where to live near the beach in san diego

Where to live near the beach in San Diego area

We are here to help you find the Best Places to Retire in San Diego beach cities.  

Below you will find a brief overview of some of San Diego’s attractive beach communities from currently affordable beach towns like Imperial Beach and Oceanside, mid-range affordable beach cities like Carlsbad and Encinitas to high-end San Diego beach communities like Del Mar, La Jolla, and Coronado.

All the San Diego beach communities below have an ideal weather, lots of things to do (swim, golf, play tennis, or just enjoy the outdoors), with great access to many public and private amenities, entertainment, and a major international airport.

Proximity to healthcare services is important when choosing where to retire in San Diego, and you will find that many of these San Diego beach cities are close to major hospitals.

Senior centers are also present in many of the San Diego coastal communities which help you keep an active lifestyle and stay connected. As you learn more about San Diego, you will find that San Diego is the ultimate happy location to spend your active and/or retirement years.

Carlsbad California

Nicknamed “the village by the sea,” Carlsbad is a popular seaside tourist city in North County San Diego. With an estimated population of 112,299 people in the city is 87 miles south of Los Angeles and 35 miles north of downtown San Diego.

Carlsbad’s Mediterranean climate averages 263 sunny days per year with mild winters and sees only occasional rain. Just over 39 square miles (101 km2) and located “west of the 5,” (Interstate 5) it’s right on the coast.

A Great Place for Families

According to 2011 census data, 67.5% of the population consists of families of which 30% have children under the age of 18 living with them. There’s a very low incidence of crime here also.

It’s a great place to live for many reasons. You can see evidence of this just from the population growth. As of the 2000 census there were 78,247 people living in Carlsbad. And since then, the population has grown by over 40% to an estimated 112,299 people as of 2014. The median age was 40.4 years and the population breakdown is as follows: 24.1% under the age of 18, 6.4% aged 18 to 24, 26.7% aged 25 to 44, people 28.8% aged 45 to 64, and 14.0% who were 65 years of age or older (source: trulia.com).

There’s a Lot Happening Here

The largest employers in Carlsbad include ViaSat Inc. (tele-communications company), Life Technologies Corporation, LEGOLAND California, Omni La Costa Resort and Spa and Taylor Made-Adidas Golf Company. Many major corporations are headquartered in Carlsbad as well, including Cobra Golf, Callaway Golf, No Fear apparel and Jenny Craig just to name a few.

Carlsbad still maintains quiet small town atmosphere. It’s charming downtown is filled with sidewalk cafés, boutique shops, and antique stores. Carlsbad Village is a great place to take an evening stroll, hit a few coffee shops, stop for dinner or catch some live music or other regular events.

This is a really relaxed place to live, ideal for experiencing the outdoors with great beaches, plenty of casual and active things to do (including LEGOLAND California resort and the Sea Life Aquarium as well as modern shopping centers).

Golf is another big attraction in Carlsbad with courses like Aviara at Park Hyatt Resort, the Crossings Golf Course, Omni La Costa Golf Course and Rancho Carlsbad Golf Club. In total there are over 20 courses within 10 miles of the center of Carlsbad.

With plenty of parks and public recreational activities along with active libraries and cultural arts programs you won’t have a hard time filling your schedule. Marathons, festivals, street fairs also enhance the attraction of Carlsbad. You’ll also find senior centers with fitness, dance and numerous other active programs for the young at heart.

And with 3 lagoons, a lake, and 7 miles of beaches, you have every chance to swim, surf, fish, dive or picnic, in a truly picturesque setting.

There are four different school districts in Carlsbad that also intertwine with neighboring cities. There are three public high schools, three public schools with independent study programs, 15 public elementary schools, and 7 private schools.

The Scripps Coastal Medical Center is located in Carlsbad and the Tri-city Medical Center in neighboring Oceanside is only 4.8 miles and the Scripps Memorial Hospital in Encinitas is only 5.5 miles from the center. There are 18 total hospitals within 30 miles of Carlsbad.

Coronado CA

Nicked named the “Crowned City” you can see right away that Coronado is an affluent and desirable place to live. Roughly 24,000 people live here and it is the home of the US Navy Air Station, the Hotel Del Coronado, Coronado Island Marriott, Loews Coronado Bay Resort, and the one of the best white-sand beaches in the world.

The average temperatures range from a high of 72F to a low of 58F in January, and there is roughly 10 inches of rain all year.

Tourism is a huge part of Coronado’s lifeblood. Just an ideal place for outdoor activities, including, swimming, sailing, running, biking, tennis and golf – the scenery can’t be beat.

The Coronado Municipal Golf Course is here and there are a total of 18 public and private courses within 10 miles of Coronado.

The Sharp Coronado Hospital is located here and there are 20 other hospitals within 12 miles of Coronado (Naval Medical Center – 3 miles and USCD Medical Center – 5 miles).

Del Mar, CA

A very small but affluent beachside just north of La Jolla, affordability is not really a strong point of Del Mar. The population is roughly 4,311 as of 2014, and the median family income of $92,270 is much higher than the CA average of $53,025.

Del Mar’s climate is typical of the San Diego area beach cities – Mediterranean with warm, dry summers and mild winters. Temperatures rarely rise over 85°F or fall below 62°F. The average daily temperature in Del Mar is approximately 71°F.

There are 20 total hospitals within 17 miles of Del Mar. The VA San Diego Hospital and the Scripps Memorial Hospital in Encinitas are only 6 miles away, and the Scripps La Jolla Hospital and Scripps Green Hospital are both 8 miles in distance.

The Del Mar Fairgrounds is home to many events and exhibitions. The Del Mar Racetrack is here too, and hosts live horse racing during the summer and fall. The Fairgrounds also have satellite wagering at the Surfside Race Place throughout the year. The Del Mar Antique Show runs three times a year at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, and this is also the home of the San Diego County Fair.

There 26 golf courses within 10 miles of Del Mar. Torrey Pines State Beach is located in Del Mar and the city is well known for its numerous beautiful beaches and great surfing.

Encinitas, California

Just south of Carlsbad, Encinitas is another beautiful seaside city located along the historic Pacific Coast Highway 101 (the “PCH”). With an amazing Mediterranean climate, it’s very mild here. The average daily temperature is 72°F, while temperatures below 40°F or over 85°F are very rare.

Encinitas is much smaller than Carlsbad, only about half the size – about 20 sq. miles. As of 2014 the estimated population was 62,254 people. According to 2010 Census data the median age was 41.5 years. The breakdown is as follows: 20.6% under the age of 18, 6.3% aged 18 to 24, 27.9% aged 25 to 44, 32.3% aged 45 to 64, and 12.8% who were 65 years of age or older. Population growth has been very minimal in Encinitas going back to the time of the 1990s… when there was a big expansion up to then.

Encinitas is a very safe place to live and the median family income of $78,104 is much higher than the CA average of $53,025 (source: trulia.com).

A Relaxed Vibe

With over 6 miles of coastline there is a very beachy feel here. The beach lifestyle heavily contributes to the local culture and is a major source of enjoyment and recreation.

Surfing is one of the most popular activities and is part of the city’s heritage. Encinitas is considered to have world-class surfing conditions so you’ll find many local surfers and year-round surf contests.

The diverse landscape ranges from beaches and cliffs, to flat coastline areas to rolling hills and steep bluffs. Several lagoons and coastal wetlands are home to a wide variety of wild life (including over 300 species of birds). The San Diego Botanical Gardens is another beautiful attraction, famous for it’s Amazon Rainforest and bamboo displays. The Self Realization Center’s beautiful gardens and viewpoint over looking the Pacific Ocean, typify the peaceful feel of Encinitas.

The flower growing industry is quite significant in Encinitas and has gained a reputation as a flower growing capital, in particular for poinsettias.

The beautiful downtown area is right on the coast and features shops, cafes and restaurants – all in a very historical setting. The city also hosts many year-round events like barbeques, street fairs, seasonal festivals.

Public Services and Amenities

Encinitas Ranch Golf Course is a very popular municipal course open to all ages and levels, with great practice facilities and panoramic ocean views. And there are over 25 courses within just 10 miles of Encinitas center.

Seniors will find a very lively senior’s program filled with various services and activities. The 39,000 sq. foot Encinitas Senior Center is a hub for all kinds of social and recreational events, like arts and crafts, computer instruction, dance, fitness classes, games, music appreciation, outreach services, special interest programs, transportation, and special events.

Encinitas is part of four different school districts across the local region, with 4 high schools, 5 middle Schools (including three private) and 15 elementary schools five of which are private. Also the Watts Atelier of the Arts School is located here.

There are three colleges located in Encinitas as well:

  •   California Institute for Human Science
  •   Mira Costa College (San Elijo Campus)
  •   St. Katherine College


The Scripps Memorial Hospital is a general medical and surgical center located in Encinitas. The Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside, CA is only 10.6 miles away and the Palomar Medical Center in Escondido is only 10.7 miles away. In total there are 25 hospitals within 25 miles of the center of Encinitas.

Imperial Beach, CA

Imperial Beach hails itself as “Classic Southern California”; a beach-oriented community with a safe, small town, family atmosphere, rich in natural and cultural resources” (Source: www.imperialbeachca.gov).

This is the southernmost beach city in Southern California. It’s in the South Bay area of San Diego County, 14 miles south of Downtown San Diego and 5 miles to the northwest of Tijuana, Mexico. The San Diego Bay and City of Coronado are to the north of Imperial Beach.

It has a total area of 4.5 square miles with an estimated population of 27,149 as of 2014.

Again, we have another community with nearly perfect weather. Because of the Mediterranean climate with summer temperatures in the upper 70s and winter temperatures in the 60s, many homes here are built without air conditioning. Imperial Beach is usually 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) cooler than inland areas in the summer, and 10 degrees warmer in the winter.

The city has undergone a huge renewal and redevelopment program over the past 10 years. It remains a mostly residential city, with a high military population and is home to US Navy facilities.

Beach volleyball, surfing and body boarding are popular and especially concentrated around the famous Imperial Beach Pier (a local landmark). The surfing is highly rated as well. Fishing, hiking and biking, walking tours of public art and nature walks are popular. Bird watching at the world-renowned Tijuana Estuary and simply relaxing and enjoying beautiful sunsets all are also attractions to Imperial Beach.

Also, 6 golf courses (public and private) are within 10 miles of Imperial Beach.

The Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center is general medical and surgical center only 4 miles away. Paradise Valley Hospital and Sharp Coronado Hospital are less than 8 miles away. Imperial Beach has 21 hospitals within 25 miles.

La Jolla, CA

One of the crown jewels of San Diego, La Jolla is a first class city with amazing seaside beauty. Along with its Downtown Village and its picturesque cove… gorgeous houses, luxurious hotels, amazing restaurants, high fashion and exotic cars fill the area. Certainly this is one of the prime locations of Southern California, just a short drive from downtown San Diego.

La Jolla’s Mediterranean climate is sunny and mild all year. The average high temperature ranges between the mid-60s and mid-70s. August and September are the warmest months while December is the coldest, where the lows range from the mid-60s down to the 50s.

La Jolla has almost no humidity and rain is also rare, averaging less than 10 inches of rainfall per year. The morning fog can be thick at times, but that’s about the worst part of the weather you’ll have to deal with!

Another active community, there are plenty of watersports and beaches. There are 18 golf courses within 10 miles and La Jolla is home to the famous Torrey Pines public golf course.

The city is surrounded on three sides by ocean bluffs and beaches. The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) is here, along with the Salk Institute, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Scripps Research Institute and many bio-engineering, medical practice and scientific research companies.

The Scripps La Jolla Hospital and Scripps Green Hospital are both here and there are 20 total hospitals within 14 miles of La Jolla.

Mission Beach

A fun and free-spirited, beach community, Mission Beach spans nearly 2 miles of ocean front. As part of the city of San Diego, Mission Beach is built on a sandbar between the Pacific Ocean and Mission Bay. It borders part of Pacific Beach and shares the same zip code (92109).

Of course the near-perfect Mediterranean climate is in full force here too – warm, dry summers with highs in mid 70’s and lows in mid 60’s, with little rain or humidity all year round.

Mission Beach is the most densely developed residential community in San Diego with a city-mandated, land-use designation limiting the number of homes to only 36 dwelling units per acre. It also has the smallest lots in the city, ranging from 1,250 square feet (116 sq. meters) to 2,400 square feet (220 sq. meters).

It is bordered by the San Diego River estuary on the south, Mission Bay Park on the east, and the community of Pacific Beach on the north. A boardwalk runs along the beaches on both the ocean and bay sides of the community.

Popular attractions include Belmont Park – with a roller coaster, bumper cars and arcades. Surfing, boogie boarding, kite boarding, swimming, and fishing off of the Mission Bay jetty are big draws as well. And it’s a great place for walking, jogging, bicycling and just people-watching on the boardwalk.

Golfers will enjoy the Mission Bay Golf Course and Practice Center, a nearby municipal course with a par of 58. In addition, there are 20 public and private courses all within 10 miles of Mission Beach.

There are 20 nearby hospitals within 12 miles. Both the Scripps La Jolla Hospital and the Scripps Green Hospital are 3 miles away, while VA San Diego Hospital is only 5 miles away. The San Diego County Psychiatric Hospital is very close as well.

Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach (also known as O.B.) is an eccentric and funky beachfront neighborhood of San Diego. About 7 miles northwest of Downtown, it’s just south of Mission Bay and Mission Beach, and directly north of Point Loma.

The area features sunset cliffs offering incredible views of the Pacific Ocean. And there’s also a peculiar mix of antique and vintage stores, bars, restaurants and artist studios. The economy largely consists of small, independent retail businesses. Newport Avenue, the main business street, features many family- owned businesses… and the community is actively opposed to chain businesses, and very few exist here.

And according to www.finethehome.com, property in Ocean Beach is much more likely to be rented (83.5%), than it is to be owned (16.6%). Ocean Beach’s proportion of rented units is high for San Diego, which reports 52.5% of its properties to be rented.

Ocean Beach contains the Ocean Beach Cottage Emerging Historic District consisting of various Craftsman Bungalows, cottages built from 1887–1931. The Ocean Beach Library and Strand Theater (a historic single-screen movie house opened in 1925) are designated historic city landmark buildings.

The massive, 1,971-foot-long Ocean Beach Municipal Pier, is the longest concrete pier on the West Coast. There is 1 mile of beachfront area in Ocean Beach with a walkway that runs along part of it.

Local events include the Ocean Beach Street Fair and Chili Cook-off in June, a jazz festival in September, the Ocean Beach Christmas Parade in December, the Ocean Beach Kite Festival in May, the Ocean Beach Canine Carnival near Halloween and weekly Farmers Markets on Newport Avenue.

In addition, 17 public and private golf courses can be found within 10 miles of Ocean Beach.

0 hospitals are within 12 miles of Ocean Beach. Both the UCSD Medical Center and Scripps Medical Center are less than 5 miles away and the San Diego County Psychiatric is right nearby as well.

Oceanside, CA

Just north of Carlsbad is the city of Oceanside, a slice of pure classic California beach culture. With the same beautiful weather of the other North Coastal cities, average high temperatures range from from 64 °F to 77 °F, while the average low temperatures can swing from 45 °F to 64 °F.

Oceanside has a larger population of roughly 174,558 people as of 2013, making it the 3rd largest city in San Diego County. It is a fairly diverse and younger population, spread out with 23.8% of the people under the age of 18, 11.4% aged 18 to 24, 27.4% aged 25 to 44, 24.5% aged 45 to 64, and 12.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35.2 years (according to 2010 US census data).

Like most places in North County, Oceanside has a very relaxed vibe to it. Flip-flops and shorts are far more common than professional attire, and there is more of a working class feel here. You’ll also see the presence of the Camp Pendleton Marine base, with many young military families and retired military living here.

The median family income is $52,232 in Oceanside, vs. the CA average of $53,025, much lower than that of Carlsbad and Encinitas (Source: Trulia.com). However, it is much more affordable overall and has plenty of outdoor activities and things to do.

Very much a surfing town, Oceanside is also home to the California Surf Museum. It’s the host of the Supergirl Pro Jam, the largest women’s surf competition in the world. Oceanside is also home to the Beach Soccer USA Cup and Festival every May.

Biking is a favorite pastime in Oceanside. Endurance events like the Ironman Triathlon and Bike the Coast –Taste the Coast are held here. Oceanside is also the official host for the start of the Race Across America, 3,000-mile bicycle race – one of the world’s toughest sporting events.

Many local training events are open to all ages and experience levels. Two major cycling trails run through the city, providing opportunities for great sightseeing along the way.

There are over 3.5 miles of wide, sandy beaches with excellent surfing conditions. Having one of the most beautiful harbors in the U.S., Oceanside is a very busy boating and fishing spot and has plenty of coastal cruises and whale watching excursions too.

Every Thursday evening you’ll find live entertainment, food stands and local vendors at the Sunset Market in Downtown Oceanside.

The 3 cities of Oceanside, Carlsbad and Vista form what is known as the “tri-city” area of North County San Diego. The Tri-City Medical Center is located in Oceanside and 9 other hospitals are within 26 miles of the center of town.

There are 4 various school districts serving Oceanside and the surrounding areas. 25 public schools in Oceanside alone (including 2 high schools), and another 18 private and catholic schools as well.

Pacific Beach

Pacific Beach is a San Diego neighborhood, bordered by La Jolla to the north, Mission Beach and Mission Bay to the south. While formerly known for young people, surfers, and college students, the population is gradually becoming older, more professional, and more affluent (thanks to rising property and rental costs).

Pacific Beach has 20 nearby hospitals within 12 miles. The Scripps La Jolla Hospital and the Scripps Green Hospital are only 3 miles away, and the VA San Diego Hospital is 5 miles away. The San Diego County Psychiatric Hospital is very close as well.

Known as “P.B.” by local residents, beaches stretch from the Mission Bay jetty to the cliffs of La Jolla. The ocean front boardwalk is a pedestrian walkway that runs approximately 3 miles along. There are numerous local shops, bars, and restaurants along the boardwalk, usually crowded with pedestrians, cyclists, rollerbladers, and shoppers. Also adjacent to the boardwalk is the Crystal Pier, a public pier and hotel at the west end of Garnet Avenue.

In addition to the beaches and nearby Mission Bay Park, Pacific Beach includes Kate Sessions Park and the Pacific Beach Recreation Center. There are also 20 public and private courses within10 miles of PB.

Solana Beach, CA

Solana Beach is a small seaside community of only 3.6 sq. miles and only 13,337 residents (est. as of 2014). Located just above Del Mar and south of Encinitas, it’s only a 30-minute drive from Downtown San Diego, easily accessible by I-5 and the Pacific Coast Highway 101.

Temperatures are nearly perfect, in-line with the rest of the area, averaging 62F in the winter and 77F in the summer.

The train station serves both the Amtrak and the Coaster rail lines, making Solana Beach and easy connecting point for the rest of Southern California.

12 hospitals are within 15 miles of Solana Beach, including Scripps Memorial Hospital in Encinitas only 4 miles away and the VA San Diego Hospital only 8 miles in distance.

An artsy town with many walkable streets, there are beautiful parks and plenty of stylish public works of art. Beach lovers and shopping enthusiasts alike will appreciate the eclectic shops, restaurants, scenery and 1.7 miles of coastline. Cedros Avenue “design district” includes 2 and half blocks of over 85 boutiques. The area is famous for its creative clothing, home and garden, antiques and jewelry and more.

Solana Beach has a private and public (executive) golf course at Lomas Santa Fe and there are 25 total courses within 10 miles.

Vista, CA

Vista is a hillside city in the northwest part of San Diego County, located just 7 miles from the coast and only 18.7 square miles in size.

With ideal weather, even a little warmer than the coastal locations, the lovely Mediterranean climate is in full effect in Vista. Average high temperatures range from 65 F in December to 81 F in August, while the average lows range from 44 F in December to 62 F in August. Vista, like most of the cities of San Diego County receives minimal rainfall, only 13.24 inches which mostly falls between November and April.

The population was reported at 93,834 as of the 2010 US Census and is estimated at 98,079 as of 2014. The population breakdown was 26.7% under the age of 18, 12.5% aged 18 to 24, 29.5% aged 25 to 44, 22.0% aged 45 to 64, and 9.2% of the population who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31.1 years.

Median family income for Vista is $45,649, a good deal lower than the CA state average of $53,025 and surrounding communities (according to Trulia.com).

Vista is served by 2 public school districts with over 50 schools. However, the number of private and catholic schools in the area is many times the number of public schools.

The Tri-City Medical Center in nearby Oceanside is only 3 miles away, while the Palomar Medical Center in Escondido is 10 miles in distance. Overall, there are 10 regional hospitals within 24 miles of the center of Vista.

There are over 800 businesses in the Vista Business Park, making their headquarters, manufacturing, distribution and marketing homes here.

Recreation and Public Amenities

The Vista Village area is the main entertainment district where the biggest festivals and events take place. A lively and creative area filled with restaurants, pubs, live music, it’s also home to the Winterfest & Bazaar and Alley Art Festival. The AVO Playhouse is here too, which hosts various theatre and musical performances and events.

The renowned Moonlight Amphitheater offers high quality theater productions, rivaling many larger theater productions. Located in Vista’s Brengle Terrace Park, it’s great place to see an outdoor performance and you can bring a picnic dinner to enjoy on the lawn seating. Stage productions are normally scheduled from April through October.

Other big attractions include the Krikorian Theaters, Wave Water Park, and Alta Vista Gardens (a serene botanical park). Also, museum lovers will enjoy the Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum and the annual Fall Antique Engine and Tractor Show.

Numerous restaurants and nightlife venues are scattered throughout the city. The city hosts a summer Movies in the Park series of free outdoor movies. Also, the Vista City Library has a large and lively calendar of diverse events for all ages. The city also runs a variety of creative art programs and exhibitions in its Public Art Program, with numerous public art programs of murals and sculptures in the Vista Village area.

There are 13 public parks in the city including a dog park, several sports parks and the Wave Waterpark.

There are 2 private golf courses in Vista – Shadowridge
Golf Course and Vista Valley Country Club. However, there 27 public and private courses within 10 miles of Vista, many just next door in the neighboring cities of Carlsbad, Oceanside, San Marcos and Encinitas.

The Gloria McClellan Adult Activity & Resource Center

This senior center offers many activities, programs and classes. Located in the Brengle Terrace Park area, the center focuses on promoting the physical, emotional and social well-being of seniors and helping to get them involved in different aspects of community life.

With opportunities for entertainment or socializing, taking exercise classes or a day trips, the center’s goal is to make retirement fun. Seniors here take advantage opportunities to travel, learn new skills, or even new careers and giving back to the community. The center also provides door-to-door transportation for senior and disabled Vista residents.

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