retirement

Best Spots to Retire in California

BAKERSFIELD+California+skyline | View from the top 01
robnas / Flickr

California might be an expensive state, but it boasts incredible natural scenery, creative opportunities and exposure, and a beautiful climate. Many hidden and affordable gems throughout the state are ideal for retirement. If you have the budget and a love for West Coast living, look no further than California. Once you figured out how much you should have in your 401(k), you can finally settle down in your dream location. 

Thinking about moving to The Golden State for your retirement? Here are the best spots to retire in California.

1. San Diego

Sunset and marine layer at the Terry Pine beach, San Diego California, facing La Jolla city
Source: Janson George / Shutterstock.com
San Diego is a relatively expensive place to live.
  • Population (as of 2021): 1.382 million
  • Perks: gorgeous beaches, ideal weather, beautiful natural scenery, access to tons of attractions

San Diego is a popular city along the Pacific Coast of southern California that offers incredible beaches, warm weather, and a vacation lifestyle to retirees. With an abundance of gorgeous palm trees and parks, nature lovers will feel right at home in this bustling city. Not only that, but there are a variety of attractions in San Diego, such as the San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park. 

However, keep in mind that you likely won’t find many affordable housing opportunities in the city, which has landed it on the list of places to avoid if you’re seeking an inexpensive retirement location. Nevertheless, if you have the funds, you will certainly enjoy the idyllic climate and wide range of activities. 

2. Los Angeles County

Source: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
Los Angeles County is a popular destination for many travelers.
  • Population (as of 2021): 9.83 million
  • Perks: Mediterranean climate, access to plenty of opportunities, diverse culture, creative lifestyle

When you hear “Los Angeles,” you might think of a young, vibrant crowd of aspiring influencers or struggling artists pursuing their big-city dreams. However, Los Angeles County has much more to offer than the city alone. While much of Los Angeles’s demographic includes younger generations, the county itself is also filled with retirees who enjoy the finer things in life. Los Angeles offers residents a Mediterranean climate with an abundance of sunshine and mild temperatures year-round.

Like much of California, Los Angeles is an expensive area to live in. However, as mentioned above, if you have a high retirement fund or are interested in pursuing a creative hustle post-retirement, you might find bliss in this populous county.   

3. Lakeport

A multi-shot panorama of Mt Konocti overlooking Clear Lake, California, USA
Source: Michael Overstreet / Shutterstock.com
Located in the state’s northwestern region, Lakeport sits on the western shore of Clear Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake in the state
  • Population (as of 2021): 5,135
  • Perks: beautiful views, fresh air, ideal weather, access to tons of attractions, peaceful living

Lakeport is an incorporated city in Lake County, California. With an elevation of 1,355 feet above sea level, Lakeport offers gorgeous rolling hills, vineyards, and clean fresh air. The city also has mild temperatures year-round, remaining in the 50s throughout the winter months. Additionally, in the summer, temperatures typically rise into the 90s.

If you’re seeking a peaceful, sweet escape as your retirement, settle in the slice of heaven called Lakeport. Not only will you experience astonishing natural beauty, but you’ll also have plenty of attractions to visit, including the Historic Courthouse Museum and the Edenberry Farm.

4. Santa Clarita

Suburban bike path with white fencing entertaining wiggles along the San Francisquito Creek Trail in Santa Clarita California.
Source: trekandshoot / Shutterstock.com
Located north of the city of Los Angeles, Santa Clarita is part of Los Angeles County’s northwestern portion.
  • Population (as of 2021): 224,593
  • Perks: beautiful climate, family-friendly area, gorgeous natural scenery, abundance of historic attractions

The family-friendly suburb of Santa Clarita experiences ideal weather year-round, with mild winters and warm summers. Furthermore, it boasts gorgeous natural scenery and plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation. 

This wonderful California location is also home to Six Flags Magic Mountain theme park and Six Flags Hurricane Harbor — perfect for when the grandkids visit. As for nature lovers, there is also an abundance of parks, including Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park and Placerita Canyon Nature Center. History buffs will also enjoy the William S. Hart Museum & Ranch and many other historic attractions in the region.

5. Palm Springs

golf course at sunset in palm springs, california, usa
Source: Isogood_patrick / Shutterstock.com
Palm Springs is a city in the Sonoran Desert.
  • Population (as of 2021): 45,019
  • Perks: access to countless attractions, luxurious lifestyle

Located in southern California, Palm Springs city features luxurious attractions, from hot springs and high-end accommodations to an abundance of golf courses and spas. Residents also love the location’s array of shopping and dining opportunities. 

That being said, Palm Springs is extremely hot and dry. For many retirees, it could be a hassle and even dangerous for much of the community. If you’re someone who does not tolerate heat well or enjoys being outdoors during the summer months, you’ll want to consider the potential risks of living in Palm Springs. On the other hand, if you enjoy the dry heat and can find ways to stay cool and enjoy safe activities in the region, Palm Springs certainly has a lot to offer you.

6. Bakersfield

Afternoon autumn view of a public park in downtown Bakersfield, California, USA.
Source: Matt Gush / Shutterstock.com
If you’re looking for a more affordable California city to retire in, look no further than Bakersfield.
  • Population (as of 2021): 407,615
  • Perks: abundance of recreational activities, access to local produce, rich music scene, welcoming community

This inland city is about two hours north of Los Angeles and boasts a warm climate year-round, with mild winters and dry summers. There are countless outdoor activities to enjoy, from kayaking and fishing to hiking and walking through the area’s beautiful trails. Furthermore, if you love fresh fruits and vegetables, you can find tons of local produce throughout the region, thanks to its abundance of farmlands. 

Bakersfield is also a great place to retire for musicians. The city actually has its own sub-genre of county music called Bakersfield Sound, which merges influences from both the rock-and-roll scene and the traditional country scene. Furthermore, this California city boasts many welcoming retirement communities and friendly residents.

7. Fresno

Aerial View of the Fresno, California Skyline at Dusk
Source: Jacob Boomsma / Shutterstock.com
Nature lovers will feel right at home in Fresno, California — a city in the San Joaquin Valley.
  • Population (as of 2021): 544,510
  • Perks: access to national parks, affordable, vibrant nightlife, family-friendly neighborhoods

Located in close proximity to some of the state’s most major national parks (e.g. Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia), Fresno is a charming city that has much to offer its residents. Not only that, but it’s also a more affordable option when compared to other California “big cities.” 

However, that being said, it’s important to choose a location that best suits your needs as a retiree. For example, if you’re searching for vibrant nightlife, you can certainly find a spot downtown that keeps you on your toes. If you’re searching for more peace and stability, however, you’ll want to stick to the safe, family-friendly neighborhoods. 

8. Modesto

Afternoon aerial view of the urban downtown core of Modesto, California, USA.
Source: Matt Gush / Shutterstock.com
Modesto is extremely diverse and offers residents a rich culture.
  • Population (as of 2021): 218,771
  • Perks: island city, fresh local produce, charming downtown, tons of attractions, affordable, rich culture

Similar to Bakersfield, Modesto is another inland city that’s surrounded by sprawling farmland, meaning residents have access to a variety of crops and produce. Specifically, Modesto is known for its almonds, walnuts, and dairy products. Not only that, but it also has a beautiful and bustling downtown with incredible cuisine and attractions. There are plenty of arts centers, museums, and theaters available.

This city’s cost of living is also more affordable than California’s cost of living as a whole, making it an attractive retirement option for many individuals. 

9. Oxnard

Late afternoon view of palm trees along the coast of Oxnard, California, USA.
Source: Matt Gush / Shutterstock.com
Oxnard is a gorgeous seaside city located in Ventura County.
  • Population (as of 2021): 201,879
  • Perks: abundance of parks, miles of gorgeous shorelines

This beautiful city features miles of beaches with stunning natural backdrops like mountains, palm trees, and rocky shorelines. This sweet escape is the perfect place to retire, especially for beach and nature lovers. Specifically, Oxnard State Beach Park is a go-to for many visitors and residents alike, offering a public beach, grassy lawn, playground, and picnic area. 

10. Carlsbad

Birds eye view of Carlsbad village and miles of beach in north county San Diego California
Source: Kyle Sprague / Shutterstock.com
Located in northern San Diego, Carlsbad is one of the best places to live and retire in the state.
  • Population (as of 2021): 115,302
  • Perks: small-town feel, abundance of outdoor activities

The coastal city of Carlsbad offers beautiful beaches and a small-town feel to its residents. There are plenty of outdoor activities to embark on each day, from hiking and walking through the charming downtown to lounging on the beach and playing water sports.

A major bonus of Carlsbad is The Flower Fields, which boast 55 acres of vibrant tecolote ranunculus flowers. In fact, many tourists will travel to Carlsbad specifically for this attraction. Imagine having that blessing in your backyard.

That being said, due to its many perks, this city is on the pricy side with a high cost of living. 

11. Carmel-by-the-Sea

Driving on the Pacific Ocean coast, in Carmel-by-the-sea, Monterey Peninsula, California
Source: Sundry Photography / Shutterstock.com
Caramel-by-the-Sea is one of the best places to retire in California.
  • Population (as of 2021): 3,196
  • Perks: tons of attractions, coastal living, quaint and charming

This cute beach city sits on the state’s Monterey Peninsula and offers an array of attractions and activities, from museums and galleries to scuba diving and whale watching. If you’re looking for a quaint location that offers coastal living with tons of restaurants and spacious homes, Caramel-by-the-Sea is worth checking out. Keep in mind, however, that affording the retirement lifestyle this town has to offer is not easy. If you’re looking for a more reasonably-priced city to retire in, you might want to consider another option on this list.

12. South Lake Tahoe

Morning Sunrise Along Tahoe Keys Lake With Reflecting Mountain Range in South Lake Tahoe, CA
Source: Brandon Olafsson / Shutterstock.com
Retirement in Lake Tahoe is like a dream come true.
  • Population (as of 2021): 21,414
  • Perks: abundance of recreational activities, beautiful natural views, peaceful lifestyle

Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, South Lake Tahoe is a picturesque place to retire — especially for nature lovers. The freshwater Lake Tahoe is nestled along the California and Nevada state border, and it offers retirees the opportunity to embrace peace and relaxation after decades of hard work. Not only that, but there are countless recreational activities available to residents year-round. 

13. Santa Barbara

Court House Buildings Orange Roofs Pacific Ocean Santa Barbara California
Source: Bill Perry / Shutterstock.com
If you’re looking for a California city with a gorgeous natural backdrop, Santa Barbara is the location for you.
  • Population (as of 2021): 88,255
  • Perks: beautiful natural scenery, access to coastlines, charming downtown

The central coastal city of Santa Barbara is the perfect place to settle down, as it offers residents a diverse downtown with Mediterranean architecture, fine dining establishments, and more. There is also an abundance of museums, parks, and zoos, as well as the stunning Santa Ynez Mountains.

Santa Barbara is also home to Stearns Wharf, a charming historical landmark that attracts many visitors — and for good reason. This location arguably offers some of the most beautiful scenery in the state. 

14. Paso Robles

A view of a lush green vineyard in rolling hills at an upscale winery in Paso Robles, California
Source: Wirestock Creators / Shutterstock.com
Paso Robles is located in eastern-central California.
  • Population (as of 2021): 31,759
  • Perks: stunning views, charming downtown, diverse community

If your ideal retirement involves sipping wine while enjoying breathtaking California views, you’ll want to consider Paso Robles as an option for your retirement location. This beautiful city offers various wineries and wine-tasting rooms. Not only that, but it also has a charming downtown with various shops, galleries, restaurants, cafes, and breweries. 

As a retiree in Paso Robles, you can enjoy this small city’s rich history and diverse community. Furthermore, you can visit the local farmer’s market each week for fresh produce and some socializing. And while Paso Robles might not be a beach town, it’s only about 30 minutes from the coast, so you can still get your seaside fix. 

15. Torrance

beautiful houses on the seaside at Torrance, CA
Source: KevinKim / Shutterstock.com
The coastal city of Torrance is one of the best places to retire in the country.
  • Population (as of 2021): 143,600
  • Perks: gorgeous coastlines, diverse community, beautiful weather

Located in Los Angeles County, this gorgeous gem offers residents access to the beautiful southern California coastlines as well as a strong economy. Furthermore, Torrance’s diverse community is known to be warm and welcoming, and most Torrance residents own their own homes.

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