Solvang's main street bustling with people, Santa Barbara County, California. Historic Danish village backdrop, featuring an old windmill. Editorial credit: Benny Marty /

9 Best Small Towns to Retire in Southern California in 2024

Although a good portion of Southern California is composed of arid desert land, it has some of the most charming small towns where retirement can be bliss. While you may have heard of a few of them, many are not exactly popular, even among regular tourists.

It is not that hard to picture yourself trading in that bustling but exhausting city life for a quiet and welcoming community if your plan is to retire in Southern California. Learn more about nine hidden gems in the SoCal region, where you can enjoy the peace and safety you deserve during your golden years.


Downtown Ojai, California after winter snow in the mountains.
Downtown Ojai, California, after winter snow in the mountains.

About two hours away from Los Angeles, Ojai sits on a valley that forms part of the Topatopa Mountains, where the hiking trails will challenge you. They can be difficult to conquer, but if you are a fit retiree, these trails can help you remain strong while offering you a breathtaking glimpse of the town's natural beauty. Meanwhile, if you are looking to find something naturally beautiful, the bluffs of the Topatopa mountains boast of the so-called “pink moment” come sunset. You will be awed once you see the sky and the mountain turn hazy pink.

Down on land, Ojai invites you to discover its many wineries and farmer’s markets. The latter is open every Sunday, from morning til noon, where fresh produce can be bought and help you prepare a healthy meal. For wineries, the Ojai Vineyard should be worth your taste. Take a sip of five delicious wines from over 300 different varieties. Meanwhile, if you wish to nourish your soul, head over to Meditation Mount, a public sanctuary that offers meditative relaxation. Ojai’s lower crime rate than the national average makes it an attractive choice for retirees to settle down. Additionally, the Gables of Ojai and Manor of Ojai Residential Care are among the top assisted living facilities to check out.


Windmill at sunset in Santa Ynez Valley, Solvang, California.
Windmill at sunset in Santa Ynez Valley, Solvang, California. Editorial credit: Benny Marty /

In Solvang, it is easy to get a slice of Denmark. Its name is Danish in origin and means “sunny field.” The town is filled with various Danish-inspired architecture and landmarks, offering retirees a unique and picturesque retreat. You can sip your morning beverage at one of many Danish-inspired bakeries like Mortensen’s Bakery, where authentic butter cookies and pistachio squares enhance the palette. If you love reading books, be sure to visit the Hans Christian Andersen Museum and reminisce about your childhood days.

Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital should be on the list for any medical need. However, buying your own place can be expensive as the prices go up to $1.5 million. Meanwhile, if you require assistance in your after-retirement living years, then Atterdag Village of Solvang is the perfect solution with its elderly-centric activities, budget accommodations, and decent food.


The Elephant Walk store in Idyllwild, California.
The Elephant Walk store in Idyllwild, California. Editorial credit: Rosamar /

Escape to the mountains of idyllic Idyllwild, surrounded by the San Jacinto Mountains, an unmistakable paradise for nature lovers. Mountain climbing is a popular outdoor activity here but is not difficult. It is quite mild, which should be perfect if you want to keep the knees strong in your golden years. If you want to give it a try, Tahquitz Peak is recommended.

With over 700 senior citizens in the town, retirees would feel at home. If you are worried about your health, the town has got you covered. It has a local hospital, Idyllwild Health Center, that offers five medicine specialties. Idyllwild is affordable when it comes to housing, with $540k as the median price.

Laguna Beach

Crescent Bay, Laguna Beach, Orange County, California.
Crescent Bay, Laguna Beach, Orange County, California.

For people on the lookout for that distinct coastal charm, Laguna Beach has both natural beauty and cultural sophistication. Given its pristine beaches, including Main Beach, Table Rock Beach, and Victoria Beach, the place has to be on your list of top retirement destinations. There is more to the city than just its beautiful coasts, though. Yes, you can stroll along the Laguna Beach Boardwalk in the Main Beach area, but you may also want to set foot on Heisler Park. Picnic parties are welcome here, with grilled barbecues commonly being served.

From oceanfront condos to elegant estates, Laguna Beach provides diverse but generally expensive housing options, with prices lingering around $3.1 million, to suit the taste of a prospective retiree. With seniors numbering nearly 6,500, the possibility of settling here after retirement is undeniably good. There is also a government program here called Lifelong Laguna, which aims to help senior people age gracefully by providing them with various support services like home repair assistance.


Aerial view of small neighborhood with desert mountain background in Moorpark, Ventura County, Southern California, USA.
Aerial view of a small neighborhood with a desert mountain background in Moorpark, Ventura County, Southern California, USA.

Since its establishment in the 1900s, Moorpark has flourished to be among the top settling-down picks in SoCal. The Moorpark Country Club provides golf enthusiasts with a scenic 27-hole course to perfect their swing, while Arroyo Vista Community Park has everything from walking trails and picnicking spots to a basketball court and a tennis court amidst 69 acres of nature's beauty. In addition to its natural attractions, Moorpark boasts a vibrant cultural scene. The High Street Arts Center and Moorpark College Cultural Arts Center host a variety of performances and events, spanning from classic movie screenings to social concerts, showcasing local talent and enriching the community's cultural experience.

The low crime rates, coupled with the presence of medical care centers, including Exer Moorpark and Moorpark Health Care Center, make it a popular destination among retirees.


Vineyard in Temecula, California.
Vineyard in Temecula, California.

Temecula is best known for its vineyards, which are ideal for retirees yearning for a laid-back lifestyle with a good bottle of wine to keep them company on quiet nights. Europa Village Wineries & Resort should be on your list for an afternoon spent tasting wines with European vibes. Complement your wine experience in Temecula by exploring its outdoor attractions. Play a round of golf at any of the city’s golf courses, like Temeku Hills Golf And Country Club or Temecula Creek Golf Club.

Not good with a club? Try something simple like visiting the old town Temecula where you can have a tour of historic buildings like the Pujol School House, the first to be put up in the old town area. Afterward, enjoy dinner in quaint restaurants like Baily’s, where superb food is served and fun weekend entertainment is available. For your healthcare needs upon retirement, the Temecula Valley Hospital is the place to go, equipped with more than 100 beds. Another health center, UC San Diego Health, is also operating in the city. Lastly, Highgate Senior Living at Temecula is an excellent choice for those who require assistance in daily care.


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

Staying in Julian is like stepping back in time with its natural but short-lived gold mining history. The place should serve as a peaceful retreat for those who enjoy nostalgia. It is also known for producing the best apples and delicious apple pies. Treats like apple cider donuts, cookies, and pies make Julian Pie Company a regular hangout spot in town.

You can also catch up with people while sampling burgers and fries the old-fashioned way at the famous Miner’s Diner. With a crime rate much below the national average, Julian is relatively safe. You can also look for a house if you have $660,000 in your savings. Furthermore, San Ysidro Health Julian Family Medicine takes care of medical needs in town.

Santa Ynez

Vineyard in Santa Ynez, California.
Vineyard in Santa Ynez, California.

Santa Ynez is where rolling vineyards and pastoral beauty work together to create an idyllic backdrop for your retirement plans. You can always plan a tour to sample the exquisite produce at the wineries like Sunstone Winery, which has its own wine caves and a lavender courtyard, and the family-owned Gainey Vineyard. The CrossHatch Winery is also particularly recommended for its distinct co-fermented wines.

Watching exciting equestrian events at the Santa Ynez Valley Equestrian Center is also a great way of spending your retirement years. The place also has a therapeutic riding program, which you can consider if you are feeling stressed out as you reach retirement age. For seniors short on cash but in need of shelter in Santa Ynez, the Golden Inn and Village is the answer. They welcome retirees falling in the low-income category.


Clouds at sunset in Carpinteria, California.
Clouds at sunset in Carpinteria, California.

This small seaside city radiates genuine relaxation for the old and weary soul. Still, if you prefer to remain an active retiree, there are options you can look into. If you are a bird watcher, you can drop by the Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve and have a look at endangered species like the light-footed clapper rail and the salt marsh bird’s beak. At the Carpinteria Bluffs Natural Preserve, watch gray whales, octopuses, and other marine animals in action. In the town, a stroll through Linden Avenue and discovering shops and cafes is how most residents, including seniors, usually spend their free time. Robitaille's Fine Candies is one the famous shops to pop into for their Presidential Inauguration mints, sugar-free candies, and handmade chocolates.

Medical care is never out of reach, with Jackson Medical Group and Beach Medical Clinic operating in the town. Purchasing a home can be a tad bit expensive, with the median house price being $1.4 million.

Embrace Your Golden Years in SoCal's Serene Towns

The idea of retirement may not always be a welcome prospect for some people. They often see it as living a sedentary and inactive lifestyle, a complete contrast to their life as adventurous adults. Thus, retreating to a quiet and unassuming existence is hardly given serious thought.

In Southern California, however, this need not really happen, and this is true even in small and remote towns. Many exciting activities and events in these places will keep you entertained practically every day. For senior citizens, there is little doubt that the SoCal region is one place where they can become happily retired in the United States.

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