The Best San Diego Suburbs for Schools

If you’re looking for the best San Diego suburbs to raise your kids, this article is for you. San Diego is awesome but the real trick is figuring how to raise a family and provide your kids with more than just beaches and sunny weather.  As a parent with two kids in high school (and a former high school teacher myself) I can tell you that there is a secret to finding a place to live to get your kids into the best colleges. So let’s talk about how to get both – San Diego pizazz and a great school like the one below for your kids. 

We’re going to look at  8 of the best San Diego suburban areas based on schools (I’ll throw in an extra as a bonus) so buckle your seatbelt we have a lot of ground to cover.

San Diego is huge with over 3M people  and yet the biggest concentration by far of the most sought after elementary, middle and high schools are in North San Diego. The Poway school district is the anchor with 36,000 kids and 5 High Schools and just west of it is the San Dieguito school district with 13,000 kids and 3 High Schools. Both districts are big enough to have solid track records but not so huge as to be unmanageable.

These two districts have some of the top schools in the state. You’ll find that the most desirable suburbs are in and around these areas. We’ll spin a circle counterclockwise starting in Carmel Valley moving east through the suburbs along Hwy 56 then north through more affordable areas and finally finish up by the beach in Carlsbad. If you want to see a map of all of these areas with live links to aerial video tours check this out

#1. Carmel Valley.  It’s closest to the beach and high-tech and bio-tech jobs. Because of its location and amenities it is one of the more expensive areas to live in. It has stylish restaurants and cafe’s as well as a big shopping center, a library and a community Pool. 

Carmel Valley is a huge area. The southern section of Carmel Valley has newer homes and more space and views. North Carmel valley has the shopping businesses as well as Torrey Pines High school at the heart of the community. It is a tried and true winner for both academics and sports. For those considering private schools, just to the east is the immaculate, huge and impressive private campus of Cathedral Catholic High School. For more check out the Carmel Valley aerial video tour showing schools shopping and homes. Tip – for other areas just click the title in blue to see its a tour. 

#2. Head a few miles east and you’re in Pacific Highlands Ranch with newly built homes with lovely features and even higher price tags and meticulously manicured parks and pools.   It’s central, nice and new with Canyon Crest Academy (top in the state for arts and academics) a walk away as well as the new  Pacific Trails Middle School right next door.

#3. We’ll go a few miles east and leave the San Dieguito school district and arrive in Torrey Highlands and the Poway School District. Torrey Highlands is a little island of newer homes built after the year 2000 clustered around West View High School. The school is top notch yet has more affordable homes than Carmel Valley and Pacific Highlands Ranch

#4. Rancho Penasquitos is just a stones throw further east and built in the 1980s. It is an older community with far more affordable homes. They’re not going to knock your socks off but they get the job done. Some of the homes are zoned for Westview High and others are zoned for  Mt Carmel High, Both are part of the Poway District Schools and you get a lot of home for the money and a reasonable drive to work

#5. We’re going to move off of Hwy 56 and head north past black mountain to 4S Ranch and Del Sur. The whole place (all 7,500 homes ) was built after the year 2000 and master planned so it’s new and clean and well thought out. 

Great parks and dog walking areas and a giant sports park right next to natural canyon trails leading to Black Mountain – plus no traffic. Right in the middle is Del Norte High School arguably the best high school in the Poway school district. Of course my kids go there so I’m biased.

#6. We’re going to jump just east of Hwy 15 next to Carmel Mountain and Sabre Springs. They are two convenient communities located right off Hwy 15 and close to the biggest shopping center in the area and the Poway School District office. You get a lot for your money along this convenient strip of land but less of a community feel than other places in the area.  

#7. Rancho Bernardo is a much older community than 4S Ranch. Its hay-day was the 1980, popular for golf courses and retirement centers. It has great hiking around Lake Hodges. Rancho Bernardo High School has a strong football tradition. 

#8. From here it’s a big jump drive wise to San Elijo Hills. You’ll go up Hwy 15 and then West on Hwy 78 and exit at Cal State San San Marcos then wind your way south. (So it’s not central) It’s a post year 2000 master planned community with new housing still available just to the north near the college. It’s quaint and private but the school situation is tougher to sort out. It’s in the San Marcos School District, not part of the Poway School District. New local grammar and middle schools are a walk from the housing but the high school is pretty far away and not as highly ranked. 

Bonus #9. Lastly the Carlsbad area to the southwest is much closer to the beach and the pulse of action. There are a whole bunch of beautiful post year 2000 neighborhoods to chose from and the Carlsbad school district has some good schools as well as some average schools.  The drive up and down Hwy 5 has long been a downside but the proximity to the beach is awesome. 

So there you have it. Those are the hottest areas for schools.

It’s a lot to take in and believe it or not I glossed over a ton of detail you’ll want to know. To make your life easier watch more detailed video tours on all 9 areas areas here. When you want to make sense of a community, let me know and I’ll get you a nice color neighborhood map to help you make figure out the nuances of each neighborhood. Until then enjoy the videos. 

– Bradley


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