Best places to retire on the West Coast
Published 8:00 pm Wednesday, January 18, 2023
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Best places to retire on the West Coast
If planned well, retirement can be fun, social, and relaxing. But much of that depends on where you end up living. For many, the West Coast is ideal, with natural beauty, bustling cities, good hospitals, comfortable weather, and much more to offer. But what areas of this region are best for retirees?
Stacker compiled a list of the 50 best places to retire on the West Coast, using data gathered from Niche 2022 rankings. The rankings were based on the number of retirees in any given area; weather; access to health care; restaurants and other amenities; crime rates; and entertainment options. Only towns, cities, and suburbs in California, Oregon, and Washington state were considered.
Though most of these locations are in California, it’s worth noting that the California Dream can be complicated for retirees, as it’s a notoriously expensive state. In 2022, housing affordability rates dropped to the lowest levels seen in the Golden State in more than a decade, as only 16% of households had the means to purchase a median-priced home of over $883,000.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey showed 10.5% of California seniors live below the poverty line. State officials have launched a program to boost Californians’ retirement savings, and have discussed increasing access to food stamps for seniors and making it easier to qualify for Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program, which pays for health care for low-income people. Given all this, it’s clear that the ability to retire comfortably in California often rests on one thing: financial wealth.
However, the population of older Californians is still expanding. For those who can afford it, California boasts high life expectancy, a wide array of sights and attractions, coastal living, and year-round access to the outdoors. The good news for those on fixed or low incomes is that Oregon and Washington have plenty of attractive options, which are typically more affordable.
What makes each of these cities and towns fantastic for retirees? Read on to find out.
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#50. Desert Edge, California
– National rank: 766th best place to retire
– Population: 3,480
Twelve miles northeast of Palm Springs is Desert Edge. Those interested in purchasing a home here will find affordable RV and mobile home park options within driving distance of Desert Edge’s amenities.
#49. Gearhart, Oregon
– National rank: 759th best place to retire
– Population: 1,881
Gearhart sits on the northern Oregon coast, where a very small community of just over 1,000 people lives. It’s a two-hour drive from Portland, and according to the state’s travel bureau, only around 85 people have moved to the remote town since 2010. Since Oregon has no sales tax, newcomers should brace themselves for a slightly higher-than-average income tax rate of up to 9.9% for top earners.
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#48. San Marino, California
– National rank: 758th best place to retire
– Population: 13,020
San Marino is home to The Huntington, which houses the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, as well as the Edwin Hubble House, where astronomer Edwin Hubble lived. The serene city features lush, tree-lined streets, and shopping and restaurants galore just down the street in Pasadena.
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#47. Hillsborough, California
– National rank: 755th best place to retire
– Population: 11,608
If you want access to San Francisco without living in the city, the town of Hillsborough is a great option. As a residential neighborhood, one of its chief charms is the fascinating homes in the area, including the otherworldly—or perhaps prehistoric—”Flintstone House;” George Randolph Hearst’s Western White House, designed by Julia Morgan; Frank Lloyd Wright’s Sidney Bazett Residence, and others.
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#46. Jackson, California
– National rank: 709th best place to retire
– Population: 4,844
Jackson was settled as a gold mining town in the mid-1800s, and visitors can still see its famous Kennedy Mine, which ultimately closed operations during the Second World War because gold served no purpose in battle. The city is proud of its gold rush roots, and also features a casino called the Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort.
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#45. Ocean Shores, Washington
– National rank: 690th best place to retire
– Population: 6,196
With rivers and lakes, Ocean Shores is a water lover’s dream. The area is also home to the biggest Irish music festival on the West Coast, golfing, music venues, and a community of kite flyers. There are plenty of hospitals and other services in surrounding areas, with larger cities like Olympia and Tacoma less than two hours away by car.
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#44. Clyde Hill, Washington
– National rank: 671st best place to retire
– Population: 3,360
Centrally located, and within a quick drive to Seattle, Clyde Hill offers spectacular views of the Seattle skyline and Mount Rainier. High-end, custom-built homes on half-acre lots pepper the landscape, with easy access to nearby amenities, such as golfing, shopping, and restaurants.
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#43. Santa Monica, California
– National rank: 670th best place to retire
– Population: 91,600
Scenic and dreamy, Santa Monica has long been known as a famous resort town. Stroll along the Santa Monica Pier or the upscale Third Street Promenade shopping area. It can get toasty in this city near downtown Los Angeles, but it certainly helps to be able to take a dip in the nearby ocean to cool off.
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#42. Solana Beach, California
– National rank: 650th best place to retire
– Population: 13,301
This coastal city north of San Diego is known for its great weather and beach views. The city has good food and golfing, plus its proximity to the city of Del Mar means there’s easy access to the renowned Del Mar Racetrack, as well as the area’s restaurants and nightlife. For getting around without a car, Solana Beach also has an Amtrak station and a Coaster commuter train station.
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#41. Kensington, California
– National rank: 649th best place to retire
– Population: 5,171
This unincorporated community is known as one of the most desirable residential areas in the East Bay Area. It’s located in the Berkeley Hills, abutting the vast Tilden Nature Area. As such, it feels like a Northern California paradise but is a short drive from downtown Berkeley.
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#40. Sausalito, California
– National rank: 637th best place to retire
– Population: 7,177
In the Northern California city of Sausalito, you can peer at the Golden Gate Bridge, hang out on the waterfront, check out the local art studios, or take the grandkids to the Bay Area Discovery Museum. This bayside community is close to San Francisco (accessible by ferry) and other major cities in Marin County.
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#39. Gold River, California
– National rank: 625th best place to retire
– Population: 7,930
Though Gold River has a mix of commercial and retail areas, this community primarily comprises residential neighborhoods. It’s located alongside the American River, which—no surprise, given this area’s name—was where gold was first discovered by James Marshall in California.
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#38. Rolling Hills, California
– National rank: 620th best place to retire
– Population: 1,439
Rolling Hills is a private, gated, equestrian community on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. There are 700 homes within a 3-mile area, each with at least 1 acre of land. There are strict rules for house and yard maintenance. Rolling Hills is ideal for those seeking a safe, private community with spectacular ocean views.
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#37. Temelec, California
– National rank: 598th best place to retire
– Population: 1,915
The small town of Temelec is tucked away in gorgeous Sonoma County just north of the San Francisco Bay. The town is surrounded by national forests, hiking destinations, and, of course, wineries galore. Rumor has it that $100,000 worth of early settler gold is still hidden somewhere in the county—if treasure hunting is your thing.
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#36. Port Townsend, Washington
– National rank: 580th best place to retire
– Population: 9,710
Filled with natural, coastal beauty, Port Townsend is a winner for many retirees looking to live in Washington state. Sunset Magazine called the town the “Paris of the Pacific Northwest” for its restaurants and cafes with fresh fare, especially its excellent seafood. And, with its location, it’s a sailor’s paradise.
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#35. Palm Desert, California
– National rank: 533rd best place to retire
– Population: 53,087
Palm Desert residents appreciate the area’s golf courses and country clubs amid the desert setting. Though there are urgent care facilities in Palm Desert itself, the nearby cities of Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage have tons of top-notch hospitals and medical facilities. Plus, it’s within a short drive of Palm Springs International Airport for easy travel.
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#34. Mission Canyon, California
– National rank: 528th best place to retire
– Population: 2,649
Despite its name, Mission Canyon is a hillside area in an unincorporated area of Santa Barbara County. Homes are well-maintained on winding, quaint streets. Downtown Santa Barbara and the freeway are a 10- to 15-minute drive away.
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#33. Camino, California
– National rank: 520th best place to retire
– Population: 2,065
Camino is located in El Dorado County, which is famous for its apple farms, wineries, and unique quilt trail. There are also art galleries to tour, historic towns to visit, and plenty of outdoor activities to take part in.
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#32. Pismo Beach, California
– National rank: 509th best place to retire
– Population: 8,042
Sure, it’s a little touristy, but Pismo Beach offers a prime beach location along the Central Coast of California. Those who enjoy nature may want to check out the grove where monarch butterflies migrate during the winter, navigate the handful of parks in the area, or hang out on the beach. Pismo also has several wineries, plus famous clam chowder at the Splash Cafe.
#31. Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
– National rank: 503rd best place to retire
– Population: 3,789
Carmel-by-the-Sea is the unconventional name of a small town on the coast of California. The main attraction is Carmel Beach and surrounding boutique shopping. If you’re a pet person, Carmel is very proud of its dog-friendly beaches and retail shops. The area is also home to 19 wine-tasting rooms.
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#30. Mill Valley, California
– National rank: 494th best place to retire
– Population: 14,456
Mill Valley is where you can find Muir Woods National Monument, giant redwood trees, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and the famously rugged Dipsea Trail. There’s also a historic amphitheater on Mount Tamalpais, a playhouse, comedy shows, and the annual Mill Valley Film Festival.
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#29. Woodway, Washington
– National rank: 478th best place to retire
– Population: 1,077
Known as “The Quiet Place,” Woodway is a small community in southwestern Snohomish County. Residents enjoy mature evergreens, safe biking and walking trails, and strict laws against speeding.
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#28. Walnut Creek, California
– National rank: 468th best place to retire
– Population: 69,836
Walnut Creek boasts popular amenities including shopping, dining, and quiet residential neighborhoods, plus beautiful outdoor areas such as Mount Diablo State Park, a movie theater, medical facilities and hospitals, and much more. The area also offers easy access to both freeways and the BART elevated rail and subway line, making it simple to get around the Bay Area.
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#27. Santa Venetia, California
– National rank: 462nd best place to retire
– Population: 3,891
Modeled after the Italian city of Venice, Santa Venetia is a friendly, walkable community in Marin County. Located just north of San Rafael, Santa Venetia’s home prices are less than nearby San Francisco, but still offer residents access to big-city amenities.
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#26. Westlake Village, California
– National rank: 461st best place to retire
– Population: 8,203
Straddling the county lines of Los Angeles and Ventura, Westlake Village offers proximity to the city and is considered a “bedroom community” for many commuters to the LA area. However, much of the city is surrounded by open space and is only 9 miles from the ocean. The city has seven parks, including a dog park.
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#25. North Tustin, California
– National rank: 420th best place to retire
– Population: 25,147
North Tustin is largely residential. But this unincorporated area in Orange County is close to Orange, home to fantastic antique shops and entertainment; Santa Ana, where you can find the Santa Ana Zoo; and Anaheim, where Disneyland is located. North Tustin locals love it for its amenities and low crime rates.
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#24. Raleigh Hills, Oregon
– National rank: 409th best place to retire
– Population: 6,675
It may be just a 10-minute drive from Beaverton, but this unincorporated area feels like a world away. Fewer than 7,000 people live in Raleigh Hills. It’s home to a golf course, affordable homes, and the verdant open spaces common in Oregon.
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#23. Tiburon, California
– National rank: 398th best place to retire
– Population: 9,167
The Marin County town of Tiburon is accessible from San Francisco by ferry. Bayside dining and views abound. It’s a quiet area with a suburban feel but is also known as one of the more expensive enclaves in the Bay Area.
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#22. Manhattan Beach, California
– National rank: 397th best place to retire
– Population: 35,064
Few places in Los Angeles Country are as scenic as Manhattan Beach. Walk along the Strand to check out some of the stunning ocean-side homes and sweeping beach views. Grab a bite or shop at boutiques in the bustling downtown area. And, whether seeking a getaway or welcoming visitors, Los Angeles International Airport is just a 5-mile drive.
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#21. Cedar Ridge, California
– National rank: 393rd best place to retire
– Population: 1,267
The small community of Cedar Ridge, California, offers a rural, small-community vibe with a larger senior population. The area is home to the Cascade Canal Trail, a 4.5-mile, flat trail that’s a popular spot for daily walks.
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#20. Lincoln Beach, Oregon
– National rank: 383rd best place to retire
– Population: 2,186
The seaside location of Lincoln Beach offers gorgeous stretches of beach, waterfalls, parks, and lighthouses. Those looking for a bit of excitement can head over to nearby Newport for the casino and resorts.
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#19. Cerritos, California
– National rank: 371st best place to retire
– Population: 49,388
Once filled with dairy farms, this city in southeast Los Angeles County is known as one of the Gateway Cities, a series of urban residential areas. Cerritos has a sculpture garden and a center for performing arts, plus a large park that’s home to the Cerritos Olympic Swim and Fitness Center.
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#18. Rancho Mirage, California
– National rank: 369th best place to retire
– Population: 18,537
This city abutting Palm Desert has plenty to do: horseback riding, hiking, golfing, shopping, and more. Rancho Mirage has been known as a world-class vacation center for decades, making it a great place for retirement. Maybe that’s why about half of its residents are over the age of 65.
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#17. Alamo, California
– National rank: 350th best place to retire
– Population: 13,864
Former home of Warriors star basketball player Stephen Curry, Alamo is known for its expansive homes. Because it’s an unincorporated community, it shares many of its resources with the San Ramon Valley area. While Alamo itself is mostly residential, it’s close to both Walnut Creek and Danville.
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#16. Palos Verdes Estates, California
– National rank: 322nd best place to retire
– Population: 13,359
Nestled along the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Palos Verdes Estates is the place for sweeping ocean views. It’s a small city in Los Angeles County and was master planned by famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. There are distinct school, commercial, and residential districts, many of which have trails and pathways leading to the coast, and which preserve much of the area’s natural charm.
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#15. Montecito, California
– National rank: 315th best place to retire
– Population: 8,210
Home to the Santa Barbara Zoo, the beautiful Butterfly Beach, and a number of celebrity properties, Montecito is a spectacular place to live for those who can afford it. For many, Montecito is considered the height of luxury, with beautiful restaurants, attractions, and sights. It’s also next to Santa Barbara, which has even more options for those looking to live in the area long-term.
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#14. Newport Beach, California
– National rank: 299th best place to retire
– Population: 86,694
With Newport Beach, you get elegant beach community vibes with plenty to see and do. Sailors can take to the sea aboard boats or yachts, families can check out the two piers or the Balboa Fun Zone amusement park, and art lovers can check out the area’s museums. Whatever you can’t find here, you can get from nearby Huntington Beach or Irvine.
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#13. Piedmont, California
– National rank: 294th best place to retire
– Population: 11,454
Piedmont is an enclave nestled in the greater city of Oakland. Though it’s home to many families who appreciate its low crime rates and excellent school systems, it can also be a wonderful place to retire because of its temperate weather and excellent nearby amenities. The crown jewel of the area is Piedmont Avenue, a commercial district home to cuisine from around the world, boutiques, bars, comic book shops, a movie theater, and the famous Fentons Creamery.
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#12. Belvedere, California
– National rank: 262nd best place to retire
– Population: 2,246
Surrounded on three sides by water, Belvedere is north of the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County. Coastal breezes and unparalleled views are enjoyed by residents whose median age is 53.
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#11. Villa Park, California
– National rank: 257th best place to retire
– Population: 5,883
Though this Orange County city is small, there’s plenty to do. Locals stay active at the parks, river trails, and at Irvine Lake. Those living in Villa Park report that it has a cozy neighborhood feel, more horseback riding trails than sidewalks, and low crime rates.
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#10. Pacific Grove, California
– National rank: 247th best place to retire
– Population: 15,471
Right next to the city of Monterey lies Pacific Grove. It’s known for the storied Asilomar Hotel and Conference Center and Point Pinos Lighthouse, the oldest continually operating lighthouse on the West Coast. Golfers will also love its proximity to Pebble Beach.
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#9. Beverly Hills, California
– National rank: 241st best place to retire
– Population: 33,709
The exclusive, expensive city of Beverly Hills, located in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, is home to celebrities and professional athletes. It’s also famous for the Rodeo Drive shopping haven.
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#8. Harbor, Oregon
– National rank: 238th best place to retire
– Population: 2,071
Harbor is located near the southern Oregon border and just across the Chetco River from Brookings, Oregon. The area remains warmer than surrounding areas and has become known as the Easter lily capital of the world due in part to its favorable growing conditions. Outdoor activities abound for anyone interested in fishing, hiking, sailing, or the like.
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#7. Corte Madera, California
– National rank: 202nd best place to retire
– Population: 9,793
Corte Madera is located in lush Marin County. Here, visitors and residents can find a marsh, a town park, and a library. It’s also the location of The Village, an open-air shopping center. Residents can also easily swing over to Mill Valley, which is another city on this list.
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#6. Seal Beach, California
– National rank: 175th best place to retire
– Population: 24,268
Hang out at the lovely Seal Beach Pier, enjoy the area’s 1.5 miles of beach, or even go fishing. This quiet, small beach community is home to amazing year-round weather and is near Long Beach and Huntington Beach.
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#5. Laguna Woods, California
– National rank: 174th best place to retire
– Population: 16,056
Ninety percent of Laguna Woods encompasses the Laguna Woods Village retirement community. That community boasts resort-style offerings: swimming, tennis, lawn bowling, horseback riding, performing arts shows and art studios, and golfing on two different courses. The retirement community is so vast that it has three neighborhoods to offer its residents.
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#4. Indian Wells, California
– National rank: 168th best place to retire
– Population: 5,463
When there’s an affordable oasis in the desert, why choose to retire anywhere else? Indian Wells offers a wide array of activities from golf and walking trails to a farmers market and nearby mineral-water spas. It also maintains much of its original desert beauty, with the stunning Santa Rosa Mountains overlooking the city.
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#3. Del Mar, California
– National rank: 154th best place to retire
– Population: 4,331
This beach city in San Diego County is famous for its racetrack, beaches, fairgrounds, and restaurants. Residents enjoy shopping, hiking, biking, hot air balloon rides, endless water activities, and more.
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#2. Larkspur, California
– National rank: 151st best place to retire
– Population: 12,363
Historic homes. Easy access to San Francisco. Adult sports leagues. Hiking and biking paths. Outdoor movies. There’s a lot to like about Larkspur in Marin County. This community prides itself on maintaining its neighborhood feel during a time when the overall Bay Area is expanding and urbanizing.
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#1. Del Monte Forest, California
– National rank: 90th best place to retire
– Population: 3,783
Del Monte is located in breathtaking Monterey County. The town offers residents picture-perfect walks along the beach, golfing galore, and charm for miles.