18 Best Places to Live in California

Home to Hollywood, Coachella, Silicon Valley, and Disneyland – California certainly is one of those elite places with something in store for everyone. Agreed, moving, and relocating to a new place is never fun and games, but when the place in question is California, the process doesn’t seem that arduous and immense. 

California contains plenty of serene beaches, breathtaking landscapes, and vibrant public spaces. Combined with relatively milder weather, it comes as no surprise that it is the United States’ most populous state! But there’s more – California is also the US’ largest economy. Capped off with top-notch schools, a thriving job market, and healthcare facilities, this US State indeed promises to be a paradise for its residents.  

Now that you’ve made up your mind about California, the question is, which area will suit your needs the most? Several delightful cities abound within its perimeters and choosing one among them can be a really tricky affair. Therefore, to make matters easier for you, we’ve compiled this list of the 18 best places to live in California. 


Although home to a relatively smaller population, Irvine is, without a doubt, one of California’s most striking towns. Located in Orange County, this master-planned town, for that matter, features among the United States’ safest and wealthiest. If you’re an avid reader of lifestyle magazines, you will find Irvine frequently finding a place in multiple prestigious “Best Places to Live” lists. 

A booming economy, a thriving job market, an above-average median household income, and an extremely superlative education scene in the form of first-rate schools and colleges are some of the reasons that set Irvine a touch apart from others and a touch costlier than your average Cali town. Add to that excellent weather conditions and exceptionally low crime rates, and one would be really hard-pressed to find a town more livable than Irvine. Irvine also hosts the national or international headquarters of several reputable corporations, including multiple Fortune 500 companies.  

Irvine is home to numerous acclaimed higher education institutes and public schools when it comes to schools and colleges. Including names like the Orange County Center of the University of Southern California, Concordia University, University of California, Irvine, and Irvine Valley College, as well as the campuses of Pepperdine University, University of LaVerne, and California State University Fullerton. On the flip side, though, the rent, median home value, and cost of living in general in this town lie towards the higher side.  

Irvine Spectrum Center (2013) 30.jpg
By Nandaro, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/K8AMVpGA2kwd3cXaA | Cost of Living: High | Population: 307,670 

San Diego

A multitude of reasons like low unemployment rates, ideal weather, and cultural diversity make San Diego one of the best places to live in California. The city provides its residents with a high quality of life and lets them mingle with people from all walks of life.  

At present, it is California’s second-largest metropolis, playing home to almost 1.3 million residents. San Diego boasts of a lively nightlife courtesy of its numerous splendid nightclubs and bars, especially in its downtown Gaslamp neighborhood. However, what keeps most people from living in San Diego is the town’s cost of living, which typically veers towards the higher than average, but so does the household income in this area. 

If you are a bit patient with your house hunting, though, you are sure to find an array of decent options with affordable median home value in some of the San Diego suburbs. The amenities, environment, plenty of outdoor activities, parks, and the exposure that the area accords you will surely compensate for all the hard yards you put into settling in it. From students to bachelors to families – there perhaps exists no demographic that this city doesn’t appeal to. 

Panorama de San Diego.jpg
By tomcio77, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/rB7VXtH3HiwrSAz79 | Cost of Living: High | Population: 1,386,932 

Mountain View

Situated in Santa Clara Country, Mountain View is named for its views of the Santa Cruz mountains. To the rest of the world, Mountain View is the home of the corporate headquarters complex of Google. Besides Google, Mountain View also houses the headquarters of many other tech giants such as Microsoft, Samsung, and Mozilla Foundation, who are (not surprisingly) some of its top employers too.  

Multiple factors make Mountain View one of the best towns to live in California- High-quality schools, diversity, small population, and exceptionally low crime rates, to name a few. However, the high cost of living and its median home rents – which sit well above the national average, associated with Mountain View deters many people from availing of these benefits. Mountain View also has a host of engrossing bookstores, excellent restaurants, and tranquil public parks that promise to offer you more than enough fodder to while away your time.  

Mountain View is also home to the renowned Computer History Museum that provides visitors with an insight into the various aspects of the computing revolution and its resulting impact on our society. Other sights include the Historic Adobe Building, the Shoreline Amphitheater, and the Rengstorff House.  

City Hall of Mountain View - panoramio - Aleh Haiko (1).jpg
By Aleh Haiko, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/Ccgooxnt35J8fUVD8 | Cost of Living: High | Population: 82,376 

Palo Alto 

Hailed as the birthplace of Silicon Valley, Palo Alto is perhaps best-known for acting as the seat of the internationally renowned Stanford University. While Palo Alto’s population is substantially smaller than most cities in this region, its communities are as diverse as the rest. This is largely attributed to tech companies and universities that attract people from all walks of life, which also explains the above-average property prices in the area. 

Now, it’s not uncommon to attach Palo Alto’s identity with the ceaseless gravity of an ever-evolving tech job market and the universities it harbors, but that only paints half the picture. This place has a delightful lighter side to it as well, characterized by lively bars, clubs, and a host of eateries that are widely regarded to be the best in the Bay Area.  

Palo Alto also packs plenty of outdoor activities. The Palo Alto Art Center, Frenchman’s Tower, Packard’s garage, the Stanford Shopping Center, and the Baylands Nature Preserve are some of the top attractions. Besides, it is home to many amazing parks too.  However, staying close to all these sites is quite challenging, for the cost of living here is exceptionally steep owing to steep rent. In fact, as of 2021, the median home price in Palo Alto stands at a whopping $3.1 million.  

Palo Alto Networks Headquarters South Side 2018.jpg
By Namaste jinx, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/ngp4pwjmHVsKPqbYA | Cost of Living: High| Population: 68,572 


Situated to the west of Sacramento, Davis is the most populous city in Yolo County despite being relatively smaller than others over here. It’s perhaps best recognized for being home to the famous United States Bicycling Hall of Fame. This museum educates visitors on America’s rich cycling legacy. 

Pleasant weather, peaceful family-oriented neighborhoods, a stable job scene, and a host of bright spots make it one of the best places to live in Cali. The rate of violent crimes is 56% lower than the national average. This figure validates the resounding safety of its communities.  

Moreover, Davis also boasts of brilliant educational facilities, with the University of California, Davis leading the pack, of course. On account of it being a college town, bicycling is one of the most popular modes of transportation. The cost of living here is a touch higher than the national average, but it is worth noting here that this is primarily due to the steep median housing rates in the region.  

Skatepark in Davis, California.jpg
CC BY 2.5, Link

Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/pTU5DU8Nm6Tzg5Uy8 | Cost of Living: High | Population: 66,850 

Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach in Southern California might well be small, but an abundance of recreational facilities and top-notch schools and colleges make it one of the most livable cities over here. Along with Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, also known as the “Pearl of LA’s South Bay,” is one of the three beach cities within the South Bay region of Los Angeles Country. 

Many people recognize Manhattan Beach by its long beach that stretches 2.1 miles long and 450 feet wide. The crime rates in Manhattan are 25% below the national average, which further strengthens its case as a city worth residing in.  

At the same time, however, Manhattan Beach’s extremely high cost of living – both in terms of above-average property rent and purchase price makes matters rather challenging for many interested prospects, which perhaps reflects in Manhattan Beach’s small population. Rest assured, if you’re able to accommodate the rent with your income, the benefits that it showers on you are next to none. Manhattan Beach, at present, is home to multiple celebrities and other high-profile individuals, and that in itself speaks volumes about this place’s desirability.  

Manhattan Beach, California (40094310265).jpg
By Pedro Szekely, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/y9p3tvsH1rvkv2ri8 | Cost of Living: High | Population: 35,506 


If you’re moving into California on a tight budget, you can make Sacramento your hometown. Famous for its museums, river views, and food, the town of Sacramento provides you with a ton of affordable property options to choose from. Subsequently, the town’s low cost of living and growing job market secure its place among the fastest-growing regions in California. Primarily because the median property rent is well within the countrywide average. Its average household income is fairly reasonable too. 

While Sacramento’s cultural scene might not rub shoulders with Los Angeles and San Francisco’s, it is recognized for its evolving contemporary culture. It is frequently dubbed by many to be the place’s most “hipster” town. It has a thriving wine and beer scene, and if you ask us, that complements Sacramento’s aesthetic of tree-lined streets really well.  

Fond of outdoor activities? You’re in for a treat. Sacramento has a lot of outdoor stuff to offer. Whether it is hiking and swimming or sunbathing and waterskiing, or just spending a quiet evening in one of its many parks, rest assured, you will never run out of options in Sacramento. Moreover, the town is not as populated as others in California, which allows you to lead a quiet and peaceful life, free from the din and chaos of bustling crowds. 

Sacramento, California

Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/iayZbpP9s2gqpwV99 | Cost of Living: Low | Population: 524,943 

Los Angeles

Now, Los Angeles doesn’t need much of an introduction, does it? Home to Hollywood, Los Angeles holds the reputation for making destinies as munificently as notoriously it breaks them apart. That is perhaps why it is termed as many as the “City of Dreams.” However, Hollywood is just scraping at the surface of Los Angeles. California’s arguably most recognized (as well as its most populous) city packs much more for you to behold.  

There are plenty of activities here. For starters, this place is the proud owner of a truly international (and absolutely lip-smacking!) food scene. Few will dare to compete with LA’s vibrance and grandeur on the cultural spectrum. And to cap it off, Los Angeles is also home to some of the most beautiful beaches on the planet should you want to tune off from the entertainment and be at one with nature. 

Of course, Los Angeles’ immense popularity and reputation mean that it is relatively expensive to lead a life over here. While traditionally, Los Angeles has been plagued with alarmingly high crime rates. That, however, has never affected the average property rent in the area. In fact, Los Angeles has had the largest decline in crimes of any major American city. The median home value in Los Angeles is quite steep. 

20190616154621!Echo Park Lake with Downtown Los Angeles Skyline.jpg
By Adoramassey, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/XanPUB1NVjkHFAUw5 | Cost of Living: High | Population: 3,898,747 

San Jose

Besides being recognized as the capital of the famed Silicon Valley that houses the who’s who of the tech world like Adobe, IBM, Cisco Systems, and eBay, California’s third-most populous city is also known for its pleasing Mediterranean climate thoroughly delightful entertainment options. However, despite its charm and glow, many people cannot make San Jose their home, owing primarily to its extremely high cost of living. 

While San Jose does everything in its power to foster your physical, mental, and emotional well-being, it is not as kind towards your financial health. San Jose’s median home price stands at a lofty $1,085,000, which is way above the national average, making it the country’s most expensive property market. However, San Jose’s average household income is on the higher side too. San Jose’s most popular communities are Rose Garden, Midtown San Jose, Blossom Valley, Mayfair, Santa Teresa, Almaden Valley, Japantown, and Silver Creek Valley. 

San Jose also has a pretty impressive art scene and is the home of multiple performing arts companies, including Symphony Silicon Valley, Children’s Musical Theater of San Jose, Opera San Jose, and the San Jose Repertory Theater. San Jose is also known for its impressive repertoire of top-notch schools and colleges. Leading San Jose’s charge on the educational front is its largest university, the San Jose State University, the oldest public university on the West Coast. 

Downtown San Jose Intersection, San Jose, California (45240384021) (cropped).jpg
By Will Buckner, CC BY 2.0, Link

Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/WSwXAKVA9wBD9Fok8 | Cost of Living: High | Population: 1,013,240 


Located in San Bernardino County in southern California, the town of Redlands is characterized majorly by many majestic late-1800s buildings like the Morey Mansion, A.K. Smiley Public Library, and the Kimberly Crest House & Gardens.  

What makes Redlands a sought-after place for residence is its affordable housing options. At $1155, the average rent prices here are perched just a notch above the national average of $928. Additionally, this town boasts of many excellent schools and colleges, which reflects in the high education levels of its native residents. 

Communities here are predominantly family-oriented thanks to the Redlands’ low crime rates, dense suburban environment, and bustling downtown. Besides its immaculately preserved historic buildings, the town hosts a slew of other attractions, such as the Redlands Bowl, Escape Craft Brewery, Historical Glass Museum, and the Lincoln Memorial Shrine.  

Downtown Redlands, CA 6-3-12i

Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/s8bZjAT8UMkgGSLb9 | Cost of Living: Low | Population: 73,168 

Mill Valley 

A slightly costlier than the average yet stable housing market, great amenities, and a highly safe environment make the Mill Valley one of the best places to live in California. Situated 14 miles north of San Francisco, Mill Valley holds the reputation for hosting some of the region’s best schools, such as Park Elementary, Strawberry Point Elementary, Old Mill Elementary, The Helix School, and Terra Marin School. Mill Valley also has a small population. 

Mill Valley is the home base of Muir Woods National Monument, hailed by many people as one of the most captivating redwood forests in San Francisco’s vicinity. Mill Valley is chock full of charming restaurants, arresting galleries, and cozy shops, making wandering around its streets an utterly delightful affair. If you’re fond of walking, strolling through Throckmorton Avenue and its side streets in Mill Valley’s downtown area are guaranteed to leave you thoroughly enchanted.  

Mill Valley has plenty of activities. It contains some mighty impressive art galleries, all of which are open for public viewing. Its most famous galleries are Seager Grey Gallery, Desta Gallery, and Robert Green Fine Arts. The Throckmorton Theater, popular for hosting plays, comedy shows, and concerts, is an institution you can consider visiting to spend your evenings and weekends. The cost of living in this idyllic hamlet, though, is a little steep along with its median property prices, so we’d advise you to keep one eye on your wallet before you finalize your relocation to Mill Valley.  

Mill Valley, city hall (2012).jpg
By Frank Schulenburg, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/i2MAWdX5xfxQq99b9 | Cost of Living: High | Population: 14,231 

Santa Rosa 

Situated in the North Bay region of the Bay Area, Santa Rosa is the largest and most important city in California’s splendid Wine Country and Redwood Coast. Yes, that means all of the state’s finest vineyards and wineries are but a short drive away! 

What appeals to most people about Santa Rosa is its relaxed environment, which provides ample scope to lead a relatively peaceful and quiet life. Santa Rosa is replete with a host of attractive shopping centers, plenty of activities, delightful restaurants, amazing parks, and several high-end amenities. On top of it all, Santa Rosa is blessed with a warm-summer Mediterranean climate which essentially means that you won’t ever have to think twice before stepping out.  

The cost of living in Santa Rose is above average, it is rather steep, and it reflects in its median property rates that lie miles above the national average. So, there might be a good chance that you might have to cut costs on other aspects of your lifestyle in order to accommodate the median rent. Santa Rosa’s population is small compared to the other entries in this list.  Some of the notable local attractions over here are the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center (built to honor the legacy of the creator of the famous Peanuts comics, who spent the latter half of his life here), Spring Lake Regional Park, and Redwood Empire Ice Arena among others.  

Plaza Bolivar. Santa Rosa, Barquisimeto..jpg
By Jorge Andrés Paparoni Bruzual, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/KMyAUFZ8GuNnq3Kx5 | Cost of Living: High | Population: 178,127 

Santa Monica 

Located west of downtown Los Angeles, the beautiful coastal city of Santa Monica is easily one of the best places to settle down over here. Its proximity to Los Angeles and its round-the-year favorable climate and small population resulted in Santa Monica becoming a much sought-after resort town by the early 20th century.  

Besides beautiful beaches, Santa Monica flaunts a lively downtown as well, wherein you’ll come across a ton of activities to indulge yourself in. Even though the housing rates in Santa Monica are above the national average, the living environment it accords and the high-end amenities it packs makes it the first choice for many in the country. 

Santa Monica also enjoys the stature of being a pop culture darling, courtesy of it featuring in several moving pictures over the year. A few notable films that included various sites of Santa Monica (such as the famed Santa Monica Pier, Mayfair Theatre, Third Street Promenade, and the like) within their run-time are Rocky III (1982), Someone to Love (1987), Heathers (1989), Forrest Gump (1994), Love Stinks (1999), The Cutting Edge: Going for the Gold (2006), and Iron Man (2008). 

Santa Monica Cliffs - panoramio.jpg
By atgorden, CC BY 3.0, Link

Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/gxUpBfZPC4gkjXqDA | Cost of Living: High | Population: 93,076 


Located in California’s Sacramento County, Folsom is acknowledged by many people as among the most livable cities in the state. First-rate schools, a thriving business community, and affordable median property prices are the primary reasons that seal the argument in its favor. Folsom’s population is comparatively smaller too. 

Many know Folsom courtesy of the popular 1955 Johnny Cash Song, “Folsom Prison Blues.” Besides the Folsom Prison, other sites in Folsom that attract eyeballs are the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary, Sutter Street Theatre, Beals Point, Folsom Prison Museum, Johnny Cash Trail, and Lake Natoma. 

If you’re a fan of fresh produce, living in Folsom will give you the opportunity of attending the Farmers Market, which takes place every Saturday round the year. Additionally, Folsom is blessed with charming weather, which makes indulging in outdoor activities (that are plenty!) and its numerous parks that much more enjoyable.  

Folsom Hotel Saloon

Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/x9NLHEQFVJesqUXf8 | Cost of Living: High | Population: 80,454 


The beautiful waterfront city of Vallejo in California is not just Solano County’s largest city but also the tenth most populous in the San Francisco Bay Area. Vallejo draws its name from the renowned Californio general and statesman Don Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, who was also among the first members of the California State Senate. 

Although many things make Vallejo an excellent place to live in, the two things that stand out are its mild, coastal Mediterranean climate and favorable cost of living median property prices. 

Some of the top attractions in Vallejo are the Mare Island Museum, Vallejo Farmers Market, Empress Theatre (established in 1911!), Napa Smith Brewery, McCune Rare Book and Art Collection, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, and the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum – you will never run out of activities for your weekends here! 

Vallejo Historic City Hall, 715 Marin St., Vallejo, California.jpg
By SueA, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/rVydjk9wCQ1hj9LW9 | Cost of Living: Low | Population: 126,090 


The largest city in California’s Placer Country is one of its most livable ones. Some of the factors contributing to its appeal are abundant retail opportunities, well-paying jobs, and the affordability of city-owned utilities. 

Roseville is home to several attractive sites and outdoor activities like Antique Trove, the Maidu Museum & Historic Site, Golfland Sunsplash, Roseville Utility Exploration Center, and the Roseville Telephone Museum. 

Although housing rates in Roseville are a little on the higher side, all things considered, the overall cost of living in Roseville is low. What helps the residents tackle the high housing costs is their average household income that lies comfortably above the national average.  

Roseville Amtrak station California

Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/AWp9hHyfxCiQ6L1WA | Cost of Living: Low | Population: 147,773 


How can a list that talks about the best towns to live in California be complete without the mention of Pasadena? Located northeast of downtown Los Angeles, the town of Pasadena is a desirable place to live in because of multiple factors- family-oriented communities, quiet and genial neighborhoods, plenty of choices for outdoor activities for its residents, and a host of superb restaurants, parks, and coffee shops! 

From shopping and dining at Old Pasadena in the center to marveling at the exquisite Asian and European art housed at the magnificent Norton Simon Museum to watching the Rose Bowl Game at the iconic Rose Bowl Stadium- one can’t possibly run out of things to do in this beautiful town.  

However, the high cost of living associated with Pasadena makes it difficult for many people to experience its top-notch educational facilities and the diverse job market. But when compared against the above the national average household income in the area, things are mostly manageable.  

2018.06.17 Over the Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA USA 0037 (42855657521).jpg
By Ted Eytan, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/f4b2gXoeiAt82Zcf7 | Cost of Living: High | Population: 138,699 


Recognized as an agricultural hot spot, the town of Fresno in California is characterized by numerous farmlands that punctuate its expanse. What immediately catches your attention about this place is its unique name. Fresno is actually the Spanish term for ash trees. It is named for the several ash trees that line the San Joaquin River along which Fresno is located. 

Presently, Fresno is California’s fifth-most populous city. Almost half (50.5%) of Fresno’s population comprises Hispanic residents, making Fresno the third-largest majority-Hispanic city in the US. If you want to be surrounded by amenities like fresh produce, engrossing arts and culture scene, and bustling shopping centers, Fresno is the place to be. To top it, you don’t have to worry about the rent in Fresno, thanks to its comfortably average cost of living and affordable median home value. The household income here is also higher than average.  

Once you’ve moved into Fresno, you’ll find yourself spending most of your evenings (and your Sunday mornings) at Fresno’s Tower District. Home to plenty of outdoor activities, the Tower District packs all the choicest cafes, clubs, parks, restaurants, and art centers of the town. Cinema lovers will be completely mesmerized by Fresno’s annual Fresno Reel Pride Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. It attracts filmmakers and common folks alike. 

Fresno CA Van Ness portal.JPG
By David Jordan, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/yzgjRFNdd9EkvWcc7 | Cost of Living: Low | Population: 542,107 

Moving to California has undoubtedly become far more convenient with this list at your disposal, hasn’t it? So, which town will you be making your home in? Will you embrace the glitz and glamor of Los Angeles or the quiet pastures of Pasadena? Whatever might be the case, we hope California treats you like the royalty that you are!