From the blue ocean waters of San Diego to the artistic vibes of Monterey, California is home to some of the most beautiful areas in all of the United States.
Whether you’re relocating within the state or moving from another part of the country, you might find yourself wondering — where in California should I live?
From a hiker’s paradise to a foodie’s playground, we’re breaking down some of the most popular areas up and down the West coast state. Learn about all the special things they have to offer, so you can pick the perfect place to find your dream home as a California resident.
Santa Barbara is located on the coast of Central California. It’s known for its Spanish architecture, white stucco buildings, and red-tile roofs.
Its weather boasts the perfect conditions for grape growing, which means that tasting rooms, wineries, and rolling vineyards abound in the area.
The Santa Ynez Mountains run parallel with the coastline and create a magnificent background. They’re also home to some incredible hikes, like Inspiration Point, which rests 1,800-feet above Santa Barbara and provides panoramic views over The American Riviera.
For the history enthusiast, there’s Mission Santa Barbara, which was founded in 1786 and is home to Franciscan friars as well as a museum (along with lush gardens and an ocean view).
There’s also the Santa Barbara Zoo, known as the “Audrey Hepburn of zoos” for its boutique and charming style. State Street is the perfect place to stop and stroll and is filled with restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and boutiques.
Nearby areas include Carpenteria with its beachy vibes and a small-town feel and Montecito, a chic and peaceful village. If you’re thinking of moving to California (or relocating within California) Santa Barbara is a feast for all senses.
One of the most beloved cities in California, San Diego is a sunny haven filled with spectacular beaches and activities and a growing culinary scene.
It has top attractions, like the San Diego Zoo, USS Midway Museum, SeaWorld, and Balboa Park, one of the largest urban green spaces in the country.
This spectacular city offers a wealth of different places to live — from the hip blocks of North Park to the upscale streets of La Jolla to the beaches of Carlsbad. And when it comes to restaurants and bars, there’s no shortage of bites and beverages to be had, especially when it comes to tacos and craft beer.
This southern city is among the top in America for its breweries, though it also has a booming craft cocktail scene if that’s more your style.
With its close proximity to Los Angeles, it’s a good starting point for all sorts of Southern California adventures and explorations but offers the option to retreat when you don’t want to be amidst the hustle and bustle.
It’s a city known for its active lifestyle, from surfing, to hiking, to stand-up paddle boarding. If you’re a mellow, sun-loving food appreciator, this might be just the spot.
Located in Orange County, Irvine is becoming an increasingly popular place to live for young professionals. It’s a safe city known for having a strong economy and a steady job market with various job opportunities.
It’s also recognized for its commitment to the environment, with a 20-year energy plan that includes a zero waste resolution.
Neighborhoods include Turtle Rock, Woodbridge, Walnut Village, and more, with each offering their own unique style and affordable housing options.
Irvine Spectrum Center is an outdoor shopping center with restaurants, boutiques, and attractions for both adults and little ones — like the Giant Wheel, the Carousel, and the Edwards Irvine Spectrum movie theater.
Irvine offers outdoor recreation, community parks, and athletic fields. There is also lots of open space and trails to enjoy nature and the year-round sunny weather.
The city is home to good schools, including University of California Irvine, which offers 80 undergraduate degrees and 98 graduate and professional degrees.
If you’re considering making Irvine your home, you’ll be happy to hear that it’s only 10 miles from Newport Beach and 10 minutes from John Wayne Airport, making it the perfect location for the beach-loving traveler.
From the Hollywood glitz and glamour to its storied past as the nation’s center for film and television, there’s nowhere in California quite like the city of Los Angeles.
LA is home to diverse dining experiences, lengthy stretches of beautiful coastline, and star-studded spots to capture a celebrity sighting or two.
The neighborhoods in Los Angeles range from the lavish Beverly Hills to hip Silver Lake to the food-haven of Korea Town. If you’re fearful of that LA traffic, consider a spot like Santa Monica, whose beachy neighborhood streets are more walkable than most.
Stroll the Venice Beach Boardwalk, catch the sunset at Griffith Observatory, or take advantage of the city’s numerous farmers’ markets, which offer a bounty of fresh produce year round.
Even when you’re living in the city, there are endless options for playing tourist, from hiking to the Hollywood Sign to doing some shopping on Rodeo Drive.
For sports fans, Dodger Stadium is the classic place to catch a baseball game and Staples Center gets you up close and personal with the famous LA Lakers.
In Northern California, the world-renowned city of San Francisco breathes history, charm, and romance, making it one of the best places to live in the Golden State. It’s surrounded by the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean and is famous for its cable cars, foggy-city skyline, and of course, the Golden Gate Bridge.
Though San Francisco is known for its steep housing prices and cost of living, there’s a distinct draw that lures people from all over to make San Francisco their home. The Golden Gate Park rests on over 1,000 acres and offers gardens, trails, and museums. With 13 million annual visitors, it’s the fifth most visited city park in the United States.
There’s also the bustling streets and shopping of Union Square and the iconic clam chowder of Fisherman’s Wharf.
San Francisco offers an exciting array of things to do, from concerts, to endless options for dining, to cycling, hikes, and water activities like sailing, , and only an hour drive to wine country, Napa Valley.
When it comes to renting or purchasing in the Bay Area, there are a range of areas you can choose from, like The Castro, The Presidio, the Marina District, and the Mission. If you visit the city to scope out potential living areas, chances are you’ll fall in love with more than one of these districts.
If you’re a fan of hot springs, spas, and golf, Palm Springs might be the relaxing permanent getaway you’ve been searching for. Located in the Sonoran Desert of Southern California, Palm Desert offers a vacation-like bliss for its residents.
There are a variety of places to live in the Palm Springs area, from La Quinta to Indian Wells. And although the area might at first conjure visions of lounging by the pool and or hitting the golf course, this area offers a wide range of activities for those who call it home.
The Moorten Botanical Garden is a historic landmark and family-owned garden that specializes in cacti and desert plants and is a fun place to visit.
For the hiking enthusiasts, there are trails like Cactus to Cloud and Tahquitz Peak which boasts a canyon with a waterfall and rock art. For kids, there’s a children’s discovery museum which features over 50 exhibits.
Located on California’s central coast, Monterey is famous for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, home to marine mammals and underwater exhibits. It’s a small town that was loved and depicted by Pulitzer and Nobel-Prize winning author John Steinbeck.
Whether you’re strolling into seafood restaurants or gift shops, Monterey is the perfect place to spend a leisurely afternoon. From the buildings of Cannery Row to Old Fisherman’s Wharf, it’s known to be a sanctuary for painters, photographers, and artists of all sorts.
In addition to the aquarium, there is also whale watching, kayaking, and scuba diving. Whatever you do in Monterey, make sure to visit the sea otters and enjoy the pace of nature and wildlife.
Between the popular Bubblegum Alley to the wide array of produce and flowers at the downtown farmers’ market, San Luis Obispo along the Central Coast of California is a vibrant and lively community that makes for a great place to live.
For the outdoor lovers, there’s the scenic Bishop Peak for hiking and climbing and for the history enthusiasts, the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, an 18th-century Spanish mission and museum.
If you choose to call San Luis Obispo your home, chances are your guests will want to stay at the funky and pink-hued Madonna Inn. In addition to a 45-foot waterfall, the inn offers an infinity pool and a variety of rooms, all with their own unique flair.
Whether you’re relocating from out of state or considering an in-state move, we hope this article has helped define some of the best places in California. Make sure to get a head start on your California City home search by finding your perfect real estate agent today.