What’s It Really Like to Live in San Diego?

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|5 min read

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Placing an honest, local opinion of what it’s like to live in San Diego is a give-and-take process. This picturesque city is known for its stunning coastlines, warm weather, and accessibility. After reading those descriptors, don’t they feel slightly surface-level? Figuring out what it’s really like living in the city of San Diego takes courage to review the good, bad, and ugly. While it appears like the poster child city to live in from the outside, there are plenty of unsafe neighborhoods throughout San Diego that you’d want to avoid. It’s a great city, but comes with baggage.

Here’s an honest take on what it’s like to live in San Diego and what you can expect to experience here.

Con #1: May Gray and June Gloom

Many people who haven’t lived in San Diego believe that it’s sunny 365 per year. Sadly, that is false. It’s common to see vacationers travel to Southern California expecting great weather and getting the opposite. “May Gray” and “June Gloom” help San Diego transition into a cloudy summer season. Local San Diegans are aware of this time period and oftentimes talk about these months with disdain.

May and June bring a persistent marine layer, which blocks sunlight for days. If you were expecting a beautiful, hot, and sunny summer in San Diego, think again. Although it hardly rains, the overcast skies bring a gloomy start to the summers here.

Local Californians, who are so used to consistent sunlight, get a hint of depression during this time period – yes, first-world problems. Certain marine layer clouds bleed into July and August, which we fondly know them as “No Sky July” and “August Fogost”. If you want to know what it’s like living in San Diego, spend a full 12-month calendar year here to get the full weather experience.

Con #2: High Cost of Living

San Diego continues to rise through the ranks of expensive United States cities. Are you relocating from a less expensive city? You’ll be in for a rude awakening once you start spending money here. The real estate market is steep, with housing prices far surpassing the national average.

Buying a home in San Diego means stretching your dollar to extreme lengths to get your name on a deed. It’s not a cheap place to buy a house! Following the pandemic, people from Los Angeles and San Francisco moved down to San Diego in droves. Additionally, remote workers from other cities across the country did the same.

The increased demand for homes drove housing prices higher than ever before. Millennial homebuyers can hardly afford a home in San Diego. The housing prices and cost of living don’t make it easy to live here. Groceries, utilities, and transportation are typically higher here than in other cities.

Con #3: Traffic Congestion

San Diego’s traffic is another factor that can dampen the experience of living here. With a growing population and a public transport system that is still catching up, car commuting has become a struggle. The city itself is fairly spread out. For example, traveling from Ocean Beach to Rancho Bernardo can range +30 miles of driving with multiple major freeways as your route. Toss that travel salad with rush hour traffic, and you have yourself a long commute.

Pro #1: Authentic Mexican Cuisine

Now that we revealed what it’s like living in San Diego from the con side, it’s time to regain morale and discuss the perks. Many locals would argue that the top pro of living in San Diego is its exceptional Mexican food – particularly its burritos. Nestled just north of the Mexican border, San Diego is a hub for authentic Mexican cuisine.

It’s easy to find a local taco stand or burrito shop no matter what part of the city you’re in. The Mexican food stands out as some of the best in the country. These are not your average burritos! And although the city of San Diego itself is getting more expensive, you can still find hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurants that are high-quality and affordable.

Pro #2: Beaches and Hikes

San Diego’s beaches are among the most beautiful in California. They aren’t as raw and rocky as ones in Northern California. This allows locals to briskly walk down trails along the cliffs to the beaches. La Jolla and Del Mar offer great surf spots for people who enjoy the waves.

San Diego also has tons of hiking trails and nature reserves worth exploring. Even during a cloudy “June Gloom” day, the temperature is usually still warm enough to be comfortable on a hike. San Diego is littered with canyons and hiking trails for all levels of experience. The desert topography makes each hike unique in its own way.

Pro #3: Accessibility to Things

Although San Diego is in the southwest corner of the United States, it’s accessible to a ton of great places. If you want a taste of a huge city, Los Angeles is a quick 1 hour and 30-minute drive north (4 hours with traffic on weekends). Temecula is the wine country of San Diego, a smaller version of Napa. When people first move to San Diego, they have plans to travel throughout the county. Getting rid of some belongings before the move can help you travel light and leave no stone unturned when exploring Southern California.

Joshua Tree National Park is northeast of San Diego – this area has great camping and hiking spots when people need a break from the ocean. Lastly, the proximity to Mexico is a huge pro of living in San Diego. Depending on the line at the border crossing, you can make it from San Diego CA to Rosarito, Mexico in 1 hour. San Diego is accessible to tons of great places for people who need a short vacation.

What Is It Like Living in San Diego?

Now that this montage has ended on a good note, it’s important to reiterate that your preferences carry weight too. San Diego has tons of great things that it offers as a city. However, if you hate the sun, don’t like the beach, and aren’t a fan of Mexican food – you might hate this city. Or you may enjoy all of those things but put more weight on the cons that do come with living in San Diego. It’s not the perfect city that everyone thinks it is, but it is a place that many call home and many more are moving to.

Need Help With a Move?

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Alex Capozzolo Craig Sanger Realty

Alex is a realtor, landlord, and investor in San Diego, CA. He owns 17 rental units and toggles between being a landlord and a realtor. Alex has been blogging for the real estate industry for +5 years. During his downtime, he enjoys surfing, hiking, and journaling.

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