San Marcos

San Marcos is located about 6 miles inland from the ocean and about 30 miles from downtown San Diego. The community covers about 24 square miles and, as of the 2017 census, had about 96,000 residents. Census data also indicate a fairly diverse population.

San Marcos, because of its inland location, tends to offer a warmer climate than Carlsbad.  The west side of San Marcos, however, gets some of the same coastal climate (marine layer, ocean breezes, cooler temperatures).


San Marcos is a mix of residential and commercial areas, as well as undeveloped space. The 78 freeway provides easy access inland to Escondido and the 15 (north to Riverside County, south to San Diego). Or west to Oceanside, the 5 freeway, the coast and the beaches. San Marcos is home to California State University – San Marcos and Palomar College.

The largest, and newest, housing area in San Marcos is San Elijo Hills. San Elijo Hills is a master planned community located on the southwestern edge of town high in the hills. Other well known neighborhoods include Santa Fe Hills, Discovery Hills, Discovery Meadows, Twin Oaks Valley, and Rancho Dorado. The golf resort/residential community of Lake San Marcos, that includes a 55+ residential area. And the area around Cal State San Marcos continues to grow and change, with new commercial and residential areas (e.g., newer homes at Rancho Tessoro).

The San Marcos real estate market offers a range of housing including apartments, condos, attached and detached homes. There are several 55+ communities, and assisted living facilities. You will also find some new construction by the university currently being built (2022).

San Marcos is known for having a large commercial and retail area, with numerous shops, shopping centers, and restaurants. You’ll find a host of other service and light industrial establishments, especially along San Marcos Boulevard. While you won’t find much high-end shopping, you’ll likely find whatever you need here, with lots of choices. Examples include home improvement/remodeling, electronics, appliances, landscaping, clothing, furniture, gardening, cars/trucks, wines and liquor. There are many small businesses and non-profit organizations, too.

Much of the shopping is located along Grand Avenue, Rancho Santa Fe Road, and San Marcos Boulevard. The latter is the main thoroughfare running roughly east and west, and becomes Palomar Airport Road in Carlsbad.

While San Marcos may not be known as an eating mecca, there are many restaurants and fast food eateries here. You’ll find a wide array of foods and styles, from extremely casual to relaxed upscale, and to fit every budget. Old California Restaurant Row, on San Marcos Boulevard, has about 14 restaurants (e.g., Fish House Vera Cruz, which includes a seafood market).¬† You’ll find they change from time to time. If you like a variety of foods and are not looking for expensive restaurants, you will be very happy with the broad range of places to dine in San Marcos.

There are 3 golf courses located in San Marcos. Twin Oaks Valley is toward the east, and there are two courses at Lake San Marcos. All 3 are public. Other nearby courses include La Costa (Omni La Costa Resort and Spa) and Aviara (Park Hyatt Aviara Resort) in Carlsbad. You might also enjoy The Crossings at Carlsbad.

There is a man-made lake at the Lake San Marcos Resort that offers boating (no motor boats). Neighboring Carlsbad provides a wealth of other things to do, including Legoland, The Flower Fields, and wonderful beaches along the coast.

Students in San Marcos attend a number of schools in the San Marcos Unified School District, depending on location and grade level; there are multiple schools at all level: elementary, middle, and high school. Students on the eastern side of Carlsbad also attend the San Marcos schools.

While San Marcos is not on the coast, the community offers a wide range of housing, home prices, and neighborhoods to suit most budgets, and is less expensive than neighboring Carlsbad. The climate is a mix of coastal and inland, with moderate temperatures much of the year although it can get quite warm in the summer months and when the Santa Ana winds blow.

There are many amenities nearby, and it is relatively easy to get to the beaches in Oceanside or Carlsbad, or to the business communities of San Diego, Riverside and Orange Counties, given the proximity to the 15, the 5, and the 78 freeways. The Sprinter light rail system also runs nearby between inland Escondido and Oceanside.

For home buyers, San Marcos is more affordable than communities along the coast, and with the range of home available, there are lots of opportunities for first time, move up, downsizing, and 55+ buyers.