The area was first settled by the San Dieguitos, early Holocene inhabitants of the area. During the Spanish colonial era, trails heading north near Solana Beach crossed inland to avoid the marshes and inlets of the area. The George H. Jones family were the first settlers in the area now known as Solana Beach, arriving in 1886. Until 1923, the main area known as Solana Beach had been called Lockwood Mesa. When Lake Hodges Dam was built in 1917-18, the area encompassing Solana Beach began to develop rapidly. The creation of the 12,000-acre (49 km2) Santa Fe Irrigation District in 1918 ensured that the area from Rancho Santa Fe through Solana Beach would prosper and expand. The coastline from Solana Beach to Oceanside began to boom in the early 1920s. In 1922 Colonel Ed Fletcher, an early community leader and developer, purchased 140 acres (0.57 km2) at $20 per acre from farmer George H. Jones to develop the town of Solana Beach, with the help of his brother-in-law Eugene Batchelder. To provide access to the beach for the development, hydraulic water pressure was used to erode away tons of earth and create the Fletcher Cove entry and beach. This took one man three months with a fire hose, using water that was coming over the spillway at Lake Hodges Dam. The beach was opened with great fanfare including horse races on the beach on July 4, 1925.
The community grew slowly, but steadily throughout the rest of the century, with particular booms occurring in the decade after World War II and a real estate boom in the last quarter of the 20th century. In 1986 the community officially incorporated as the city of Solana Beach. That year, the city hosted the final funeral services for Desi Arnaz, who had died in Del Mar. Arnaz’s funeral was held at St. James Roman Catholic Church, the only Catholic church in the city and part of the Diocese of San Diego.
The neighborhood of Eden Gardens (also known as La Colonia), one of the oldest residential areas of Solana Beach, was a community formed in the 1920s by Mexican farmers who were hired by the owners of large ranches in Rancho Santa Fe. These farmers wanted their families nearby, hence the formation of La Colonia (the colony). The name Eden Gardens came later from a land developer who thought it would be a good marketing tool. Many residents still refer to the area as La Colonia. Famous residents include Chicano rapper Lil Rob and comedian Rene Sandoval who were born and raised in the community.