Signup Login

Forgot password? Don't have an account? Sign up here Close
Signup Login


Reset my password


North County Neighborhood Guide: Carmel Valley

View of Carmel Valley

The North County neighborhood of Carmel Valley is an upscale community located in northwestern San Diego. While homes and businesses have San Diego addresses, this centrally located community allows easy access to attractions in both downtown San Diego and North County and offers residents the coveted North County lifestyle.

The neighboring communities of Pacific Highlands Ranch, Del Mar Mesa, Torrey Highlands and Fairbanks Highlands are often considered part of Carmel Valley. While locals know where one neighborhood ends and the next begins, this can make it a bit confusing for newcomers considering a move to this area or searching for real estate information.

Together, Carmel Valley, Del Mar Mesa, Pacific Highlands Ranch, Fairbanks Highlands and Torrey Hills make up most of the 92130 zip code. Within this affluent zip code, more than 77% of residents have at least a bachelors degree and more than 41% of residents have a graduate degree. The estimated median household income in 2011 was $124,229, which is more than double the estimated median household income of $57,287 across the state that year.

Carmel Valley is located minutes from the beach, country clubs, boutique shopping, fine dining, La Jolla’s Golden Triangle, Sorrento Valley and University of California, San Diego, as well as some of the most popular attractions in North County. Large employment centers, including employers in the biotechnology and communications industries, are just a short drive away, and arts and culture can be found nearby.


The earliest known inhabitants in the Carmel Valley area were the Kumeyaay people, and the land was once part of the Rancho Santa Maria de Los Peñasquitos during the Rancho Era.

Carmel Valley and Carmel Mountain were named after the Carmelite Sisters of Mercy, who founded a monastery and a dairy farm in the area in the early 1900s. The area was later named North City West in a master plan and officially became part of the City of San Diego in 1975. Major development in the area started in 1983, and the area once again became known as Carmel Valley in the 1990s (although locals have considered it Carmel Valley since before it was named North City West in the 1970s).


The estimated median home value in 2011 for homes in the 92130 zip code was $850,000, which is significantly higher than the estimated median home value of $355,600 across California that same year. The mean price of detached homes in 2011 was $933,298, while the median price of attached homes (such as townhouses) was $569,543. In comparison, the mean price of detached homes across the state in 2011 was $485,454, and the mean price of attached homes was $404,738.

Most of the homes in this zip code were built after 1980, including approximately 4,760 homes built in the 1980s, approximately 5,992 homes built in the 1990s, and more than 6,700 homes built since 2000. Most homes have four or more bedrooms, and the large homes in Carmel Valley draw families in search of luxury living to this area. reports a median sale price of $813,150 and a median home value of $901,900 as of March 31, 2015. To compare it to nearby neighborhoods, here are current median home values for communities near Carmel Valley:

  • North City — $1,181,700
  • Del Mar Heights — $1,114,400
  • Torrey Highlands — $803,900
  • Sorrento Valley — $709,200

Ronda's Closet at Piazza Carmel Shopping Center

Restaurants, Shopping & Entertainment

Carmel Valley is a centrally located neighborhood adjacent to Interstate 5 allowing residents easy access to shopping centers, movie theaters, community theaters, casual and fine dining, healthcare providers, services and attractions.

Those living in the southern portion of Camel Valley will find everyday essentials along Carmel Mountain Road, including Vons, Wells Fargo Bank, Bank of America, Union Bank, Postal Annex+, Dirty Dogs and Supercuts. In this area, you will also find BBQ Republic, Subway, Zip Fusion and services that include real estate, feng shui, physical therapy, a yoga studio and a dance studio.

Towards the center of the community north of Highway 56, the Piazza Carmel Shopping Center can meet most of your daily needs with Vons, Postal Annex+, Redbox, Fred’s Shoe Repair, Beasley Cleaners, Ace Hardware, Elam’s Hallmark Shop, Chase Bank, Mission Federal Credit Union and Wells Fargo Bank. This shopping center is also home to Chipotle, Starbucks, Souplantation, Nico’s Taco Shop, Royal India, Gami Sushi, Villa Capri, San Diego Blinds, Francine Garton Royal Dance Academy, Torrey Pines Animal Hospital, Church’s Martial Arts, Jon’s Tailor, Ronda’s Closet and Highlands Jewelers.

On the other side of Valley Center Drive, you will find Starbucks, a nail salon, a gas station, Castrol Premium Lube Express and Cedar Grill and Cafe.

Folks living in the northern section of Carmel Valley will likely find it most convenient to complete their errands at the Del Mar Highlands Town Center. Everyday essentials include Ralph’s, Jimbo’s…Naturally!, AT&T Wireless, Rite Aid Pharmacy, Chevron, FedEx Office Print & Ship Center, San Diego Car Care and Bambinos Salon for Kids. This large shopping center is also home to Game Stop, Bath & Body Works, Pretty Please, Lo Lo Callisto, Diane’s Beachwear, San Marcos Florist, Del Mar Floral & Gifts, Tot-A-Doodle-Do!, and Chuao Chocolatier. Dining options include Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing, La Salsa Fresh Mexican Grill, Einstein Bros Bagels, Jamba Juice, McDonald’s, El Pollo Loco, Urban Plates, Mia Francesca, Casa Sol y Mar and Searsucker Del Mar.

Once completed, the proposed One Paseo mixed-use development will provide a walkable main street and central gathering place where Carmel Valley residents and visitors can shop, dine and enjoy community events, such as art walks and a farmers’ market.

You can learn more about this controversial project by visiting the One Paseo website or What Price Main Street?, which is a website dedicated to opposing the project as it is currently designed.

Proposed One Paseo Mixed-Use Development

Parks & Recreation

One of the reasons families are drawn to this centrally located community is the abundance of parks, open spaces, equestrian centers, country clubs, beaches, hiking trails and golf courses in the community or within a short drive.

The closest golf course for most residents is The Grand Del Mar Golf Club at the Grand Del Mar. Other offerings at this Tom Fazio-designed, private course are seven acres of practice areas, youth golf programs, putter and club fitting, and private golf lessons with PGA-certified instructors. At the Grand Del Mar, members can also enjoy tennis courts, a fitness center, an equestrian center and four heated swimming pools.

Other golf courses in the area can be found at the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club, Morgan Run Club & Resort, Lomas Santa Fe Country Club, The Farms Golf Club and the Torrey Pines Golf Course.

Other nearby equestrian centers include the Ridgemar Equestrian Center, the Rancho El Camino Equestrian Center and the Concord Equestrian Center, which is located at the Del Mar Horsepark in North City. The horsepark is home to boarding stables, four show arenas, four training arenas, a dressage ring and two grass jumping stadiums. This 65-acre facility is open Tuesday through Sunday and also offers horse training, horseback riding lessons and equestrian events.

If you prefer getting back to nature by taking to the trails in your hiking boots, on your mountain bike or on a horse, you may be more interested in the nearby open spaces, which include Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve and Black Mountain Open Space Park.

Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve is the closest recreational space of this sort for most Carmel Valley residents and offers 4,000 acres of open space for visitors to enjoy. Wildlife, canyons, waterfalls and miles of hiking trails attract visitors to the preserve. Leashed dogs are welcome, and bikes are allowed on some trails. Be sure to download the trail map before visiting to help plan your trip. There are also information kiosks at each of the park’s main entrances where visitors will find staging areas and more information about the trailheads near that entrance.

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve is open from 7:15am until sunset every day and offers hiking trails, docent-led hikes, children’s programs and a visitor center. This day use park does not allow dogs or horses, but bikes are allowed on some trails. Visitors can enjoy amazing views from lookout points along the trails and can even reach Torrey Pines State Beach by trail from the reserve. Prior to visiting, park visitors can download and print the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Trail Map and the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Trail Guide to help plan their trip to this day-use park.

The 2,352-acre Black Mountain Open Space Park is a bit farther away than Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve and Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, but it is still close enough to enjoy a vigorous hike and be home in time for dinner. Black Mountain offers fantastic views from the trails and the 1,554 foot Black Mountain summit, and miles of trails for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians, including trails for various fitness levels. The Black Mountain Open Space Park Trail Map shows trailhead locations, restrooms and other resources to help plan your trip.

This family-friendly community is also home to several community parks with playgrounds, picnic areas, sports fields and walking paths. Nearby parks for residents and visitors to enjoy include Torrey Highlands Park, Ashley Falls Park, Carmel Valley Recreation Center, Del Mar Trails Park, Carmel Grove Park, Carmel Del Mar Park, Carmel Creek Neighborhood Park, Overlook Park, Sage Canyon Park and Torrey Hills Park.

Beaches are less than five miles away, and the Del Mar Racetrack and Del Mar Fairgrounds are also nearby.

Nearby Torrey Pines State Reserve


Carmel Valley public school students are served by multiple school districts, including the Solana Beach School District, Del Mar Union School District and San Dieguito Union High School District. Those living in the Del Mar Union School District generally attend Ashley Falls Elementary School, Carmel Del Mar Elementary School, Ocean Air Elementary School, Sage Canyon Elementary School, Sycamore Ridge Elementary School or Torrey Hills Elementary School. Public school students living in the Solana Beach School District generally attend Carmel Creek Elementary School, Solana Pacific Elementary School, Solana Highlands Elementary School or Solana Ranch Elementary School.

Most public middle and high school students are served by the San Dieguito Union High School District, including Carmel Valley Middle School, Earl Warren Middle School, Canyon Crest Academy and Torrey Pines High School.

Private schools serving students living in this area include Del Mar Pines School, Notre Dame Academy, Fusion Academy, Cathedral Catholic High School, Santa Fe Christian School, Cal Coast Academy, San Diego Jewish Academy, Horizon Prep, Good Shepherd Catholic School, Diegueno Country School and La Jolla Country Day School.

Cathedral Catholic High School


Carmel Valley shares its northern border with the adjacent communities of North City and Pacific Highlands Ranch. Torrey Highlands and Del Mar Mesa are to the east, and Torrey Hills and the Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve are to the south. Torrey Pines and Del Mar Heights are to the west.

The western border of Carmel Valley runs along Interstate 5.

Additional Information

Carmel Valley is an ideal place to call home for those looking for luxury living and a North County lifestyle within an easy drive of downtown San Diego. Close to employment centers, beaches, fine dining, boutique shopping, country clubs, hiking trails, golf courses and popular North County attractions, Carmel Valley attracts professionals, families and active retirees in search of a dream home that fits their lifestyle.

If you would like to learn more about nearby North County neighborhoods, check out these previous articles:


Photo Credits (in order of appearance): Wikimedia/Navirav; One Paseo Website; Piazza Carmel Shopping Center; Wikimedia/Nauticashades; Wikimedia/Anonymous Real estate and demographic information gathered from, and

AJ Davis-Varela: AJ is a freelance writer and blogger at Articles by AJ specializing in travel, real estate, natural wellness and green living. She is a magazine columnist, a former San Diego newspaper columnist, has been published in a variety of print and online publications, and regularly contributes to several websites and blogs. You can connect with AJ on LinkedIn, Twitter or Google+