Aerial view of downtown Palm Springs, California.

The Best Small Towns To Retire In California

California is a widely-chosen state to retire for the desired proximity to beaches, financially stable economy, and great climate. The retirees will never feel under-appreciated for their hard-working lives in these 11 best small towns to retire in California. 


Placer County Courthouse in Auburn, California
Placer County Courthouse in Auburn, California. 

Some 14,000 residents know their hometown of Auburn as one of the safest communities in the state, with 253 sunny days per year. The laidback, charming townscape is a dream-come-true for nature lovers, set next door to the vast Tahoe National Forest. The incredibly picturesque locale makes one feel as if living in a secluded vacation-spot year-round, a well-earned goal for all those years of hard work. Aside from the magical environment, the likable town comes with all the necessary amenities and accommodations, including just the right amount of luxury. Auburn is one of the top-rated small towns in California to retire for the excellent quality of life that stems from the plenty of leisure opportunities. The great outdoor and indoor pursuits never make one feel bored when the grandkids aren't visiting. 


Carson Mansion in Eureka, California
Carson Mansion in Eureka, California. Editorial credit: Victoria Ditkovsky /

Known for great quality of living thanks to the thriving economy, the quintessential coastal town of Eureka is one of the most liveable and best-suited for retirees in California. Set as a protected deep-water port near Puget Sound, it is the ultimate paradise for those who want to bring the outdoors into their retirement. One will find the optimal mix of stunning landscapes from the sunny shores to the magnificent coastal redwoods, including the beautiful Fern Canyon trail to stay active. The townscape is laden with Victorian architecture and streets full of art, while those wishing to feel part of the energy can take the scenic drive to the Golden City. One of the state's cheapest places to retire, Eureka is also home to the booming cannabis industry and attractions like the Clarke Historical Museum, the Carson Mansion, Opera Alley, Humboldt Redwoods State Parkand Sequoia Forest And Garden.

Grass Valley

The Main Street lined with shops in Grass Valley, California
The Main Street lined with shops and cafes in Grass Valley, California. Editorial credit: EWY Media /

The charming little town nestled in the heart of the Sierra Nevada Foothills is known for the yearly line-up of activities and events suited to all ages. The business association orchestrates the beloved Harvest Festival and the Cornish Christmas community events. One will also find various senior citizen communities, three hospitals with cancer and cardio treatment facilities, and a great in-city shuttle service. With the name hinting at beautiful outdoors, one gets access to an array of activities in the surrounding landscapes, including the vastly diverse Diggins State Historic Park. For more outings, there is the Stevens Trail, wine tastings at the Lucchesi Vineyards, the North Star Mining Museum, and the 49er Fun Park to reminisce on youth. The stroll-worthy Main Street is full of shops and cafes, while the nearby Lake Tahoe is known for dog-friendly restaurants and hiking trails.


Snow-capped Mount San Gorgonio stands tall above the towns of Hemet and San Jacinto in Southern California
Snow-capped Mount San Gorgonio stands tall above the towns of Hemet and San Jacinto in Southern California. 

Set in the south-western Riverside County in Southern California, Hemet is nestled picturesquely in the foothills of the Tehachapi Mountains. One will have scenery and fresh air right in the heart of the quaint downtown area, while the active will rejoice in the easy access to the numerous streams and rivers for fishing. Set within the San Jacinto Valley, one gets the ultimate outdoors from the doorstep with mountain vistas to the east. Surrounded by endless natural scenery, there are the Santa Rosa Hills to the south, and the San Gorgonio Pass to the north, while the nearby town of San Jacinto offers diverse attractions and sights. The charming Riverside area is also known for the pleasant climate, exemplary of California, with mild winters and little humidity to make a move in a heartbeat and start absorbing those rays.


With a population of fewer than 17,000, Moraga is a retiree's paradise with a perfect year-round climate and rich cultural scene for outdoor and indoor activities. Set in the East Bay Area, there are beautiful biking paths, scenic hiking trails, and water pursuits from boating to relaxation along the picturesque banks. The wholesome, family-friendly events regularly organized by the community provide more leisurely, diversified time spent. The close-knit community means lifelong friends, while the great schools will comply with those moving with a family. Despite the slightly higher cost of living, Moraga's proximity to the top Bay Area destinations on one side and big-city amenities on the other makes it a popular destination to spend Golden years.

Palm Springs

A resort in Palm Springs, California
A resort in Palm Springs, California. 

Palm Springs is the first town that "springs" to mind when seeking a place to retire in California. Although the area has been expanding rapidly over the past decade and sees an influx of visitors for the Rat Pack scene and Coachella, it retains an exclusive feel. The growing arts and culture mecca with many galleries and antique shops, as well as food and shopping scenes under constant refresh, is sought-after by many early retirees. The ideal place also comes with an optimal year-round climate to keep the high energy in the outdoors with tennis, swimming, hiking, and biking. Comprising nearly 125 golf courses in the area, it is the largest concentration in the United States and a no-brainer choice for seniors who want to spend endless days immersed in their favorite sport under the Cali's sun. 

Paso Robles

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

The diverse community of Paso Robles set between San Francisco and Los Angeles is a popular retirement spot for a small-town feel with big-city amenities. The highly attractive downtown is full of restaurants and cafes ranging from cute coffee shops for those morning Cups o' Joe to upscale establishments for full-blown dining experiences. There are also various stores, galleries, and breweries, while the entertainment range ensures that there is never a dull moment in town. The weekly farmers' market is a gathering spot to mingle and meet friends while shopping for a vast range of local agricultural products. Set surrounded by wineries and picturesque hills, one gets easy access to the great outdoors with camping, golf, biking trails, and lakes. The coast is only 30 minutes away from a beach escape with many seaside towns around. Several active adult communities in town, along with a range of health care services, guarantee a good quality of life.

Pismo Beach

Sun setting on Pismo Beach pier
Sun setting on Pismo Beach pier.

The classic beach community is nation-renowned for the spectacular Pismo beach sunsets, with the long white beaches and fabulous wineries inspiring many retirees to make a move. Located on California's famous central coast, along Pacific Coast and 101 Highways, there's an easy commute to both San Francisco and Los Angeles. With great year-round weather, one will make it a daily habit to stroll down the beaches for that sunset while diversifying the days with golf and fishing from the beautiful 1200-foot fishing pier known for fabulous views. The award-winning boardwalk close to the Pismo Beach pier is just a heartbeat away from the renowned downtown scene, full of restaurants and the Pismo Beach Premium Outlets. The California Welcome Center is a great place to start the re-settlement into this wonderful community for retirees.

Rio Vista

Aerial view of Rio Vista, California from the top of Rio Vista Bridge
Aerial view of Rio Vista, California from the top of Rio Vista Bridge. 

Set along the banks of the Sacramento River, Rio Vista is one of the more affordable small towns in the state, with below-average home prices, low-cost rentals, and cheap wineries. The annual Bass Derby and Festival in October attracts sports fishermen, locals, and tourists alike for the live music and arts. Comprising some 8,000 residents, the town is a known haven among senior citizens, with a median age of 58. There's a revamped senior center-social hub for retirees, along with local Lions, Moose, or Rotary clubs to join, while many organizations and two museums welcome volunteers. The year-round complacent weather is great for fishing, hunting, and hiking, as well as exploring the surrounding towns and vast countryside. There is also easy access to the big city amenities in Oakland, Sacramento, and San Francisco.

San Luis Obispo

View of San Luis Obispo city from Cerro San Luis peak in spring season, California
View of San Luis Obispo city from Cerro San Luis peak in spring season, California. 

"SLO" or "San Luis" is a cultural, commercial, and entertainment hub on the state's scenic Central Coast. Known as the "happiest city in the country," it is also right in the heart of the Wine Country, so one can alternate between strolling along the shores and through the vineyards. The cultured will be happy to find the town anchored to one of California's historic missions, established famously by the Spanish missionary in the 18th century. The San Luis Obispo de Tolosa is one of the best-preserved examples of old Spanish architecture. Open for tours of the church and the grounds, one can never stop admiring and being proud to live in the place that calls it home. The great quality of life stemming from the happiness factor and diversified activities makes the community one of the most demanded locales to scenically retire.

Sierra Madre

People viewing the world's oldest Wistaria blossom display at Sierra Madre, California
People viewing the world's oldest Wistaria blossom display at Sierra Madre, California. Editorial credit: Kit Leong /

Set at the San Gabriel Valley's foothills, just below the southern edge of the Angeles National Forest, Sierra Madre is a perfect place to retire in California for the active. Home to 10,000-some welcoming residents, they describe the town's atmosphere as homey, peaceful, and easily walkable. The great outing opportunities and quiet life in-town make the higher cost of living worth moving into this island-minded community. Known for the safe and family-friendly environment, the population largely consists of families and elderly people. The Sierra Madre is that perfect town in California that offers a quaint atmosphere for the well-deserved leisure-filled retirement, full of scenic vistas and not a worry in sight.

Offering easy access to California's stunning beaches, these 11 affordable places are the real retirement hubs for senior citizens. Known to exempt retired people and military retirees from personal income tax, one will spend their well-earned savings on things that really matter in the Golden years.

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