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The 10 Best Cities to Live and Retire in California

January 25, 2018

5 min read

When it comes to the best cities for retirement, it’s hard to think of a state with more to offer than California. The Golden State definitely has a diverse selection from which to choose, so we did our best to represent a cross-section of your best options.

We gathered information from Sperling’s Best Places to help put together the cost-of-living (COL) index for this article. The COL of each city is next to the national average (100) for reference.  

Keep in mind, though, that the average COL in California is 152.30/100.

So, while you’re going through the list below, don’t be surprised when you see that most COLs are actually above that number. Most retirees would still say it’s worth it, though, in order to live in a state with such incredible weather.

Speaking of which, our average temperatures come from the U.S. Climate website.

The 10 Best Places to Retire in California  

Between the year-round favorable forecasts, the food, and the countless things to do, there are a lot cities to choose from. That said, we think you’ll agree the 10 we’ve listed below are the best options of them all.

1. Thousand Oaks

Even though it’s only about 35 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, Thousand Oaks feels like a whole different world. That’s thanks in large part to The Gardens of the World, Wildwood Regional Park, and other places you can enjoy California’s natural beauty.

So, if you want your retirement to include a mix of city-living and lush Californian vegetation, Thousand Oaks is an easy recommendation.

2. Torrance

For those of you who imagine retirement full of water sports, fishing, or just laying out on the beach, Torrance is worth considering. It’s not as expensive as other California cities near the coast, but it also isn’t so small that there’s nothing to do. You have the Del Amo Fashion Center and plenty of restaurants. Most communities here have dining and shopping options within walking distance, too.

3. Burbank

Burbank is the smallest city on our list, though it obviously isn’t that small. It’s also very close to Los Angeles, which isn’t ideal for those of you who want a quieter retirement. That said, it’s a fun city with lots of local flair and great choice if you have kids and/or friends living out of town. People will go out of their way to come visit you as they’ll be a short drive from Hollywood.

4. Visalia

Visalia holds the distinction of being the most affordable city on our list. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean it’s lacking for things to do and experience. Situated almost equal distance between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Visalia is just a short drive from Sequoia National Park, so if you enjoy hiking and natural beauty, you won’t have any excuse to be bored during your retirement.

5. Carlsbad

Carlsbad is a seaside resort community and, thus, one of the most expensive retirement options on our list. That said, you’re essentially paying to live in a resort. For many people who retire here, you couldn’t put a price on Carlsbad State Beach, Batiquitos Lagoon, or the breathtaking Flower Fields.

6. Pasadena

Pasadena is known for the Victorian architecture and art deco buildings that make up Old Pasadena. The area also perfectly summarizes this city’s unique character. This is another city that’s close to Los Angeles but doesn’t really feel like it thanks to spots like Arlington Garden and Hahamongna Watershed Park. From great shopping to driving through the mountains, Pasadena is a great place to live.

7. Sacramento

California’s capital is teeming with reasons to love it. One top reason? The weather. If the temperatures in the southern part of the state are too hot, you’ll love Sacramento’s much milder climate. Fun cultural attractions here include Crocker Art Museum, the Leland Stanford Mansion, and the many sites throughout Old Sacramento.

8. Irvine

Most people would be happy living just about anywhere in Orange County. However, if your budget allows for it, Irvine should be your topic choice. Orange County Great Park to the east offers countless ways to enjoy your day. You’ll also be surrounded by beautiful sycamore trees, nature trails, and other fun ways to get out and enjoy the weather.

9. Santa Rosa

If you love wine, move to Sonoma County, the largest producer of California’s vintages. Santa Rosa is the perfect city for retirees, too. You’re never far from an incredible vineyard tour, but there are plenty of other ways to get out and stay active among nature. The Spring Lake Regional Park is a prime example.


Fresno has the highest average temperature of any city on our list. It’s also the second-most affordable, which is pretty hard to believe given the countless reasons to love it here. For fun, you’ll be surrounded by options like the Tower Theatre, the Forestiere Underground Gardens, and the annual Big Fresno Fair.

Key Takeaways

It’s hard to go wrong with choosing a place to retire in California.

Obviously, one of the biggest deciding factors will be the cost of living. As we brought up at the beginning, it’s significantly higher throughout the state than the country’s average.

Still, you get what you pay for. The 10 cities we just covered are bathed in sunshine all year long and have something for everyone in terms of recreation and dining.

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By Stash Team

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