Street scene in historic old town Julian, California. Editorial credit: littlenySTOCK /

7 Most Affordable Towns to Retire in Southern California

California is one of the most visited states in the country and among the most favored among retirees looking for a place to settle. The southern half of the Golden State is especially known for its cozy sunny weather, pristine beaches, and popular state parks. Numerous charming towns across the SoCal region capture the allure of a laidback rural lifestyle yet offer affordability hard to come by elsewhere in the state. They prove to be the ideal destination for senior living.

But with so many options, finding the best town to spend your sunset years requires a fair bit of due diligence. To get you started, this article sheds light on possible places to retire in Southern California. From picturesque coastal villages to relaxed riverside enclaves, these quaint communities allow retirees to make the most of Southern California living on a limited budget.


The Evergreen Cafe in Wrightwood, California.
The Evergreen Cafe in Wrightwood, California. By Rennett Stowe, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Southern California is renowned for its tropical-like weather. However, Wrightwood goes against the grain by being among the few places that experience snowfall. This unique trait spoils retirees with year-round outdoor recreation. Perched on a high altitude in the San Gabriel Mountains, the town boasts spectacular outdoor scenery harboring a range of recreations. Thrill-loving retirees can indulge in an adrenaline-inducing zipline tour over the Wrightwood wilderness courtesy of Ziplines at Pacific Crest. On the other hand, those who prefer more laidback pursuits can enjoy a low-key golf game with friends at Wrightwood Country Club.

One of the best venues for indoor-inclined seniors is the Wrightwood Historical Society and Museum, popular among historians curious about the town's past. The town also houses a couple of health centers where pensioners can find reliable medical attention, including Wrightwood Medical Center. Meanwhile, the median home value is below the state average at $553,500.

Borrego Springs

View of the Grange Hall and the Livery room at the Palm Canyon Hotel and RV Resort at Borrego Springs, California
View of the Grange Hall and the Livery room at the Palm Canyon Hotel and RV Resort at Borrego Springs, California, via Rosamar /

This lovely oasis in San Diego County is encircled by the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, offering retirees a relaxed setting with sprawling open spaces to explore. Teeming with outdoor opportunities in the surrounding desert, senior citizens can look forward to an active lifestyle, featuring hiking the Hellhole Canyon Trail or scenic driving along Fonts Point Drive.

Borrego Springs is an excellent spot for artsy retirees, offering an opportunity to admire magnificent outdoor desert art across Galleta Meadows. Its massive metal sculptures look stunning against the desert landscape. On the other hand, the Borrego Art Institute takes the artistic experience indoors, displaying a charming collection of paintings, photographs, and garden art. The local real estate market promises aspiring homeowners great deals with a median house listing price of $465,000.


View of some of the shops and businesses in Idyllwild Pine Cove, California
View of some of the shops and businesses in Idyllwild Pine Cove, California, via Rosamar /

This tiny alpine town sits in the scenic San Jacinto Mountains, surrounded by a vast wilderness with beautiful peaks and dense forests worth venturing into. Senior citizens here have access to multiple outdoor recreations, thanks to attractions like Idyllwild Nature Center. This lovely park space provides a serene natural setting with scenic trails to explore. Those who feel strong enough can take on the Deer Springs Trailhead, which leads to the summit of the San Jacinto Peak, spoiling hikers with sweeping views of the surroundings.

Beyond the outdoors, Idyllwild provides retirees with an exciting retro experience at the Idyllwild Area Historical Society. This magnificent facility displays a collection of artifacts documenting local history. Seniors can also take advantage of essential programs at the Idyllwild Community Center meant to enhance their social welfare. Lastly, buying a house costs an average of $533,000.

Laguna Woods

Day time aerial view of the downtown area of Laguna Woods, California
Day time aerial view of the downtown area of Laguna Woods, California

Laguna Woods is a lovely bedroom community removed from the chaos of neighboring Los Angeles and San Diego. It is generally considered a golfer's paradise and hosts multiple golf courses where retirees can enjoy an easygoing outdoor session, including the Laguna Woods Golf Club. The town offers quick access to the Pacific waters, sitting just about 10 minutes from the beautiful Laguna Beach coastline. This allows pensioners relaxed days on the shore, sunbathing on the smooth sand as they await magical sunsets over the water's edge.

The town also borders the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, which takes less than 10 minutes from the town to get to the recreational hub. Sprawling 7,000 acres, this vast wilderness provides beckons to hikers, campers, and sightseers. With a median home cost of $442,500, Laguna Woods is one of the more affordable options to retire in Southern California.


View of the historic old town of Julian, California.
View of the historic old town of Julian, California.

Julian stands out for being a California Historical Landmark and a rare Southern California town rooted in Gold Rush heritage. Home to less than 2,000 residents, it offers an enticing small-town atmosphere that impressively complements its unique heritage. Inside the Julian Pioneer Museum, pensioners can explore the beautiful past of the town by combing through interesting artifacts. A vast wilderness surrounds the tiny town of Julian, presenting a range of outdoor adventures to keep retirees active at sites like William Heise County Park.

Julian boasts a bustling winery scene with a mix of fine wineries and vineyards worth a tour. Besides enjoying the lovely outdoor setting of the Volcan Mountain Winery, visitors also get to sample an assortment of award-winning wines. If you are planning to buy a property in Julian, the local median house listing price is $749,000.

Yucca Valley

View west in Yucca Valley, CA along CA State Route 62 (Twentynine Palms Highway). The San Bernardino Mountains are in the distance
View west in Yucca Valley, CA along CA State Route 62 (Twentynine Palms Highway). The San Bernardino Mountains are in the distance

Retirees with an affinity for outdoor adventures have much to look forward to in Yucca Valley. This San Bernardino County town borders a vast desert landscape leading to Joshua Tree National Park, serving as the ultimate getaway to the great outdoors. Residents can access hiking opportunities at Hi-View Trailhead, which culminates in a vantage point delivering unprecedented mountain vistas. Townsfolk also enjoy touring the Hi-Desert Nature Museum, an awesome facility with a variety of interactive exhibits depicting the flora and fauna in the surrounding desert landscape.

When not immersing in the endless outdoor activities, pensioners can stop by the California Welcome Center for essential information about the town, or stop by Pioneer Crossing Antiques to buy an antique souvenir. With the availability of several health institutions like Airway Medical Center in Yucca Valley, retirees can access reliable medical attention in case of any emergencies. Finally, investing in a home here costs an average of $450,000.


Calimesa, California: A Central Marketplace in Southern California
Calimesa, California: A Central Marketplace in Southern California, via Gerald Peplow /

Calimesa expertly balances small-town charm with access to urban amenities. It offers a range of experiences for all ages, proving ideal when the grandkids come to visit. Shopping opportunities are available at Crown Village, which although small, promises a wholesome experience in a family-friendly atmosphere. When retirees have to spend the day out with family, Retrovolt Arcade ensures something to keep everybody smiling. The retro gaming zone is home to fun arcade games, pinball, and other activities for unadulterated kid-friendly fun.

Meanwhile, the town hosts different events at the Calimesa Country Club Event Center, providing the ideal atmosphere for new retirees to interact with other community members and make friendships. Lastly, acquiring a house in Calimesa will set you back $598,900, which is below the California and United States averages.

Final Thought

Whether seeking a secluded desert village, a laid-back mountain community, or a picturesque coastal enclave to retire in Southern California, the above small towns ensure retirees can enjoy all that Southern California has to offer while stretching their savings further. Each serves as a reminder that some of the region's most rewarding living can be found beyond booming beach hubs. With their warm weather, natural beauty, and lower costs of living, these hidden gems make ideal landing spots for affordable retirement across the Golden State.

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