The 10 Best San Diego Suburbs To Live For 2021

We analyzed over 17 places around San Diego to identify the most in demand places to live.

HomeSnacks is reader-supported. When you click through real estate links on our site, we earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.
Editor’s Note: Data has been updated for 2021. This is our seventh time ranking the best San Diego suburbs.

There's no doubt about it; San Diego is one of the best places to call home in California. But if you're not a big-city person, you'd be well advised to consult our list of the best San Diego suburbs before moving to one.

San Diego has some of the nicest weather in the country, so you'd better believe its satellite cities also have their moments in the sun. From any of these suburbs, you can also easily get to one of the best zoos in the world, the San Diego Zoo, for a day of family fun. Beach bums also have a lot to be happy about with La Jolla Cove right in their backyard. And NYC's Central Park is cute and all, but San Diego's Balboa Park is nearly twice the size and definitely twice as safe as the Big Apple's claim to fame.

What qualities did we look at when determining the best San Diego suburbs? Well, we looked at the most recent data from the FBI and the Census to see which of San Diego's 17 suburbs had low crime, high income levels, low unemployment and poverty rates, and functioning economies.

That left us with the ten best suburbs to call home in the San Diego area. It seems that coastal suburbs, which comprise the top five of our list, enjoyed a significant statistical advantage. Large cities like Oceanside hardly feel like suburbs at all, and might make a good option for someone who doesn't want to feel the need to head into San Diego every day. Those with deep pockets who want the best of California beach life will be drawn to Coronado, but be warned that the cost of living here is quite steep. Those who don't mind eschewing the beach will find massive savings in Santee, one of the few places on this list you can snag a home for under $500,000.

So don your Padres cap, order up some of the best Mexican food this side of the border, and get ready for the best weather of your life, because we're visiting San Diego's best suburbs.

Here are the 10 best suburbs to live around San Diego for 2021:

  1. Del Mar
  2. Solana Beach
  3. Coronado
  4. Encinitas
  5. Carlsbad
  6. Poway
  7. Santee
  8. San Marcos
  9. La Mesa
  10. Oceanside

There you have it: the best suburbs San Diego has to offer. If you're unsure if you'd feel more at home in San Diego than just outside it, check out our list of San Diego's best neighborhoods. Then you'll be equipped with all the info you need to make a fully-informed decision.

Any of these suburbs will make an excellent home, but there can only be one gold medal winner. So what's the best San Diego suburb? According to the data, Del Mar holds the title for 2021.

Were you considering moving to a San Diego suburb that wasn't featured on our list? Take a look at the comprehensive list of San Diego suburbs below to see how each one ranked.

Note: This result may differ from our state wide data as we did not include commute times and crime for this analysis to allow for a larger selection of suburbs.

Feel free to check out some more reading about California:

The 10 Best San Diego Suburbs To Live For 2021

Del Mar, CA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 4,331
Rank Last Year: 3 (Up 2)
Median Income: $129,063
Unemployment Rate: 3.2%
Poverty Rate: 5.2%
More on Del Mar: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Del Mar is always mentioned as one of the best suburbs in the San Diego area. We'll tell you the good about "Awesome Del Mar."

Everyone here is rich; families average $129,063 a year, which is the highest in the San Diego region. And only 3.25% are out of work. Homes average more than $2,000,001 each.

Solana Beach, CA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 13,356
Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 1)
Median Income: $108,118
Unemployment Rate: 3.2%
Poverty Rate: 5.3%
More on Solana Beach: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Solana Beach is the second best 'burb we looked at near San Diego for 2021.

It ranks 5th for incomes in the area and only 6.99% of residents lack insurance, good for 8th best.

Coronado, CA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 23,639
Rank Last Year: 4 (Up 1)
Median Income: $108,967
Unemployment Rate: 4.3%
Poverty Rate: 5.8%
More on Coronado: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Here in Coronado, it's really safe, and residents are just about as rich as you'll see in the San Diego metro area.

The bad side? Schools are more crowded, and the cost of living puts a large part of the city out of reach for most families.

But price is based on demand and a lot of people want to live in Coronado.

Encinitas, CA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 62,780
Rank Last Year: 5 (Up 1)
Median Income: $116,022
Unemployment Rate: 3.8%
Poverty Rate: 6.5%
More on Encinitas: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Encinitas ranks as the 4th best suburb of San Diego for 2021.

You won't find many better places to raise your kids in the region than in Encinitas and the schools are some of the best around.

Carlsbad, CA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 114,253
Rank Last Year: 2 (Down 3)
Median Income: $110,478
Unemployment Rate: 4.9%
Poverty Rate: 5.8%
More on Carlsbad: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Coming in as the fifth best is Carlsbad.

Carlsbad gets kudos for having the 5th most expensive homes in the San Diego area, where houses sell for an average of $814,700. However, the cost of living here is among the highest in the area.

Poway, CA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 49,701
Rank Last Year: 6 (No Change)
Median Income: $107,902
Unemployment Rate: 5.6%
Poverty Rate: 6.0%
More on Poway: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Poway is proud of its 6th place finish on this list. And here's why.

Most residents have great jobs and the unemployment rate sits at 5.64% which is 11th best in the area.

According to online reports, Poway is quickly becoming one of the more affluent suburbs in the San Diego area, meaning you need to get in soon.

Santee, CA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 57,797
Rank Last Year: 7 (No Change)
Median Income: $87,098
Unemployment Rate: 5.3%
Poverty Rate: 7.3%
More on Santee: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The 7th best suburb on our list goes to Santee.

Santee schools are some of the best in the region, and crime is really low. The cost of living makes it a lot more desirable for many families, especially first-time home buyers.

And, it's only 9.1 miles to downtown, which is a good thing.

San Marcos, CA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 95,355
Rank Last Year: 8 (No Change)
Median Income: $78,797
Unemployment Rate: 3.9%
Poverty Rate: 11.3%
More on San Marcos: Real Estate | Data | Photos

San Marcos is growing quickly, and for a good reason. Crime is far below average, and most residents are gainfully employed. Even the cost of living is reasonable.

A solid 8.52% of people lack insurance, good for 12th in the area.

La Mesa, CA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 59,556
Rank Last Year: 9 (No Change)
Median Income: $66,051
Unemployment Rate: 7.0%
Poverty Rate: 12.6%
More on La Mesa: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Is 'Everything Better In La Mesa?'


It placed 9th on our list thanks to the fact that it's really expensive to live here, but the schools are great, so you get what you pay for in that regard.

Oceanside, CA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 175,622
Rank Last Year: 10 (No Change)
Median Income: $72,697
Unemployment Rate: 6.0%
Poverty Rate: 10.2%
More on Oceanside: Real Estate | Data | Photos

And rounding out the top ten for 2021 is Oceanside.

This city is far above average in every category, and the best part? It's far more affordable than the other cities listed above. So, you get a big bang for your buck here.

How We Determined The Best Suburbs Around San Diego for 2021

Figuring out the best suburbs around San Diego was pretty simple; we just needed to list several things that people like, and then find out which cities have the most of those things.

We threw a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible:

  • Low unemployment rate
  • High Median household incomes
  • Population density (lots of things to do)
  • High home values
  • A lot of college educated people
  • Low poverty
  • High rate of insured families

Then we used the newest American Community Survey data for 2015-2019 to research each suburb.

FYI: We defined a suburb as being within 30 miles of San Diego.

Additionally, we limited the analysis to places that have over 4,000 people. This left us with a grand total of 17 suburbs to evaluate around San Diego.

We ranked each place with scores from 1 to 17 in each category, where 1 was the "best.

Next, we averaged the rankings for each place to create a quality of life index.

And finally, we crowned the city with the best quality of life index the "Best Suburb near San Diego." We're lookin' at you, Del Mar. You can download the data here.

Read on below to learn more about what it's like to live in the best of the best. Or skip to the end to see the list of all the suburbs ranked from best to worst.

Welcome to the Best San Diego 'Burbs of 2021

We said it once and we'll say it again--life in the big city isn't for everyone. At least not all the time.

So if you're hankering for some of the amenities of a larger city like San Diego, but don't want to deal with the drawbacks, one of these suburbs might just be for you.

For more California reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Best San Diego Suburbs

Rank City Population Median Income
1 Del Mar, CA 4,331 $129,063
2 Solana Beach, CA 13,356 $108,118
3 Coronado, CA 23,639 $108,967
4 Encinitas, CA 62,780 $116,022
5 Carlsbad, CA 114,253 $110,478
6 Poway, CA 49,701 $107,902
7 Santee, CA 57,797 $87,098
8 San Marcos, CA 95,355 $78,797
9 La Mesa, CA 59,556 $66,051
10 Oceanside, CA 175,622 $72,697
11 Chula Vista, CA 268,920 $81,272
12 Vista, CA 100,686 $72,125
13 El Cajon, CA 103,186 $55,309
14 Imperial Beach, CA 27,315 $53,690
15 Lemon Grove, CA 26,802 $63,548
16 Spring Valley, CA 5,223 $50,814
17 Escondido, CA 151,300 $64,038

How Is Your Town In ?

About Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar has been in the real estate business for almost ten years now. He originally worked for Movoto Real Estate as the director of marketing before founding HomeSnacks.

He believes the key to finding the right place to live comes down to looking at the data, reading about things to do, and, most importantly, checking it out yourself before you move.

If you've been looking for a place to live in the past several years, you've probably stumbled upon his writing already.

You can find out more about him on LinkedIn or his website.