San Diego is not the small town that it once was. According to the 2020 Census, the City of San Diego has a population of 1.39 Million people. But that’s not the real story. “San Diego” communities stretch beyond the city limits. In 2021, the population of the greater San Diego area was 3,272,000. San Diego County encompasses numerous neighborhoods that even locals feel are part of San Diego, but technically are not. The cities of Carlsbad, Coronado, Del Mar, Encinitas, Imperial Beach, La Mesa, Lemon Grove, Poway, San Marcos, Santee, Solana Beach, Oceanside, and Vista are all unincorporated areas that are part of San Diego.
We’ve broken the San Diego Communities down into sections to give a better overview of the area.
Central San Diego Inland includes City Heights, Oak Park, Normal Heights, Kensington, South Park, Golden Hill, North Park, Serra Mesa, Tierrasanta, and the SDSU College Area.
Central Coastal San Diego begins with Downtown San Diego and Coronado Island to the West, and continues up the coast through Point Loma, Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach and La Jolla. On the East side of I-5 North of Downtown the neighborhoods of Mission Hills and Hillcrest, Mission Valley, Old Town/Bay Park, Clairemont, Sorrento Valley, University City are still considered “coastal.”
North Coastal San Diego includes Del Mar, Carmel Valley, Solana Beach, Cardiff by the Sea, Encinitas, plus Carlsbad and Oceanside which stretches from the coast through several zip codes in north-inland San Diego.
North San Diego includes the inland neighborhoods of Mira Mesa, Scripps Ranch, Rancho Penasquitos, and Rancho Bernardo, plus the unincorporated cities of Poway, Escondido and San Marcos.
South Bay San Diego is everything south of Downtown, including National City, Bonita, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, Otay Mesa, and San Ysidro. The South Bay is a large area that continues to develop with upscale neighborhoods and services.