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North County Neighborhood Guide: Pacific Highlands Ranch

Pacific Highlands Ranch

The affluent North County neighborhood of Pacific Highlands Ranch is located approximately five miles from the coast and is part of the City of San Diego. However, while residents may have a San Diego mailing address, those living in this area enjoy the unique lifestyle and vibe of North County.

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) estimated that the 2013 median household income in this community was $163,348 and that 55% of households brought in more than $150,000 annually (with 37% earning more than $200,000 annually).

This master-planned community was designed to be a walkable, sustainable neighborhood with a central mixed-use area, hiking and biking trails, drought-tolerant landscaping, a recreation center that can generate solar power and 1,300 acres preserved as natural habitat.

This community is just a short drive from high-tech and bio-tech employers, golf courses, equestrian centers, boutique shopping, country clubs, fine dining, downtown San Diego and beautiful beaches. This makes it a coveted choice for professionals, retirees and active families looking for a luxury lifestyle in close proximity to all North County and downtown San Diego have to offer.

The upscale neighborhood of Pacific Highlands Ranch and its southern neighbor, Del Mar Mesa, are often considered part of the Carmel Valley community. Because of this, Carmel Valley is sometimes used interchangeably with the names of these separate neighborhoods when talking about this area. This is just something you might want to keep in mind if you plan to research the neighborhood further or look for Pacific Highlands Ranch real estate.


The community of Pacific Highlands Ranch is one of the newest developments in San Diego and is still in the process of development.

Pardee Homes Watermark at Pacific Highlands Ranch


The majority of Pacific Highlands Ranch is a master-planned community being built by Pardee Homes. Within the community, you will find homes available in Verana, Casabella, Canterra and Watermark.

All of the homes have LivingSmart® energy-saving features with additional options available, as well as GenSmart Suite options available with some plans. GenSmart Suites are designed to accommodate adult children or extended families and provide a private living area with a separate entrance and an optional kitchenette.

Verana offers four and five bedroom homes with three or four bathrooms ranging in size from 2,645 square feet to 3,518 square feet. These two-story homes have a two- or three-car garage, covered patios and lofts and begin in the low-$1,000,000 price range.

Casabella is home to two-story houses with three to four bedrooms, three bathrooms, square footage between 2,134 and 2,824, and two- or three-car garages that start in the mid-$900,000 price range.

Canterra will offer two-story homes with four bedrooms, three to four bathrooms, two-car garages, and 2,077 to 2,588 square feet of living space starting in the low $900,000s.

Watermark homes will have five bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms, two- or three-car garages, gourmet kitchens, options for decks and covered patios, and 3,636 to 4,351 square feet of living space starting at $1,200,000.

The Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch will be a mixed-use complex offering multi-family, residential rentals; however, the majority of homes in this neighborhood are detached, single-family homes that are almost entirely owner occupied.

The overall design of the community is intended to be walkable and sustainable, including energy-efficient homes and low-water landscaping. There are also plans for a private recreation center that will have the capacity to generate solar power.

The Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch

Restaurants, Shopping & Entertainment

Local residents will soon be able to enjoy a new, well-designed, central gathering place that will have a mix of retail, residential, green space and community services. A future library and transit center are planned for this area, as well as a dog park, a five-acre Village Green for community events and family picnics, a community garden and an open-air Village Square.

More retail tenants will be added to the list as the plans for The Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch come to fruition; so far we can expect to enjoy Trader Joe’s, Rite Aid, Starbucks, pure barre, Total Vision Care, Pacific Dental Services, The Baked Bear, Panera Bread, Pacific Highlands Crunch Fitness, Urban Girl, re:vive salon & spa, Overload and The Baked Bear.

Expanded dining options are available in the neighboring community of Carmel Valley, including Casa Sol y Mar, Searsucker Del Mar, Taverna Blu, Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing Co., McDonald’s, High Bluff Cafe, California Cafe, Urban Plates, Spices Thai Cafe, Villa Capri, Cedar Grill and Cafe, Tio Leo’s Mexican Restaurant and Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza.

Shopping and services are also nearby in Carmel Valley, including Ralph’s, Vons, PostalAnnex+, Griffin Ace Hardware, Game Stop, Frazee Paint, Papyrus, Jimbo’s…Naturally!, Bath and Body Works, FedEx Office Print & Ship Center, Tilly’s and drybar San Diego.

For artisan-crafted goods and local, organic produce, residents also have the centrally located Carmel Valley Certified Farmers Market on Village Center Loop Road, which is open from 2:30pm to 7:00pm on Thursdays.


Parks & Recreation

About half of the 2,650 acres that make up Pacific Highlands Ranch have been designated to remain open space as this new community continues to build out, and a system of hiking and biking trails is part of the community’s overall design.

We still have a few years before we will see construction begin on the planned Pacific Highlands Ranch Community Park and Recreation Center, but there are lots of outdoor spaces within driving distance for residents and visitors to enjoy until then.

One local attraction is the Tunnels, which is a path leading through a grove of old-growth oaks and leading to the top of a mesa. On the mesa, there are lots of vernal pools, which are becoming more and more difficult to find in San Diego. While this is a delicate area that should be visited with care, it is open to be enjoyed by the public.

Parks in the neighboring community of Carmel Valley include Carmel Creek Park, Del Mar Trails Park, Carmel Knolls Park, Ashley Falls Park, Torrey Highlands Park, Torrey Pines Dog Park, Solana Highlands Park, Carmel Del Mar Park, Overlook Park and the Carmel Valley Recreation Center.

Golf courses in the area include the Tom Fazio-designed course at The Grand Del Mar Golf Club, the Joseph Lee-designed course at the Del Mar Country Club, and the Valley, Lakes and Ocean courses at the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club. The private clubs in the area also offer tennis courts, swimming pools, fitness centers, social activities and an equestrian center (at The Grand Del Mar).

Other nearby recreational areas and opportunities include the nearby beaches of Del Mar, Torrey Pines State Beach, the Del Mar Racetrack, the Del Mar Fairgrounds, the Torrey Pines State Reserve and Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve.

Cathedral Catholic High School


The Del Mar Union School District, the Solana Beach School District and the San Dieguito Union High School District serve public school students living in Pacific Highlands Ranch. Elementary schools students living north of Carmel Valley and Del Mar Heights Road are generally served by Solana Beach School District, and those to the south are served by Del Mar Union School District.

Most public middle school students will attend Carmel Valley Middle School, and high school students generally attend either Canyon Crest Academy Senior High School or Torrey Pines High School.

Cathedral Catholic High School is located within the community, and other private schools in the area include Kinderhouse Montessori School, La Jolla Country Day School, Diegueno Country School, Horizon Prep, The Nativity School, Good Shepherd Catholic School, San Diego Jewish Academy, Del Mar Pines School and Notre Dame Academy.


Pacific Highlands Ranch is south of Fairbanks Ranch and Rancho Santa Fe, north of Del Mar Mesa, west of Torrey Highlands and east of Carmel Valley.

Additional Information

If a luxury lifestyle in a walkable, sustainable, master-planned community sounds like precisely what you are looking for, then you may find your next dream home in Pacific Highlands Ranch. You can stay up to date on developments in this growing community by checking out the Pacific Highlands Ranch Community Facebook page and The Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch Facebook page or by staying connected with the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board, which meets the fourth Thursday of each month at the Carmel Valley Library.

If you are interested in learning about nearby North County neighborhoods, check out these previous articles:


Demographic information gathered from the SANDAG Demographic & Socio Economic Estimates report for Pacific Highlands Ranch.

Photo Credits (in order of appearance): Pacific Highlands Ranch Community Facebook page Pacific Highlands Ranch Community Facebook page The Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch Facebook page morgueFile, JUANPRESA Wikimedia Commons/Anonymous

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+