Here is our high-level overview of where to retire in San Diego County. This is where you’ll find some of the best places for retirement and most desirable real estate not to mention the best climate, friendly people, and wonderful lifestyle.
There are four main areas of where to retire in the San Diego region:
- Retire in North County San Diego
- Retire in East County San Diego
- Retire in Metro San Diego
- Retire in South County San Diego
In the first part of this article, we will focus on retiring in North County San Diego.
We will provide you links below on where to retire in North San Diego given various housing budgets and preferences.
For those who think that retirement in San Diego is out of reach, we think that if you adjust your expectations on what you can buy here on a budget, you possibly can retire here.
But first, let us give those of you who are not familiar with North County an overview.
North County San Diego is divided into 1) Coastal North County and 2) Inland North County regions.
1. Retire in North San Diego County
The best places to retire in coastal cities in North County San Diego include:
To generalize the coastal North San Diego housing market, Oceanside is the cheapest place to retire with Del Mar being the most expensive.
Please click here to take a look at this report to research the current housing trends in San Diego County.
The best places to retire in inland cities in North County San Diego include:
- Lake San Marcos
- Pauma Valley
- Rancho Bernardo
- Rancho Penasquitos
- Rancho Santa Fe
- San Marcos
- Valley Center
In our next segments, we will explore the locations of major cities and towns of North County San Diego that many retirees call their home.
Oceanside is one of the most affordable beach towns for retirement in San Diego
With its relaxed vibe, beautiful beaches and weather and large and diverse mix of residents, Oceanside is a classic California beach town. Being the 3rd largest city in San Diego County, there are huge array of activities, events and attractions, along with a lower cost of living vs. other coastal communities in North County. You can also find many wonderful ocean, mountain, canyon and golf course views.
The Scripps Memorial General Hospital is located here and with several other facilities within short distance (and 25 hospitals total within 25 miles).
The Tri-City Medical Center is based here and 9 other hospitals are within 26 miles.
Where to retire or where to live in coastal North County San Diego? Check out Oceanside, California
As for living options, Oceanside has no shortage of affordable retirement and non-age restricted housing.
Search San Diego Retirement Homes For Sale
Oceanside California also has the largest number of age-restricted retirement communities in the entire San Diego County for 55 and older adults. A few examples of these 55+ communities include Ocean Hills Country Club, Oceana, Pilgrim Creek Estates, and much more.
Popular retirement housing options include attached and detached single story homes, manufactured homes with land ownership, and mobile homes and land lease (monthly space rent).
Featured Listings of where to retire in Oceanside California with single story living
Featured Listings of where to retire in Oceanside California Active Adult Communities
A very popular seaside city in North County San Diego, Carlsbad is well known for its beautiful beaches, great climate and as a great place for retirees and families. With many attractions and major employers based here too, there’s lot going in Carlsbad. There are 3 hospitals in the immediate area and 18 hospitals within 30 miles of Carlsbad.
Those who are preparing to retire in San Diego start renovating their homes for safety and convenience. Some prefer to sell their homes and buy a new home (preferably single story houses or low maintenance condos in all ages neighborhoods or age restricted neighborhoods such as 55 plus communities.
With this in mind, we will feature links to best homes for retirement in each North County San Diego area that are single story or with bedroom on the main floor.
Where to live or where to retire in seaside North County San Diego? Check out Carlsbad, California
Check out the latest listings of Carlsbad houses below with single story living or with master bedroom on the main floor below.
Featured Listings of where to retire in Carlsbad California with single story living
Condo living may be an ideal way to live or retire if you are looking for a low maintenance lifestyle. Perfect for retirees in San Diego who love to travel. Just lock and go!
Learn more about featured San Diego ocean view real estate in Carlsbad here.
Featured Listings of where to retire in Carlsbad California Active Adult Communities
A smaller beach community with a very tranquil look and feel, Encinitas residents are easy going people who appreciate the ideal location and high quality of life. A beautiful downtown and surrounding area, great beaches, restaurants, many lively activities and convenient highway access make it a highly desirable place to live.
Where to live or retire in North San Diego Coastal area? Check out Encinitas, California
It really depends on your preferences and what you can afford, but check out some of the latest homes for sale that offer single story living in Encinitas, California here.
Cardiff by the Sea, California
Where to retire in Cardiff by the Sea, San Diego County, California
Solana Beach, California
Where to retire in Solana Beach, San Diego County, California
Del Mar, California
If you are looking to retire and live in luxury coastal San Diego properties, Del Mar, California is just might be what you are looking for.
Where to retire in Del Mar, San Diego County, California
Centrally located, Escondido is about 18 miles to the beaches. The terrain is more mountainous and desert-like compared to the coastal cities, however it is a fertile area where fruits and vegetables thrive.
Temperatures are also warmer and dryer, especially in summer, however the winters are comfortable and pleasant. Located in a valley, the city has a larger population of roughly 150,000, and you’ll find plenty to do and see. The charming downtown has a historic feel and the city’s numerous attractions and entertainment choices make this a very vibrant place to live.
The Palomar Medical Center is located here and an additional 18 hospitals are within 25 miles of Escondido.
Where to live or retire in North County? Check out Escondido, California
Escondido has plenty of affordable houses and condos including detached single family homes and manufactured homes in age-restricted communities, check out some of the latest homes for sale that offer single story living in Escondido, California here.
Please be sure to sign up for property email alerts here customized to your preferences and budget.
Where to retire in Escondido, North County San Diego, California
As an inland-community, Fallbrook lies in an elevated, rural location about 30 minutes from the coast and 45 minutes to downtown San Diego. Unlike the coastal cities, there are plenty of wide-open spaces, lush green hills and valleys, and particularly great conditions for growing fruits and vegetables.
Fallbrook is a pleasant place to live, where you’ll find the tight-knit community of 30,000 residents very friendly and laid back. There is also a very strong focus on outdoor activities and the arts, with many diverse performances and events all year round.
The Fallbrook Hospital is a general surgical and medical center located right in town and 2 other major medical facilities are nearby (and 7 hospitals within 20 miles).
Where to live or retire in North San Diego County? Check out Fallbrook, California
Fallbrook offers many detached single family homes with larger lots on a rural setting including custom homes and manufactured homes in age-restricted communities, check out some of the latest homes for sale that offer single story living in Fallbrook, California here.
Where to retire in Fallbrook, North County San Diego, California
Lake San Marcos
Lake San Marcos is located 7 to 9 miles from the beach in beautiful North County San Diego, California. It is a resort-based community surrounding a lake with wonderful year round temperate climate (see Lake San Marcos average temperature here).
With social activities and tons of amenities and activities (i.e. boating, golf) and a fantastic location, Lake San Marcos is a popular retirement spot among active seniors and a great place to live for families in the San Diego area.
Where to live or retire in North San Diego County? Check out Lake San Marcos, an unincorporated area of San Diego County California
Lake San Marcos real estate options for all ages abound such as detached homes, twin homes that are predominantly single story homes, senior condos (Chateau Lake San Marcos), all-ages condos, and homes in 55 and over communities (Hunter Valley – Lake San Marcos, Sun Park Lake San Marcos).
Find all other San Diego 55+ Communities – click here. If you prefer condos, there are also non-age restricted Lake San Marcos condominiums for sale with panoramic views of the lake at Panorama.
Featured Listings of where to retire in Lake San Marcos California
Another inland community of rolling hills and canyons, the scenic views and rural feel make this a peaceful place to live. Rancho Bernardo is officially part of the city of San Diego and located about 20 miles northeast of downtown and a 30-minute drive to the beaches. Typical of most inland locations, the temperatures here are warmer in both the summer and winter vs. the coastal cities.
Easy freeway access makes it a quick drive to any destination in San Diego county. Pomerado Hospital is less than 3 miles away and every other major medical facility in San Diego is within 22 miles. Many major employers are based here too, and you’ll find many shopping centers, restaurants, local events and outdoor activities.
Rancho Bernardo was designed as a master planned community with 7 distinct communities, parks and private community centers spread across 6,500 acres of land.
Where to live or retire in North County San Diego? Check out Rancho Bernardo
There are a wide range of housing styles in both retirement communities for 55+ adults and non-age restricted communities in Rancho Bernardo (RB).
Please check out some of the latest homes for sale that offer single story living in RB here.
Where to retire in Rancho Bernardo, California
San Marcos, California
San Marcos is a suburban community of roughly 80,000 residents. Located inland but not far from the coast, the weather is a comfortable balance of warm temperatures and nice, cool breezes.
San Marcos is a desirable community, known for its lake resort area, 3 universities, many dining options, wide-open spaces, parks, scenic landscape and nice views. The area is highly active and there are many community events with cultural and outdoor activities. There is quick highway access making any destination in San Diego easily accessible. The Palomar Medical Center in Escondido is 4 miles away and 16 hospitals are within 25 miles.
Where to live or retire in North County San Diego? Check out San Marcos, California
There are a wide range of homes suited for retirement in San Marcos including newer tract homes in master planned communities, homes and condos near the colleges, including homes in age-restricted communites. To give you an overview of the type of housing available, please check out some of the latest homes for sale that offer single story living in San Marcos here.
Where to retire in San Marcos, North San Diego County, California
Vista is a hillside city of roughly 100,000 residents only 7 miles from the coast. Its Mediterranean climate is only slightly warmer than the coastal cities. It’s a very lively community and a very affordable place to live.
The downtown’s entertainment district is home to many festivals, events as well as restaurants, nightlife and music. Many arts and cultural events take place here and there are plenty of museums, parks and recreation activities.
There is a convenient public transit options with bus and light rail lines serving Vista and the surrounding cities. The Tri-City Medical center is 3 miles away and there are 10 hospitals within 24 miles.
Where to retire in North County San Diego? Check out Vista, California
There are a wide range of homes suited for retirement in Vista including large custom homes in beautiful pockets of neighborhoods or in gated communities, plus condos and homes in age-restricted communites. Please check out some of the latest homes for sale that offer single story living in Vista here.
Del Sur in San Diego California
Del Sur is located in the hills overlooking Rancho Santa Fe in North County San Diego with convenient access to I-15, Hwy 56, and I-5. Average high temperatures range from 68 F in December to 89 F in August, while the average lows range from 41 F in December to 63 F in August. On average there are about 263 sunny days per year and only 13 inches of annual rainfall.
This San Diego suburbia community is largely built on environmentally friendly design concepts. Del Sur real estate span over 1,000 acres, including 13 parks and 5 solar-heated pools, and over 18 miles of hiking/biking trails. Del Sur is one the best San Diego suburbs to raise a family or be close to family.
Del Sur also has San Diego’s newest age-restricted community perfect for retirement or active adult living for 55+ adults called Auberge Del Sur where you can buy 2016-2017 built detached homes and condominiums in a gated community recreation club amenities and activities. Avante Del Sur by Lennar is coming soon and currently the newest San Diego retirement community with attached homes/ San Diego condos for seniors in a gated upscale community.
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Retiring in San Diego – Is it cheap or expensive to retire in San Diego?
It depends where you live. Plenty of people retire in San Diego on a fixed income and either rent or own their home.
Since real estate prices change at any given time, we’d like to share a research tool for you to find out market trends in San Diego County real estate.
Click here to find out where are the cheapest places to retire in San Diego including the most expensive zip codes. This research data is provided by the North San Diego County Association of Realtors.
Currently, the least expensive places to retire are located in this order: East County (lowest medial home sales price), South County, Metro area of San Diego, and North County having the highest median sales prices.
As a general rule of thumb, the cheapest places to live or retire to near the beach in San Diego North County are located further north along the coast i.e. closer to Oceanside while the real estate gets more expensive as you get to the south – closer to San Diego City proper, i.e. Cardiff by the Sea and Del Mar.
The inland San Diego areas offer affordable places for retirement while still located within a reasonable distance to the beach. You are likely to enjoy a rural setting for an affordable retirement home in places like Bonsall, Fallbrook, Ramona, San Marcos, and Valley Center.
If you want to live closer to San Diego city proper, check out Poway, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Penasquitos, and Rancho Santa Fe with more expensive real estate.
The North County area of San Diego is the second-largest region of the San Diego metropolitan area and is more wealthy and socially conservative compared with the rest of San Diego. There is an estimated population of 826,985 residing in North County.
We know that safety is an important concern in finding the best places for retirement in San Diego.
Every neighborhood is unique so we encourage you to check out the local crime statistics for the neighborhoods throughout San Diego by following the links below.
The terrain here is incredibly diverse, differing greatly from the coastal to the inland areas. The North County Coastal areas are generally flat with low rolling hills.
There are mostly sandy beaches with a few tide pools and even some rocky reefs.
Some coastlines have steep bluffs, where the terrain drops off sharply into the ocean with little or no beach. Most beaches and lagoons are well protected to help maintain a pristine environment.
Mountains, green valleys and open spaces are abundant as you move inland towards the east.
The rocky peaks are visible from far off, including San Marcos Mountain, Palomar Mountain, Twin Peaks in Poway, Mount Woodson in Ramona, and Iron Mountain.
The Santa Margarita Mountains dominate coastal area to the north and there is more rugged terrain as you head toward Camp Pendleton (the 125,000-acre Marine Corps Base Camp, separating North County from neighboring Orange County).
Several rivers and creeks begin in the inland mountains and flow west towards the coast, draining into four main lagoons.
These also form many lakes and reservoirs which support a diverse range of native wildlife.
Famous landmarks in North County include the Del Mar Racetrack, Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, Lake San Marcos, the Oceanside Pier, Stone Steps, Twin Peaks, and Palomar Mountain (home to great hiking) and the Palomar Observatory.
Another ideal hiking and exploration destination, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Park preserves over 2,000 acres and 3 miles of unspoiled beaches and cliffs overlooking the Pacific.
The historic Pacific Coast Highway, route 101 stretches from Mexico to Canada and passes along the Pacific coastline connecting the beautiful beach communities, from La Jolla to Oceanside. This pristine strip of the “PCH” is largely unaffected by modern construction and development and maintains its picturesque, original character.
Well known for its beaches, the area’s 30 miles of shoreline stretch from Del Mar to the north boundary of San Onofre. The beaches bring a huge flood of tourism typically from June to November. North County’s surf culture is evident and various surfing inspired statues and symbols dot the shorelines of the communities. The ever-present beach scene, is filled with opportunities for ocean excursions, fishing, watersports, and amusements along the piers and boardwalks.
Equestrian culture is also a large influence here. Multiple equestrian centers are spread across the region, including the Del Mar Fairgrounds, Rancho Camino Equestrian Center, and San Diego Country Estates International Equestrian Center.
Forty golf courses are in North County San Diego, including the famous Torrey Pines, host of 2008 U.S. Open.
With a central location and easy highway access, it’s only a 30 to 40-minute drive to downtown and every recreation activity in San Diego is easily accessible. Some include: San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, LEGOLAND in Carlsbad, the Del Mar Racetrack and Fairgrounds, Torrey Pines Golf Course and Birch Aquarium in La Jolla, SeaWorld and Petco Park Downtown.
And who could forget Balboa Park? This cultural park is home to playing fields, gardens and 15 museums, including the San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego Natural History Museum, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, San Diego Air & Space Museum and of course… the San Diego Zoo!
The top twenty-five employers in San Diego County are closer to the North County city of Carlsbad than San Diego proper.
North County is also home to several colleges which makes it ideal as a retirement spot for those who believe in lifelong learning.
The colleges include:
- California State University, San Marcos (CSUSM), four-year university offering undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate programs.
- Palomar College, a community college in San Marcos.
- Mira Costa College, another community college with multiple campuses and off-campus sitesthroughout the region (Carlsbad, Oceanside, Encinitas and Cardiff).
In addition, 15 school districts serve North County and overlap various city boundaries, and depending on the zip codes serve multiple cities.
Moving Eastward… a New Dimension to San Diego.
The town of Ramona is an example. As one of the oldest communities of San Diego County, famous for antique shops and fishing in Lake Sutherland Reservoir, this horse-friendly community is open to riders in the city limits and is known as the “The Valley of the Sun,” considered to be the gateway to the Inland Mountains.
Even further east you find the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (the largest state park in CA with 500 hundred miles of dirt roads and hiking trails, with 12 wildlife areas) and Cleveland National Forest.
There are 18 Casino Resorts in the North County Inland and East San Diego County regions that can be reached quite easily as well.
Also, this is a true wine country. There are dozens of wineries across the North County Inland and Coastal communities as well as in East County San Diego and over in Temecula Valley, too.
Retiring in San Diego on a budget
Misunderstanding San Diego real estate as just plain expensive
“If only I would’ve known that before…” a common phrase you don’t want to repeat.
Don’t be put off by the median home prices in San Diego. Anyone with a budget of $300,000 or less can start getting discouraged by real estate listings… seeing many properties out of their price range. While instead places like Arizona, Nevada and Florida offer newer, more spacious homes for under $300k.
A Practical Fit for Retirement
In San Diego, the majority of homes in the price range of $300,000 are condos and manufactured homes. Some people hesitate if they’re not familiar with these styles. But these communities and homes are the most practical fit for retirement… and not to mention, the perfect way to downsize to a less expensive home. When you do your homework, you’ll understand exactly why the housing market is priced this way… the San Diego lifestyle and climate are simply spectacular! No other location offers such natural beauty and an active, outdoor lifestyle… all year round. Once you understand this, it’s easy to let go of the stigma of living in manufactured homes or condos… which are quite spacious and beautiful.
Watch out for Desert or Tropical Areas for Retirement
A potentially big mistake with settling in areas with bigger, newer homes… don’t ignore the desert heat! Especially in the off-season… this can be a huge mistake. In fact, we hear from retirees who’ve settled in desert areas, and many have expressed a desire to sell and move to San Diego for the mild climate.
How to Survive the Summers?
Desert environments have brutal summers. Except for staying indoors, you’ll find little relief from scorching temperatures. The trend seems to be getting worse every year. Summer temps are often over 100°F, while desert winds blow sand everywhere – into your eyes, car and home, etc. Once the nice winter conditions fade, how do you survive the brutal summers? Florida summers can have over 100% humidity, multiple hurricanes and frequent rain. Allergies and mosquitoes are no fun either.
You’re Getting a Much Better Value in San Diego
Especially in San Diego, with so many things to do… and many year-round outdoor activities to keep you busy, you’ll likely be spending less time inside your home.
Even if you’re settling for a smaller home, with a few years on it, the rewards of living and retiring in San Diego will win out every time over the allure of cheaper priced homes in seasonal locations.
We hear from retirees who own multiple homes in various parts of the country and are re-assessing the overall costs and effort of maintaining a second and/ or third home when all they want to do is to escape the extremely hot and cold weather. Why not simplify and settle in San Diego where the climate is just right?
When getting to know people in San Diego, you will quickly see a trend. Very few are actually from there! Almost everyone you’ll meet is a transplant from somewhere else. And this makes perfect sense.
Living in San Diego simply brings the best options to the table, especially when considering your retirement future.
Depending on your lifestyle and budget, we wrote an article here on the best places to retire in San Diego.
San Diego – The Best of the Best Places to Retire
Thanks to a mediterranean climate with 267 sunny days per year… surrounded by over 70 miles of beaches and mountains to the east… limitless activities and recreations… and diverse neighborhoods… who wouldn’t want to live here?
- Over 90 golf courses
- Hiking, biking and climbing
- Surfing, swimming, kayaking
- Sailing, boating, fishing
- Wine country
- 10 Las Vegas-style casinos
- Diverse arts & cultural offerings
- San Diego Zoo, Seaworld, Legoland and Disneyland
- Padres and Chargers professional sports teams
- A vibrant downtown – Gaslamp District
- 20 major universities and community colleges
- International airport, located in downtown San Diego
California’s 2nd largest city is a “playground” spread out over 4,200 square miles.
A comfortable home in a safe community… a great place to connect with family… staying active… all in a nearly perfect climate… and with a huge selection of affordable homes, retirement in San Diego will lead you to the “best home of your life.”
Rest assured you’re in good hands.
With top ranked healthcare facilities, the San Diego medical community provides the best care available.
Access to Affordable Homes & Affordable Retirement
Demand for retirement housing is definitely on the rise as more baby boomers come into retirement age. According to Forbes.com, baby boomers make up ¼ of the US population, and the number of retirees will jump by 10 million over the next decade.
But what’s even more exciting for retirees is that retirement homes are affordable and available across San Diego county. You’ll find a wide variety of styles, amenities and price ranges to choose from… with options to fit any retirement budget!
Here are some San Diego retirement housing options available:
- Gated retirement communities including custom-built homes
- Gated Communities with Detached Single Story Homes – View homes for sale including those non-age restricted communities
- Duplex homes & Condominium communities
- Detached single story homes on private lots
- Independent and assisted living communities
- Continuing care communities offering meals and housekeeping services
- Community housing apartments, with studios, 2 and 3 bedrooms and cottages
- Mobile and manufactured home communities
- New and resale manufactured homes
Downsizing or Upsizing
Retiring in San Diego gives you the special chance to find your “best home.” Moving out of a bigger home into something smaller or moving into a larger, more comfortable place… both options bring different factors and benefits to think about:
- Downsizing from a larger home to avoid unnecessary burdens
- Free up cash from the sale of your current home
- Lower monthly expenses
- Cut home maintenance, hassles and years of clutter
- Reduce empty space, adult children who’ve left the nest
- Upsizing – having a larger, more comfortable or prestigious home
- More room for family members to visit, enjoy holidays and vacations together
- A way to live with family: children & grandchildren… together under one roof
- Hosting friends and neighbors more regularly
Finding the home of your dreams
55 + Communities
Typically the best opportunities are specific, but not limited to, communities designed for retirees, pre-retirement aged people, 55 years and older.
Most include features like clubhouses, tennis courts, pools and spas. Many are golf course communities that may have gated security and 24-hour security patrol services. Some also include libraries, billiard tables, exercise gyms, steam rooms, RV parking space, pet allowance and more.
Home Owners Associations – HOA Fees
Fees vary depending on the community and the services offered. Some include: cable TV service, sewer service, water & trash.
Other communities include roof maintenance, exterior house painting, access to exercise facilities, front yard maintenance, lush & extensive common area landscaping, unlimited golf, and emergency response to pre-wired alarms in each home.
Even though these properties are in demand, the current inventory includes numerous options… ranging from the high $100k’s to $700k and over. Fluctuations are based on the construction date, the size and style, the amenities offered and the distance from the coast line.
You can find listings in 42 North San Diego County 55 + communities, with detailed information, photos and videos here at DreamWellHomes.com.
No doubt the pace of life for mos