Living in San Diego, CA | U.S. News Best Places

What's it like to live in San Diego, CA?

Profile written by local expert:

Darcie Czajkowski

San Diego residents recognize how fortunate they are to live in an area famous for its sunny weather and impressive beaches. But there is much more to this Southern California beach city than initially meets the eye.

Lifestyles vary depending on whether you seek a beach, or an urban or suburban environment. Regardless, residents do not want for things to do, ranging from outdoor activities to free museums to entertainment venues.

San Diego offers world-class dining, professional sports and entertainment options typical of a large metro area, but the patchwork of distinct neighborhoods fosters strong community ties. Residents gather at festivals and farmers markets, meet friends at beaches and parks, and regularly bump into friends and acquaintances at local bars and restaurants. 

See all the best places to live in California.


U.S. News analyzed 150 metro areas in the United States to find the best places to live based on quality of life and the job market in each metro area, as well as the value of living there and people's desire to live there.

San Diego, California is ranked:

#45 in Best Places to Live

#62 in Best Places to Retire

#3 in Best Places to Live in California

#5 in Most Expensive Places to Live

#15 in Best Places to Live for Quality of Life




Best Places to Live

  • Desirability
  • Value
  • Job Market
  • Quality of Life
  • Net Migration

Read how we rank places

San Diego, CA Quick Stats

  • 3,302,833

    Metro Population

  • $58,090

    Average Annual Salary

  • 69.7° / 57.5°

    Avg High/Low Temps

  • 35.6

    Median Age

  • $564,092

    Median Home Price

  • 10.3 inches

    AVG Annual Rainfall

  • 3.2%

    Unemployment Rate

  • $1,569

    Median Monthly Rent

  • 26.0 minutes

    Avg Commute Time

What is there to do in San Diego, CA?

Health is important to San Diegans, and the temperate weather facilitates an active outdoor lifestyle. Hiking trails, both coastal and inland, abound. Cycling, tennis and golf are also popular forms of exercise. San Diegans often spend their weekends at the beach. Boating, beach volleyball and sunbathing are common beach activities.

Further inland, Balboa Park is the cultural hub of San Diego, encompassing several museums and impressive Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. Meanwhile, animal lovers do not want for activities, thanks to the world-renowned San Diego Zoo Safari Park and SeaWorld.

As far as dining goes, you don't need to cross the border to experience authentic Mexican food. San Diego offers myriad options, most notably in Old Town, as well as a bustling brewery scene that entices craft beer aficionados.

Every July, San Diego is invaded by thousands of costumed comic fans who flock to San Diego Comic-Con, the world's largest entertainment and comic book convention. Featuring celebrities, comic book writers and artists, the event takes over downtown for five days, drawing more than 130,000 attendees. 

Find out more about what there is to see and do in San Diego, CA.

What's the cost of living in San Diego, CA?

Living in San Diego is not particularly affordable. Home prices are considerably higher than the national median sale price and are predicted to increase. Additionally, many living in the downtown area have to pay homeowners association fees, used to maintain common areas in apartment and condominium complexes. San Diegans are willing to pay these elevated prices, though, often referring to the cost-of-living differences as the "sunshine tax," or the price of enjoying a year-round temperate climate.

Looking for financial advice? Find a local financial advisor in San Diego, California.

Value Index

Index Score: 3.6 /10

How we calculate this.

San Diego offers a lower value than similarly sized metro areas when you compare housing costs to median household income.

Housing Costs 2019

San Diego


Housing Costs Over Time

Data sourced from Zillow median home sale price data series. Additional data provided by the Austin Board of Realtors, Houston Association of Realtors, Intermountain MLS, Omaha Area Board of Realtors, San Antonio Board of Realtors, and the Salt Lake Board of Realtors.

Buying or selling a home? Find top real estate agents in San Diego, CA.

What's the weather like in San Diego, CA?

The moderate climate, which enables perpetual enjoyment of the metro area's beaches and other outdoor attractions, is a big draw for many. Aside from in the mountains of East County, snow isn't common in San Diego

Seasonal Temperature (Avgs)









Seasonal Rainfall (Avgs)

2.3 in


1.8 in


0.1 in


1.0 in


Monthly High and Low Temperatures (°F)

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center.

What's the best way to get around San Diego, CA?

San Diego is expansive, and for the most part, getting around requires a car. Residents experience congestion during rush hours in certain pockets on the main highways, including Interstate 5, which runs along the coast. But traffic in San Diego is still among the most manageable of the nation's largest metro areas.

Some residents use a local commuter train called the Coaster to travel from North County to downtown. The system is convenient for weekday commutes; however, the final train departs early in the evening on weekends, which limits its use for evening events. Additionally, San Diego has a trolley system that circles the downtown area and stretches as far south as San Ysidro. The system is undergoing an expansion of its rails to provide wider-reaching service. San Diego is also serviced by a reliable citywide bus system. While these modes of transportation provide options for residents, only 3% of the population uses them.

The San Diego International Airport is conveniently located just north of downtown and services both national and international destinations. Also, Amtrak has a line that connects San Diego to Los Angeles and beyond.  

Commuting in San Diego, CA

Means of Transportation
Equal to national average

Equal to national average

Equal to national average

Public Transit
Below national average
Average Commute Time

26.0 minutes

0.6 minutes less than national average

Average Commute Times by Zip Code

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

Who lives in San Diego, CA?

San Diego is home to a relatively young population due in part to the area's ability to attract young professionals, with its higher education opportunities and big-city amenities. North County is desirable for families, thanks to quiet neighborhoods with larger homes, whereas 20-somethings are moving downtown and to communities to the northeast as a result of gentrification and the diverse entertainment options centralized in those areas.

Just under half the population in San Diego identifies as religious. A large portion of those individuals are Catholic, although other Christian sects and some Eastern religions are also represented.

Age Distribution

Marital Status Breakdown

About the same number of single people in San Diego as national average

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.