Office of International Students and Scholars

Drop Shadow

San Diego Neighborhoods in a Glance

Around USD

Linda Vista - USD is located in this area
Diverse neighborhood with large Asian immigrant population on the north side of the neighborhood. Close to USD, many students choose to live on the south side of Linda Vista Blvd. (directly across from USD) since it offers affordable rent in a safe area walking distance from campus.
Pros: Close to USD
Cons: Parts of neighborhood may not be safe at night
Public Transportation Access: Bus

Mission Valley - located 5 minutes east of USD (by car)
This area is one of the main commercial centers in San Diego and features big-box retailers like Target and Ikea, two shopping malls, Qualcomm Stadium (current home of the San Diego Chargers football team) and many condominiums and apartment buildings.
Pros: Very close to USD/great access to shopping and public transportation
Cons: Can be crowded and congested on weekends
Public Transportation Access: Trolley/Bus

Old Town - located 5 minutes south of USD (by car)
This area draws many tourists looking to shop and sample San Diego-style Mexican food.
Pros: Very close to USD/Public Transportation center
Cons: limited residential availability/ area flooded with tourists
Public Transportation Access: Trolley/Coaster (train)/Bus

Beach Areas

La Jolla - located 15 minutes northwest of USD (by car)
The Beverly Hills of San Diego, La Jolla offers several great beaches, upscale downtown shopping and restaurants and homes with beautiful views of the ocean. Expect San Diego’s most expensive rent and home prices. Close enough to commute to USD without difficulty.
Pros: Beautiful beaches/scenery
Cons: Expensive, can be crowded on weekends
Public Transportation Access: Bus

Mission Beach/Mission Bay - located 15 minutes west of USD (by car)
A popular place for USD upperclassman to live, Mission Beach/Mission Bay offers apartment living close to the beach.
Pros: Great location/proximity other USD students
Cons: Rent can be expensive/can be crowded on weekends
Public Transportation Access: Bus

Ocean Beach/Point Loma - located 10 minutes west of USD (by car)
Ocean Beach (and neighboring Point Loma) are the sleepiest of the San Diego beach communities. Ocean Beach is home to hippy boutiques and a relaxed atmosphere reminiscent of the northern California city of Berkeley. Point Loma is a fishing outpost and is also home to the Cabrillo National Monument.
Pros: Best rent value at the beach/laid-back bohemian neighborhood
Cons: Lacks the sophistication of La Jolla or Del Mar
Public Transportation Access: Bus

Pacific Beach - located 15 minutes west of USD (by car)
PB, as Pacific Beach is known, is a mix of commercial and residential spaces and is home to the most extensive nightlife (bars and clubs) of all San Diego Beaches. The northern portion of this neighborhood consists mainly of small bungalow-style houses that students often rent to share with roommates.
Pros: Most popular beach community/Many places to live
Cons: Can be very crowded during summer months due to constant influx of tourists.
Public Transportation Access: Bus


Hillcrest - located 10 minutes south of USD (by car)
Often described as San Diego’s most European neighborhood, Hillcrest is located just north of downtown and offers many shops and restaurants at walking distance from the famous Hillcrest street sign and is the site of the San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park. Also home to a large Gay and Lesbian community. Rent here is less expensive than downtown but expect to pay a premium to live in San Diego’ most walkable neighborhood.
Pros: Great restaurants, foreign/independent movie theater
Cons: Rent can be expensive/public parking is limited
Public Transportation Access: Bus

Downtown/Gaslamp Quarter - located 10 minutes south of USD (by car)
Downtown boasts the new padres baseball stadium (Petco Park) as well as hundred of restaurants, bars, nightclubs, shops and boutiques and, increasingly, condominium high-rise buildings.
Pros: Urban, action packed environment
Cons: Rent is expensive/public parking is extremely limited
Public Transportation Access: Trolley/Bus

Little Italy - located 10 minutes south of USD (by car)
An area that used to be run-down, Little Italy has recently been developed into a hip area full of Italian restaurants, coffee shops and galleries.
Pros: Near both downtown/San Diego harbor, great public transportation access
Cons: limited residential availability
Public Transportation Access: Trolley/Bus

North Park/University Heights - located 15 minutes southeast of USD (by car)
These neighborhoods, once run-down, have now become hip areas full of new casual restaurants, bars and cafes situated along University Ave. and El Cajon Blvd., two mid-city thoroughfares. Both areas are very walkable and offer many houses and apartments for rent.
Pros: Great rent value/area is improving every year
Cons: Can be inconsistent – some parts well maintained and safe while other parts can be unsafe at night.
Public Transportation Access: Bus

City Heights - located 20 minutes southeast of USD (by car)
City Heights is San Diego’s most ethnically diverse neighborhood occupied by many recent immigrants and resettled refugees.
Pros: San Diego’s most affordable rent/Great ethnic restaurants from all over the world
Cons: A little far from USD/ Parts of neighborhood may not be safe at night
Public Transportation Access: Bus

East of USD

College Area/La Mesa - located 15 minutes east of USD (by car)
These areas surround San Diego State University (SDSU) and therefore feature many student friendly shops, restaurants and services. Rent prices tend to be affordable.
Pros: Close to SDSU, great public transportation access
Cons: A little far from USD, neighborhoods can be loud
Public Transportation Access: Trolley/Bus

Kensington - located 15 minutes southeast ofUSD (by car)
This quaint, mostly residential area also features a small strip of great restaurants, a popular bar (the Ken Club) and the famous Ken Theater, which shows one film for a week at a time.
Pros: Very nice, Spanish style houses
Cons: Very few apartments for rent (mostly houses)
Public Transportation Access: Bus

North of USD

Kearny Mesa - located 10 minutes north of USD (by car)
Kearny Mesa is home to the majority of Asian supermarkets, restaurants and banks in San Diego. Also the home of several new and used car dealerships.
Pros: Close to USD/Great ethic restaurants, markets, shops
Cons: Very little residential area.
Public Transportation Access: Bus

Mira Mesa - located 20 minutes north of USD (by car)
Mira Mesa is home to large Filipino and Vietnamese populations and is home of Sorrento Valley, the technology/telecommunications industry center of the city
Pros: Close to industrial center
Cons: Uncommon for students to live there
Public Transportation Access: Trolley/Bus

Del Mar/Solana Beach - located 20-25 minutes north of USD (by car)
Upscale beach communities along the I5 freeway. During the summer, Del Mar hosts popular horse races. Rent here is as expensive as La Jolla.
Pros: Beautiful landscape close to the ocean
Cons: Expensive rent/long commute to USD.
Public Transportation Access: Coaster (train)/Bus

Encinitas/Carlsbad - located 20-30 minutes north of USD (by car)
These two north county beach towns are far less crowded that the San Diego beach areas and feature charming downtown areas and easy beach access. Great places for day trips.
Pros: Quaint, laidback beach communities.
Cons: Rent can be expensive, especially near the beach/long commute to USD
Public Transportation Access: Coaster (train)/Bus

South of USD

Coronado - located 15 minutes southwest of USD (by car)
This island community offers spectacular views and a peaceful, bike-friendly small town atmosphere with easy beach access. Great for day trips/picnics. Rent is typically very expensive.
Pros: Beautiful, relaxed atmosphere a short distance from USD and downtown.
Cons: Rent is expensive/tends to be older and military population (few students)
Public Transportation Access: Bus

Chula Vista/San Ysidro - located 25-35 minutes south of USD (by car)
Often referred to as part of the “South Bay,” these cities are the gateway to Tijuana, Mexico. Chula Vista in particular has grown into a large city. Many new condominium and housing developments.
Pros: Affordable rent/ great public transportation access
Cons: Very far from USD/parts of area can be dangerous at night
Public Transportation Access: Trolley/Bus