Moving to San Marcos, California

The state of California is a popular place to live, People seeking sunshine and a laid-back lifestyle flood to Southern California every year. And contrary to popular belief, there’s more to the area than just Los Angeles.

One relatively young city that’s growing rapidly is the City of San Marcos. If you’re planning to relocate there, you’ll need information and resources. We’re here to help.

About San Marcos, CA

San Marcos is a small city located in the northern part of San Diego County. It rests in a landscape of rolling hills, and it enjoys the same mild weather as the rest of Southern California.

The history of San Marcos started in 1797. After being attacked by a group of Native Americans, Spaniards from the Mission of San Luis Rey pursued their attackers into the hills. While there, they found a beautiful and fertile valley which they named Los Vallecitos de San Marcos (The Little Valleys of St. Mark) in honor of the day when they arrived there, St. Mark’s Day.

Over the next 40 years, the land changed ownership several times. Finally, in 1840, Major Gustavus French Merriam of Kansas set up a permanent settlement there and began to produce wine and honey. Gradually, more settlers arrived and planted crops, and the area thrived.

A boom started in 1956 when water from the Colorado River reached San Marcos. The city itself was not incorporated until 1963. As of 2010, its population is 83,781.

Education in San Marcos

Education plays a big role in any relocation decision. The people of San Marcos are served by the San Marcos Unified School District, one of the largest districts in San Diego County. All told, it runs 20 schools that are as diverse as the population.

In San Marcos, there are:

  • 11 elementary schools
  • 3 middle schools
  • 1 K-8 school
  • 2 comprehensive high schools

San Marcos is also home to several alternative schools, including charter schools and an independent study high school. There’s also a continuing education school for adults interested in earning a GED.

If you’re interested in higher education, you’re in luck. The main campus of Palomar College is in San Marcos, along with Cal State San Marcos and the University of St. Augustine, a physical and occupational therapy graduate school.

A Coastal Desert Climate

As you might expect, the climate in San Marcos is typical of Southern California. You can expect mild winters and hot summers living here.

If you’re moving from a place that gets a lot of rain, you may be surprised by how dry San Marcos is. The area’s average rainfall is only 14 inches, compared to the national average of 39 inches. Most of the rain falls between November and March.

The temperatures here are mild, with a winter average of 44 degrees and a summer average of 85 degrees. Of course, there are hot days here, and the temperatures sometimes soar into triple digits during the summer.

One weather phenomenon you may not know about is the marine layer that causes overcast skies and drizzle in the mornings. It’s most common in May and June. Hence, the locals refer to it as “May Gray” and “June Gloom.” Typically, the skies clear in the afternoon.

While they’re not common, it’s important to be aware that like most of Southern California, San Marcos sometimes experiences earthquakes. Earthquake preparedness is essential, but homes in Southern California are built to strict standards.

The Cost of Living in San Marcos

You may have heard about Southern California prices, and unfortunately, the rumors are true. This is not an inexpensive place to live. The good news is that San Marcos is not as expensive as some areas, and if you can afford housing, the other prices are not as bad.

Housing is a big expense here. The average home or rental in San Marcos costs about 2.8 times the national average. That means people moving from low-cost areas in the South or Midwest may experience some sticker shock.

The next biggest expense for those living here (and in most of Southern California) is transportation. Gas prices here are notoriously high, as are vehicle registration prices and tolls. Public transportation is spotty at best, so you’ll need a car to get around.

Other items, including groceries, utilities, and healthcare, are only slightly higher than the national average. The prices may take some getting used to, and you’ll want to make sure to adjust your income expectations accordingly.

Planning Your Move to San Marcos

Planning any move requires a great deal of organization and forethought. Packing alone can be a challenge, and if you’re relocating from a distance or from out of state, there are additional challenges to deal with.

Let’s start with booking your move. You’ll want to book your movers or reserve a truck as far in advance as possible. San Diego County is very popular, and spots tend to fill up quickly – especially if you’re moving when college students are on the move, too.

You’ll want to arrange for your utilities to be turned on, and make appointments for your cable and internet. Here are some links to help you do that:

San Diego Gas & Electric (electricity and natural gas)

Vallecitos Water District (water)

EDCO Recycling & Waste Collection (trash and recycling)

AT&T Telephone and Television (telephone and cable)

Cox (cable and internet)

Rent our Storage West Self-Storage Locations in San Marcos when you move. Check out our San Marcos facilities!

If you’re moving into California from out of state, you’ll have only 30 days to register your vehicle and obtain a California driver’s license. Keep in mind that California has some of the strictest emissions standards in the United States, and most vehicles will have to pass an inspection before they can be registered.

The California DMV has a New Resident’s Guide that includes licensing requirements and a list of testing locations. You can find it here. While you’re at the DMV, don’t forget to register to vote and sign up to be an organ donor, if you wish.

Recreation and Entertainment in San Marcos

In a city that gets more than 250 days of sunshine every year, it should come as no surprise that there are many parks and outdoor recreational areas to enjoy. San Marcos is home to 31 beautiful parks. Amenities include covered picnic areas, playgrounds, pools, and basketball courts.

Southern California is a golf mecca, and San Marcos is no exception. There are several world-class golf courses located here – and if you don’t mind driving a bit, you’ll also be within easy reach of the rest of San Diego County and its golf courses.

We can’t mention living in Southern California without mentioning the beach. San Diego County has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Young people flock to Pacific Beach and its boardwalk, and that’s also where you can witness San Diego’s famed Green Flash sunsets. La Jolla Shores is a more family-friendly option.

San Marcos has many fine-dining and casual restaurants. If you don’t mind a bit of a drive, you can easily get to downtown San Diego’s famed Gaslight District, which is home to hundreds of restaurants, bars, and live music venues.

San Diego’s Balboa Park is the largest municipal park in the United States. There, you can find dozens of museums, gardens, and play areas, as well as the world-famous San Diego Zoo.

It’s worth noting that San Marcos is also relatively close to Orange County, which means you can take the kids to Disneyland or Disney’s California Adventure; and Los Angeles, where there are more museums, beaches, and entertainment.


San Marcos isn’t as big as San Diego or Los Angeles, but its warm weather and friendly people make it a wonderful place to live. We hope the information in this guide makes your relocation smooth – and that you enjoy your new home in San Marcos!