and even the San Diego Safari Park.

Picnic Voyage offers pricey but elegant trips aboard tiny, beautiful boats. They’re perfect for an extra special romantic outing or wedding photos.

Outdoor movies in San Diego are amazing. There are so many different options, from Drive-Ins to Movies in the Park, Rooftop Cinemas, and Movies on the Beach.

More great relaxed outdoor activities include:

  • Whale Watching
  • Hot-Air Ballooning in Napa and Temecula wine country
  • Houseboating on Lake Shasta
  • Spring Wildflower Season in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
  • Tide Pool Exploration
  • Sailing
  1. Family Friendliness

Of course, there are big activities like LegolandThe Children’s MuseumSeaWorld, and the world famous San Diego Zoo. But there are also beautiful playgrounds and parks everywhere you go.

If you really want the full story about raising a family in San Diego, I encourage you to check out the video above. We do a deep dive to show you exactly what you can expect. Plus, there are the best neighborhoods and activities for children.

In 2017, the FBI ranked us as the safest large city in the US. Since then, our violent crime rates are basically unchanged.

San Diego Cons

1. Cost of Living

San Diego is the 13th most expensive city in the US, and about the 3rd most expensive city to buy a home. A single person needs an estimated salary of at least $$65K-75K to live comfortably without going paycheck to paycheck. For a family of four, the median San Diego living wage is about $107K.

The median house price for a single-family home in San Diego is $645,000. Of course, this depends on what part of San Diego you want to live in.

The closer to the coast, the higher the home prices. That said, you can definitely find a budget-friendly home if you don’t mind living more inland.

For many locals, “America’s Finest City” provides better living than the twelve more expensive cities. In that sense, it provides excellent value for money. Plus, expensive housing becomes a pro once you own a home. Home equity is a very strong long-term investment in SD.

Statistics like median cost of living don’t always give you a boots-on-the-ground perspective. So you can check out these testimonials about the local cost of living and how much salary you should have to live in San Diego.

2. Sporting Events

If live sporting events are a big part of your life, San Diego will disappoint. It’s one of the realities of living in San Diego. We only have one major sports team currently, the San Diego Padres.

The home of the Padres is located in Downtown San Diego at Petco Park. This beautiful stadium is surrounded by great bars and restaurants and the park is used for many different events year-round.

The Padres have never won a World Series, although they had a winning season in 2022. Team star Manny Machado draws a decent crowd as the second best National League player.

Plus, the stadium attracts big-name musicians, monster truck rallies, and other interesting events. So this con also has a pro side.

But who knows? Maybe you’ll develop a fascination with the ponies at The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. Otherwise you’re pretty much out of luck.

3. One-Season City

While it may sound a bit crazy, the best weather in the US isn’t for everyone. But this San Diego con is quite real for some transplants.

People who grew up with four seasons must adjust to the monotony of eternal Summer. No more white Christmases or cruising down gold-leafed Autumn roads or the majestic bursting forth of Spring.

Of course, that also means no snow shoveling or leaf raking. Kiss gray skies goodbye (except for May). Burn your winter parkas.

Local Insider Tip: The Santa Ana winds come mostly during October and November. They create a dry heat, kind of like an air dryer. They also kick up pollen and dust. One benefit, however, is the improved surfing 🤙.

It’s up to you whether earthquakes are a good trade for blizzards, tornadoes, or hurricanes. But we think so.

Don’t forget that California has mountains. Like real mountains. You can still get your snow fix at the San Bernardino Mountains or Mammoth Mountain. Rumor has it that Mammoth Mountains has the best skiing and snowboarding in California.

4. Lack of History and Culture


San Diego is a young city in a young country, and it shows. If you crave exciting new exhibitions every weekend or that cosmopolitan flair, you’ll probably be let down.

It’s one of the cons of living in San Diego that transplants from NYC, Philadelphia, and San Francisco feel after relocating.

The most historical area and museums are located in Balboa Park. Downtown San Diego also has some beautiful historic buildings. But compared to cities on the East Coast, San Diego leaves something to be desired.

Things to do at Balboa Park


Here’s a list of the classic kinds of museums you expect to find in a major city. It includes art of all eras, natural history, a science center, and an aquarium. Note the general lack of history museums.

Then there are more specialty museums. Here’s a list of some of the more interesting options for things to do in San Diego.

Finally, there’s the quirky but interesting Museum of Us. It covers wild and random subjects like monsters, beer history, the power of secrets, our relationships with animals, and the truth about cannibalism.


As for nightlife, there are different options. But this isn’t LA, so nightlight is more chill here.

Downtown and the Gaslamp Quarter has what’s been described as “a more collared-shirt vibe”. Then there’s Pacific Beach, which has a laid back and beachy vibe, plus a more collegiate and dive bar scene.

Hillcrest is San Diego’s gay district and features nightclubs and hipster venues. Finally, North Park/Adams Ave/Corridor provides many of the gastropubs, microbreweries, and beer gardens.

5. Traffic and Walkability

If you’ve wondered if San Diego is walkable, the simple answer is no. You definitely need a car to live in San Diego. However, individual neighborhoods provide exceptions. If you’d like to find a walkable community, we can certainly help you out.

Southern California is known for its sprawl, which means more cars and less pedestrian-friendly features. Compared to big metropolitan areas, the traffic isn’t horrible. Anyone moving from LA, NYC, Philly, or similar cities will feel relieved.

San Diego ranks #40 for traffic in the country, so it is quite tolerable, especially outside of rush hour. Still, it’s something to note if you live in a small city now.

It is also worth mentioning that our public transportation system is not as built up as other major metropolitan cities. We have a bus system and the Coaster Commuter Rail that goes up and down the coast from Downtown to Oceanside.

San Diego Lifestyle

For this section, let’s talk more about the people, community life, and local culture. I’m going to give the most transparent and multi-perspective opinion I can about San Diego lifestyle.


With a population of just over 1 million and lots of neighborhoods, San Diego does have that big small town feel, especially outside of downtown. That said, you do hear complaints that there isn’t a strong sense of community, or at least tight community.

That’s probably due to the large number of transients here, which comes from the Navy bases and tourism industry. Lots of residents are from somewhere else.

What does bring people together is valuing positivity, nature, and enjoying the good life. Many San Diegans feel like we’re really doing something right by choosing to live here.


Locals tend to be laid-back, which stems from the beach and weather. Business attire is casual. People don’t usually get dressed to the nines for clubbing.

Along with that, many people find us to be a friendly town. However, transplants from New England sometimes complain about the lack of directness. Similarly, some complain that our friendliness is a kind of “hospitality” or “superficial” friendliness that you might also find in the South.

In my opinion, San Diegians are quite open-minded and accepting, which is partly due to the influx of Mexican and Pacific Rim communities. These influences also contribute to a more international feel, although it’s certainly not the same as larger cities.

Military and Politics

There’s also a huge community of Navy personnel here, which contributes to a culture of military pride and tradition.

Outside of these communities, San Diegans tend to be politically liberal. But overall, we’re somewhere in the middle of the road. If you’re politically conscious, you’ll sometimes feel a divide.

San Diego Living FAQs

What’s the quality of life in San Diego?

San Diego has a Quality of Life score of 170+, which is very high. The main contributors are local purchasing power, climate, healthcare, and safety.

The moderate traffic, pollution, and home-price-to-income ratio help as well. Really the only thing holding the score back is the cost of living.

What Is San Diego Known For?

The city is famous for its near perfect climate, our 70 miles of gorgeous beaches, and lots of world-class and family-friendly attractions.

Beyond that, we also have the greatest concentration of military personnel in the country and a subculture to go with it. It’s also worth mentioning the lovely Mexican influence in our cuisine, architecture, and events.

Is San Diego Safe?

Yes and yes. Not long ago, the FBI ranked San Diego as the safest large city in the US. Since then, we’ve maintained about 4 violent crimes per 1000 people per year.

In other words, your biggest enemy will probably be the sun. And your biggest attack will be a sunburn. That said, petty crime like pickpocketing is not unheard of.

Is San Diego a Good Place to Live?

Of course, we believe San Diego is a fantastic place to live, be young, raise a family, and retire. We admit a little bias. But the simple fact is, it’s way easier to create a pros of San Diego list than a cons of San Diego list.

The local lifestyle is deeply satisfying, promotes a great quality of life, and has so few drawbacks.

Come Join Us!

If you want to live in San Diego, I’m just as passionate about helping people find the perfect home for a golden future as I am about San Diego. I’d love to have a conversation about guiding you to a new life in this wonderful city.

Let’s chat with zero strings attached or any expectations of using me as your San Diego realtor. I’d be happy just to talk about whether living in San Diego is right for you.

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