San Diego’s North County is vast, and typically broken into two regions: Coastal and Inland. The coastal area consists of a string of uniquely Southern California beach towns and seaside villages between the coastline and Interstate 5 (“the 5”). Somewhere between I-5 and Interstate 15 (“the 15”), the culture and the geography starts to change, marking a shift from coastal to inland.
The beach towns have retained a small-town feel and pride themselves on picturesque beaches, locavore culture, casual lifestyle, world-renowned surfing, and a reverence for nature. Quirky little villages like Carlsbad and Solana Beach are vibrant communities with stunning views, cool coastal breezes, and resort caliber amenities. Vista and Oceanside sprawl far enough inland to provide more affordable housing. Encinitas and Del Mar are natural havens with a plethora of outdoor activities to indulge, including trails for biking or hiking, equestrian sports, golfing, sport fishing, and—of course—surfing.
The climate is mild year-round, and can actually be quite cool compared to the inland regions. During the early summer months, the marine layer fog keeps the mornings cool, but burns off in the afternoon. Access from the coastal towns to I-5 is convenient, so getting to downtown San Diego, Orange County or Los Angeles is easy. Camp Pendleton lies between North County and Orange County, so if you are looking to “split the difference” in commutes, this is a great area to consider.
As with most of San Diego, you can find all types of people residing in North County. The coast attracts beach bums, surfers, retirees, and families who look to the miles of warm sand as a refuge or playground. The northern communities of Oceanside, Vista, and Carlsbad all have a heavy Marine presence due to the proximity to Camp Pendleton. Some of the more expensive cities, like Del Mar, Solana Beach, and Encinitas are home to wealthy locals, retirees, and a few high ranking military families. For the most part, the people here are laid-back, working class, active and outdoorsy. You won’t see many three-piece suits, but flip-flops and shorts and military uniforms are commonplace.
Homes in North County Coastal tend to be smaller, especially as you approach the water and move to the west of I-5. Ocean breezes provide nature’s A/C and most of the homes will not have central air conditioning. This is a huge savings in a state where utility costs can routinely exceed $300 to $400 per month. The single family homes are mostly built in the Spanish stucco style with red-tiled roofs. Yards are small and patios are considered extra living spaces. Condos, townhomes, and apartments are an option for many, and offer a more affordable option for those dead-set on living near the beach.