16 Things to Know BEFORE Moving to San Diego, CA 2024: Life in San Diego

some top checklist things to know before moving to san diego -

Nestled along California’s sun-kissed southern coast, San Diego, often dubbed “America’s Finest City,” beckons with its vibrant charm and Pacific allure. Imagine a place where the sun dances on the ocean’s waves all year long, where the people radiate warmth, and opportunities knock at every corner. That’s San Diego for you!

With its perfect blend of laid-back vibes and bustling city life, San Diego is rapidly climbing the charts as one of the must-live places in the U.S. And it’s not just the golden beaches or the thriving job market that’s drawing people in. It’s the tapestry of cultures, the median age of its lively 1.41 million residents being 35, that makes the city a melting pot of experiences and stories.

Thinking of making the move? We get it, relocating can be a whirlwind of emotions. But fret not! Dive into our guide on the ’16 Essential Things to Know Before Embracing San Diego Life’ and transition like a pro. Welcome to your next adventure in California!

Things To Know

San Diego's Green Spaces - Parks and Recreation

1. What is it Like Living There

Boasting a population of 1.43 million, San Diego stands tall as the US’s 8th most populous city and California’s second-largest in terms of land spread. And when you factor in the broader metropolitan expanse, the numbers soar even higher.

Nestled tantalizingly close to the Mexican border, San Diego is a melting pot of cultures. The harmonious blend of English and Spanish echoes through its vibrant neighborhoods, painting a vivid picture of its rich heritage.

More than just pristine beaches and sun-kissed shores, San Diego is a hub for academia, corporate aspirations, and a plethora of industries ranging from military to tourism and research. Its moniker, the “Birthplace of California,” traces back to 1542 when Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo set foot from Spain, paving the way for settlements that would shape the region’s history. From its Mexican roots in 1821 to its American identity post the Mexican-American War in 1848, San Diego’s tapestry is woven with tales of evolution and growth.

But it’s not just history and beaches that make San Diego unique. Quirky laws, like the prohibition of shooting jackrabbits from streetcars, add a touch of whimsy. And for thrill-seekers, The Giant Dipper roller coaster, a national historic marvel, promises adrenaline rushes. Not to forget, with around 7,000 farms, San Diego is the nation’s farming capital.

Thinking of embracing the Pacific breezes and endless adventures? Before you embark on your journey to America’s Finest City, here’s a comprehensive guide to all things San Diego. Welcome aboard!

2. Living: A Glimpse into Your Wallet

Living in San Diego - Glimpse into Your Wallet

San Diego, with its coastal charm, does come with a price tag. While it’s more affordable than its Californian counterparts like San Francisco and Los Angeles, it still ranks higher than many US cities. Payscale reports that San Diego’s living costs are 44% above the national average, with housing soaring to 136% higher. But for many, the allure of ocean views and city perks justifies the costs.

Here’s a snapshot of typical expenses in San Diego, courtesy of Payscale:

  • Monthly energy bill: $192.64
  • Bread loaf: $3.76
  • Doctor’s appointment: $119.01
  • Gas per gallon: $3.36

When it comes to housing, San Diego’s rents are competitive but relatively moderate for the West Coast. A one-bedroom apartment averages $2,989 monthly, while a two-bedroom sets you back about $3,736. Post-pandemic, rents are on an upward trajectory, but there are still enticing move-in deals available.

To gauge affordability, consider the 30% rule: allocate no more than 30% of your pre-tax earnings on rent. For a one-bedroom, this translates to an annual income of roughly $107,604 or an hourly wage of $51.73. For a two-bedroom, aim for an income of $134,496 or an hourly rate of $64.66.

In comparison, San Diego’s median income stands at $79,673, as per the 2019 Census Bureau data, slightly higher than California’s $75,235 median. However, to truly thrive in San Diego, above the poverty line, a single full-time worker should earn at least $21.26 per hour. To indulge in the city’s vibrant nightlife and dining scene, a robust paycheck or additional income streams are essential.

3. The San Diego Mosaic: Who’s Making the Move?

San Diego’s tapestry is rich and varied, with folks from various corners of the US and beyond calling it home. For Californians, it’s a favored destination, especially for those from Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Francisco, as highlighted by Apartment List’s migration report.

But where are San Diegans headed when they seek a change? The top picks for those leaving are Los Angeles, Riverside, and the sunny realms of Phoenix. Whether coming or going, San Diego remains a pivotal point in many relocation journeys.

4. Navigating the Tax Terrain in California

Navigating the Tax Terrain in California

While California boasts stunning landscapes and vibrant cities, it’s also notorious for its steep tax rates. Living in places like San Diego means you’ll be subjected to some of the nation’s highest taxes. The Golden State imposes a base sales tax of 7.25% and a top-tier marginal income tax rate of 13.3%, both of which rank among the highest in the U.S.

However, it’s not all gloomy on the tax front. When it comes to property taxes, California offers a silver lining. The state’s property tax rate stands at a modest .73%, which is notably lower than the national average of 1.07%. So, while you might feel the pinch in some areas, there are savings to be had in others.

5. Neighborhood Gems: Where to Plant Your Roots

San Diego’s neighborhoods are a delightful blend of sun, sea, and city vibes. Whether you’re seeking beachfront bliss or a bustling urban setting, San Diego has a spot for you. Here’s a glimpse into some of its standout neighborhoods:

  • North Park: A favorite among the city’s residents, North Park, located just north of the iconic Balboa Park, is a haven for the artsy and the avant-garde. While parking might be a challenge, the vibrant pubs, galleries, and cultural hubs make it a hotspot for those with a creative flair.
  • Little Italy: Culinary enthusiasts will find themselves in paradise in Little Italy. This neighborhood is a gastronomic delight, boasting a plethora of restaurants and the much-loved Farmers’ Markets. Nestled in downtown San Diego, it’s a premium locale, but for food aficionados, the experience is worth every penny.
  • Hillcrest: Hillcrest pulsates with energy and color, serving as the heart of San Diego’s LGBTQ+ community. With a plethora of eateries and bars, it’s a lively spot, and its proximity to Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo adds to its appeal.
  • Ocean Beach: For those seeking a tranquil beach vibe, Ocean Beach is the place to be. Here, you can relish oceanfront living, be it in quaint cottages or contemporary apartments. The community is tight-knit, emphasizing local businesses and a relaxed lifestyle. Plus, attractions like Sea World are just a stone’s throw away.
  • Pacific Beach: If you’re looking for a blend of sun, sand, and spirited youthfulness, Pacific Beach is your destination. Popular among college students, this neighborhood is buzzing with cafes, bars, and beach-themed eateries, making it a hub of activity and fun.

Whether you’re a beach bum, a food lover, or someone seeking a vibrant community, San Diego’s diverse neighborhoods promise a home that’s just right for you.

Tip: Like any other town, San Diego has some bad neighborhoods that you should avoid for your safety.

7. Navigating the Job Landscape

Navigating the Job Landscape - San Diego

San Diego’s job market is robust and diverse, offering a plethora of opportunities across various sectors. Whether you’re inclined towards biotech, have a passion for hospitality, or are drawn to the military, San Diego has a spot for you. What’s more, the paychecks here are quite attractive. With a median income of $79,673, San Diego outpaces the national average of $62,843, making it a lucrative destination for job seekers.

8. Basking in San Diego’s Sunshine

One of San Diego’s crowning jewels is undoubtedly its splendid weather. Dubbed “America’s Finest City,” San Diego promises sun-kissed days perfect for beach outings, swimming, or simply lounging in the great outdoors. While May might usher in a bit of gray and June can be slightly gloomy, the overall climate is predominantly pleasant. Even the winter months are gentle, with only a touch of cold and sporadic rain showers.

9. A Transport Guide

Navigating San Diego can be a mixed bag. While parking is a known challenge, especially in buzzing neighborhoods, the city’s Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) offers extensive bus and trolley services, making commuting a breeze.

For those who love the hustle and bustle, San Diego’s dense core offers a walkable urban experience. However, the majority of residents prefer the convenience of personal vehicles. If you’re eyeing neighborhoods or suburbs beyond the reach of public transit, it’s wise to have a car or allocate a budget for ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft.

Budgeting for transportation is crucial in San Diego. A single adult might spend approximately $4,900 annually on commuting, while a family comprising two working adults and a child should earmark at least $11,186 for transportation costs.

10. San Diego’s Coastal Charms: The Beaches

San Diego is synonymous with sun-kissed beaches, each with its distinct character. Pacific Beach buzzes with youthful energy, thanks to its college crowd, and offers scenic spots like Kate Sessions Park and Tourmaline Surfing Park.

For a touch of luxury, head to Coronado Beach with its picturesque views and upscale ambiance. Ocean Beach, with its bohemian vibe, is a haven for surfers and sun-lovers alike.

La Jolla Shores offers a suburban feel with an array of activities, from stand-up paddleboarding to ocean kayaking. And for those seeking the thrill of powerful waves against a rocky backdrop, Windansea Beach is the place to be.

11. San Diego’s Green Spaces: Parks and Recreation

Things To Know about San Diego

Beyond its beaches, San Diego boasts a plethora of parks and recreational areas. Balboa Park is a must-visit, offering a blend of nature, culture, and adventure. Mission Bay, with its array of watersports and proximity to Sea World, promises a day of fun and frolic.

For those seeking panoramic views, Kate Sessions Park is unparalleled, while Sunset Cliffs in Point Loma offers breathtaking sunsets and serene walking trails.

12. A Culinary Journey: Dining Scene

San Diego’s culinary landscape is as diverse as its culture. With its close ties to Mexico, the city offers some of the finest Mexican delicacies. Dive into the world of craft breweries, with over 150 to choose from, including the renowned Stone Brewing World and Gardens.

For authentic Mexican flavors, Aqui es Texcoco and El Comal are must-visits. And if seafood is your calling, Oscar’s Mexican Seafood won’t disappoint. For those with an inclination towards Asian cuisine, Convoy Street is the place to be, offering everything from delectable dumplings to mouth-watering Korean BBQ.

13. Bucket List: Must-Do Activities

Bucket List - Must-Do Activities in San Diego

San Diego is a treasure trove of activities, from its pristine beaches to its world-class attractions. Whether you’re sunbathing at the iconic Coronado City Beach, picnicking at La Jolla Cove, or hiking at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, there’s always something to do. Animal enthusiasts can’t miss the renowned San Diego Zoo, nestled within the expansive Balboa Park, which also houses the mesmerizing Botanical Gardens. Dive into art and history at the San Diego Museum of Art or step back in time aboard the USS Midway Museum. And as the sun sets, the Gaslamp Quarter comes alive, offering a vibrant nightlife scene.

14. The Sports Scene

While the Padres remain San Diego’s major league representation, the city’s sports spirit is undeterred. From the thrilling matches of the San Diego Loyal soccer team to the prowess of SDSU basketball and football, there’s no shortage of action. And for those who prefer sand over stadiums, beach volleyball games are a common sight, offering both spectacles and participation opportunities.

15. Academic Excellence: San Diego’s Universities

San Diego's Universities

San Diego isn’t just about beaches and brews; it’s also an academic hub. The University of California San Diego, nestled in scenic La Jolla, is renowned for its diverse programs, while San Diego State University stands out for its inclusive environment and dynamic athletics. In this city, education meets recreation, ensuring a holistic college experience.

16. Year-Round Festivities

San Diego knows how to throw a party! Comic-Con, the city’s most anticipated event, transforms the city into a fantasy realm, with fans donning elaborate costumes. For music aficionados, the CRSSD Fest offers an electrifying experience by the waterfront, while KAABOO promises a multi-sensory delight, blending music, comedy, and gastronomy. In San Diego, there’s always a reason to celebrate.


1. Is it worth it to move to San Diego?

Yes, many people find it worth moving to San Diego due to its pleasant climate, diverse culture, and numerous recreational opportunities. However, the decision largely depends on individual preferences and financial considerations.

2. What part is good to live in?

San Diego has several great neighborhoods to choose from, including North Park, Little Italy, Hillcrest, and Ocean Beach. The best area often depends on one’s lifestyle, budget, and priorities.

3. How do I prepare to move?

To prepare for a move to San Diego:

  • Research neighborhoods to find a suitable place to live.
  • Budget for the higher cost of living.
  • Familiarize yourself with local job opportunities and the job market.
  • Prepare for the city’s warm climate.
  • Understand local transportation options.

4. Is San Diego still a nice place to live?

Yes, San Diego remains a popular destination for its beautiful beaches, cultural attractions, and vibrant communities. Its reputation as “America’s Finest City” still holds true for many residents.

5. How much salary is enough to live in San Diego?

To live comfortably in San Diego, a single adult should aim for an income of at least $107,604 a year for a one-bedroom apartment. However, this can vary based on lifestyle and personal expenses.

6. What is a comfortable salary to live?

A comfortable salary in San Diego would be around $120,000 to $150,000, which allows for a decent apartment, dining out, entertainment, and savings. However, individual needs can vary.

7. What is a good monthly salary in San Diego?

A good monthly salary in San Diego would be around $8,000 to $10,000 before taxes, which would cover housing, utilities, food, transportation, and leisure activities.

8. What is the cheapest way to live?

To live cheaply in San Diego:

  • Consider sharing an apartment or renting a room.
  • Use public transportation instead of owning a car.
  • Shop at local farmers’ markets and discount stores.
  • Limit dining out and entertainment expenses.

9. Is $75,000 a good salary in California?

While $75,000 is above the median income for California, its adequacy depends on the specific city and individual lifestyle. In cities like San Francisco or Los Angeles, it might be challenging to live comfortably on this salary, but in other parts of the state, it could be sufficient.

Final Words:

San Diego, with its sun-kissed beaches and vibrant culture, remains a dream destination for many. While the cost of living is higher than some other cities, the unique experiences and quality of life it offers can make the move worthwhile.

As with any relocation decision, it’s essential to research, plan, and budget to ensure a smooth transition and a comfortable life in this beautiful Californian city.

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