Encinitas Beach Ocean Shore in Southern California.

The 11 Best Towns to Retire in California

Known as "The Golden State" for its rich cultural and natural attractions, California is America's most populated state. Home to a population of nearly 40 million people, it has one of the largest sub-national economies in the entire world. For those looking for an ideal place to consider retiring to, California and its towns are stunning places to discover and live in. From natural wonders, Spanish colonial history, and a thriving tech sector to the Hollywood film industry, California’s towns are great places to live and retire.


Male senior hiker wearing a backpack and carrying a camera on the trail through Mount San Jacinto State Park in Idyllwild, California
Male senior hiker wearing a backpack and carrying a camera on the trail through Mount San Jacinto State Park in Idyllwild, California.

Located right in the heart of the San Jacinto Mountains, Idyllwild is a splendid mountain town with loads of natural beauty and tasty dining options. At an altitude of about one mile, Idyllwild is a great place to relish the tranquilness of the outdoors in a serene setting. Well known for its rock formations including Suicide Rock and Tahquitz Rock, visitors, residents, and potential retirees can partake in a variety of adventures here. Enjoy a wide range of outdoor hobbies including, biking, hiking, fishing, and even horseback riding, and get away from the big city. In addition, a number of shopping outlets, local restaurants, and specialty boutiques add to the charm of the town.


Taking in the beach view at sunset in Encinitas California
Encinitas, California.

Encinitas is a beautiful beach town well known as one of the best surf destinations in Southern California. Located in San Diego County this town of nearly 63,000 inhabitants means "small oak" in Spanish, and is a wonderful place for all ages, including retirees. With a number of popular festivals and outdoor events, and a special beach and surf culture Encinitas is a fantastic place to discover or call home. Enjoy such events as the Fall Festival, Oktoberfest, or the April Street Fair, or take in all the beautiful plants and flowers that fill this city. Informally known as the "Flower Capital of the World," Encinitas has extensive garden nurseries (including at the nearby San Diego Botanic Garden) and also serves as America’s lead grower of Poinsettia plants. For the Christmas enthusiast purchasing an Encinitas Poinsettia is an absolute must.


Winding two lane road into Crestline California with green trees lining both sides and a blue sky above
Winding two-lane road into Crestline, California.

Located within the San Bernardino National Forest, the quiet, scenic, and charming community of Crestline is a haven for those in retirement. With its views of the San Bernardino and San Gabriel Mountains, Crestline’s panoramas are hard to beat. Meanwhile, time spent along Lake Gregory (a reservoir lake in the town center) and its park areas are perfect ways to get closer to the outdoors. Residents can appreciate fishing, hiking, biking, or a leisurely stroll to bask in the spectacular and tranquil landscape.


California Coast in Mendocino
California coast in Mendocino.

Founded in 1852, Mendocino is on the National Register of Historic Places. With a modest population of 932 residents, this charming coastal community of Northern California is at an elevation of 47 meters and is a popular artists' colony. For a laid-back and tranquil lifestyle in retirement, Mendocino is a great spot to consider living. Take a casual stroll through the town’s streets where stunning Victorian-style homes and buildings dot the landscape, while the alluring Mendocino State Park offers striking views of rocky cliffs and the sea. Between its serene ocean vistas, historic setting, and cool summer temperatures, Mendocino is a comfortable and fascinating locale to retire in California.


A fashionably-dressed, tall and slender woman strolls down a sidewalk and a senior gentleman sitting on a bench in Carmel on a November afternoon.
Carmel-By-The-Sea is a relaxing place to take in the sights. Image credit pbk-pg via Shutterstock

Striking Pacific Ocean views, rocky cliffs, and rolling hills all characterize the town of Carmel-By-The-Sea, a most popular destination for tourists and the artistically inclined. Home to a population of 3,220, Carmel-By-The-Sea is right on the Pacific Coast Highway, and its extraordinary scenery makes it a desirable location to retire. With its beautiful scenery, many writers and other artists have descended on the town for creative influence and it continues to maintain a vibrant arts community.

Visitors and residents alike appreciate a wide assortment of galleries and locally run art studios in town, while several charming antique houses and cottages round out the surroundings. In town boasts plenty of tasty restaurants (where great food meets stupendous natural panoramas), cute boutique shops, cafes, and cool temperatures that are a perfect way to beat the blistering sun.

Oak Glen

shops and cars at Oak Tree Mountain.
Shops at Oak Tree Mountain. Image credit Steve Cukrov via Shutterstock

For retirees looking for an authentic slice of small-town America, then Oak Glen is the place to be. With a population of just over 300 people, this rural town in the San Bernardino mountain range is full of charm and relaxing delight. Home to many family-owned apple orchards and related farms, visitors will never be in short supply of California’s very best apple products. Including cider, apple pies, and even apple butter, Oak Glen’s tasty offerings are only rivaled by its assortment of cute shops, small cafes, and loads of small-town hospitality. If seeking a simple life is something desired in retirement, Oak Glen welcomes all with its old-world charm.


Panoramic Aerial View of Sacramento Downtown, river and tower bridge.
Downtown Sacramento.

California’s capital city is sometimes overlooked in assessments of the state’s urban centers. Yet this beautiful town of 524,943 inhabitants is one of the most culturally diverse and naturally stunning places in America. Beyond the seat of government, Sacramento is also one of the Golden State’s fastest-growing metropolises and is a welcome place for retirees. With a sunny climate and a relatively affordable housing market, Sacramento is an alluring place all year round. Full of fascinating museums, galleries, parks, green spaces, restaurants, theatres, and a bustling downtown "Sactown" is a wonderful place to visit and call home.


Family with backpacks on hiking trip , High mountains landscape with cloudy sky. Kings Canyon National Park, Fresno, California
Kings Canyon National Park, Fresno, California.

Located within the San Joaquin Valley, Fresno is California’s fifth most populous city with just over 542,000 inhabitants. Spanning an impressive area of 115 square miles, beautiful Fresno boasts a low cost of living, hot summers and warm winters, and plenty of cultural attractions. This makes it an attractive locale for many residents, including potential retirees. Within the city, many great museums, theatres, art galleries, restaurants, and quality schooling options make it one of California’s most lucrative destinations. Fresno is a comfortable place to live and grow, especially for one's post-work life.

San Jose

Old houses and palm trees on a street in downtown San Jose, California
Downtown San Jose, California.

Known as a central nerve center for the famed Silicon Valley, San Jose hosts some of the very best in high-tech innovation and human resourcefulness. Covering an area of nearly 180 square miles, this city of over 1 million inhabitants is on the south shores of San Francisco Bay and boasts an exciting lifestyle, perfect for newcomers or retirees. With its warm and sunny climate, beautiful residential neighborhoods, and eclectic cultural scene, San Jose is an excellent place to enjoy retirement. Home to such schools as San Jose State University, this modern city offers its residents a great social scene, a passionate sports community, and high-quality amenities essential to 21st-century living. As a business, tech, and educational center, San Jose is one of California’s best cities.

La Jolla

La Jolla Cove beach at San Diego.
La Jolla Cove beach, San Diego.

The stunning beach neighborhood of La Jolla covers an area of 7 miles of the Pacific Ocean coastline, and nearly 50,000 people call it home. Part of the greater city of San Diego, La Jolla has some of Southern California’s most alluring natural panoramas. Potential retirees will love the prospect of living here with its mild and comfortable temperatures and stunning vistas. Spend time at such locations as the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve with its gorgeous hiking trails and awesome canyon lookouts. Meanwhile, as the home to the University of California, San Diego and the Salk Institute, La Jolla solidifies itself as one of the state’s most respected centers for higher learning.


Aerial view of Catalina Casino and Avalon harbor with sailboats, fishing boats and yachts moored in calm bay, famous tourist attraction in Santa Catalina Island, Southern California.
Catalina Casino and Avalon harbor. Image credit Unwind via Shutterstock

Avalon is the only town on the most stunning Santa Catalina Island (part of the Channel Islands), located not far from Los Angeles. Though it sees upwards of one million tourists each year, just under 4,000 residents live here permanently. Yet for retirees, this picturesque locale is one of the most beautiful places to potentially call home.

With an easy ferry trip to access the islands and mainland California, visitors and residents alike can partake in many great outdoor activities like sailing, swimming, fishing, and even scuba diving. With its clear and pristine ocean waters and a splendid amount of sun, Avalon is always a place of great relaxation. When the family visits, a trip to the Catalina Island Museum or the Avalon Harbor, is a great place to learn more about this special set of islands and their place in the history of California.

With its natural beauty and enriching cultural ambiance, California is without a doubt one of America’s most spectacular places. In the retirement phase of life, many are seeking a new place to live, and "The Golden State" is one to consider. With its endless opportunities for adventure and relaxation, California’s towns are an awesome mix of tremendous history and superb natural wonders.

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