Which of the Safest Neighborhoods in San Diego Is Right for You?

San Diego California

by Bridget Houlihan Posted on April 29, 2024

If you’re wanting to live closer to the water in Southern California but still have access to all the amenities you can expect from a big city, then San Diego may be the ticket. This city oozes California cool vibes, with a relaxed culture that’s welcoming to all types of people. Folks are looking to move to San Diego because of the wonderful weather, fantastic dining scene, easy access to the outdoors (including some amazing surfing beaches!), and great job opportunities — and that’s just a few of the reasons. In fact, America’s Finest City is the No. 3 destination in the country for people looking to move, and it’s easy to see why! But where should you move to in the area, and what are some of the safest neighborhoods in San Diego? We’ve narrowed it down to our top 10 faves.

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First Things First: Is San Diego Safe?

Before we discuss if San Diego is safe at night or what the safest areas in San Diego are, we should first answer this: Is San Diego safe overall? According to NeighborhoodScout, San Diego has an overall crime index of 17 (the closer to 100, the safer the place). You have a 1 in 53 chance of becoming a victim of either a violent crime or a property crime. Before you get worried, though, it’s important to compare it to other comparable cities. For example, San Diego is safer than nearby Los Angeles (rated 7) and much safer than San Francisco (rated 1). 

San Diego is also a large city with nearly 1.4 million people, and according to Forbes, it’s the 6th safest large city in the U.S. Compared to some more large metropolises like New York City and Chicago — both with a crime index score of 6 — you’re safer in a city like San Diego. It’s important to remember that crime is often concentrated in certain areas, as well, which is why it’s essential to find safe neighborhoods in San Diego, regardless of whether you’re a student, young professional, retiree, or moving with your family. 

Safest Areas in San Diego — FAQs

Q: Is downtown San Diego a safe place to live?
A:
Yes, downtown San Diego is considered a safe place to live. In fact, San Diego has enhanced safety services in place with its Safety Ambassadors that patrol 275 blocks of downtown neighborhoods.

Q: Is San Diego the safest big city in America?
A:
San Diego is considered one of the safest cities in America.

Q: Is San Diego or L.A. safer?
A:
According to NeighborhoodScout, San Diego is considered 17 percent safer than other U.S. neighborhoods, while L.A. is safer than only 7 percent.

Q: Is San Diego safer than NYC?
A:
According to NeighborhoodScout, San Diego is safer than NYC, but keep in mind that New York City is a much larger city with a lot more people concentrated in a smaller area. 

Safest Neighborhoods in San Diego

If you’re looking for safe places to live in San Diego, you’ve come to the right place. We have a variety of safe neighborhoods on our list, including some of the best neighborhoods in San Diego for families. Whether you want to live closer to the city center (yes, Downtown San Diego is safe) or you prefer a neighborhood that’s closer to the coast, here are our top choices for 10 of the safest neighborhoods in San Diego. 

Residential homes perched atop hills in San Diego’s Rancho Penasquitos neighborhood.

Rancho Penasquitos is located in the Del Mar Mesa Preserve and offers acres of land to explore.
(Source: Trulia)

1. Rancho Penasquitos

One of the best neighborhoods in San Diego for families is Rancho Penasquitos, which was named after the first Mexican land grant in the county. This northern neighborhood is located in the Del Mar Mesa Preserve and offers acres of land to explore. You can take the kids to the Rancho Penasquitos Adobe or the Los Penasquitos Ranch House next to Canyonside Park, or follow the Camino Ruiz Trail to the stunning Penasquitos Creek Waterfall. 

There are plenty of fantastic schools serving the area for kids of all ages, as well, including Canyon View Elementary School, Sunset Hills Elementary, and Westview High School. And conveniently located right off I-15, you can easily get anywhere you need to in San Diego, whether it's for work or play. The Black Mountain Open Space Park is also located in Rancho Penasquitos, giving you plenty of options when it comes to staying active outdoors in the lovely San Diego weather.

2. North City

Another safe, affluent San Diego neighborhood that you should consider if you’re looking for luxury living is North City. Located just minutes away from the beaches and volleyball courts of Del Mar Beach, this neighborhood is packed with beautiful planned communities like The Highlands by Tri Pointe Homes and Pacific Highlands Ranch. The Fairbanks Ranch Country Club is a popular place for golf, tennis, pickleball, fitness, aquatics, and basketball, and lots of residents are members. 

Living in North City means you’ll always be close to shopping and dining options on Carmel Valley Road, and you’re just a short drive from I-5 when you need to go elsewhere. Into equestrian sports? You’ll love that North City is home to a variety of stables, including the RidgeMar and Rancho El Camino Equestrian for all your boarding and training needs!

3. La Jolla Village

If you want to live within walking distance to shopping and dining and be very close to the coast, then consider looking to buy or rent in La Jolla Village. This neighborhood is a mixed residential/business community, which means you’ll have no problem grabbing groceries at Ralphs or Trader Joe’s, seeing a show at AMC La Jolla, or getting a bite at Urban Plates or Ike’s Love and Sandwiches.

Living in La Jolla Village also means you can easily take a walk in Villa La Jolla Park, walk the trails at Rose Canyon Open Space Park, or enjoy a match at one of the many nearby tennis courts. And when you’re not relaxing at La Jolla Shores Beach, you can hit the trail at Pottery Canyon Natural Open Space Park!

 Luxury homes in the Carmel Valley neighborhood of San Diego, seen through a neighboring field of purple flowers and a grove of palm trees.

If you’re a professional who needs to commute into the city for work, Carmel Valley is a great place to live.
(Source: Trulia)

4. Carmel Valley

Carmel Valley is an affluent, coastal community that’s located directly north of downtown San Diego on I-5 — which means it would be a great place to live if you’re a professional commuting into the city for work. No matter where you live in this neighborhood, you’ll find that the streets are very walkable and that you have plenty of opportunities to get outdoors. Go hiking on the Shaw Valley Trail, for instance, or check out the Carmel Mountain Preserve, with its variety of can’t-miss lookout points. The Grand Golf Club is a popular place to practice your swing, or you could head over to nearby Torrey Pines Golf Course. It offers amazing golf rounds on the cliffs — with the ocean as the backdrop! 

Families love the great schools in the area, including Carmel Del Mar Elementary School and Canyon Crest Academy. And kids love Carmel Del Mar Park, the Carmel Valley Swimming Pool and Rec Center, and the popular Carmel Valley Skatepark. Here, you’re also only minutes away from the coast and amazing local dining options, like Monarch Ocean Pub or Board and Brew.

5. Sabre Springs

Located right off I-15 and north of the city center is the quiet neighborhood of Sabre Springs. This would be a great place to call home, whether you’re looking for a single-family house or would rather rent at one of the complexes along Penasquitos Creek, such as Creek View Condos or Ridgewood Village Apartments. And like most safe neighborhoods in San Diego, this walkable community is near a variety of outdoor greenspaces that are ideal for staying active. You can easily visit South Creek Park, explore the Cypress Hill Flag Trail, or venture along the Van Dam Peak Savannah Trail. 

You’ll also love all the shopping and dining options close by on Poway Road, especially if you’re a fan of cafes and coffee shops. The daily roasts at Nutmeg Bakery & Cafe or Hob Coffee Sabre Springs are especially popular, and when you’re ready for a delicious local meal, try out the Mediterranean fare at Luna Grill

6. Rancho Encantada

If you’re looking for a great neighborhood in San Diego that has easy access to outdoor fun, then consider finding a place in Rancho Encantada. Located northeast of the downtown area, this neighborhood is nestled in the East Miramar Range and offers not only stunning views of the mountains but also opportunities to get out and explore them. Hike or bike the trails at Mission Trails Regional Park, or see if the Sycamore Canyon Trail is more your speed. And stop by the local stables, if you want to mix it up and see the sites on horseback.

This quiet neighborhood also boasts easy access to Stonebridge Park to play with the kids or relax with friends when you want to stay closer to home. And the Scripps-Poway Parkway will keep you connected to anywhere you want to go in the city. It’s full of shopping options like Kohl’s and Costco and home to the popular In-N-Out Burger and local O’Brien’s Bakery

Distinct residential homes are partially obscured by mature trees in the Scripps Ranch neighborhood of San Diego.

Scripps Miramar Ranch is close to the East Miramar Range, which means there are lots of opportunities to explore the trails and take in the natural scenery.
(Source: Trulia)

7. Scripps Miramar Ranch

While Scripps Miramar Ranch (aka Scripps Ranch) is a safe San Diego neighborhood for everyone, retirees especially seem to like it here. It’s close to the East Miramar Range, which means there are lots of opportunities to explore the trails and take in the natural scenery. It’s also close to the MCAS Miramar (including the Fightertown U.S.A. hangar from Top Gun) and the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Reserve Centers.

This neighborhood also includes the beautiful Miramar Reservoir, where you can walk the Lake Miramar Trail and enjoy some time relaxing in Natalie Park. Residents love the walkable communities that offer winding streets perfect for walking the dog, taking strolls with friends, or bringing the kids out on their bikes. And although this neighborhood is located right near I-15, you won’t have to go far for great eats. Local places like Todo Sushi or Harland Brewing Co. are practically right in your backyard.

8. Tierrasanta

Tierrasanta is the perfect location if you’re a young professional commuting to the city or a student in one of the nearby colleges (CalU Miramar, San Diego Community College District) or trade schools. It borders the expansive Mission Trails Regional Park, which is home to a variety of trails that can take you to sites like Oak Canyon Waterfall, North Fortuna Mountain Summit, the Giant Oak Tree, and Old Mission Dam. 

Residents love how well kept the trails and greenspaces in the area are, including at Tierrasanta Park (and Rec Center), Portofino Park, and Rueda Canyon. This vibrant neighborhood also has easy access to I-15, and you’ll find plenty of delicious dining options in the area, including at Homestyle Hawaiian Pub and Eatery and Gaetano’s Pizza Restaurant.

9. Mira Mesa

One of the top affordable and safe places to live in San Diego (by California standards, that is) is the cute neighborhood of Mira Mesa. This community is bordered by I-805 and I-15, which means if you need to commute or want to explore other areas of San Diego, it’s incredibly easy to do so. In the northern part of the neighborhood are the Mira Mesa Open Space, Los Penasquitos Canyon County Preserve, and Camino Ruiz Park, which are ideal when you want to walk, jog, or bike the trails.

Head over to the western part of the community and you’ll find Lopez Ridge Park and more trails to keep you active. Many of the streets are walkable cul-de-sac communities interspersed with greenspaces, as well, like Winterwood Lane Park, Mesa Verde Park, and the Mira Mesa Park and Rec Center. And both Mira Mesa Blvd. and Camino Ruiz offer an abundance of shopping and dining options, like Sayulita’s Mexican Food, Sunmerry Bakery Cafe, and The Boiling Crab.

Aerial view of a golf course and surrounding neighborhoods in the Rancho Bernardo area of San Diego.

With easy access to The Heights Golf Club, Oaks North Golf Club, and The Country Club of Rancho Bernardo, you’ll always have somewhere to hit the links!

10. Rancho Bernardo

Ranked in the top 10 best neighborhoods to live in San Diego, according to Niche, is the area of Rancho Bernardo. It isn’t just one of the safest areas in San Diego; it’s an area with good schools, senior living options, and community centers that make sure everyone feels engaged. And if you want to be close to plenty of golf courses, then this area also excels. With places like The Heights Golf Club, Oaks North Golf Club, and The Country Club of Rancho Bernardo, you’ll always have options! But it’s not just golf that keeps residents active, as there is also the Rancho Bernardo Swim & Tennis Club, the Rancho Bernardo Community Park (popular with the kiddos), and the Battle Mountain Open Space.

If you’re looking for something a little different, head to Lake Hodges and explore the Dam Trailhead or the San Dieguito River Trail. When you’re done, you can always stop and refuel with top-tier Mexican food at Hernandez Hideaway. You’re also always close to shopping options on Rancho Bernardo Road, and if you need to head elsewhere, the I-15 can easily get you there. 

Let PODS Help You Move to One of the Safest Neighborhoods in San Diego

Once you’ve found a safe place to live in San Diego, let PODS help you get there! Choose a container that’s the right size for your belongings, and take your time loading it up. When it’s ready, a PODS pro will come pick it up and drive it to your new San Diego home. PODS also offers a specialized City Service for moves into larger cities like San Diego that takes some of the stress away from move-in day. The driver will stay with your container as you unload it. PODS can even help you find local movers to help with the heavy lifting. If you’d rather take your time unpacking, that’s not a problem, either. One month of storage is included with each move!

Editor’s note: For ease of reading, monthly rental prices were rounded to the nearest $25 and home values were rounded to the nearest $100.

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