San Diego vs San Jose – 2023 Detailed Comparison Guide

Our full inside scoop between San Diego vs San Jose will show you what these top Californian cities offer now in 2023 for residents and for visitors.

Whether you’re thinking of relocating to The Golden State or traveling to California soon, this guide will give you all the details you need to know when deciding between these two cities.

We based our research on seven main categories to showcase the main features between San Jose vs San Diego and highlight the similarities and differences between these two beautiful cities. The categories we chose are:

  1. Overview
  2. Reputation
  3. Climate
  4. Cost of Living
  5. Job Market
  6. Things To Do for Travelers
  7. Things To Do for Residents

Whether you select San Diego or San Jose, you will find that they both have their pros and cons for residents and travelers and that they’re both iconic cities in their own way.

In fact, both cities made our list of the top places to live in California this year.

They both share common features, such as a great climate and an expensive cost of living, but their location in the state and the amenities that they offer may be the difference maker in your decision.

So, let’s find out all the details to see if San Jose or San Diego will be the right location for you.

1. San Diego vs San Jose – Overview

To start this comparison between San Diego vs San Jose, let’s first go over the basics. These two cities are located at opposite points of California and the distance between them is over 400 miles.

San Diego, California

San Diego is located in Southern California at the border with Mexico while San Jose is situated in the center of Silicon Valley in Northern California just 40 minutes from San Francisco.

To drive from San Jose to San Diego, the direct route would take you about 7.5 hours. If you want to take a more scenic route down the Pacific Coast Highway, you would need about 9 hours.

These cities are pretty far apart from each other.

San Jose, California

When comparing the population of San Jose vs San Diego, we find that they are both very large cities.

In fact, they are both in the top 10 of the most populated cities in America, with more than 1.4 million residents living in San Diego and just over 1 million people living in San Jose.

When you look at their full metropolitan area, we see that the San Diego area’s constantly growing population has expanded to around 3.2 million residents, while San Jose’s metro area in the Bay Area is home to approximately 2 million residents.

When we examine the crime rates in both cities, we see that San Diego is a bit safer than San Jose. Crime rates in San Diego are about 12% lower than the national average, while they are about 17% higher in San Jose.

Finally, both San Diego and San Jose have a slightly lower median age when compared to the national average.

2. San Diego vs San Jose – Reputation

When examining the reputation and vibes in San Diego or San Jose, we discover two extremely different cities.

San Diego

San Diego, also known as “America’s Finest City,” is considered to be a great place both for tourists and residents, with its perfect weather, miles of sandy beaches, and first-class amenities.

Cultural attractions, a lively artistic scene, and a vibrant nightlife make San Diego a city that is ideal for young professionals, families, and retirees.

The vibe around San Diego is pretty relaxed and its residents are known to welcome newcomers with open arms.

San Jose

On the other hand, San Jose is not the first city that comes to our mind when we think about tourist destinations in California, but it is a thriving hub for talent in the tech industry.

San Jose is known to be a bit more calm and residential and is far more active during the day than during the night.

The city offers a great balance between quiet residential neighborhoods and bustling commercial areas that feature amazing amenities, cultural attractions, and lots of green outdoor spaces.

However, San Jose’s nightlife is a lot less prominent compared to San Diego’s.

Overall, both cities are considered to be extremely inclusive areas to live in, which mirrors the general openness of the whole state.

3. San Diego vs San Jose – Climate

When you compare the climate between San Diego vs San Jose, you start to see some subtle differences.

Temperatures during the year are pretty similar in both cities, rarely going above 83°F or below 40°F.

In San Diego, the average highs throughout the year range from 66°F to 77°F, while in San Jose, average highs go from 59°F to 83°F.

In both places, the heat is not perceived to be as oppressive during the summer thanks to California’s low humidity rates, which make the climate in these cities during the summer some of the best in the entire world.

One difference between the weather in San Jose vs San Diego is that it rains more often in San Jose.

San Jose experiences about 64 days of rain per year, which adds up to roughly 16 inches of rain in total.

Meanwhile, San Diego only gets about 40 days of rain per year, which totals 10 inches of rain overall.

Neither location experiences any snowfall during the year and are both not prone to extreme weather conditions like tornadoes or hurricanes.

4. San Diego vs San Jose – Cost of Living

Both San Diego and San Jose are among the top 10 cities with the highest cost of living in the United States.

Almost everything in these two cities cost more than in the rest of the country.

When we compare San Jose vs San Diego head-to-head, we see how San Jose is actually more expensive than San Diego overall.

San Jose

San Jose is about 34% more expensive to live in compared to San Diego.

This stark difference is driven primarily by housing costs. The prices of real estate in San Jose are about 50% higher than in San Diego.

In fact, roughly half of all homes in San Jose are valued at $1 million or more, while the average cost of a home in San Jose is $1,400,000 to $1,500,000.

In contrast, the average value of a house in San Diego is only $900,000 to $1,000,000.

Furthermore, all other everyday items like groceries, rent, transportation, utilities, and healthcare services have a higher average price in San Jose when compared to San Diego.

5. San Diego vs San Jose – Job Market

The job markets between San Jose vs San Diego are pretty different, but both cities can offer great opportunities for those in various industries.

San Diego’s significant tourism industry creates many employment opportunities for professionals in sectors such as hospitality and leisure. But, the city also has a strong market for business, management, legal, and healthcare workers.


In San Jose, the tech industry is the main source of employment, with dozens of companies such as Paypal and Zoom that have established their headquarters there.

Other Silicon Valley giants such as Google, Meta, and Apple all have their head office about 20 minutes from downtown San Jose.

Overall, the average income in both cities is higher than the national average. It is about 18% higher in San Diego, while it is 27% higher in San Jose.

Thus, despite a far higher cost of living, both of these cities offer higher wages that may make it worthwhile to relocate to. 

If you are interested to learn what a good salary should be to live in California now in 2023, check out our latest research article that breaks down exactly how much money you need to live a comfortable life in each major city in California.

6. San Diego vs San Jose – Things to Do for Travelers

When it comes to tourism, San Diego is far more popular than San Jose.

Surfers in San Diego

In San Diego, travelers can enjoy the 70+ miles of sandy beaches that skirt the city and take advantage of the hundreds of seaside services and attractions, such as restaurants, resorts, cafes, tours in ferry boats, and so on.

Additionally, there are numerous parks, nature reserves, and museums all around the city. Among the most visited are Balboa Park, the world-famous San Diego Zoo, and the USS Midway Museum.

Despite being less known as a tourist destination, San Jose also offers a great range of attractions that can make your stay as a traveler quite engaging.

For example, there are numerous museums and cultural points of interest that are scattered across San Jose, such as the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum and the San Jose Museum of Art.

There are also cultural events like the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest that attracts thousands of tourists every year.

7. San Diego vs San Jose – Things to Do for Residents

In San Diego, you can enjoy the beaches that surround the city in virtually every month of the year due to its excellent climate.

If you get tired of all those sandy beaches, you can always stroll around the different neighborhoods of San Diego, including the bustling Gaslamp Quarter, the family-friendly Little Italy, and the eclectic East Village.

After a long day, the nightlife of San Diego comes alive, with dozens of world-class restaurants, lively bars, and energetic clubs that are at your disposal any time of the year.

In San Jose, you can go shopping or stop at a restaurant or cafe at the chic Santana Row that is located right in the heart of downtown.

Or, you can bring the kids to one of the many family-oriented events around San Jose like the Children’s Discovery Museum, The Tech Initiative, and Japanese Friendship Garden.

At night, you can indulge in some of the finest cuisines in the region as top restaurants offer dishes from virtually every part of the world. San Jose is especially known for its Vietnamese, Mexican, Portuguese, and Caribbean food.

Sports are also a large part of the culture of San Jose and the San Francisco Bay Area. You can watch the San Jose Sharks downtown at the SAP Center or catch the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium that is just 10 minutes from downtown.

Of course, there are the Golden State Warriors and San Francisco Giants that are located in SF as well.

San Diego vs San Jose – Summary

When comparing San Jose vs San Diego, you can see that they both offer quite a different way of life.

Both provide a lovely climate with tons of things to do for their residents as well as for travelers, but feature a different type of lifestyle.

Whether you’re a traveler that will visit The Golden State soon or you’re a soon-to-be resident of California, we hope that this comparison between San Jose vs San Diego has given you the clarity to make the right choice for yourself.