Aug 11, 2022

The 10 Best Places to Retire in California

Nat Miller

Given its high quality of life, incredible natural beauty, and huge variety of cities to choose from, it’s no surprise that California is one of the most popular states in the country, and this includes people living there for retirement (fun fact: California is so populous that over 1 in 10 Americans is from California!). One of the things that makes California such a popular destination is the huge array of diverse and unique places to call home, from the Redwood forests of Northern California, to the beautiful farmland of California’s central valley, to the beaches of Southern California, there’s truly a place for everyone in California. While there’s no shortage of great places to retire in California, check out the 10 most popular places to retire in California below.

Palm Springs

Sitting in the gorgeous and picturesque Coachella Valley is Palm Springs, one of the country’s most iconic retirement destinations particularly for those looking for an active, outdoor lifestyle which is why so many active adults flock to Palm Springs each year. Located in the desert and surrounded by the beautiful St. Jacinto Mountains, Palm Springs provides the perfect location for those looking to retire somewhere with plenty of sunshine (Palm Springs gets about 350 days of sunshine each year!) and year round warm weather. Along with being scenic, Palm Springs has plenty of outdoor activities to offer with countless golf courses, hiking trails, and tennis courts (just to name some of the countless activities). Palm Springs also has plenty to do for the less outdoorsy types, as it offers a vibrant and upscale downtown area with plenty of shopping, dining, and entertainment.

Palm Springs is known for its pleasant desert climate and beautiful mountain views.

Sacramento 

Next on our list is the 6th biggest city in California as well as the state capital, Sacramento. Sacramento, California consistently ranks among the best cities to retire in the country, scoring high marks for important retirement attributes like resident happiness, cost of living, tax rate, and the quality of the local job market and health care. Located east of San Francisco, Sacramento traces its roots to the 1848 Gold Rush in California, and still has many restored and reconstructed historical buildings. If you’re looking for a larger, more urban environment in Northern California in a less expensive city than nearby San Francisco, then Sacramento may be perfect for you. 

Sacramento is California's sixth largest city and state capitol.

Santa Rosa

Another Northern California city that routinely makes the lists of the best places to retire in California is Santa Rosa, California, ranking high for things like quality of life, affordability, and healthcare. Santa Rosa is located in California’s famous Sonoma County, a close drive from both San Francisco and the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by beautiful vineyards and rolling hills. Whether you’re exploring Sonoma’s countless vineyards or simply hiking or biking through the countryside, you’ll never have to stop the outdoor adventures given Santa Rosa’s temperate, year-round mediterranean climate. 

San Luis Obispo

Heading South down California’s scenic Central Coast we find San Luis Obispo, known to locals simply as “SLO.” Once named the happiest city in America, San Luis Obispo provides a beautiful, beachside retirement destination with access to countless outdoor activities. One particularly nice thing about retiring to San Luis Obispo is that it is equidistant from California’s two major cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco (San Luis Obispo is located in the center of California about 200 miles from each city). This means that you have easy access to two of America’s most popular cities just a short trip away.

Cerro San Luis Obispo, also known as "Madonna Mountain," is one of the many famous outdoor areas in San Luis Obispo.

Oceanside

Continuing all the way down the coast to southern California we find Oceanside, California, located in San Diego county. As its name suggests, Oceanside, California provides the classic southern California beach life, with year-round weather in the 60’s and 70’s and miles and miles of pristine beaches, and a world-famous pier. Although real estate can tend to be more expensive in Oceanside than most other cities on this list, many locals find the proximity to such easy beach-living well worth the extra expense.

Grass Valley

Heading back to Northern California we find Grass Valley, a small city (the population is only roughly 12,000, making it one of the smaller cities on our list) located roughly 50 miles to the northeast of Sacramento in the foothills of California’s famous Sierra Nevada mountains. Grass Valley is a popular retirement destination that allows you to live amongst rolling California vineyards, while also enjoying slightly lower property prices than places like Sonoma county.  

Newport Beach

Back down south in southern California’s famous Orange County, located just south of Los Angeles, is the small town of Newport Beach. Newport Beach is known as a pleasant, safe, and active community with a bustling downtown full of amazing shops and restaurants. One particularly popular destination in Newport Beach is Balboa Island, a charming man-made island that’s just a short drive, walk, or ferry ride away and which is home to it’s own array of amazing restaurants and shops. Another thing that makes Newport Beach a popular retirement destination is that it has a relatively high population of residents over the age of 65, meaning that you’ll be sure to find plenty of similarly situated friends.

Newport Beach is famous for its beautiful beaches and laid-back lifestyle.

Salinas

Going back up north to Monterey County, a short drive south of San Francisco, is Salinas, California, known to many as the home of novelist and Nobel laureate John Steinbeck. Salinas offers a mild, year-round Mediterranean climate and plenty of outdoor activities, from hiking to touring all the sites in Monterey like the famous Monterey Zoo. Another perk of life in Salinas is that it allows you to live in close proximity to the San Francisco bay area, and all its amenities like its world-class healthcare or airport, while still enjoying a slightly lower cost of living than the rest of California.

Walnut Creek

Another incredibly popular retirement destination is Walnut Creek. Like Newport Beach, Walnut Creek’s popularity with retirees means that a relatively higher proportion of its population is over the age of 65 when compared to other California cities. It’s easy to see why retirees love Walnut Creek. Located near the San Francisco Bay area, Walnut Creek offers residents the ability to live in a slightly quieter and slightly cheaper neighborhood than they might find in San Francisco, while still getting to enjoy all the culture and amenities that San Francisco has to offer.

Los Angeles

Like other major American cities, such as Phoenix, Arizona for example, Los Angeles, California is really better thought of as a collection of towns surrounding the business district that is downtown Los Angeles, as opposed to a single city. But whatever you want to call it, Los Angeles is still an amazing place to retire. The country’s second biggest city, Los Angeles truly offers it all - from gorgeous year-round weather, to state of the art medical and healthcare facilities, to all the entertainment and amenities you could ever want. And because Los Angeles is made up of so many distinct smaller towns, you have a wide range of living options to choose from in Los Angeles. From beach towns like Venice or Manhattan Beach, to the bright lights of West Hollywood, to the serene woods of Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles truly has a place for everyone.

While these are 10 of the most popular cities in California to retire to, there’s no shortage of amazing places to call your retirement home in California. If you want to learn more about retiring in California (or anywhere else for that matter!) reach out to us at info@sunboundhomes.com or check out our services page to learn more. We always love hearing people’s retirement stories, and can’t wait to help you have your easiest move yet.

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