Cars parked in Downtown Paso Robles along 12th street with historic Clock Tower Acorn Building in background, via Michael Vi /

10 Best Small Towns to Retire in California in 2024

After years of toiling in the city, working 9 to 5, and dealing with rowdy crowds, retirement comes as a welcome reprieve. While vibrant cities may have been your home for decades, the constant noise, frustrating traffic, and crowded sidewalks are not suited for retirement life. As you look forward to a more relaxed lifestyle in your senior years, you naturally long for a quiet, peaceful setting without so much commotion. That's why small towns are ideal spots to retire in 2024.

Offering a relaxed pace of life without the hustle and bustle, these picturesque California communities provide a more serene daily experience. With amenities like local shops and services, outdoor recreational areas, and a strong sense of community, they offer the ideal blend of calm and convenience. So, whether you are seeking the quaint historic charm of Gold Country or the wine scenery of Napa Valley, the following towns represent the best places to retire in California.

Rio Vista

Car Show on the streets of Rio Vista, California
Car Show on the streets of Rio Vista, California, via Photo_Time /

Rio Vista, which is Spanish for "River View," hints at the beautiful views of the Sacramento River that town residents enjoy. This lovely community in Solano County promises retirees an assortment of experiences, thanks to its diverse attractions. History lovers can choose between the Rio Vista Museum and the Dutra Museum of Dredging to explore the town’s past during laid-back indoor pursuits. Meanwhile, various recreation opportunities await at the sprawling Brannan Island State Recreation Area, from hiking and camping to fishing and wildlife watching.

The town prides itself on a strong sense of community that sees residents living harmoniously, resulting in a lower crime rate than the state average. The odds of being a victim of violent crime are 1 in 280. However, the cost of living in Rio Vista is 35% higher than the national average, with the median home price at $479,000.


Aerial view of Moraga, California.
Aerial view of Moraga, California.

Moraga's charming combination of sunny weather, multiple outdoor activities, and a bustling cultural scene makes it an easy choice for retirees. Several nature spaces invite pensioners to step outside for an active lifestyle, including Moraga Commons Park and Rancho Laguna Park. The cultural scene provides notable family-friendly venues where the community gathers to support local talent, from Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art to the California Academy of Performing Arts. Retirees looking to connect with others and make friends can take advantage of the receptive atmosphere at the Moraga Farmers' Market.

Moraga is generally a safe community, with a violent crime rate of 1.86 incidents per 1,000 residents. It also borders several big cities in the Bay Area, assuring residents easy access to superior medical and social facilities. However, this proximity has also raised the cost of living, which is almost twice the national average, with the median home price at $1.7M.


Main Street in Mariposa, California.
Main Street in Mariposa, California.

This serene Gold Rush town in Mariposa County is renowned as the gateway to Yosemite National Park, offering retirees exciting outdoor opportunities to stay active and entertained throughout the year. Mariposa's rich Gold Rush heritage is showcased at the California State Mining & Mineral Museum through a diverse collection of gems and mining artifacts. Downtown Mariposa features an eclectic mix of businesses, serving as a social hub and offering the opportunity to forge lifelong friendships. Seniors will enjoy visiting popular spots like the Mariposa Marketplace and Charles Street Dinner House for a hearty meal.

The crime rate in Mariposa is slightly above the state average, suggesting that seniors might want to invest in additional home security. Meanwhile, the cost of living is 20% higher than the national average, with retirees needing around $500,000 to purchase a home in the town.

Grass Valley

Main Street in Grass Valley, California
Main Street in Grass Valley, California - EWY Media /

California Gold Rush towns are popular among retirees for their rich history and relaxed vibe. Grass Valley stands out as a prime example of a community where retirees can enjoy a high quality of life in their later years. Surrounded by the scenic Sierra Nevada, seniors have ample opportunities to explore beautiful outdoor areas like Condon Park and the historic Empire Mine State Historic Park. The local arts and culture scene thrives, with moving live performances staged at the Center for the Arts.

Residents of Grass Valley maintain strong community bonds through a variety of annual festivals and celebrations, including the Cornish Christmas Celebration and the Harvest Festival. The cost of living is 9% lower than California’s average, with the average home costing around $575,000. However, seniors can find more affordable housing options through Gold Country Senior Services.

Paso Robles

Downtown Paso Robles at sunset, Central California
Downtown Paso Robles at sunset, Central California

Paso Robles enchants retirees with its rich diversity, offering a wide range of indoor and outdoor experiences. Home to over 200 wineries, wine tasting has become a cultural staple in Paso Robles, allowing retirees to visit numerous venues to sample freshly crafted wines, such as Ecluse Wines. The town's diversity is also reflected in its vibrant downtown area, highlighted by an eclectic restaurant scene. Fish Gaucho stands out as one of the trendiest spots in Paso Robles, providing not only delicious meals but also an ideal environment for socializing and enjoying lively conversations. History enthusiasts will appreciate the classic military warplanes on display at the Estrella Warbird Museum. While not the most affordable location, retirees who can manage the costs will find a high quality of life in Paso Robles. The cost of living is 6% higher than California's average, with the average home priced at $829,000.


The historic 1898 Courthouse in downtown Auburn, California.
The historic 1898 Courthouse in downtown Auburn, California.

Auburn, another California Gold Rush town, is home to approximately 13,500 residents. Its slow pace of life and strong community spirit make it an excellent choice for retirees. The town celebrates its rich gold mining heritage at locations such as the Bernhard Museum and Gold Rush Museum, offering leisurely historical exploration. Downtown Auburn features a variety of attractions and social venues, including the Pour Choice, perfect for mingling with friends and family. For those who prefer outdoor activities, the Auburn State Recreation Area Ranger Station provides endless recreational opportunities.

Quality healthcare services are available at Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital in downtown Auburn. Both the cost of living and the crime rate are below the state average, with the median home price at $649,000. Additionally, retirees will find supportive retirement communities in the town, such as Auburn Ravine Terrace.


Downtown Eureka, California
Downtown Eureka, California, via calimedia /

With a small population of about 27,000, Eureka offers retirees a tranquil setting free from the hustle and bustle of larger cities. The town boasts beautiful natural scenery and a quaint downtown area. Sequoia Park, with its dense redwood forests, is an ideal location for outdoor enthusiasts, and the adjacent Sequoia Park Zoo is home to a variety of species. The historic downtown area, featuring Victorian-era homes and quiet streets, is perfect for leisurely walks.

Eureka's close-knit senior community provides ample opportunities for retirees to integrate through the Humboldt Senior Resource Center, which offers social and volunteer activities. The town's low crime rate, approximately 7 incidents per 1,000 residents, contributes to a peaceful living environment. The cost of living is 13% lower than the state average, with the median home price around $437,000.


Town of Lakeport by Clear Lake
Town of Lakeport by Clear Lake, via Aneta Waberska /

Situated northwest of Sacramento, Lakeport is nestled on the beautiful shores of Clear Lake, offering residents clean air and a relaxing small-town vibe. Home to approximately 5,000 people, the town boasts diverse outdoor recreational opportunities at Library Park, keeping retirees active and engaged. Lakeport's rich history is showcased at the Historic Courthouse Museum through a vast collection of community artifacts. For those retirees with fitness goals, City Fitness provides access to various gym facilities. Housing costs are manageable for retirees, with the median home price around $450,000. Overall, living expenses are below the state average, and retirement communities like Sunshine Manor provide valuable support as seniors seek more independence.


Main street, street view, and tourists in Solvang.
Main street, street view, and tourists in Solvang. Image credit HannaTor via Shutterstock.

For those looking to spend their retirement in a friendly community with a rich cultural heritage, Solvang is an appealing choice. Nestled in the scenic Santa Ynez Valley, Solvang delights retirees with its Danish-style architecture, events, and culture. Retirees can dive into local history and traditions at the Elverhoj Museum of History & Art and the Hans Christian Andersen Museum. The community frequently celebrates its cultural identity with events and festivals, such as the popular Solvang Danish Days Festival. Solvang is a safe environment with a low incidence of violent crime, approximately 1 in 500 residents. Seniors have access to convenient healthcare through the Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital. However, Solvang's median home price is $1.4 million, making it a pricier retirement option.


Carmel, California: shopping on main street with luxurious boutiques all around
Carmel, California: shopping on main street with luxurious boutiques all around, via oliverdelahaye /

For retirees dreaming of a picturesque beachside setting with a relaxed atmosphere, Carmel-by-the-Sea is an ideal destination. Located in Monterey County, this community offers stunning ocean views and white sandy beaches at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve and Carmel River State Beach, perfect for leisurely strolls along the scenic shoreline.

However, the high cost of living in Carmel is a significant consideration, with the median home price at about $2.8 million, far above the national average. Expenses here are also considerably higher than in most other parts of the United States. Retirees will need substantial savings and investments to afford a long-term residence in this area. For those who can manage the costs, the benefits include a very low crime rate and access to quality senior living facilities like Cottages of Carmel.

The Takeaway

As you consider retirement, California offers a diverse range of options, from tranquil rural towns to serene coastal communities. Each location provides a unique lifestyle with a slow pace of life and strong community bonds. Whether you're drawn to a coastal retreat or an inland haven amidst nature, California has a retirement spot to suit your preferences.

  1. Home
  2. Places
  3. Cities
  4. 10 Best Small Towns to Retire in California in 2024

More in Places