Best Places To Retire in California 

fresno skyline

California is well-known for its breathtaking landscapes, including its beaches, mountains, and deserts. But it’s also beloved for its many attractions, cities, and diverse communities. For these reasons, it’s a popular choice for retirees.

But what are the best places to retire in California? The Golden State is the third-largest state in the US, and it’s home to dozens of bustling cities and hundreds of peaceful small towns. 

Selecting the best place to settle down and enjoy your retirement can be challenging, but this article can help. Let’s explore the best towns and cities to help you make the most of your retirement.

Enjoy the Natural Beauty of San Diego

Although homes in San Diego are costlier than others in other parts of California, those who can afford to purchase a home in this city are bound to reap some long-term Sand-Diego-resident rewards.

San Diego enjoys mild weather and plenty of bright, sunny days. If you love spending time on the beach, you’ll fall in love with San Diego’s many public-access beaches.

This city is also home to dozens of high-quality hospitals, so top-notch medical care is never far away. Even retirees in excellent health will want to ensure they’re choosing a California destination that offers plenty of healthcare options.

Some of the best San Diego suburbs for retirees include Solana Beach, Del Mar, and Encinitas. Your retirement budget and projected income can help you choose a San Diego community that suits your needs and personal preferences.

Explore the Many Museums in Sacramento

Sacramento is California’s capital city, and it offers a satisfying blend of cityscapes and natural spaces. There are decades-old buildings poised next to brand-new small businesses and celebrated museums situated next to informative museums and art galleries.

Sacramento California outside picture

So, if you’re eager to enjoy a taste of everything California has to offer, Sacramento could be the ideal destination for retirees. Sacramento has a thriving public transportation system (SacRT), more than 20 high-ranking hospitals, and a wide variety of comparatively affordable homes.

Although property prices near the city’s downtown area are much higher than those on Sacramento’s outskirts, retirees can enjoy a mixture of budget-friendly living and metropolitan resources while living in California’s capital.

Grab a Bite of Fresh Seafood in San Francisco

San Francisco is one of the most iconic cities in California thanks to its coastal location, multiple historic landmarks, and notable bridges (looking at you, Golden Gate Bridge). 

Overall, it’s one of the best places to retire in Northern California in terms of things to do, public transport, and health care options. That said, housing and utility prices are higher here than in other parts of the state. 

So, if you’re planning on retiring on a fixed income and are looking for affordable properties, there might be better choices than San Francisco. 

But if you can afford an apartment or home in this bustling seaside city, you can spend each day taking advantage of San Francisco’s fresh seafood, fine arts scene, and culturally diverse community.

Relax in Budget-Friendly Fresno

Fresno manages to maintain a small-town feel, despite its growing metropolitan areas. This makes it a more relaxing retirement destination than other California hotspots. 

It’s also worth noting that Fresno has a much lower cost of living than San Francisco or San Diego. Those with a budget in mind might want to gravitate toward this peaceful Central California city.

Besides, retirees who settle in Fresno have plenty to explore and enjoy. There are multiple parks to stroll through, including the unique Forestiere Underground Gardens and plenty of museums, restaurants, and shopping centers.

However, Fresno’s public transportation options are limited, as is its selection of local hospitals. These qualities could be significant drawbacks for some retirees.

See the Stars in Los Angeles

If you’ve ever wanted to enjoy the bright lights and bombastic attitude of Hollywood and Los Angeles, there’s no time to wait. Your retirement could be the perfect opportunity to finally explore the City of Angels.

From the seaside suburb of Seal Beach to the palm-lined streets of Beverly Hills, Los Angeles has a neighborhood to suit almost every preference, need, and budget. Consequently, those who choose to retire here have plenty of options.

But if you find densely-populated metropolitan areas overwhelming or unpleasant, Los Angeles might not be the right choice. After all, Los Angeles has the highest population of any city in California, so it’s not the quietest retirement spot.

Crime and safety are also big-ticket issues throughout Los Angeles. So, although this city is home to some of the state’s best hospitals and most convenient public transportation options, its positive qualities do come with a few drawbacks.

Behold the Vintage Aesthetic of Modesto

Like Fresno, Modesto’s roots are highly agricultural. This history gives Modesto a quaint, small-town feel that’s at odds with its more urban California counterparts. 

There are simple two-lane streets lined with small businesses and sprawling suburbs near the city’s outskirts. If you can picture yourself enjoying some peaceful afternoon shopping before returning home to a brightly-painted suburban home, Modesto could be a dream come true.

It’s also crucial to mention that Modesto’s cost of living is below the state average. Retirees searching for an affordable place to retire in California might discover that Modesto is exactly what they’ve been looking for.

But even though Modesto is home to five hospitals (and a smattering of clinics), these institutions don’t have the best ratings, especially compared to hospitals and healthcare centers in larger cities like San Diego and Los Angeles. 

Take in the Spanish Mission Architecture of Santa Barbara

Are you looking for the best places to retire in Southern California? If so, turn your eyes to the historic city of Santa Barbara!

This city was one of the first cities to become incorporated in California, and it was founded all the way back in 1786

Santa Barbara’s unique Spanish mission architecture is a testament to its Spanish origins. These bright white buildings, with their iconic orange clay tile roofs, transport visitors and residents to another time, making for an aesthetically pleasing retirement destination.

Santa Barbara skyline picture

The beach is only a short stroll away, and there’s greenery almost everywhere you turn, and museums and restaurants abound. The only potential drawback of living in this scenic city is the cost of living, which is higher than the state and national average.

That said, Santa Barbara has highly-rated general and specialty hospitals, an Amtrak station, and a well-funded metropolitan public transport system. If you can afford to purchase property in this city, the long-term benefits of living here could make the initial cost well worth the price.

Become a Museum Patron in Bakersfield

Between the charming city of Fresno and the densely populated urban center of Los Angeles sits Bakersfield, a city known for its museums and proximity to natural wonders, including the Sequoia National Forest.

While living in Bakersfield, you could become a member and patron of the California Living Museum, Kern County Museum, Bakersfield Museum of Art, and Buena Vista Museum of Natural History & Science.

Bakersfield is also a great place to live if you enjoy watching live theater, and the Historic Bakersfield Fox Theater hosts everything from concerts and musicals to vintage film showings. Even better, this small city has a much lower cost of living than the state average.

The average home in Bakersfield costs less than $400,000, with many smaller one-bedroom and two-bedroom properties selling for less than $100,000.

Get the Best of Both Worlds in San Bernardino

San Bernardino is one of the best places to retire in California, as it combines the fun and excitement of big-city living with the peace and quiet of small-town life.

This valley city sprawls out in almost every direction, so it isn’t the most walkable retirement destination in California. But the OmniTrans public transportation service makes getting around Downtown San Bernardino a cinch, especially for pass holders.

Although this city is less budget-friendly than Fresno or Modesto, the average home here costs about $471,000. That’s less than half the average home price for a property in Los Angeles!

While living in San Bernardino, you can enjoy live sports games at the San Manuel Stadium, explore several museums (including the First Original McDonald’s Museum), and take a hike along the gorgeous trails in the San Bernardino National Forest.

In short, San Bernardino is a smart middle ground for retirees looking for plenty of action while still having the chance to enjoy some quiet time at home.


The best place to retire in California varies depending on your preferences. For example, if you’re looking for an affordable place to settle down in The Golden State, you might want to choose Bakersfield or Fresno.

But if you’re searching for a high-energy city with many attractions, restaurants, and opportunities for fun, San Francisco or Los Angeles might be the better choice. And if you’re a history buff, Sacramento or Santa Barbara are bound to whet your appetite for historical discovery.

Take time to consider what kind of retirement you’re looking forward to before selecting a California destination. Doing so will ensure you enjoy the best retirement possible.

Did we miss a great place to retire in California? Let us know down below in the comments!