8 Most Affordable & Best Places to Retire in California

“Why is California a popular retirement destination?” 

Well, California is a popular retirement destination because everyone wants to reside in a place that’s economy is financially stable. California exempts retired people and military retirees from personal income tax which is the main reason every retiree wants to reside here. However, there are advantages and disadvantages to living in California but the stunning beaches and few affordable places make it one of the best retirement hubs for senior citizens. 

Most Affordable & Best Places to Retire in California

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What Are The Best Retirement Communities in California?

  • Esplanade at Turkey Creek: In Lincoln, California Esplanade is a community of more than 850 family homes with amenities of a pool, clubhouse, walking trails, fitness centers, game room, spa, multipurpose rooms, and more. The 1408 – 2985 sq. ft home,  ranges between $568,990 – $988,000. 
  • Four Seasons at Westshore: Outside of Sacramento sits Four Seasons where the home size varies from 1769-2206 sq ft, ranging between $ 549,900- $749,900. This place featured 31 acres of park and 26 acres of Lake with promenades and fountains. 
  • Sun City Roseville: Sun City Roseville community has a Timber Creek Recreation Lodge on-site where each house ranges from 900 to well over 2600 square feet. The price of the home ranges from $ 615,000-$879,000. 

Best Places to Retire in California

Do you consider relocating to California with access to the ocean and good cultural life in your old age? Perhaps California’s sheer size makes it possible for you. The Golden State has dreamed of retirement for decades. So, if you have the question on your mind “where to retire in California” then let’s dive into the blog. 

1. Sacramento 

  • Population: 531,285 
  • Cost of Living Index: 121.6 (National Average=100)
  • Median Home Value:  $502,228
  • Crime Rate/1,000 Residents: 36.14
  • Hospital facilities: Mercy General Hospital, Sutter medical center, and Methodist Hospital of Sacramento. 

Sacramento’s position is in relative proximity to Lake Tahoe, wine country, Sierras, and San Francisco. It’s fair to say that if you choose to stay in Sacramento then you do not have to pay expensive unattainable rent at your retirement age. The cost of living in Sacramento is 33% lower than nearby big cities and 16% lower than the state average.  

You can afford a Californian hippy lifestyle without paying too much; Sacramento is the best place to retire in California on a budget. The climate is incredibly pleasant and you do not have to shiver at any time of the year. Typically, rain comes in between October and April, however, in December you can come across “Tule fog” which makes the weather very foggy. 

As California’s capital city, Sacramento is a government sector hub offering job opportunities to people from various sectors. Private sectors like VSP Global, Blue Diamond and many others operate here offering huge opportunities to youth. College Green, Midtown, and Southland Park are some inner-city neighborhoods that you can consider living in. 

Attraction spots: The Tower Bridge, California automobile museum, California state railroad museum, old Sacramento, Crocker Art Museum, and a lot more. 

Sacramento 
Sacramento 

2. Eureka 

Population: 25,936 

  • Cost of Living Index:  103.2 (National Average=100)
  • Median Home Value:  $438,411
  • Crime Rate/1,000 Residents: 48.62
  • Hospital facilities: Eureka hospital 

Eureka is a protected deepwater port between Puget Sound and San Francisco and is famous for its stunning landscape and beautiful coastal redwoods. Quintessential California coastal town, Eureka’s economy is not sluggish but you do not have to worry because these are the best places to live in California for retirees. There won’t be any impact on the quality of living.  

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Eureka experiences cool summers and the temperature is around the 60s, 50s and sometimes 70s. The winters are cold, wet and windy but still, you can explore the untouched forests, incredible beaches and calm surroundings. Eureka offers ample public transportation facilities like Greyhound bus service and train, you can easily travel to Lake Tahoe, Portland, Oregon, South East and San Francisco in no time. 

Eureka is the best and cheapest place to retire in California, you can live a happy life strolling around the city and discovering the old Victorian architecture, witnessing the old and modern buildings, and discovering the street art. You can also plan hiking to Fern Canyon trail which is another beautiful place you cannot miss. Eureka has a booming cannabis industry and is one of the best coastal cities to reside in California. 

Attraction spots: Clarke Historical Museum, The Carson Mansion, Morris Graves Museum, Opera Alley, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Sequoia Forest & Garden, take part in Eureka Street Art Festival, and many more. 

Most Affordable & Best Places to Retire in California, Eureka
Eureka 

3. Thousand Oaks 

  • Population: 125,415 
  • Cost of Living Index:  166.4 (National Average=100)
  • Median Home Value:  $1,015,288
  • Crime Rate/1,000 Residents: 11.18
  • Hospital facilities: 2 hospitals, Thousand Oak Surgical Hospital, and Los Robles Regional Medical Centre 

Thousand Oaks is the best retirement community in California and also the largest city in Ventura County. It is one of the fastest-growing cities in the US with thriving opportunities for the young-old population and commercial business. Thousand Oaks is a much more soothing and easy place compared to Los Angeles.  

It ranked 3rd spot as one of the safest cities in America. Mountclef Village, Westlake and Village, and Wildwood are some well-knitted neighborhoods where you can plan to spend your golden days. The city is welcoming with gorgeous oak trees around, beautiful two lakes called Lake Sherwood and Bard Lake, and also near Satwiwa Native American Indian Natural Area, Malibu Springs, and Point Mugu State Park. 

This “bedroom community” offers a quiet residential vibe with all the hospitality facilities available. The single-family homes range from $400,000 to $1 million in Thousand Oaks. You will be amazed to know that this city got its name because it has more or less 50,000 oak trees around and this is also termed one of the greenest cities in America. You can also plan to hike to Santa Monica Mountains and valleys. 

Attraction spots: The Civic Arts Plaza, Paradise Falls, Chumash Indian Museum, Conejo Valley Botanic Garden, and many more. 

Thousand Oaks 
Thousand Oaks 

4. Visalia 

  • Population: 138,136 
  • Cost of Living Index: 100.7 (National Average=100)
  • Median Home Value:  $362,173
  • Crime Rate/1,000 Residents: 27.48 
  • Hospital facilities: 3 hospitals, Kaweah health medical center, Kaweah delta district hospital, Kaweah health specialty clinic. 

Smaller towns in California like Visaliaare the best places to retire in California to appreciate and value the charming downtowns and enjoy a slower pace of life. At the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Central Valley sits Visalia, the most important agricultural region of the state. Visalia is just south of San Francisco and north of Los Angeles.  The surrounding cities are Fresno and Bakersfield. 

You will be so grateful to choose to live here because you will be surrounded by growing orchards, almonds, walnuts, and oranges.  Visalia is the metro area offering plenty of job opportunities from recreation and quality standard of living. The cost of living in Visalia is less compared to other California cities on average. However, I should tell you that the housing prices normally start from $237,000. 

The summer and winters in Visalia are quite contrasting. Summer is hot and humid whereas winter is the time to get out your light sweaters and shawls. You do not have to worry about going around Visalia or surrounding cities because it is well connected through public transportations. There are many good colleges and golden career opportunities, therefore, attracting the old and young population to reside in peace. 

Attraction spots: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, Tulare County Museum, Farmer Bob’s World, Fox Theater, Walking Tour Of Downtown and many more. 

5. Pasadena 

  • Population: 141, 398
  • Cost of Living Index:  188.6(National Average=100)
  • Median Home Value:  $1,157,158
  • Crime Rate/1,000 Residents: 25.20 
  • Hospital facilities: Huntington hospitals

Come to Pasadena, the Rose bowl of California! Pasadena is the safest place to retire in California as it is not completely an urban place but sits in the suburb of Los Angeles in the San Gabriel valley. Pasadena is a vibrant city with diverse cultural resources, an art museum, diverse options for tasting good food, good health, and outdoor activities, especially ice skating. 

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The quality of life in Pasadena is standard, there are tons of good schools, and the transportation is super easy because it is connected by the Metro Gold Line. The home values nearly about $500,000 or $600,000, importantly this is the safest place in California. You will never regret moving to California, as it will always keep you busy and entertained. 

Interestingly, Pasadena is home to football games, NASA’S Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the California Institute of Technology and the annual Rose Bowl Parade. Neighborhoods like Washington Square, Daisy Villa, the Old Town and San Rafael Hills are the best places to retire in Southern California

Attraction spots: Kidspace Children’s Museum, Norton Simon Museum, USC Pacific Asia Museum, South Lake Avenue for shopping, Arroyo Seco, Colorado Street Bridge, Brookside Park, and many more. 

Pasadena 
Pasadena 

6. Chico 

  • Population: 130, 178 
  • Cost of Living Index: 117.4 (National Average=100)
  • Median Home Value:  $474,455
  • Crime Rate/1,000 Residents: 27.65 
  • Hospital facilities: 3 hospitals, Enloe Medical center, Fountain Medical Plaza, Enloe Outpatient Center 

If you have any grandchildren then why not settle in Chico, one of the best places to retire in northern California? Chico is one of the famous college towns offering great development and growth opportunities to students in their careers. Apart from educational places, Chico is the most vibrant city surrounded by a lot of trees that look splendid during the spring season. 

The climate in Chico is mild, experiencing the Mediterranean type of climate with an average temperature of 60 degrees F in winters and 85 degrees F in summer. The cost of living is fairly reasonable compared to overall California. Chico has tons of playgrounds, and parks, and opens space to relax and enjoy nature. Such a family-friendly place like Chico is a great place to retire in California.

However, everything that shines is not gold. Similarly, one of the biggest cons to living in Chico is that it is considered one of the most dangerous cities in California in terms of crime rate. The medium two-bedroom apartment in Chico is valued at around $330,000. You can preferably decide to reside here because you can get good access to health care, mountain hiking trails, and a view of the Sacramento River. 

Attraction spots: Farmer’s market on Thursday, shopping in Lulu’s, Bidwell Park,  The Pageant Theatre, Butter Creek Ecological Preserve and many more. 

Chico 
Chico 

7. San Luis Obispo 

  • Population: 47,936 
  • Cost of Living Index: 154.7  (National Average=100)
  • Median Home Value:  $961,102
  • Crime Rate/1,000 Residents: 41.88
  • Hospital facilities: 2 hospitals, San Luis Obispo Regional medical centers, French hospital medical center 

In the heart of the Wine Country known for vineyards, San Luis Obispo is the best coastal town to retire in California. On the Central Coast of California, San Luis Obispo is called the “happiest city in the country.” I hope you have come across the name Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, a famous Spanish missionary in the 18th century. Luckily, this is in San Luis Obispo!  

San Luis Obispo is just 10 minutes away from the beach where you can enjoy a great quality of life with a suburban feel. The median income of the household is around $57, 071 and the median home price may vary between $800,000- $900,000, it may vary with time and place. With its Mediterranean type of climate, San Luis Obispo is the best budget-friendly beach town in California.

Japantown and San Luis Ranch are top neighborhoods in San Luis Obispo with great facilities and amenities. However, the electricity rates in San Luis Obispo are higher compared to the United States. On the weekends you can easily visit bigger cities like San Francisco, and Los Angeles or other directions without any worry. 

Attraction spots: part of Mozart festival, Bubblegum Alley, Tolosa Winery, San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum, Laguna Lake Dog Park, a weekly Farmer’s Market, and many more. 

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa
Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

8. Grass Valley 

  • Population: 12,625 
  • Cost of Living Index:  121.8 (National Average=100)
  • Median Home Value:  $542,390.
  • Crime Rate/1,000 Residents: 33.18
  • Hospital facilities: Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital
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Grass Valley in Nevada County is one of the charming little towns nestled in the heart of the Sierra Nevada Foothills. This Golden-rush era town is the best city to retire in California to enjoy the fresh air and natural beauty. “Where to retire” magazine published Grass City and Nevada City as the best place in California for retirees. There are three hospitals nearby with cancer and cardio treatment facilities too. 

The median price of a home in Grass Valley is around $450,250. There are some senior citizen communities too that offer a good standard of living. Sacramento and Reno-Tahoe are the nearest airports and communication inside the city is connected through shuttle services. On the weekends you can plan for Lake Tahoe getaway, which offers many dog-friendly hiking spots and dog-friendly restaurants. 

You will enjoy being part of the Harvest Festival and Cornish Christmas community events celebrated by the business association in Grass Valley. This is a simple place and you can keep yourself busy by taking part in various outdoor activities. I would recommend you to take Diggins State Historic Park, another beautiful place. 

Attraction spots: Visit empire mine, bourn cottage, stroll down Main Street, North Star Mining Museum, the Pelton Wheel Exhibit, Stevens Trail, 49er Fun Park, wine tasting in Lucchesi Vineyards and many more. 

Stevens Trail
Stevens Trail

Nowadays, most senior citizens tend to move to either California or Florida. Like California, Florida has also plenty of amazing places for retirees. If you are in confusion about which state to choose to spend your retirement life, check out our comparison article on living in Florida vs California with pros and cons.

What factors should one consider when deciding where to retire?

  • Cost of living
  • Safe neighborhood
  • Affordable healthcare system
  • Public transportation and well-connected routes
  • Healthy food
  • Free space for walkability 
  • Low home price
  • Outdoor activities to keep oneself busy 
  • No pressure of income tax 
  • The climate of the place
  • Population and population density
  • Welcoming nature 

What are the Pros and Cons of Retiring in California?

Pros:

  • From the epic national park, and incredible nature to mountains, beaches, and hiking trails, California has everything.
  • The temperature in summer is around 80 degrees to 85 degrees F, whereas in winter it is 65 degrees to 68 degrees F.
  • California is the hub of tech companies and the film industry. California is home to Google, Facebook, Netflix, Tesla and many more such big companies. 

Cons:

  • The fire danger in California is real, and we all know past news. 
  • The overall cost of living is much higher compared to America. However, the fastest-growing cities in California are hoping for newcomers. 
  • Driving from point A to Point B in California is a nightmare, everyone owns a car and the traffic jam is tremendously annoying. 
  • Some California cities have higher crime rates than the national average. These are the most dangerous cities in California that you should avoid.

Final Words

So, is California a good state to retire? Of course, it is. If California was always your dream then please make sure you reside in any of these top places to retire in California. Here you can have a life that you always dreamt of. It’s time to give wings to your dreams and reside in any of these affordable retirement homes in California. You deserve it! Read our ultimate California moving checklist.

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FAQs: Best Places to Retire in California

1. Where is the most affordable place to retire in California?

A: Hemet, Eureka, Victorville and Rio Vista are affordable places to retire in California. 

2. What is a good monthly retirement income?

A: Good monthly retirement income varies from $50,231 – $80,450.  This completely depends on one’s lifestyle and standard of living. There are some affordable cities to live in California and if your income is on the lower side you can prefer residing in those areas. 

3. Where do most retirees live in California?

A: Sacramento, Northern California is one of the cheapest places to reside for retirees. 

4. What are the worst places to retire in California?

A: Retirement should not consider a place that does not offer good hospitality facilities and a secure environment. In regards to that, retirees should not reside in Santa Monica. 

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