November 14th, 2022 at 11:00 am

Best places to retire in California

When it comes to senior living, comfort is one of the most important factors. The Golden State has some of the most stunning landscapes (and homes) found anywhere in the world. With mild weather year-round and no shortage of variety, California makes an ideal place to settle down and enjoy life. 

Dreaming of an ocean view? Of neighbors who know your name? What about a quiet getaway to the mountains, or a charming cottage in one of California’s most unique towns for retirement living? 

We’ll take you on a tour up the coast to showcase some of the best places to retire in California. From vibrant cities and luxurious estates to sleepy towns and some of the region’s best kept secrets, here are twelve destinations to offer a little something for everyone. 

Best places to retire in San Diego

Our first stop is San Diego, a region known for its beautiful beaches and delicious Mexican restaurants. From stunning coastal views to snowy inland mountaintops, here are three San Diego neighborhoods ideal for retirees.

#1 Little Italy: Amazing eateries with a side of heritage

Ranked the #1 best neighborhood in San Diego by StreetAdvisor, Little Italy is a historic district in the city’s downtown area. If you’re looking for a neighborhood that balances heritage and community with walkability and entertainment, Little Italy might be for you. 

The district boasts a weekly farmer’s market, several art fairs, and some of the best Italian food in the city. Residents also note that the neighborhood association is highly responsive to resident needs.

San Diego’s downtown is less bustling than some others, so it’s a perfect location for seniors who aren’t ready to leave the city but want a break from the chaos. Little Italy is also on a trolley route, making it quick and easy to get around the city without a vehicle.

Ideal for:

Those looking for retirement living in a lively urban neighborhood with tons in walking distance

#2 La Jolla: The jewel of San Diego

When it comes to gorgeous coastal views, La Jolla is hard to beat. Named “The Jewel” in Spanish, La Jolla cove features sparkling blue waters and rock formations, and during certain times of the year, families of sea lions nap along the shore. 

The main thoroughfare features boutique and designer shopping, numerous restaurants, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Although fairly walkable, don’t be fooled— La Jolla is far from being a downtown urban area, and many neighborhoods enjoy peace and quiet.

Ideal for:

Beach-lovers looking for a clean, upscale neighborhood with breathtaking views

#3 Julian: Cozy cabin life 

Not a big beachgoer? Don’t count San Diego out yet.

Synonymous among San Diegans with their famous pies, Julian is an idyllic mountain town located in East county. It’s one of the only places in San Diego where it regularly snows, making it an ideal retreat for those who love a warm fireplace and a white winter. 

Julian’s population of just over 1,200 helps the town retain its cozy, friendly atmosphere.

Historic and remote, Julian might be the perfect getaway for anyone dreaming of a quiet cabin in the mountains with vintage charm (and delicious pies and cider!)

Ideal for:

Those looking for a peaceful mountain retreat with heritage and a small population

Best places to retire in Orange County

Next on our list is Orange County, home to some first-class malls, parks, and of course, the theme parks. Here are our top picks for retirees with their eyes on Orange County.

#4 Newport Beach: Set sail for adventure

Packed with attractions like museums, malls, and the nearby Catalina Island, Newport Beach is one of the most desirable neighborhoods in all of California. Plant your flag here, and you’ll have no shortage of places to take visiting family members.

And if you’re a nautical enthusiast, Newport should definitely make your retirement shortlist: the city has an excellent harbor for docking, renting, or simply admiring boats.

Beware that the area can get crowded during summer when tourists tend to flock to this lovely city. It’s also a prime spot for rentals— almost half of the residents rent their homes.4

Ideal for:

Beachgoers and boat owners looking for somewhere lively with lots to do

#5 Laguna Woods: Community and activity

This neighborhood near Irvine is ranked as one of the top five places to retire in all of California, and it’s no wonder why.5 Laguna Woods is everything you could want in a retirement community. 

Residents from the various local complexes enjoy amenities like swimming pools, a library, and even an equestrian center. Condos in this area can come with a community and resources for seniors, unlike you’d find anywhere else.

If you’re looking for a place to settle down with other seniors but still maintain an active physical and social life, Laguna Woods could be your little slice of heaven.

Ideal for:

Those who want to stay physically active in their later years and be part of their community

#6 Seal Beach: Classic seaside charm

Another beach town on our list, Seal Beach, offers a more relaxing coastal getaway than the bustling Newport. Residents note the close-knit community and traditional feel.

Unlike other OC beaches that can get crowded in the summer, Seal Beach tends to keep its local flavor year-round.6 It’s also home to a few popular retirement communities.

This is one spot where it’s probably better to buy—over 70% of residents own their homes, and why not?6 Once you try living in Seal Beach, you’ll never want to leave. Take a stroll on the beach and enjoy the sea breeze, or go shopping in the neighborhood’s Old Town boutiques. 

Ideal for:

Those seeking a seaside escape with small-town charm

Best places to retire in Los Angeles

The City of Angels might be known for entertainment, but this sprawling metropolis also has some of the best places to settle down and enjoy retirement. Here are three ideas for retiring in Southern California’s epicenter.

#7 Pasadena: The suburb of your dreams

For those looking for their dream SoCal lifestyle, Pasadena has a lot to offer. It’s home to numerous museums, historic architecture, and the nation’s Rose Parade. 

Among LA suburbs, Pasadena comes out on top.

Despite the town’s jam-packed list of attractions, there’s plenty of room to breathe. It’s located along Eaton Canyon, and the San Gabriel mountains, providing access to some of LA county’s best nature walks, and the local hospital is first class.

Unsurprisingly, real estate in Pasadena is super high in demand, and houses sell quickly. Interested in snapping one up? Call Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties to get the best people in your corner. 

Ideal for:

Those seeking a suburb close to everything they could ever need

#8 Beverly Hills: Elegant and iconic

Ah, Beverly Hills. The retirement destination of everyone’s fantasies. The fantasy might be closer than you think—the neighborhood boasts a wide range of housing prices beginning in the high 300s and peaking with gorgeous mansions worth tens of millions.

Although centrally located near the heart of Los Angeles, Beverly Hills is renowned for its safety and pristine landscaping. Proximity to the iconic Rodeo Drive and numerous high-end eateries allow residents to live every day basking in elegance. 

For a classic, beautiful neighborhood with a global reputation, Beverly Hills is utterly unbeatable.

Ideal for:

Those dreaming of a sophisticated lifestyle in the heart of California’s most famous city

#9 Playa del Rey: LA’s secret beach

This sleepy beach town is one of the city’s best kept secrets. While it lacks the glitz and glam of LA’s most famous beaches, it makes up for it by offering oceanfront access with more affordable prices and fewer crowds than you’d find elsewhere.10

As a hidden gem, the neighborhood can maintain a local, small-town atmosphere that is difficult to come by in the city. Residents note the lack of traffic and the tantalizing variety of locally-owned restaurants.

If you’ve been dreaming of retirement in an LA beach town but shudder at the prices of homes in Venice or Santa Monica, Playa del Rey could be your answer.

Ideal for:

Beach condo daydreamers who want to live in LA without the LA cost or crowds

Best places to retire in Santa Barbara

Last (but certainly not least) on our tour of the best retirement communities in southern California, we come to Santa Barbara County. The pride of the central coast, here retirees can find peaceful and sunny getaways ranging from first-class luxury to quirky charm.

#10 Montecito: Paradise in the foothills

Just east of Santa Barbara is the community of Montecito, ranked by Niche as the #1 best neighborhood in the area. Its placement between the coast and the foothills of the Santa Ynez mountains lends this region some of the most stunning ocean views around.

Montecito also benefits from its proximity to Santa Barbara—far enough from the city to be peaceful, but close enough to enjoy the events and restaurants downtown. 

And with so many gorgeous estates across the landscape, it’s no wonder that Montecito has a reputation for celebrity.

Ideal for:

Those looking to retire in beautiful, coastal luxury somewhere private but not isolated

#11 Solvang: A taste of Europe

Solvang is truly a town like no other. Stroll down the town’s main thoroughfare, and you’ll feel you’ve left California and stepped into a charming Danish village. 

Lined with windmills, bakeries, and unusual European architecture, this town brings the culture and history of Denmark to Santa Barbara County. Residents note the neighborhood’s small-town feel and sense of community. 

With such unique character, this is one place that grandkids would love visiting. And don’t worry about the grown-ups either—in addition to the numerous local boutiques and restaurants, the area is also known for its wineries. 

Ideal for:

Those seeking a home with unique charm, a close-knit community, and oodles of kid-appeal

#12 Santa Barbara: A beach town for everyone

For the last stop on our tour, let’s take a look at the city of Santa Barbara itself. Known for its iconic Spanish architecture and world-class beaches, Santa Barbara brings you the best of California’s central coast.

This is no bustling urban metropolis, but a laid-back, friendly beach town. Peruse the State Street promenade, take a stroll down East Beach, or meander down one of the region’s many hiking trails. 

Santa Barbara is truly a town with something for everyone. 

A few neighborhoods to check out are Mission Canyon and Riviera, and you can’t go wrong with a downtown bungalow. Rentals abound across the city, and the outskirts have some of the most beautiful homes on the market.13

Ideal for: 

Just about anyone

Honorable mentions:

Bay Area – With great weather,  rich culture, and beautiful scenery, it is a great place to retire. With sprawling hills and a variety of neighborhoods each with a different feel, the Bay Area has something to offer for everyone. 

San Jose – San Jose is ranked no. 5 in the best places to live in the United States. The best neighborhoods for retirees in San Jose are Rose Garden, West San Jose, and Evergreen.

Start the next chapter with California Properties

Whether you long for a seaside escape, a charming townhouse in a city full of life, or the palatial estate you’ve always fantasized about, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties can help you find the best place for you.

Why hire a real estate agent? Since we were founded in 1985, we’ve grown to have over 60 offices up and down the Golden coast. We don’t just want to help you find a home— our California realtors want to help you find the place you’re meant to be, because the most important chapter is always the one that’s next.

Take the next step towards your perfect retirement with California Properties and reach out to one of our senior real estate specialists today.  


Niche 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

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