Serving Southern California & Beyond

Serving Southern California & Beyond

Moving to Rancho Santa Margarita? ☀️ | What It’s Like Living in the Rancho Santa Margarita OC Master Planned Community

Are you looking for the perfect OC city to call home? Nestled along the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains, Rancho Santa Margarita is a gorgeous, family-friendly Orange County community known for its affluence and amazing hiking. It’s one of the youngest cities in the OC, incorporated on January 1, 2000, as a master-planned community. Because it has the longest city name in California, it’s often referred to as simply RSM.

Rancho Santa Margarita is part of one of three large ranchos created by the Mexican government in the region. It remained a remote and sparsely populated area until 1986 when the first homes of the master planned community were built. Over time, several neighborhoods were constructed, and infrastructure improved to link them and the rest of Orange County.

Here’s what you’ll love about living in Rancho Santa Margarita, a hidden gem of the OC.

Where Is Rancho Santa Margarita?

Rancho Santa Margarita is located in southern Orange County, California at the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains. It’s one of four master-planned communities in Rancho Mission Viejo, along with Las Flores, Ladera Ranch, and the City of Mission Viejo. RSM is bordered by Mission Viejo, Las Flores, Coto de Caza, the unincorporated community of Trabuco Canyon, and the Cleveland National Forest.

Rancho Santa Margarita is 22 miles north of San Clemente, 22 miles northeast of Laguna Beach, and 19 miles east of Irvine. It’s served by California SR-241, which connects to I-5 via the SR-133 interchange.

Rancho Santa Margarita Population & Demographics

The population of Rancho Santa Margarita is 47,949 according to the 2020 census, with a population density of 3,718 people per square mile. It’s the 23rd largest of the 34 cities in Orange County by population.

The racial and ethnic composition is 73.4% white (60.5% non-Hispanic), 20.6% Hispanic, 11.1% Asian, 1.9% Black or African American, 0.4% American Indian and Alaska Native, and 9.1% two or more races.

Additional Santa Rancho Margarita demographics:

  • Median age: 39.7
  • Median household income: $135,350 (California: $84,097)
  • Homeownership rate: 72% (California: 56%)
  • Educational attainment: 49.5% Bachelor’s Degree or higher (California: 35.3%)
  • Foreign-born population: 19.3% (California: 26.5%)
  • Veteran population: 4.7%
  • Sex ratio: 51 females to 49 males over 18

Rancho Santa Margarita is a very safe place to live. It’s been ranked the #2 safest city in California out of 1,345 cities, second only to Northern California’s Danville. It’s also one of the five safest cities in the United States, with more than 25,000 people. Crime in RSM is 73% below the national average, with 90% less violent crime.

After moving to Rancho Santa Margarita, you will be served by the Police Services, which are contracted with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD). You can see crime statistics here.

Cost of Living in Rancho Santa Margarita

Like most places in Orange County, the Rancho Santa Margarita cost of living is fairly high, mostly due to high taxes and high housing costs. Still, RSM can be more affordable than nearby OC cities like Irvine.

The median home price is $858,000, with an average cost of $559 per square foot. Single-family homes have a median price of $1.19 million, while the median condo price is $672,500. The average rent in Rancho Santa Margarita is $2,777 according to RentCafe.

Depending on where you live, you may be affected by Rancho Santa Margarita Mello-Roos taxes which are collected by several agencies, not the city. There are four CFDs in the city that have levied Mello-Roos taxes, although all CFDs have expired as of 2023 and no longer affect homeowners’ property taxes.

  • Capistrano USD
  • Saddleback Valley USD
  • Trabuco Canyon Water District
  • Orange County

You can use the Rancho Santa Margarita Mello-Roos/CFD search tool to find which CFDs are applicable to a home you are considering buying.

Because most Rancho Santa Margarita homes are in an HOA, don’t forget to include HOA dues when assessing the cost of living in RSM. There are seven major HOAs:

  • Dove Canyon
  • Rancho Cielo
  • Robinson Ranch
  • Trabuco Highlands
  • Walden

Best Neighborhoods in Rancho Santa Margarita

There are dozens of Rancho Santa Margarita neighborhoods to explore, from small tracts developed in the past decade to the large, original RSM neighborhoods. Most homes are part of a homeowners association in Rancho Santa Margarita. There are seven HOAs that govern multiple smaller neighborhoods. Whether you’re looking for space and privacy, nearby amenities, or gorgeous views, you’ll find the right RSM neighborhood for your family.

Dove Canyon – Prestigious Guarded, Gated Golf Community in RSM

Dove Canyon is one of the largest and oldest communities in RSM. Governed by the Dove Canyon HOA, this prestigious 24-hour guarded gated community features 1,252 single-family homes built around the Dove Canyon Golf Club, a Jack Nicklaus Signature course. Enjoy magnificent mountain views and miles of nature trails, and a greenbelt. Residents can enjoy the large heated community pool and spa with cabanas and lounge chairs, tennis courts, and Sycamore Park with a basketball court and playground. Unlike most areas of the city, Dove Canyon is served by Saddleback Valley USD.


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Robinson Ranch – Family-Friendly Neighborhood with Detached Homes & Condos

One of the original RSM neighborhoods, Robinson Ranch is in the northeastern Trabuco Canyon area. It’s bordered by the Cleveland National Forest and features not only single-family homes but also condos and a large community park. It’s popular with families that want a quiet, peaceful neighborhood without through traffic.

Wagon Wheel – Affordable Homes in Rancho Santa Margarita

Wagon Wheel is located in the Trabuco Canyon area next to the south gate of Coto de Caza and the Thomas F Riley Wilderness Park. It’s one of the best places to live in RSM if you’re looking for affordability with single-family homes and condos built in the 1980s and 1990s. There is one condo complex (Dakota) and five single-family tracts, one of which is gated (Stonecliff).

Eaves Santa Margarita – Rancho Santa Margarita Apartments Close to Shopping & Dining

If you’re planning to rent after moving to Rancho Santa Margarita, Eaves is one of the best options. The community offers one- and two-bedroom apartments starting at $2,305 with furnished options and utilities included. Enjoy affordability and the amenities you want, like in-home washers and dryers, a pool and outdoor spas, fitness center, and resident lounge while staying within easy access to dining, shopping, and public transportation.

RSM, Orange County Weather & Climate

Rancho Santa Margarita has a hot-summer Mediterranean climate (Csa) with short, warm, and dry summers and long, cool winters. You won’t see snow, and you’ll get just 14” of annual rainfall, well below the U.S. average of 38”. The summer high is 89 degrees in July, with a January low of 43 degrees. Nearly two months out of the year have an average high temperature of more than 90 degrees.

The best time to visit Rancho Santa Margarita is May to June or October to enjoy the most pleasant weather without high temperatures.

What to Do in Rancho Santa Margarita

Ready to explore fun things to do in Rancho Santa Margarita? The city is known for its amazing hiking and outdoor recreation, with 22 city parks and four close county parks, but you’ll find lots to keep you busy even if you don’t like spending time outdoors. There’s plenty of shopping in RSM, OC at the Rancho Santa Margarita Town Center, Santa Margarita Market Place, Plaza Antonio, Mercado Del Lago, and Plaza El Paseo shopping centers. There are regular family events and activities at the Rancho Santa Margarita Library branch of OC Public Libraries. Be sure to check the Rancho Santa Margarita events calendar to stay on top of fun community events!

Here are some of the best attractions in RSM that you’re sure to visit regularly once you’re a resident.


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Lago Santa Margarita Beach Club

A private amenity available to members of the SAMLARC HOA, which includes eight apartment communities and dozens of neighborhoods, the beach club features a 12.6-acre lake with almost 17 acres of parks, trails, a beach, a swim lagoon, and a barbecue and picnic area.

21472 Avenida De Los Fundadores, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688 (949) 858-1390

Cinepolis Luxury Cinemas

Catch the latest releases at your local movie theater right across from Central Park in the Rancho Santa Margarita Town Center. The Cinepolis theater provides a luxury movie experience with wait service, a full bar, reclining leather seats, and restaurant-quality cuisine.

30632 Santa Margarita Pkwy, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688 (949) 835-1888

O’Neill Regional Park

RSM is right at the entrance to O’Neill Regional Park, a 4,500-acre county park with cactus-filled hills, wooded hiking paths, camping, equestrian trails and amenities, and horseshoe pits.

30892 Trabuco Canyon Rd, Trabuco Canyon, CA 92679 (949) 923-2260

Central Park

The main community Rancho Santa Margarita park, Central Park hosts summer concerts with play equipment, sports courts, and a large splash pad.

30842 La Miranda, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688 (949) 635-1800

Tijeras Creek Golf Club

This award-winning golf course boasts amazing views and a challenging game for every skill level. It’s a public course and one of the best daily fee courses in the OC.

29082 Tijeras Creek, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688 (949) 589-9793

Best Restaurants in Rancho Santa Margarita

While living in Rancho Santa Margarita, you’ll enjoy everything from authentic Mexican, Japanese, and Thai cuisine to farm-to-table restaurants right at your fingertips. Here are some of the best RSM Orange County restaurants to try!

Board & Brew

Stop by this surf-themed local chain sandwich shop for craft beer and sandwiches with everything made in-house from scratch, organic, and sourced when possible from local farmers.

22411 Antonio Pkwy #180, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688 (949) 709-5566


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Wood Ranch

This popular chain offers a family-friendly destination for burgers and BBQ with a full bar and happy hour specials.

22352 El Paseo, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688 (949) 888-1100

Tutto Fresco Kitchen & Bar

Tutto Fresco is one of the best Italian restaurants in RSM! Located in Plaza El Paseo, this family-friendly eatery has served up fresh Italian cuisine for more than 30 years.

22332 El Paseo, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688 (949) 858-3360

Jobs in Rancho Santa Margarita

Before moving to Rancho Santa Margarita, you may want to explore job opportunities in the area. RSM boasts a strong economy centered around education, retail, tourism, and leisure. It’s a major employment center for surrounding communities like Coto de Caza.

Major Rancho Santa Margarita employers include:

  • Applied Medical
  • O’Connell Landscape Maintenance
  • Saddleback Valley Unified School District (careers)
  • Capistrano Unified School District (jobs)
  • Santa Margarita Catholic High School (jobs)
  • Lucas & Mercier Construction
  • Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI)

You can explore City of Rancho Santa Margarita jobs here or visit Indeed to see other employment opportunities.

Schools in Rancho Santa Margarita

While living in Rancho Santa Margarita, you will be served by one of two school districts: Capistrano Unified School District or Saddleback Valley Unified School District. There are six public elementary schools and one public middle school. Students attend high school in Mission Viejo or Las Flores, depending on the district.

Capistrano USD is the largest Orange County school district and serves most of RSM. Students attend the district’s Tesoro High School in Las Flores, which is a California Distinguished School that has been ranked one of the top public high schools in America.

Saddleback Valley USD serves a smaller portion of northern RSM, including most of Dove Canyon. Students in RSM attend Rancho Santa Margarita Intermediate School and Trabuco Hills High School in Mission Viejo. RSM Intermediate is a California Distinguished School ranked the best public middle school by Parenting OC with national, state, and county award-winning CTE programs.

Families can choose from several private schools in Rancho Santa Margarita. The largest is Santa Margarita Catholic High School (SMCHS) which has over 1,600 enrolled students and has been rated one of the best private high schools in the country. It’s one of only three International Baccalaureate World Schools in the state. Private schools include:

For higher education after moving to Rancho Santa Margarita, there is Saddleback College just seven miles away, as well as University of California, Irvine; Santa Ana College; Orange Coast College; Cal State Fullerton; and Long Beach State University within 40 miles.

Rancho Santa Margarita, California Statistics & Information

  • County: Orange
  • Area: 12.94 square miles
  • Rancho Santa Margarita zip code: 92679 and 92688
  • Area code: 949
  • Elevation: 925 feet
  • Time zone: Pacific Standard Time (PST)
  • Closest airport to Santa Margarita: John Wayne Airport (SNA), 21 miles

Rancho Santa Margarita Map

Does Rancho Santa Margarita living sound perfect for you? Daly Movers Inc. is ready to deliver the seamless, stress-free moving experience you deserve. Give our friendly Rancho Santa Margarita movers a call to get started with a free, personalized moving quote and superior customer service.

Chip Martin
Chip Martin
BA in philosophy, Long Beach State 1974, various trades after college including cabinet maker and boat refinisher, then became a local moving driver in 1976, bought Daly Movers in 1979, managed company, and drove local and long distance until 1995 when I transitioned into sales/office full time. Almost fifty years later Daly Movers and I have sold, worked, and familiarized ourselves with virtually every type of household and O&I relocation.

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