There is a magical feeling as you drive down the rural roads through rolling hills of eucalyptus trees, citrus groves, expansive green pastures, among the majestic Spanish Colonial estates of Rancho Santa Fe.According to the census data from 2000, the per capita income of Rancho Santa Fe was ranked the highest in the nation. The 92067 zip code was ranked second on Forbes list of most expensive zip codes for 2006, behind Sagaponack, New York. Despite this wealth, the area has a low profile and privacy is a prized feature.
Rancho Santa Fe is tucked back in the hills 30 miles northeast of downtown San Diego. Once named Rancho San Dieguito, Rancho Santa Fe began as a land grant of nearly 9,000 acres in 1845. In 1906, the Santa Fe Land Improvement Company bought all the land and used 4,000 acres of it to plant thousands of eucalyptus trees for wood to make railroad ties. Unfortunately, eucalyptus wood was not strong enough to hold a tie. When the trees proved unsuitable forties, the Santa Fe Company hired architect Lillian Rice to plan and design a horse-oriented residential community. In 1917, the completion of the Lake Hodges Dam brought water to the area, and construction began in 1922.
Today, Rancho Santa Fe is one of the most affluent communities in the nation. In 2021, Rancho Santa Fe ranked eighteenth most expensive place to live in the United States with a median house price of $3,399,000. Among the master planned communities are Del Rayo Estates, Fairbanks Ranch, The Bridges, The Rivers Estates, Del Mar Country Club, Cielo, The Farms, and The Crosby Estates. There aren’t many detached homes in Rancho Santa Fe for less than $1.5 million, but there are dozens of homes that sell for more than $10 million.
In 1922, Rancho Santa Fe made history as the state’s first master planned community began. Today, the town is unincorporated and covers an area of approximately 6.9 square miles of luxury estates in gated communities and open space. As an unincorporated community in San Diego County, Rancho Santa Fe residents have P.O. boxes rather than home mail delivery. There are no street lights or sidewalks outside of the town area and most of the roads have Spanish or Spanish-sounding names.
The Covenant is the original planned golf community in Rancho Santa Fe that includes 1,740 homes on 6,200 acres with a downtown commercial district. Much of the area was planned by Lillian Rice, a well known architect who influenced the Spanish Colonial Revival-style of many of the homes and buildings in the area. Rice was the second female architect at the time to graduate from the University of California, Berkeley.
At the center is a small village, library, civic center, school, community center, garden club, and the only hotel, The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe. Aesthetics and architecture within The Covenant are protected by an Art Jury.
Known for its horses, The Covenant features 45 miles of private riding/hiking trails, as well as the RSF Riding Club and Saddle Club. Some of the finest horse trainers in the country live here, and the area was the site for the equestrian events during the 1984 Olympics. Polo is a popular pastime.
Only residents of The Covenant are permitted to belong to the RSF Golf and Tennis Club, located in the heart of The Covenant and regarded as one of the premier golf venues in the western United States.
The Bridges is an exclusive enclave guard-gated golf community of 235-265 home sites on 540 acres. Custom homes range from 6000-13,000 sq. ft. on ½-2 acre lots.The Bridges was designed and constructed to preserve the natural beauty of its terrain. The community is centered around a championship golf course built by the Robert Trent Jones II Group and a 35,000 sq. ft. clubhouse, reminiscent of a centuries-old Tuscan village and winner of the prestigious Gold Nugget Award for Best Design. From 2003-2005, The Bridges hosted The Battle at the Bridges Golf Tournament and millions watched as Tiger Woods and John Daly battled Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen in an exciting best-ball team match.
Cielo sits atop the highest coastal peaks in all of San Diego County with elevations of over 1400 ft. and expansive views to the Pacific Ocean including the Coronado Islands, San Clemente Island, Lake Hodges, and Palomar Mountain. There is a Tuscan-style clubhouse, commercial village, and fire station. The guard-gated community consists of 528 home sites on 1740 acres.
Fairbanks Ranch is a 24-hour gated community in Rancho Santa Fe with large estate homes, built starting in the early 1980s. Homes in this community can range anywhere from 4,000 to 16,000 square feet with some of the most expensive real estate in all of Rancho Santa Fe. The community offers an association clubhouse and recreational room with tennis, a children's playground, an on-site guard, and various biking and hiking trails.
In and around the Rancho Santa Fe town center are some fine dining options, some within the two high-end hotels. Mille Fleurs is an upscale restaurant located in the heart of RSF’s downtown. Other high-end dining include The Pony Room at the Rancho Valencia Resort and The Morada at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, which offers a farm-to-table dining experience with a whiskey bar. Thyme in the Ranch is a quaint village café and bakery that locals love to frequent.
If golfing is high on your list, there are a number of private golf clubs in Rancho Santa Fe, including the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club, the Del Mar Country Club, Morgan Run, The Bridges, Fairbanks Ranch Country Club, and The Crosby. Be prepared to pay a substantial fee for membership, and you may need to be invited to join. The Farms Golf Club is a member-owned, private, equity club that restricts membership to just 350 regular members. It offers a clubhouse, practice facilities, golf professionals and a remodeled golf course.
Rancho Santa Fe is also known for its equestrian sports. Rumor has it that Bill Gates bought his huge estate in Rancho Santa Fe so his daughter could use the equestrian facilities on property. RSF is a great place to take equestrian riding lessons.
The Rancho Santa Fe Farmers’ Market is held every Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Rancho Santa Fe is conveniently located close to the beaches of Del Mar and a short drive to the bustle and wide offerings in downtown San Diego.
The Del Rayo Shopping Center is in the heart of the town and has a little something for everyone. From cafés and restaurants like Caffe Positano and Dolce Pane E Vino to GSB Men’s Clothier and The Floral Palette for custom flower bouquets.
Most of the homes are in the Rancho Santa Fe elementary and middle school district, with a choice of Torrey Pines High School, San Dieguito Academy, Canyon Crest Academy, Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary School, Diegueno Middle School, La Costa Canyon High School. Private schools include The Horizon School, Nativity School, and the Diegueno Country School.