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San Marcos Neighborhood Guide: Lake San Marcos

View of Lake from Lakehouse Hotel and Resort

The resort-style community of Lake San Marcos is a census designated area just outside of the City of San Marcos, so one could argue that it is not exactly a San Marcos neighborhood. However, it is surrounded on all sides by San Marcos, residential and business addresses fall under San Marcos, and public school students are served by the San Marcos Unified School District, so it is fitting to include it in this collection of guides to San Marcos neighborhoods. Just keep in mind that, as many of the residents would surely remind us, it is actually its own community in the unincorporated area of North County San Diego.

The 2010 census reported the population of Lake San Marcos at 4,437, which was an increase of about 300 people from the population count in 2000. The median age of residents is 63.3 years, which is significantly higher than the median age across California (32.1 years), but its popularity with retirees may explain the estimated median income, which dropped from $50,857 in 2000 to $41,664 in 2012. This is relatively low when looked at alongside the 2011 mean housing price of $486,722, which includes both attached and detached homes.

Real estate and retail are the biggest trades, which is not surprising in an area that is primarily a vacation destination and retirement community. But folks who spend their summers here or who live here year round are more likely to be found on the golf course, on the lake or on the tennis courts enjoying the great weather and great views in this resort-like environment.

While there are some age-restricted communities and the neighborhood is popular with retirees, this family-friendly area has something to offer to all ages, particularly those in search of luxury, resort-style living just minutes from the beach and surrounded by plenty of shopping, dining and entertainment options.


San Marcos Lake was first created in 1946 when local landowners, the Clemson family and the Wells family, built a dam on San Marcos Creek. The land was later sold to the Frazar brothers (Gordon, Don and Bob) in 1962. The new owners redefined the lake’s shape and doubled its size to 80 acres, which is about the size it is today. The brothers were experienced developers and intended to transform this lake that was once used for irrigation into a master-planned community.

This plan began to come to fruition in 1962 when the initial map of homes was approved by the San Diego County Planning Commission. The Frazar brothers worked with Campbell and Miller (an engineering firm) to develop the master plan, and in 1966 this firm’s design was honored as the best planned community in the state in a state-wide competition. It was later recognized by the National Home Builders Association Convention in Chicago as the best planned lakeside community in the nation in 1967.

The community has grown over the years and now has almost 2,500 homes, gated communities, senior living communities and more than 20 homeowners associations (HOAs).



There are about 2,500 homes in Lake San Marcos, many of which fall under one of the more than 20 homeowners associations in the area. Apartments, condominiums, townhouses and detached, single-family homes are all available for sale or rent on or near the lake. There are gated communities, independent living senior communities and resort-style assisted living options from which to choose.

The Meridian at Lake San Marcos is one example of senior living options available in the area. This community offers both independent, luxury senior living and assisted living in one- and two-bedroom rental units and offers amenities like a dog park, private clubhouse, meditation garden, hair salon, arts and crafts room, and business center.

For those who prefer to purchase a home in a senior community, Chateau Lake San Marcos is a good example of a resort-style retirement community. Amenities in this HOA-governed condominium community include fine dining, concierge service, 24-hour security, fitness center, room service, a lap pool, a computer room, on-site activities, off-site excursions and a weekly Sunday Champagne Brunch.

Looking at what is on the market at the time of this writing, condominiums for sale at Chateau Lake San Marcos range in price from about $84,000 for a one bedroom, one bathroom, 660-square-foot unit to about $219,000 for a two bedroom, two bathroom, 1,030-square-foot unit.

The newest all-ages, gated community at Lake San Marcos is Varadero, which offers four floor plans ranging in size from 2,481 square feet to 3,915 square feet. There are 80 single-story homes and 25 two-story homes in this neighborhood, and the community has great mountain, lake, canyon and ocean views.

At the time of this writing, there are five homes for sale in Varadero. These range in price from $660,000 for a three bedroom, three bathroom, 2,481-square-foot home to $960,000 for a four bedroom, 4.5 bathroom, 3,915-square-foot home.

Overall, housing prices vary greatly throughout Lake San Marcos. The most affordable option I was able to find when writing this post was a one bedroom, one bathroom condominium that is in foreclosure and listed at $21,788. At the other end of the real estate market, there are also luxury homes available that are listed at more than $1,000,000. There are also many homes between these two extremes, and there are — quite literally — homes to fit any prospective buyer’s budget, since there are at least a few options available at each $100,000 increment within this range.

Most of the homes you find are going to be part of an HOA-governed community, so make sure you calculate the HOA fees in with your mortgage when considering purchasing a home in this popular neighborhood.

Lakehouse Hotel and Resort

Restaurants, Shopping & Entertainment

Many homeowners living in Lake San Marcos are within walking distance to grocery stores, a pet store, pharmacies, a FedEx shipping and printing center, The UPS Store, a florist, 7-Eleven and lots of other shops and services for everyday essentials. Rita’s Italian Ice and the Magic Cup frozen yogurt shop are just a short walk from the comics store and Vons, and you can head east on West San Marcos Boulevard for even more retailers and eateries.

You also have the super-close Grand Plaza shopping center, the Creekside Market Place, the Carlsbad Premium Outlets (fewer than 10 miles away), the Cedros Design Center (fewer than 15 miles away) and the San Elijo Hills MarketWalk southeast of the lake. Having so much in such close proximity makes it easy and convenient to attend a yoga class, catch a movie at the Edwards San Marcos Stadium 18, check out the deals at Nordstrom Rack or Ross Dress for Less, find healthy fare at Sprouts Farmers Market or meet up with friends at one of the 15 restaurants located at Old California Restaurant Row. The selection there includes Katsu Sushi & Teppan Grill, San Marcos Brewery & Grill, Fish House Vera Cruz, 55 Yardline Grill & Sports Bar, India Princess and several more. Old California Restaurant Row also offers weekly farmers markets and monthly artwalks and car shows March through October, as well as several annual events, including A Taste of San Marcos.

Within the Lake San Marcos community, there is the very popular Lakehouse Hotel and Resort, which was named one the top 25 hotels in the United States by tripadvisor’s 2014 Travelers’ Choice awards. Sunday brunch at The Grill is a local tradition, but residents can enjoy a delicious meal overlooking the golf course any day of the week. The Lakehouse Hotel and Resort also offers event venues, in-room spa services and access to many of the recreational options available at the lake.

Lakehouse Hotel and Resort on Lake San Marcos

Parks & Recreation

Golf is one of the favorite pastimes of Lake San Marcos residents, and many of them can be regularly found on the greens at one of the two golf courses located in the community. The semi-private St. Mark Golf Club offers a variety of membership levels, and membership benefits include amenities like a fitness center, social events, golf lessons and clinics, clubhouse access, a discount in the on-site golf shop, youth programs and more at this course designed by Harry Rainville.

No lakeside resort community would be complete without a marina. The Lake San Marcos Marina offers a full line of boat-related services, but vacationers and folks who don’t own their own vessel can also enjoy the offerings of the marina through sunset cruises and boat rentals, including pontoons, pedal boats and fishing kayaks. Those in search of a bit more adventure can rent stand-up paddle boards as well.

Membership to the Country Club, which folks also call the Lake San Marcos Racquet Club and the Lake San Marcos Beach & Tennis Club, is included in the HOA fees of most of the communities around the lake. This provides access to boating and fishing, four tennis courts, three paddle tennis courts, a billiards room, social clubs, two swimming pools, a spa and a recreation center. There is also a members-only, lakeside picnic area that can only be reached by boat and a newsletter to keep members informed about events and activities.

There is lots to do in the Lake San Marcos community, and you certainly do not need to leave the neighborhood for outdoor recreational opportunities. However, if you want to venture out for even more options, there is plenty of outdoor fun to be had within a short drive. Some of the closest options include Discovery Lake, Lakeview Park, Bradley Park, Simmons Family Park and Double Peak Park.

Bradley Park is located at the junction of Linda Vista Drive and Rancho Santa Fe Road and offers picnic areas, an indoor soccer arena and playgrounds in a 24-acre community space. At Double Peak Park, which is located at 900 Double Peak Drive, you will find an amphitheater, picnic areas, an adventure playground and hiking trails, all with spectacular, 360-degree views of the surrounding area.

Discovery Lake and Lakeview Park offer a 24-acre community space with four miles of hiking trails and a splashing fountain. Leashed dogs are allowed in the park and on the trails, and visitors enjoy picnicking, fishing, biking, jogging, hiking, walking and horseback riding at this popular park.

The six-acre Simmons Family Park located at 2180 Rocky Point Way has a basketball court, tot lot, picnic areas and great views for locals and visitors to enjoy.

Lake San Marcos Community View


Public school students living in the Lake San Marcos area are served by the San Marcos Unified School District. Elementary school students living west of the lake generally attend La Costa Meadows Elementary, while those living on the east side of the lake generally attend Discovery Elementary.

Middle school students most often attend San Elijo Middle School, and high school students usually attend either San Marcos High School or High Tech High North County, both of which are within walking distance of many Lake San Marcos homes.

San Marcos is also home to Palomar College, California State University San Marcos and the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences for adult learners.


Lake San Marcos is north of the San Elijo Hills neighborhood, west and south of the South Twin Oaks Valley neighborhood and east of the South Rancho Santa Fe neighborhood.

The western border runs along South Rancho Santa Fe Road, and the community is located south of West San Marcos Boulevard.

Additional Information

If you dream of living in a planned community where you can walk to resort amenities, spend afternoons golfing and hit the lake every weekend, Lake San Marcos just might be the North County neighborhood for you. This is particularly true if you want to enjoy this lakeside lifestyle minutes from great shopping, dining options and entertainment.

This great location also provides a central home base for enjoying the many community events and attractions found throughout North County San Diego, which makes living in Lake San Marcos even more appealing to families, professionals and retirees.


The photographs of Lakehouse Hotel & Resort and the view of the lake from the resort are courtesy of the Lakehouse Hotel & Resort website. The photograph of the view of the Lake San Marcos community is courtesy of the Varadero Homes website. The photograph of the gated entry for the Varadero community is courtesy of Gary Harmon’s real estate website. Real estate data and population statistics were 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+