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16 Things to Know Before Moving to San Diego, CA 2022

March 29, 2022

1. What it's Like Living in San Diego

San Diego is home to 1.43 million people. It is the 8th largest city in the US by population and the second-largest city in California by land area. As you take into account the entire metro area, those figures only grow.

San Diego lies just across the border from Mexico. It's common to hear Spanish spoken around San Diego's diverse neighborhoods and outer areas.

San Diego is celebrated for its idyllic climate, pristine beaches, and world-class attractions. This Southern California city is a popular choice for college students, professors, and corporate career climbers in military, tourism, international trade, research, and manufacturing.

San Diego lies on the Pacific Ocean and is known as the Birthplace of California. Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo landed in Spain in 1542 and eventually led his people to settlements, including the Presidio and Mission San Diego de de Alcalá. In 1821, San Diego became part of the Mexican Empire before becoming part of the United States in 1848 following the Mexican-American War.

San Diego offers some fascinating yet outdated laws for newcomers, including the fact you can't shoot jackrabbits from the back of a streetcar. The city is also home to The Giant Dipper, the only roller coaster in the country that's on the National Register of Historic Places. San Diego also houses the most significant number of farms in the US, at approximately 7,000.

Ready to enjoy days along the Pacific Ocean and outdoor fun? Before packing your bags and heading to the place known as America's Finest City, here's everything you need to know before moving to San Diego.

2. Cost of Living in San Diego

Living in San Diego is pricier than many metropolitan cities, but cheaper than areas like San Francisco or Los Angeles. According to Payscale, the cost of living in San Diego is 44% higher, and housing is 136% higher than the national average. Depending on your salary, the oceanfront lifestyle and urban amenities may be worth the trade-off.

Here's an idea of how much things cost when moving to San Diego, as reported by Payscale:

  • Energy bill: $192.64
  • Loaf of bread: $3.76
  • Doctor's visit: $119.01
  • $3.36 for a gallon of gas

San Diego rents come at a premium, although they're more reasonable than similar-sized West Coast cities. The average rent in San Diego has risen to $2,989 for a one-bedroom apartment and $3,736 for a two-bedroom apartment. Rents are starting to rise steadily again after they took a downward turn during the pandemic. It’s still possible to find San Diego apartments with move-in specials.

You can use the 30% rule to figure out how to live comfortably in a one-bedroom apartment in San Diego. The idea is that you spend no more than 30% of your pre-tax salary on rent. You should plan for an income of at least $107,604 a year or $51.73 an hour for a one-bedroom. For a two-bedroom apartment, you'll need to earn at least $134,496 a year or $64.66 an hour.

The median income in San Diego is currently $79,673, as reported by the Census Bureau in 2019. By comparison, the median income is $75,235 in the rest of California.

Those median income figures are different from the basic living wage. Living above the poverty threshold in San Diego requires $21.26 an hour for a full-time employed single individual. You'll need to find a well-paying job or start some side hustles to afford the nightlife, vacations, and restaurants.

3. Who’s Moving to San Diego?

San Diego is a diverse town with people moving in and out from different states and countries. If you're from California, you'll also have plenty of locals relocating with you. According to Apartment List's most recent migration report, the highest percentage of people moving to San Diego are from Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Francisco.

If you're curious about outbound moves from San Diego, we have info on that, too. Renters who currently live in San Diego, but are considering moving elsewhere, search for apartments inLos Angeles, Riverside, and Phoenix.

Learn more about moving to a new state.

4. California Tax Rate

California is not a tax-friendly state, unfortunately. You'll pay some of the highest taxes in the nation when living in areas like San Diego. Their base sales tax rate is 7.25%, on top of a marginal income tax rate of 13.3%. Both are among the highest in the nation in their tax category.

There is some good news when it comes to property taxes. California's overall property taxes are below the national average at .73% compared to the national rate of 1.07%.

5. Best San Diego Neighborhoods

Sun, surf, and glorious year-round weather are within reach in San Diego neighborhoods. From pristine beaches to urban amenities, here are some of the best San Diego neighborhoods.

North Park

North Park is among San Diego's most popular places to call home. Situated north of Balboa Park, this hipster enclave is walkable to several pubs and cultural spots. Parking can be quite difficult, but the trade-off of living in this San Diego neighborhood is worth it for creatives at heart.

Little Italy

Foodies feel right at home in Little Italy. With plenty of excellent restaurant options, as well as the Farmers' Markets, which draw hungry locals and tourists alike, there are endless options for food and drinks. This downtown San Diego neighborhood is one of the most expensive in the city. However, it's worth the trade-off for locals who want to live in the heart of its dining scene.

Hillcrest

San Diego's LGBTQ+ community of Hillcrest is lively and upbeat, with restaurants and bars to match. It's also just a quick walk to Balboa Park and San Diego Zoo.

Ocean Beach

The laid-back beach community of Ocean Beach offers oceanfront living. Enjoy beachside cottages or apartments smack dab in the middle of shopping and dining establishments. You won't find crowds of college kids here, but rather, an easy-going, local business-minded community. You can still get to attractions like Sea World just across the river.

Pacific Beach

Pacific Beach is one of the breeziest and best neighborhoods in San Diego. College kids flock to Pacific Beach, which is why the area is known for its youthful party scene. You'll find bar-hopping, coffee shops, and beach-inspired food around the city.

Want to explore more? Learn more about San Diego's top neighborhoods here.

7. San Diego Job Market

San Diego enjoys a solid job market with top industries to choose from. Take your pick of jobs in biotech, military, and hospitality, to name a few. Average salaries are also higher than in many parts of the country. With a median income in San Diego of $79,673, salaries are well above the country’s $62,843 average.

8. San Diego Weather

San Diego's incredible weather is the most significant selling point of "America's Finest City." You'll enjoy beautiful weather nearly year-round, perfect for beachcombing, swimming, and lounging outdoors. Of course, May still brings grey skies and some chill, and June is still gloomy. During the winter months, locals experience mild cold and little rain.

9. San Diego Public Transportation

San Diego's parking is notoriously expensive and hard to come by, especially in more popular neighborhoods. You can hop on the MTS for bus and ever-expanding trolley routes.

San Diego is dense, and it is possible to enjoy a walkable, urban lifestyle. However, most people have cars to get around. You'll need a set of wheels or a healthy Uber and Lyft budget if you're going to live in neighborhoods and suburban settings outside of public transportation's reach.

Transportation will take up more of your budget than in other cities. Expect to spend about $4,900 on transportation as a single adult. Families of two working adults and a single child need at least $11,186.

10. Beaches in San Diego

You're never far from a beach when you live in San Diego. Better yet, you can live in a beach community and enjoy different restaurants and unique vibes. Pacific Beach is packed with college students looking for lively entertainment and fun places to hang. Beyond the many bars and restaurants, you can savor the great outdoors at Kate Sessions Park, Tourmaline Surfing Park, or Ocean Front Park.

Coronado Beach offers gorgeous views, upscale condos, and walkability to local businesses and dining establishments. Snowbirds are common in the area, as many retirees head West to enjoy the nice seasonal weather come wintertime. You'll feel like you're living in a resort and will likely pay the price for it.

Ocean Beach offers a laid-back ocean lifestyle with an incredible beachfront. It is a bohemian neighborhood where surfers and sunbathers flock to the local beach. Bring your fishing pole to Ocean Beach Pier or hit Newport Avenue to surf before hitting the brew pubs.

La Jolla Shores is a more suburban area, but you'll still find lots of bars, coffee shops, parks, restaurants, and of course, the beach. The site is a popular launch point for stand-up paddleboarding, snorkelers, and scuba divers. You'll also find a beachfront park for the kids and plenty of opportunities for ocean kayaking.

Windansea Beach is adjacent to its namesake neighborhood and famous for its rocky landscape and powerful waves. It's a prime spot for photographers and surfers looking for the perfect waves.

11. City of San Diego Parks and Recreation

Along with pristine beaches, San Diego has incredible parks and hiking spots for outdoor enthusiasts. Start with Balboa park to see the local zoo, museums, hiking, and walking trails.

Mission Bay is famous for watersports, dog parks, and the surrounding Sea World park. You can get in your marine fix and hit the water all in the same day.

Kate Sessions Park is a picture-perfect spot to watch sunsets and the best park for dazzling views around San Diego. Take a hike to discover Sunset Cliffs, the renowned natural park in Point Loma famous for its sunsets and walking trails that allow you to soak up the views.

12. Best Places to Eat in San Diego

San Diego's proximity to both Mexico and the waterfront makes it a fantastic food town. Expect the best in Mexican food, fresh oysters, and a thriving beer scene.

Craft breweries are the name of the game in San Diego, with 150 at your disposal. A brewery crawl is within reach, starting with Stone Brewing World and Gardens or The Lost Abbey. You'll also find Latin flavors at Barrio Logan.

For Mexican food, savor the flavors that locals have given the rest of the world, including Carne Asada Fries and California Burritos.

It's always margarita season at Aqui es Texcoco with a lamb barbecue specialty on the menu. El Comal is perfect for homestyle Mexican food with thick, homemade tortillas and Oaxacan-style tamales. Fish tacos are a must at Oscar's Mexican Seafood alongside tasty ceviches.

If you’re looking for delectable Asian Cuisine, head to Convoy Street and grab dumplings from Dumpling Inn & Shanghai Saloon or Friend's House Korean BBQ.

13. Things to Do in San Diego

Parks and beaches are popular draws around the city for locals and visitors alike. Coronado City Beach is among the most iconic beaches in San Diego, known for its sparkling white sand. La Jolla Cove is the perfect place for a cozy picnic, and Del Mar City beach offers a reprieve from the daily grind. For a day of hiking with gorgeous scenery, try Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and Beach.

The San Diego Zoo is among the most prestigious in the world, housing over 12,000 animals and 650 species. The zoo is situated in Balboa Park, which is also home to the Botanical Gardens.

Conveniently located in Balboa Park is the San Diego Museum of Art (SDMA), which features an annual floral show, rotating exhibits, gallery talks, and a youth artist display. The USS Midway Museum is among the top-rated attractions in San Diego. Visitors can learn about the history of the local ships, military, and San Diego history with over 60 exhibits.

The Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego is a lively downtown neighborhood with nightlife, dive bars, and cocktail lounges. Take a walk through the gaslit quarters for a stunning backdrop while enjoying craft cocktails and brews.

14. San Diego Sports

San Diego is a sports town, even though the Padres (MLB) is the only professional team in the city. The NFL Chargers franchise recently moved to Los Angeles, but that doesn't mean you can't get in your sports fix.

The San Diego Loyal soccer team, SDSU basketball and football, and UCSD surfing team are ready to keep up your team spirit. There are always volleyball games going on at the beaches around town and adult leagues to join, perfect for those who want to challenge their inner athletes.

15. Universities in San Diego

San Diego is a gorgeous college town with prestigious higher learning opportunities. The University of California San Diego is situated in La Jolla with a good reputation for its biology, mathematics, economics, and international studies programs. San Diego State University is known for its veterans' programs, support of LGBTQ+ students, and powerhouse Division I Athletics program.

Wherever you attend, you're never far from a beach, bar, or unique San Diego attraction.

16. San Diego Annual Events

San Diego may have a reputation as a laid-back city with a beachy vibe, but there are many year-round events that draw thousands from around the country. Comic-Con is the year's biggest event where comic book and multi-genre entertainment enthusiasts flock to the city. Expect to see fans in complete recreation of their favorite characters walking around town.

Join the two-day electronic music festival at the 12-acre San Diego Waterfront. The annual CRSSD Fest offers live performances, beer, mixed drinks, food, and more.

KAABOO in San Diego is a cutting-edge, multi-genre music and arts experience. You'll see some of the best acts, from music to stand-up comedy, all while tasting local cuisine.

Finding Your San Diego Apartment

San Diego offers something for everyone, from culture to dining to beachfront living. Ready to move to San Diego? Start apartment hunting with Apartment List.

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What’s the weather like in San Diego?

San Diego’s incredible weather is the most significant selling point of "America's Finest City." You'll enjoy beautiful weather nearly year-round, perfect for beachcombing, swimming, and lounging outdoors. Of course, May still brings gray skies and some chill, and June is still gloomy. During the winter months, locals experience mild cold and little rain.

What’s the timezone in San Diego?

San Diego’s time zone is Pacific Standard/Daylight Time (PST and/or PDT), depending on the time of year. It is also Greenwich Mean Time - 7 (GMT-7), three hours behind New York City.

What to do in San Diego?

San Diego is celebrated for its idyllic climate, pristine beaches, and world-class attractions. This Southern California city is a popular choice for college students, professors, and corporate career climbers in military, tourism, international trade, research, and manufacturing.

What county is San Diego in?

The city of San Diego is within San Diego County, officially titled the County of San Diego. As of 2020, San Diego County was the second most populated county in California and the fifth most populated county in the country.

What are the benefits of moving to San Diego?

Moving to San Diego means spending your days along the Pacific Ocean and outdoor fun. With an appropriate nickname of America's Finest City, it’s no surprise you can get your heart’s fill of sun, surf, and glorious year-round weather.

What are the pros and cons of living in San Diego?

The pros of living in San Diego include the laid-back vibe, incredible food and beer scene, plethora of outdoor activities, beaches, and weather. The cons of living in San Diego include the high cost of living, notoriously bad traffic, California taxes, and homelessness. That said, every city has its pros and cons. You just have to decide what works best for you!

What’s the best neighborhood to move to in San Diego?

The five best neighborhoods in San Diego are North Park, Little Italy, Hillcrest, Ocean Beach, and Pacific Beach.

What’s it like living in San Diego?

San Diego may have a reputation as a laid-back city with a beachy vibe, but many year-round events draw thousands from around the country. Comic-Con is the year's biggest event where comic book and multi-genre entertainment enthusiasts flock to the city. Expect to see fans in complete recreation of their favorite characters walking around town.

What are the taxes in San Diego?

Unfortunately, as of 2022, California is not a tax-friendly state. You'll pay some of the highest taxes in the nation when living in areas like San Diego. Their base sales tax rate is 7.25%, on top of a marginal income tax rate of 13.3%.

What jobs are popular in San Diego?

To help combat the high cost of living in San Diego, residents enjoy a solid job market with top industries to choose from. Take your pick of jobs in biotech, military, and hospitality, to name a few.

What universities are in San Diego?

The University of California San Diego is situated in La Jolla with a good reputation for its biology, mathematics, economics, and international studies programs. San Diego State University is known for its veterans' programs, support of LGBTQ+ students, and powerhouse Division I Athletics program.

What are things to do in San Diego?

There are plenty of things to do in San Diego, whether you like spending your time dancing the night away at a popular nightclub or lounging oceanside with friends. Or, if you consider yourself a bit of a foodie, the San Diego food scene won’t disappoint, especially considering the proximity to Mexico and the waterfront.

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AUTHOR
Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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