Where to Retire in North San Diego County?

Here are a few ideas on where to retire in North County San Diego from DreamWellHomes.com:

  1. Carlsbad
  2. Oceanside
  3. Encinitas
  4. Fallbrook
  5. Escondido
  6. Del Sur
  7. Rancho Bernardo
  8. Lake San Marcos (Unincorprated area of San Diego County)
  9. San Marcos
  10. Vista

Overview of North County San Diego

We’ll start with a high-level overview of the North County area of San Diego… where you’ll find some of the most desirable living conditions and affordable retirement communities.


North County 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.

North County is divided into coastal and inland regions.

The coastal cities include: Oceanside, Carlsbad, Vista, Encinitas, Del Mar, and Solana Beach.

The inland cities are Escondido, Fallbrook, San Marcos, Poway, Valley Center, Ramona, Rancho Bernardo, and San Diego Country Estates.

The top twenty-five employers in San Diego County are closer to the North County city of Carlsbad than San Diego proper.

North County San Diego is divided into Inland North San Diego and Coastal North San Diego.

North County San Diego Carlsbad and Encinitas


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.

North County San Diego Landmarks

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 it’s picturesque, original character.

Recreation Options in North San Diego

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 found in North County as well, 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!

North County San Diego Education

North County is also home to several colleges including:

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 sites throughout 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.

See below for an idea of the some of the best locations for retirement in North County San Diego.

Coastal North County San Diego:

  1. Oceanside, CA
  2. Carlsbad, CA
  3. Encinitas, CA
  4. Cardiff by the Sea
  5. Solana Beach, CA
  6. Del Mar

Inland North County San Diego:

  1. Bonsall
  2. Escondido
  3. Fallbrook
  4. Lake San Marcos
  5. Pala
  6. Pauma Valley
  7. Poway
  8. Ramona
  9. Rancho Bernardo
  10. Rancho Penasquitos
  11. Rancho Santa Fe
  12. San Marcos
  13. Valley Center
  14. Vista

Find Your Home in North County San Diego

North County San Diego Real Estate Links

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There are four possible areas of where to retire in San Diego:

  1. North County San Diego
  2. East County San Diego
  3. Metro San Diego
  4. South County San Diego

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