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Oceanside Neighborhood Guide: Saint Malo

Saint Malo Community Gated Entrance

Tucked away along the southern coast of Oceanside is the exclusive, gated community of Saint Malo. This small neighborhood was once a prestigious getaway for the L.A. elite and continues to be a private enclave where a close-knit community of long-time homeowners resides. Those who live in this upscale colony take their privacy very seriously, which has made Saint Malo one of the best – and longest – kept secrets in Oceanside.

French Normandy architecture is found throughout St. Malo, and strict covenants, codes and restrictions (CC&Rs) ensure that this historic neighborhood will never lose its charm and unique character.

Those who have the chance to go beyond the gate and enter this beachside oasis will be treated to a one-of-a-kind experience reminiscent of an old-world fishing village off the coast of France, which is precisely what the developer intended.


When St. Malo was developed in 1929, it was the first gated community in the San Diego area. It has never lost that prestige and exclusivity and remains a private, secluded retreat. Kenyon and Louise Keith created Saint Malo after the Pasadena architect was pushed to buy more coastal land than he originally intended and ended up with 28 acres of prime real estate that would soon become a beachside oasis inspired by the island village of Saint Malo off the coast of Brittany, France.

This was an exclusive community from the start as the Keiths began to selectively sell their coastal cottages to people they knew – primarily those in the finance and movie industries. Between the 1930s and 1950s, St. Malo was a popular vacation spot for celebrities and socialites, including both the famous and infamous, such as Harpo Marx and Al Capone. Well-known Los Angeles families had summer homes in Saint Malo, and even royalty has stayed in this prestigious coastal colony.

Many of the homes in St. Malo have remained in the same family for generations and are still the full-time or vacation residences of the descendants of prominent families from the Los Angeles area.

Saint Malo Estate


Saint Malo was designed to look like a Normandy fishing village and has changed little over the years. Strict CC&Rs ensure a uniform look throughout the community and govern every aspect of building and remodeling, including the color of the chimneys and the shapes of the weather vanes homeowners choose. Of course, residents do not mind adhering to these CC&Rs, since this is precisely what makes this community truly unique and maintains the architectural congruity found throughout the colony.

The detached, single-family homes in Saint Malo have views of the ocean, the Buena Vista Lagoon or both and range from relatively modest vacation homes to elegant estates. Residents enjoy the use of five tennis courts, a beach volleyball court and the community’s private beach, as well as the privacy and prestige that comes with living in a gated community with a guard who determines who can and cannot enter.

As part of the effort to maintain the community’s exclusivity and uniqueness, homeowners often sell to people they know, but you can occasionally find St. Malo homes listed for sale. Saint Malo real estate is surprisingly affordable for such an upscale community populated by old-money families, and at the time of this writing, there were a few homes on the market with listing prices between about $1,500,000 and $2,500,000.

Restaurants, Shopping & Entertainment

Saint Malo is a gated residential community with no stores or restaurants; however, there are plenty of places to eat and shop all along South Coast Highway starting to the north of Eaton Street. Here, residents and visitors will find surf shops, markets, home décor stores, beauty salons, a donut shop, casual eateries and more within minutes of St. Malo.

Just a bit further north at the corner of Cassidy Street and South Coast Highway is the well-known Beach Break Café, which is a popular Oceanside hangout.

Parks & Recreation

Oceanside Parks and Recreation

The Saint Malo Beach community is located between the Pacific Coast and the Buena Vista Lagoon, making it an ideal location for outdoor enthusiasts. For those not fortunate enough to live in one of the beachfront homes in this neighborhood, the sand is just a short walk away, making spending the day at the beach one of the most popular recreational activities for residents and visitors.

Nature lovers can visit the Buena Vista Lagoon, which is home to more than 130 species of birds, reptiles, mammals and amphibians. This 223-acre wetland habitat was the first ecological reserve in California and is home to the Buena Vista Audobon Society Nature Center, which is open to the public. Visitors can take part in docent-led nature walks, view exhibits of local wildlife and learn about native plants. There are also classes available for those interested in learning about low-water gardening and native plant species.

Within the gated community of St. Malo, there are also five tennis courts and a sand court for beach volleyball for residents and guests to enjoy.

Saint Malo Beach Volleyball Court

Buccaneer Beach Park, which is located across the street from Buccaneer Beach is just a short drive north along the coast and is a four-acre park with picnic tables, barbecue grills, a multipurpose field, basketball court, playground equipment and food service. The Loma Alta Marsh Footpath is located just to the north of the park along Loma Alta Marsh.

Lions Club Park, which is located at Cassidy Street and Broadway Street, is also to the north of Saint Malo and is a small park offering a picnic area with barbecue grills.


Residents of Saint Malo are served by the Oceanside Unified School District, as well as private schools in the area, such as Oceanside Adventist Elementary School located on California Street in the Fire Mountain neighborhood. The Children’s House of Oceanside Montessori School is relatively close on Vista Way in Oceanside, and there is a dance studio and martial arts studios located to the north along South Coast Highway for extracurricular activities.

Buena Vista Lagoon


St. Malo is a small, coastal community located at Oceanside’s southern border with the Pacific Ocean to the west and Buena Vista Lagoon to the east.

Additional Information

Opportunities to purchase homes in Saint Malo are rare, and those who are not homeowners or the guests of residents are not allowed within the gates of this exclusive community. However, if you would like to get a taste of what lies within, there are about a dozen homes outside of the gates with the same French Normandy architecture and old-world charm.


Photo Credits: The Saint Malo Gate photograph and Saint Malo Home photographs are courtesy of the San Diego Coast Real Estate Blog. The Black-Necked Stilt at Buena Vista Lagoon photograph is courtesy of the Buena Vista Lagoon website. The Saint Malo Beach Volleyball Court photograph is courtesy of the SunMet Realty website. The aerial photograph of Buena Vista Lagoon is courtesy of the Buena Vista Lagoon Foundation website.

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+