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!
Image courtesy Travel & Leisure
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. 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. San Diego is 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!