Once dominated by avocado groves and lima bean fields in the 1920s, the town has evolved over the years from a gasoline stopover between San Diego and Los Angeles into a thriving community of 13,000 full-time residents. Even with downtown San Diego 25 minutes away, most residents say they thrive within the "Solana bubble," where a slower lifestyle rules.
More than anything, Solana Beach is a family town; most children walk to school and learn beach basics during Junior Lifeguard Camp, a summer rite of passage for many kids here. And thanks to a recent $7 million Highway 101 revitalization project, it's an even more beautiful place to live, with newly planted swaying palm trees and red and purple wildflowers, tiled fountains, plentiful bike racks, and—perhaps the biggest perk—free parking.
Left: homes face the sunset views over Tide Beach Park.