Moving to San Diego: Your 2023 Guide.

New year, new move? It’s 2023 and moving to San Diego is all the rage; we can thank events of recent years for that. Over the past few years, many people have made serious changes to their lives and lifestyles in response to the not-so-new normal.

This shift has created an opportunity for many to move to somewhere they’ve always dreamed of, either in search of a new occupation or whilst keeping their remote work life the same. Fortunately for the industries that thrive on tourism in San Diego, moving to San Diego has become even more of a hot spot since the pandemic began back in 2020. We understand the appeal, because, how can you not?! But before you plan to follow suit and make the move out here, there are many things one should prepare for. 

Here’s an informative guide on everything from what to expect in terms of rent costs, education systems and job opportunities, accessibility, and what to do for fun on an average day in sunny San Diego.

Guide to Moving to San Diego

As you can see from the above 4K video, we have some of the best weather in the world. We also have great vibes and opportunities from everything from employment and entrepreneurship to eating, drinking, and getting outside. Here is a guide for moving to San Diego, which can provide a lot of happiness and fulfillment.

Where Is San Diego?

When you’re thinking about moving to San Diego, you are probably wondering where it is exactly. San Diego County, which is made up of the City of San Diego and the surrounding communities, is the southwesternmost region in the country. Downtown San Diego is set in the middle of the county, not far from the United States border with Mexico.

Living in San Diego provides one of the best locations in the world for multiple reasons.

Here, you are close enough to the border to hop, skip and jump to Tijuana for an afternoon margarita in Mexico, and just a 2-hour drive to Los Angeles–the megacity with countless rooftop bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and bougie boutiques. San Diego’s longitude, latitude, and location near the coast provides some of the best weather in the world, year round! Living in San Diego means accessibility to the suburbs of Orange County and the border towns of Chula Vista and Tijuana–proving to be quite advantageous in a number of ways.

What’s the Population of San Diego?

While the population of San Diego isn’t small, it is less than Los Angeles and equally spread out. When you’re thinking about what to know before moving to San Diego, you should think about these details. San Diego has a population of around 1.4 million people

Compared with LA, San Diego is less densely populated, so traffic is less of a nuisance, and you won’t have to deal with quite as much overcrowding when rendezvousing to the beach or participating in daily activities. Furthermore, you can find the best places to live in San Diego for yourself and what you’re interested in. If you are trying to find where to live in San Diego, take a look at the different neighborhoods it has to offer.

Cost of Living in San Diego

Before moving to San Diego, it’s important to get a gauge of living costs, transportation options, groceries, etc. Currently average rent is $2,989, surprisingly a bit higher than Los Angeles, which currently sits at $2,786. U.S. Average is $1,214/month. Groceries in the area weigh in at around $291/month, about 13% higher than the national average, though California’s overall average food cost per month sits around $300. 

With inflation, gas prices have seen better days, but you can always opt for public transit, or biking or walking if where you’re headed is in close vicinity. In fact, many locals choose to get around by foot or skating because the weather is so nice! In that case, you’ll want to live somewhere that is convenient and accessible to a grocery store, such as Pacific Beach or La Jolla. Average rent in Carmel Valley is the highest, ranking at $3,944/month, with Alta Vista being most affordable–$1300. Believe it or not, the cost of rent in La Jolla is $2,558, cheaper than some places further inland.

According to payscale.com, the earnings required to maintain the current standard of living and lifestyle in San Diego are around $50k annually.

This boardwalk runs along Mission Beach (pictured) and Pacific Beach and is popular for walking, rollerblading, cycling, and longboarding.

Best Neighborhoods in San Diego

Whether you’re looking to be in the city of San Diego or one of the many adjacent towns, there are plenty of San Diego neighborhoods to choose from. It depends on what you are interested in when you’re thinking of moving to San Diego, but there is most certainly a place for you. Ask yourself what you think you’ll be doing most–hiking and biking in the hills which are generally inland of the coast, taking daily ocean dips, or engaging in business meetings in one of the city’s not-so-tall skyscrapers.

If you want to relocate your tech business or work in finance, you should think about moving downtown. Not only is it a beautiful city with great views, it is near the beach and has an impeccable food and nightlife scene. The Embarcadero hosts tons of outdoor live events, and you’re close to the convention center where Comic-Con and other massive events are held. Beyond downtown, there are plenty of other neighborhoods that are more relaxed with a lower San Diego cost of living.

North Park is a hip neighborhood where you can find craft breweries, restaurants, boutique stores, and more. It is a laid-back area where you can walk to a wide variety of places, restaurants, stores, and places to drink, including a newer speakeasy called Part Time Lover. If you enjoy live music, you’ll get a kick out of Seven Grand Whiskey and Cigar Bar in North Park, which features live musicians weekly. There is also a diverse array of job opportunities–if you’re trying to work at a record store, a coffee joint, or a hair salon, North Park may be for you.

There are beach neighborhoods if you’re looking to live somewhere on the ocean. Ocean Beach is for those who want an eclectic atmosphere. Not only is it a diverse, vibrant neighborhood, there are plenty of beautiful houses and local restaurants. There are bars and breweries alike, with local culture that you’ll fall in love with. Sunset Cliffs is a popular spot to catch the sunset. There are a few supreme surf spots here, too.

Pacific Beach is another beach neighborhood. Pubs and lively nightlife are here and there’s a boardwalk and bay trail to ride bikes or take an afternoon stroll. It definitely has a college town vibe to it, but nonetheless you will never run out of fun activities to do in the neighborhood of PB, as locals call it.

The Gaslamp Quarter isn’t a place a lot of people want to live, but it is a guaranteed good time. Known for its eclectic array of bars, clubs, and brunch spots, there is no shortage of fun to be had here. For nightgoers, The Gaslamp is where you go to a party and let loose. If you want to be close to the action, move to the Gaslamp. If you dislike noise 24/7, steer clear from here.

Coronado is an island where the wealthy move to soak up the sun. It has one of the best views of downtown anywhere in the city. While being one of the most laid-back spots in the city, it is also one of the most expensive. If you can afford to live here, you’ll be able to take advantage of the culture, shopping, and amazing sights. You can’t miss out on checking out Hotel Del Coronado–a pricey place for a cocktail but a priceless place to watch the sun fall and the moon rise.

La Jolla is one the nicest areas of San Diego County. It is a great place to move if you can afford it. With restaurants, bars, beaches, and beautiful real estate, La Jolla is inarguably one of the best neighborhoods of San Diego. Not only does La Jolla have some of the best beaches anywhere for sunbathing and catching waves, but it is also home to the University of California, San Diego–a pristine university close to the coast. If you’re a foodie, there are tons of great upscale eateries here, as well as golf and tennis clubs for the competitive folks. 

San Diego Education System

Known for its prominent education system, San Diego boasts some of the top schools in the state of California–from pre-kindergarten through college. If you are looking to start a family, you’ll be pleased to hear that 21 San Diego County elementary schools are being honored under the 2023 California Distinguished Schools Award Program. San Dieguito Union High School District, Poway Unified High School District, and Coronado Unified High School District are declared the finest high schools in the county as of 2023. Want to move close to your kiddo before they attend college? The University of California, San Diego is ranked among the top 20 universities in the world, and number 6 among the nation’s top public colleges. If you’re keen on studying marine biology or biological oceanography, UCSD has an unbeatable program.

A surfer calls it a day at La Jolla Shores, one of many popular beaches and surf breaks in San Diego.

San Diego Beaches

There is no shortage of beaches in San Diego. If there is one thing that the city has all around it, it is its lovely coastline. Whether you’re going for large beaches in Ocean Beach or all the coast off-the-beaten-path, you won’t struggle to find your own spot of paradise. There are the La Jolla Coves, which are great for swimming, but also for looking at the sea lions and seals. It is a fun place to walk, have some dinner, and enjoy the lovely coastline. 

Coronado Beach is another option. It is one of the most beautiful out there. Depending on what time of day it is, the beach can be empty or crowded, but it’s always worth it. South Mission Beach is the perfect spot for surfing and swimming. Finally, La Jolla Shores Beach is expansive and gorgeous. These beaches are just the beginning. There are countless other options that will give you every opportunity to find your own secluded spot in the most sought-after beaches in the world.

Fun Things to Do in San Diego

We figure that moving to San Diego tips should also include the abundance of opportunities you’ll have to choose from in your free time. In addition to the beaches, San Diego has an abundance of hiking and biking trails, happy hour hot spots, and activities galore. But really, there are so many options, it can feel paralyzing. Family fun includes the world-famous San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park. Party enthusiasts will be enticed by the wild nightclubs and genre-centric bars like Moonshine, where you can line dance to country music while getting served spinning shots. While few people approve of it these days, it is also the home of Sea World. There is also LEGOLAND for the kiddos and bob-the-builders out there. If you like music, venues like Petco Park, The Observatory in North Park, and Music Box all bring in amazing talent throughout the year. Love sports? Go to a Padres game or one of the countless sports bars in SD. There truly is no end to San Diego attractions.

Places to Eat in San Diego

Whether you’re looking for fine dining or low-rent deliciousness, you have it here in San Diego. There are a wealth of gastropubs, burger spots, and fancy restaurants. It is also the birthplace of the famous California burrito with French fries inside, which can be found at a plethora of Mexican restaurants throughout San Diego. Mexican food is amazing in San Diego, but there is also a lot of great Asian food. Some of the most famous spots you should be sure to eat at include Ironside Fish & Oyster, Trust, Hodad’s Burgers, Blind Lady Ale House, Herb & Wood, and so many more. You can also go to Little Italy for some amazing and authentic Italian or hit a wine bar like Pali Wine Co. for some Italian appetizers and deliciously paired wine. Sushi is fantastic at places like Ototo Sushi or Lumi Sushi, and you’d be surprised at the abundance of South Asian eateries.

Reasons to Move to San Diego

If you’re considering making the move to San Diego, you’re likely well aware of some of the perks this little slice of paradise has to offer. Incredible climate with year round sun and water sports activities such as surfing, kayaking, paddleboarding, kite-boarding, waterskiing, windsurfing, and boating? Sports enthusiasts will not want to miss out on the juicy goodness that the great outdoors provides–a limitless, natural playground if you will. Not to mention the education systems are pristine, and overall quality of life is at an all-time high. 

There is also a wide range of job opportunities, including everything from hospitality and night-life to outdoor activities, sales, project management, building operations, and design. The Naval base here is top-notch, if you are looking to serve.

Oh and the speakeasies? They are everywhere! Cocktail hour and happy hour is in no short supply in every little nook and cranny of San Diego. The sunsets are remarkable, which you can enjoy along the bay or one of many pristine coastlines, and there are countless adorable coffee shops, art museums, parks with gorgeous views, and perfectly manicured golf courses. 

If any of this sounds up your alley, it probably won’t take much more convincing for you to move here. 

North Park is one of many neighborhoods in San Diego with a “main street” vibe. You’ll find coffee shops, bookstores, restaurants, bars, breweries, and boutiques.

What is it Like to Live in San Diego?

For some, a typical day in San Diego might look like a morning sunrise surf, a walk to a local bagel shop for breakfast, a bike ride to a boutique coffee spot to cowork for a few hours, and then a post sunset walk on the beach or one of the county’s many boardwalks. The evening might look like drinks at a local speakeasy, a pop into a comedy club, or a quiet night in watching Netflix. 

For others, a typical day might look like a moderate hike with their pup, lunch with a view, afternoon volleyball on the bay, and an expensive dinner downtown. The possibilities are endless when it comes to lifestyle choices and you can be as active or as lazy as you want, truly–so long as you make ends meet, of course.

Moving to San Diego FAQs

When it comes to moving to San Diego advice, there are a few things that people tend to ask. With endless reasons to relocate to San Diego, there are some things you should know. Here are a few questions that concern what to know before moving to San Diego.

How much should I save before moving to San Diego?

Of course, it depends on your budget and how much you can afford to spend on rent, but you should be sure to have at least two months’ rent saved. You’ll like to pay the first and last upfront with a security deposit so it is better to have a third or fourth month saved so that you can make the transition easy on you, especially if you’re looking for a job. There are also considerations, such as setting up your electricity, internet, cable, and potentially obtaining a storage unit in San Diego.

How much money do you need to live comfortably in San Diego?

A lot of people ask the question “what salary do you need to live in San Diego?” The better question is how much do you need to be comfortable? If you don’t have any children you should make at least $25+/hour or roughly $50,000 annually. These are the minimums. If you want to live comfortably, it’s best to save up or wait for a promotion before thinking about making the move to San Diego.

What is the San Diego job market like?

The job market in San Diego is varied and thriving. There are a lot of tech and finance jobs in the city, but it is also a place for artisans, chefs, and creatives of all types. There are service jobs and bank jobs, and plenty of jobs for creatives. There are positions at large companies and small alike.

What are the safest neighborhoods in San Diego?

Most of San Diego is considered very safe, but many people say that the safest neighborhoods include La Jolla, Coronado, Torrey Hills, and Black Mountain Ranch among others.Most of San Diego is very safe, but the safest neighborhoods include La Jolla, Coronado, Torrey Hills, and Black Mountain Ranch among others.

How can I get around San Diego?

San Diego is a lot like the rest of California in that it has a car culture, but it also has much better public transportation than most of the state. The trolley can take you all over the county and you’ll have access to trains to other places in California. You can also inquire about a monthly or annual bus pass. Ride-shares are always an option. Needless to say, you shouldn’t have a hard time getting around, no matter whether you have a car, bike, or just your two feet.

How is the weather in San Diego?

People aren’t kidding when they say that San Diego has the best weather in the world. It really does. It is sunny and cool the vast majority of the year. It gets little rain. It is bright and warm but not too hot.

Is moving to San Diego a good idea?

Yes. Between the weather, laid-back culture, slower pace, friendly people, diverse culture, and relative affordability, it has become one of the most sought-after places to live in the country.

How can I make the move to San Diego easier?

The logistics of moving to San Diego are probably more or less similar to moving anywhere else. While it depends on where you’re coming from and how much stuff you have, you can make it easier by putting some stuff in self storage San Diego so you can take multiple trips if you need to.

The Last Word on Moving to San Diego

Are you convinced yet? San Diego is one of the best places to live in the country. There are very few cons to the city. It isn’t nearly as expensive as Los Angeles or San Francisco. It has a laid-back atmosphere and relaxed vibe. The weather is wonderful. The location is perfect. There are endless things to do and areas to explore.

Whether you’re looking for great food, beautiful beaches, fun places to drink, amazing activities, great job opportunities, or a diverse local population, San Diego is where you can find it. If you are looking for a laid-back environment with less pressure to hustle and bustle your way through life–yet still enjoy it to the maximum–San Diego is calling your name. You won’t regret the move. Take the plunge and get started on moving to San Diego today.

About the author: Ryan Beitler is a writer, journalist, and blogger who has written for a variety of publications including The Slovenia Times, Paste Magazine, Deadline News, and more. He used to live in San Diego. Additional reporting by LaJolla.com staff.