A combo pack of A-grade schools, great career opportunities, beautiful landscape with mountains, lake, beaches, valleys, perfect weather, and safe living – Southern California has all of it. Los Angeles, San Diego, and Palm Springs are the dream of many people but apart from these busy popular places, there are other best places to live in Southern California.
Whether you’re in Southern California with a dream of residing in a big city or adapting to a suburban lifestyle, there is no shortage of options. It can be overwhelming because we all know that California is the third most expensive state to reside in the U.S. There are pros and cons of living in southern California but let’s look at the brighter side of the Sunshine State.
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But, for your rescue, I’ve taken several factors into consideration – crime rate, education, affordability, and family-centered – not to mention a great standard of living you have always desired for. I’ve spent 9 years of my life living in California and I’ve rounded up the 10 best affordable places to live in Southern California.
You may also like to read this article on how do people afford to live in California.
Best Places to Live in Southern California
With the sunny sky and stunning vistas in an urban or suburban town in the hustle and bustle of the big city, southern California suits all your needs and requirements. The gorgeous coastal cities are the dream place for many for its pristine beaches, tree-lined, and safe neighborhoods.
Let’s check out the best places in Southern California to live that don’t require robbing the bank.
Population: 307, 670
Cost of Living Index: 181.1(100 = US average)
Crime Rate/1,000 Residents: 15.78
Unemployment Rate: 4.0%
The best place to live in Southern California for a family is the city of Irvine which is 40 minutes ride from Los Angeles. It is the home of many notable educational institutions like the University of California, Irvine, and Concordia University Irvine. The education campuses are huge and are almost flawless. It has received national recognition of being the greenest place in America.
Turtle Rock is one of the best neighborhoods in Southern California which has ranked it as the healthiest city. The city has a lot of clean parks, shopping malls, and a lot of outdoor opportunities to spend your time; practically everything you need is within walking distance. There are a lot of tech companies that offer white-collar jobs to youth that ensure a high standard of living.
Before officially moving to Irvine, know that the home price is quite high here. The average house may start from $600,000 to $1 million.
Best Places to Visit in Irvine:
IRWD San Joaquin Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary, Irvine Spectrum Center, Irvine Museum, Irvine Museum, Irvine Historical Museum, Oak Creek Golf Club, Diamond Jamboree, and many more.
- Good schools and universities
- Good weather
- A lot of fun places to explore
Cons: High Cost of Living
2. San Diego–Best Places to Live in Southern California
Cost of Living Index: 160.1 (100 = US average)
Crime Rate/1,000 Residents: 23.57
Unemployment Rate: 5.3%
San Diego is a fantastic place to live in California for young adults which is a one-hour fifty-four-minute drive from Los Angeles. The weather is great. The surfable beaches are amazing and perfect for relaxing. San Diego is the melting pot of culture and is considered to be the seventh-happiest place to live in America. Everyone desires to reside here because of its robust economy, high quality of life, and the healthy job market.
La Jolla and El Cajon are the hub of award-winning schools – University of California, San Diego, and home of famous Southern California beaches like Coronado Beach, South Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, and a lot more. San Diego has a lively nightlife with plenty of bars, nightclubs, and restaurants near the downtown Gaslamp neighborhood which serves delicious Mexican food.
San Diego is one of the most expensive places to live in Southern California because the average home value starts from $600,000 and the utilities and transportation costs are also high. You can also read these 12 reasons why California is so expensive to live in.
Best Places to Visit in San Diego:
Balboa Park, Petco Park, Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum, Seaport Village, Black’s Beach, Point Loma, and Cabrillo National Monument, Mission Beach, and many more.
- Presence of high tech industries and a high standard of living
- Beaches of dreams
- Most expensive places in Southern California
- A lot of tourists and heavy traffic
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3. Loma Linda
Cost of Living Index: 126.8(100 = US average)
Crime Rate/1,000 Residents: 12.6
Unemployment Rate: 7.8%
Loma Linda is one of the best cities to live in Southern California which is located an hour east of Los Angeles. Students all over the world take admission to Loma Linda University School of Public Health for its quality of education. Schools like Bryn Mawr Elementary School are honored as the best school in the Golden State.
Loma Linda has closed tie-up with the Seventh Day Adventist Church which has helped the citizens to achieve life longevity, good health making it one of the best places to live in SoCal. Therefore, it has been described as one of the five ‘Blue Zone’ regions of the world where people are fit and live long.
This suburb of San Bernardino is home to a lot of mouth-watering restaurants, coffee shops, and parks. The average median house cost in Loma Linda is $502,900.
Best Places to Visit in Loma Linda:
Explore some of the best hiking trails in Southern California like Hulda Crooks Park. You can go around Redlands Market Night, Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, and St. Joseph The Worker Catholic Church, and a lot more.
- Strong Community withSeventh Day Adventist Church
- A lot of hiking trails
- No white-collar jobs
- Not appropriate for the youth population
4. Costa Mesa
Cost of Living Index: 175.8 (100 = US average)
Crime Rate/1,000 Residents: 35.96
Unemployment Rate: 4.30%
The city of Costa Mesa lies in between Huntington Beach and Newport Beach which is in the heart of Orange County. This is an hour’s drive from Los Angeles and is considered one of the best places to raise a family in Southern California. Schools here have been ranked as one of the best performers with high graduation rates. This state has all the best-class shopping malls, recreation centers, dining options, and all the other amenities you will ever need.
South Coast Metro, Mesa Verde, and Central Costa Mesa are some great places to reside in Costa Mesa. It has some soothing beaches Balboa Peninsula & Balboa Beach, and China Cove Beach with plenty of opportunities for the young population to earn well. Residents here earn a decent amount starting from $70,000; hence Costa Mesa is the best place to live in Southern California.
Best Places to Visit in Costa Mesa:
Explore Noguchi Garden, Fairview Park, and learn the art and architecture of the place in Costa Mesa Estancia.
- Low crime rate
- The cost of living in Costa Mesa is lower than the national average
Cons: High population
Recommended Read: 26 Fun Things To Do In South Bay, Los Angeles
5. Seal Beach
Cost of Living Index: 207.3 (100 = US average)
Crime Rate/1,000 Residents: 23.98
Unemployment Rate: 6.7%
Seal Beach sits between Long Beach and Huntington Beach, which is 28 miles east of Los Angeles. It enjoys great school ratings which make good options for families to settle in as there is also a high school graduation rate.
Seal Beach has the best and cheapest beach towns to live in Southern California which has tranquil streets, a peaceful environment, away from the crowd, and friendly neighbors, and very close to nature. Boeing, one of the topmost multinational companies, calls Seal Beach its home, making it one of the lowest housing values in California. Edison Park, El Dorado Park, and Aster Park are the best playgrounds for kids.
The average median home cost in Seal Beach is $325,000 which is quite affordable. You can also prefer living in an idyllic small town, The Hill which is another beautiful place to reside.
Best Places to Visit in Seal Beaches:
Chill out on the beach, go shopping on the main street, and discover the San Gabriel River Bike Trail.
- Crime rates are lower than in Seal Beach
- Lower poverty rates in Seal Beach
Con: The weather is unpredictable and it rains heavily
6. Newport Beach – Best City to Live in SoCal
Cost of Living Index: 353.3(100 = US average)
Crime Rate/1,000 Residents: 22.57
Unemployment Rate: 9.3%
An affluent coastal community, located in Orange County is the best place to live in Southern California. It is 45 minutes drive from Downtown LA which offers beautiful weather natural beauty and a range of outdoor activities to perform. Newport Beach is considered as one of the powerhouses of Orange County with a strong economy flourishing from tech, tourism, and healthcare.
The education quality is best-rated, schools like Corona del Mar High School and Newport Harbor High School, and Chapman University are some of the best universities in California. Corona del Mar and Balboa Island are the two best coastal cities to live in Southern California. It scores exceptionally well on health and fitness and is one of the desirable places to reside.
It is a town for the well-heeled but be prepared that an average median home price ranges from $1 million – $2.35 million.
Best Places to Visit in Newport Beach: Go for sunbathing and surfing in Newport Beach Pier, ride on the oceanfront Ferris wheel in Balboa Fun Zone, visit Centennial Farm, and end your night having delicious desserts at Cowafornia Ice Cream and Coffee.
Pros: Best coastal cities to live in SoCal
- Very expensive place
- Too touristy place
Recommended Read: California vs Florida – Which State is Better to Live In?
Cost of Living Index: 101.3 (100 = US average)
Crime Rate/1,000 Residents: 12.88
Unemployment Rate: 9.2%
Venice is the best place to live in Los Angeles for singles. This is a charming and inexpensive place to visit in California. It has top-rated hospitals, good quality schools, shops, bars, restaurants, and great social life. Venice Beach is so appealing that you believe that you’re in a Hollywood movie. It has huge employment opportunities for youth, making it one of the desired places to reside.
Venice offers a walkable neighborhood, incredible dining options, and beautiful nightlife. This beachfront neighborhood enhances the social lives of all singles because it has all the things to keep them entertained.
The average median home price range in Venice is $1,897,102 making it one of the expensive places to live in Southern California.
Best Places to Visit in Venice:
An eccentric and buzzing Venice Beach, Santa Monica pier, travel along the famous Santa Monica boardwalk, visit Mosaic Tile House, and a lot more tourist places.
- Public Transport is almost non-existent
- Venice is a home of many bugs and mosquitoes
Cost of Living Index: 120.8(100 = US average)
Crime Rate/1,000 Residents: 18.7
Unemployment Rate: 9.3%
Looking for a quiet place with a small-town vibe? Julian is the best small town to live in Southern California with mountains all around, simple life, and away from clubs, traffic, and crazy nightlife. Julian is a 2h 33m drive from Los Angeles and rich in history.
Julian has many local boutiques, galleries, and stores of vintage clothing, household and mining equipment, and Native American artifacts. Julian produces the most delicious Apple pie in the world.
The median price for homes in Julian is $347.400.
Best Places to Visit in Julian:
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve, and Santa Ysabel Preserve, hiking trails like West Vista Loop Trail, Coast to Crest Trail, Stonewall Peak, and many more.
- Low poverty rate
- Low crime rate
9. Lake Forest
Population: 83, 974
Cost of Living Index: 167.9 (100 = US average)
Crime Rate/1,000 Residents: 8.87
Unemployment Rate: 7.3%
A beautiful gorgeous and safe place to live in Southern California is Lake Forest that is 46 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles. The weather is beautiful and comfortable and also offers great consistency for its local workforce. According to Nerd Wallet, it is one of the top 10 cities for the young population who dreams of a stable job in California. Companies like Invensys, Apria Healthcare Group, and many more are there who help in keeping the economy stable and secure.
Schools offer great education quality and the graduation rate is at 95.8%. Webster University, Soka University of America, and Concordia University are the best universities near Lake Forest. There is plenty to explore and do at Lake Forest; you can visit Pretend City’s Children’s Museum or head over to Omar’s Exotic Birds or go to parks or head to the beach for relaxing vibes.
The average median home price range in Lake Forest is $940,819 making it comfortable for relocating to Lake Forest. This is one of the fastest-growing cities in California.
Best Places to Visit in Lake Forest:
Visit Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park, play baseball at Lake Forest Sports Park, visit Heritage Hill Historic Park, Pittsford Park, Frisby Cellars Winery, and many more local sightseeing.
- A lot of local attractions, and activities.
- One of the safest communities to stay and start a family
Cons: The cost of living is not affordable for all.
Cost of Living Index: 152.2 (100 = US average)
Crime Rate/1,000 Residents: 26.87
Unemployment Rate: 5.90%
Struggling to find the best places to live in Southern California on a budget? Anaheim, located just 30 minutes from Los Angeles, is a paradise for young professionals, singles, and families. The weather, the city amenities, affordable houses, and the high quality of life are new desired homes in the heart of Orange County. It is home to Disneyland and home to 2 professional sports teams, the Anaheim Angels baseball team and the Anaheim Ducks hockey team.
Anaheim has the most popular schools and offers forward-thinking government and blended culture, and excellent food options. Tourism is the main industry that keeps the economy stable. The vibe is young, bustling, and a bit glitzy and also has plentiful parks and a green space which makes it desirable for retirees to spend their last days in peace.
The average median home price range in Anaheim is under $700,000 making it one of the most demanding places to live in Southern California.
Best Places to Visit in Anaheim:
Disneyland Park, Disney California Adventure Park, Farmers Park, go for Anaheim GardenWalk, stroll around Olver Streets, Bowers Museum.
- A lot of things to do, you won’t get bored of this place
- Budget-friendly place
Cons: Too crowded by tourist
Southern California has some of the best and safest places in the country. You’ll never regret moving to California, the Golden State is always ready to welcome you.
The ones listed above are the best cities and have the best attraction spots in Southern California. Before taking any final decision, read this article to know the checklist to move to California. To make one of these California cities your new home you have to study your requirements and match them with these. Most cities above record very low crime rates, great stable economy, job opportunities, and their education system is also worth commending. It’s time for you to decide now!
Read Other California Posts:
- 10 Best Places to Live in California
- 10 Most Affordable Cities in California
- 9 Insanely Cheap Places in the Bay Area
- 16 Botanical Gardens in California for Nature Lovers
- Top 9 Nude Beaches in California
- 10 Best Lakes in California You Must See
FAQ – Best Places to Live in Southern California
1. Is it better to live in Northern or Southern California?
A: Northern California is also a great place to live in. Although, Southern California enjoys quintessential weather full of sunshine. Beaches like La Jolla, Catalina Island, Coronado, and Laguna Beach are perfect for you and look exactly like in the movies. Speaking of Northern California, the weather is quite cool, and frequent rains create an uneven and unkempt surface.
2. What’s the best beach in Southern California?
A: Southern California is famous for its unique and uninhabited beautiful coastlines, and iconic beaches. The gentle waves of Carlsbad Beach in San Diego, the scenic beaches of Doheny, Capistrano, and Salt Creek, Two Harbors Beach, Hermosa Beach, Windansea Beach at the end of Nautilus Street in La Jolla are some of the best beaches in South California.
3. Best places to live in Southern California for retirees?
A: Places like Los Angeles and San Diego in southern California are expensive places, especially for a retired person. Whereas, places like Palm Springs, San Luis Obispo, Glendale, Seal Beach, and Riverside are the most charming, diverse, and economical places for them. These places have beautiful green parks, wide walkable friendly fields, golf courses- in a word; it is a heavenly spot for the old generation.
4. What are the worst places to live in Southern California?
A: The dream state also has some worst places to live with low employment opportunities, poor transportation links, high crime rates, below-average schools, and a standard of living. Along with Oceanside, El Cajon in San Diego County, Rialto in San Bernardino County, Santa Ana, and Long Beach are the most dangerous places in Southern California.