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North County Neighborhood Guide: Pala

pala-casino north county san diego

The rural community of Pala is located on the 12,273-acre Pala Reservation in North County San Diego. The population is largely Native American and many residents are enrolled tribal members in the Pala Band of Mission Indians.

The Pala community first became known internationally when miners discovered tourmaline and the Dowager Empress Cixi of the Qing Dynasty fell in love with the pink tourmaline coming from Pala mines. While Pala’s mining district is still producing sought-after minerals and gems, Pala is now best known as the home of the Pala Casino Resort & Spa.


The Pala people are made up of two indigenous groups that came to be known as the Luisenos and the Cupenos during the Mission Era. Mission San Antonio de Pala was established in 1816 as an estancia for Mission San Luis Rey de Francia. The first mention of the mission was in the 1810 annual report from Mission San Luis Rey, in which it was noted that a granary had been built at the Pala site. This estancia is one of only a few that are still functioning in California and the only one that continues to serve a primarily native population.

Many of today’s Pala Indians have ancestors that were removed from their home village of Cupa in 1903 after President Rutherford Hayes and the United States Supreme Court sided with California Governor John Downey who had purchased the land from Juan Jose Warner — a cattleman who had laid claim to the land that we now know as Warner Springs. The Cupan people were removed from their homeland and relocated to the Pala Reservation.

After European settlement, the area was largely used for agricultural and mining purposes. It is particularly well known in the mining world for the tourmaline once prized by China’s Dowager Empress Cixi, as the place where morganite was first discovered and for a large deposit of kunzite found in 1902.

Wilderness Garden Preserve


Pala is a very small, rural community, which makes it a bit more challenging to provide real estate statistics that make sense. Because there are so few listings and home sales in this area, a single listing or sale can change the numbers drastically, particularly if the home is at the low or high end of the housing range.

According to, the 2011 estimated median value of homes in the 92059 zip code was $505,600. reports that the average listing price at the time of this writing is $1,032,660, which is up from the average listing price of $926,000 for the week of January 21, 2015. The median sales price is $361,500, which is more than a 300% increase over the same time the previous year.

At the time of this writing, there are a few vacant parcels on the market for less than $200,000. The most affordable home for sale that I can find on the market is a two bedroom, two bathroom, 1,871-square-foot condominium listed at $220,600. The most affordable single-family, detached home is a three bedroom, three bathroom, 1,971-square-foot home on the market at $439,000.

The highest-priced home is a newly constructed, four bedroom, four bathroom, 3,060-square-foot home on approximately 2.5 acres listed at $1,129,500. There are also a few large parcels without homes on the market for more than $1,000,000.

There are usually just one or two dozen homes on the market in Pala at any given time, so prospective homebuyers will need to choose from the inventory available or be patient as they wait for the right home to come on the market.

Restaurants, Shopping & Entertainment

Pala is a rural, mostly residential community with just a few commercial enterprises in the area. The Pala Store on Pala Mission Road is the most convenient spot to grab everyday essentials between trips to larger towns, and nearby dining options are primarily located in the Pala Casino Resort & Spa. Restaurants in this resort include Choices (a buffet), The Oak Room (steakhouse), Noodles (Asian food), Sushi Sake, Pala Cafe (bistro), Mama’s Cucina Italiana, Promenade Deli, Poolside Cafe & Bar, Grinding Stone Pizza, Luis Rey’s and Coffee Amore. Pala Casino is also home to the Impulse Shoppe, which is a gift shop selling mostly name-brand merchandise.

For essentials and special occasions, most Pala residents will find themselves driving to Murrieta, Temecula, Fallbrook, Vista or Escondido for expanded dining, entertainment and shopping options. Nearby Fallbrook is most convenient for many Pala homeowners and offers a nice variety of shops and eateries, including locally owned options, such as Madd Potter, Farmhouse Gift Shop at Myrtle Creek Gardens & Nursery, Cafe de Artistes, Fallbrook Cafe, Fallbrook Coffee Company, Fallbrook Rib Shack and Cafe Bloom at Myrtle Creek Gardens & Nursery. There are also some well-known names, including Albertsons, Rite Aid Pharmacy, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Denny’s, Carl’s Jr., Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors and Domino’s Pizza.

Altar at Mission San Antonio de Pala

To the south in Valley Center, you will find other local favorites, including Country Junction Deli, Country Trader Coffee Shop, Corner Skillet, Fat Ivor’s Rib Rack and Casa Reveles. Additional options available inside The Valley View Casino include Black & Blue Steakhouse, a buffet and a cafe, as well as three options for evening entertainment: The Mainstage Bar, Black & Blue Lounge and Non-Smoking Bar. Harrah’s Resort is home to Fiore Steak & Seafood, Pink’s Hot Dogs, The Cafe at Harrah’s, Oyster Bar, Starbucks, Earl of Sandwich, Fortunes, ‘Ritas Cantina and a buffet. Harrah’s also has nighttime options for folks who want to meet friends for a drink without heading to the city, including Spiked, Corked and Courtside Sports Bar. You will also find feed and farm supply stores, grocery stores and gift shops in Valley Center.

Attractions in Pala include the San Antonio de Pala mission and the Cupa Cultural Center. The mission museum is open seven days a week from 10:00am to 5:00pm. The Cupa Cultural Center is open Monday through Friday from 9:00am to 4:00pm and hosts the annual Cupa Days the first weekend of May where visitors can enjoy arts, crafts and food while learning about the history of the Cupeno people.

North County attractions located near Pala in Valley Center include Bates Nut Farm, Key Creek Lavender Farm and the Valley Center History Museum. And, of course, there are several wineries in the area, as well as shows and concerts at the nearby casinos.

Trailhead at Wilderness Garden Preserve

Parks & Recreation

The rural community of Pala is located within driving distance of many of North County’s most popular attractions and is surrounded by opportunities for outdoor recreation.

The 737-acre Wilderness Garden Preserve located at 14209 Highway 76 in Pala is open Friday through Monday from 8:00am to 4:00pm and offers visitors four miles of hiking trails, a pond and the site of the historic Sickler’s Grist Mill.

The Jim Banks Sports Complex located at 12196 Pala Mission Road is home to a skate park, basketball court, swimming pool, tennis courts, ball fields and the members-only Pala Fitness Center.

There is also the Pala Raceway, which hosts races and events but is also open to the public for day use. Pala tribal members with a valid tribal ID can use the tracks for free; prices for other participants range from $20 to $65 per day. Pala Raceway offers a variety of track options, including their Supercross Track, Amateur Track, Main Track, Kid Track, Mini Bike Track and Vet track. There are plans to add an additional track for UTVs, a parts counter and a snack bar in the future.

Nearby golf courses can be found at the Pala Mesa Resort in Fallbrook and Woods Valley Golf Club in Valley Center.

The 1,862-acre Palomar Mountain State Park allows Pala residents to enjoy coniferous forests, vista points with panoramic views, hiking trails, camping, picnicking and fishing. Before heading to the park, print the trail map and the Doane Valley Trail Guide to help you plan your trip.

Pala Raceway


Depending on where they live in the Pala area, public school students may attend schools in the Valley Center – Pauma Valley Unified School District, the Bonsall Unified School District, the Fallbrook High School District or the Vista Unified School District. Vivian Banks Charter School, which is part of the Bonsall Unified School District, is located in Pala.

Parents interested in a private education for their kids may also be interested in Ashwet Patia Christian School located on Pala Mission Road in Pala.

Children and adult learners can also benefit from programs offered by the Pala Learning Center and Pala Library. Educational programming includes a G.E.D. preparation program, an after-school tutoring program, adult literacy and basic education programs, the Pala Family Literacy Program, a public computer lab, the Little Feathers Preschool Program to help prepare children for kindergarten and a scholarship available to tribal members of the Pala Band of Mission Indians.

The Pala Learning Center is also home to Pala Ivy Satellite, which is an alternative high school in the Fallbrook High School District, and the Pala site of Palomar Community College.

Jim Banks Sports Complex


The Pala community is east of Rainbow and Fallbrook, south of Murrieta and Temecula in Riverside County, west of Pauma Valley and Warner Springs, and north of Valley Center.

Interstate 15 is to the west.

Additional Information

Pala is a good choice for prospective homeowners looking for a close-knit community that offers a rural lifestyle within an easy drive of city amenities. Folks interested in moving to Pala can learn more about the community at the Pala Band of Mission Indians at the Pala Tribe website or by visiting the Cupa Cultural Center.


To learn more about North County neighborhoods near Pala, check out these previous articles:


Photos Credits (in order of appearance):; County of San Diego website; Wikimedia Commons/DysepsionMission San Antonio de Pala website; County of San Diego website;; Real estate data 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+