Best places to live on the West Coast

Published 7:30 pm Monday, January 23, 2023


Best places to live on the West Coast

For centuries, Americans and people from around the world have heeded Horace Greeley’s advice to “go west.”

The West Coast of the United States has been calling settlers ever since the early 1800s. From the Oregon Trail to the Gold Rush to 1967’s Summer of Love, something magnetic about the Pacific Coast of the United States calls to the hearts of those looking to start anew.

And who could blame them? From the sun-drenched beaches of Southern California to the brilliant minds of Silicon Valley, the verdant forests of Oregon, and the lakes and towering mountains of Washington State, the West Coast is incredibly varied and dynamic. Thus, narrowing down the best places to live on the West Coast can certainly be a challenge.

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Stacker compiled just such a list using data from Niche. Cities, towns, and suburbs in the following states were considered: California, Oregon, and Washington.

Some of these places are surely already on your radar, like tech-savvy Palo Alto, California, or the culturally cosmopolitan city of Seattle. Others may be a bit more under the radar, like Tualatin, Oregon, known for its quirky festivals.

Many places on this list are suburbs of affluent and diverse metropolitan cities, while others are planned communities or older cities that have undergone revitalization projects. Cities with access to the great outdoors are ubiquitous here, as there is just so much raw, unspoiled beauty to be seen in the American West.

Whether you’re looking to settle down and raise a family or are interested in hitting the town with your batch of new, educated friends, there’s a place on this list that will surely draw your attention.

How many of these places do you know? Is your town or city on the list? Click through to find the best places to live on the West Coast.

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Carlsbad bluffs overlooking the beach and ocean

Tonya Staab // Shutterstock

#100. Carlsbad, California

– Population: 114,411

Located between Los Angeles and San Diego, Carlsbad has the best of everything California offers. From 7 miles of coastline to easy access to some of the country’s finest resorts and amusement parks to its incredible local breweries, shopping, and golf courses, the city has a little something for everyone.

Carlsbad’s thriving information technology and manufacturing industries also mean plenty of jobs in the area.

Edmonds Fishing Pier in Woodway.

Nadia Yong // Shutterstock

#99. Woodway, Washington

– Population: 1,077

Just 20 minutes from Seattle, Woodway is a small city known for its walkability, bike paths, and nearby wine country. It calls itself “The Quiet Place,” and for good reason—it is packed with parks. From the Woodway Reserve to Deer Creek Park and the John Bush Play Area, there are many outdoor opportunities for residents of all ages.

Aerial view of San Mateo Bridge in San Francisco Bay.

Cassiohabib // Shutterstock

#98. Millbrae, California

– Population: 22,998

Milbrae offers a fairly unique living experience in California, a state seemingly only populated with overcrowded cities and barely-there small towns. Located just south of San Francisco, the town is an easy drive away from the restaurants, shopping, and cultural scenes that draw folks to urban hubs. However, with less than 23,000 residents, it also offers a much more affordable cost of living and a know-your-neighbors sort of experience.

Aerial view of Alamitos Beach neighborhood

trekandshoot // Shutterstock

#97. Los Alamitos, California

– Population: 11,521

Similarly to Millbrae, the Los Angeles suburb of Los Alamitos offers its residents a best-of-both-worlds experience. Easy commuting distance from the big city, residents have employment opportunities in nearly every field at their fingertips. That, combined with the fact that Los Alamitos is safe and affordable (most folks own their homes here), makes it a dream location for those looking to settle down in southern California.

High angle view of San Mateo


#96. San Mateo, California

– Population: 103,619

Not far outside of San Francisco is San Mateo, a town beloved for its Mediterranean climate and easy winters. The sprawling suburban area has plenty of outdoor recreation options (like hiking trails and impeccably landscaped parks) that create many opportunities for residents and visitors to enjoy the perfect, year-round weather.

San Mateo also boasts a thriving downtown and is within easy community distance of the even bigger metropolis—a dream for anyone who wants both easy access to nature and the benefits of living in one of the country’s biggest cities.

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Aerial view of Emeryville Marina


#95. Emeryville, California

– Population: 11,679

Between Berkley and Oakland lies Emeryville, a small but surprisingly industrious town.

The city is home to several major companies, including Pixar Animation Studios, Clif Bar, the Center for Investigative Reporting, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, and several tech firms. Its small population is largely made up of young professionals (many of whom commute to larger cities nearby), and, as a result, its bar and restaurant scenes are thriving.

Aerial view of Snoqualmie Falls


#94. Snoqualmie, Washington

– Population: 13,550

Surrounded by mountains and forest, Snoqualmie is one of the best places to live in Washington. The town has 40 parks and more than 20 miles of trails for walking, biking, or horseback riding. It also has more than 30 restaurants, an arts and entertainment community, and the legendary Snoqualmie Falls, a beautiful waterfall that plunges over granite cliffs.

East bay hills, view from Mulholland Ridge

ktao // Shutterstock

#93. Orinda, California

– Population: 19,461

Not far from Oakland lies the city of Orinda. Residents love it for its laid-back lifestyle, nature hikes, history, and breezy commute times. It’s a small town within a stone’s throw of two of California’s largest cosmopolitan areas, according to SFGate.

Beach in Pacific Grove

Alexander Demyanenko // Shutterstock

#92. Pacific Grove, California

– Population: 15,471

Sometimes referred to as “America’s most romantic city,” Pacific Grove has been the backdrop for many TV shows and movies like “Big Little Lies” and “Turner & Hooch.”

Aside from being jaw-droppingly beautiful, the town’s main draws are its acres of shoreline, an abundance of outdoor activities, and quiet way of life. It’s also the winter home of the country’s monarch butterfly population, which migrate to the area from the fall equinox through the spring equinox.

Rocky bluff in Laguna Beach


#91. Laguna Beach, California

– Population: 22,991

The seaside resort town of Laguna Beach boasts a mild year-round climate, low crime rates, and some of the best public schools in the nation. Additionally, it has a thriving art scene and a booming tourism industry, both of which provide a plethora of unique jobs. The city is also dedicated to environmental preservation. It has plenty of organizations focused on saving its miles of coastline, ensuring its wealth of public beaches will be there to enjoy for years to come.

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Residential neighborhood in Mill Valley

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#90. Mill Valley, California

– Population: 14,456

Down in Marin County is Mill Valley, a wealthy community known for its low poverty and crime rates, excellent public schools, and wealth of opportunities for outdoor activities. Muir Woods, a national park filled with old-growth redwood trees, is nearby, as is Stinson Beach, one of the best swimming beaches in northern California, according to the National Park Service.

Aerial view of Alameda Island and the San Francisco Bay

trekandshoot // Shutterstock

#89. Alameda, California

– Population: 79,827

Located on a series of islands just off the coast of San Francisco, Alameda is a bustling suburban town. It’s incredibly diverse, family-oriented, and within easy commuting distance for those looking to work in some of the city’s better-paying industries (the cost of living is quite high here). More locally, Alameda has a great public transportation system and a downtown area that has grown significantly over the last decade.

Yacht harbor and waterfront in Tiburon

cdrin // Shutterstock

#88. Tiburon, California

– Population: 9,167

Tiburon is one of San Francisco’s quieter suburbs. With less than a 10th of the population of Alameda, Tiburon is much more close-knit than its counterpart, though it’s equally as expensive and diverse. Good schools, an easy commute, and a focus on outdoor activities are among its other major draws.

Point Vicente Lighthouse

MILA Zed // Shutterstock

#87. Rolling Hills Estates, California

– Population: 8,025

Rolling Hills Estates is a gated Los Angeles suburb. All its property is privately owned, except for its stoplight-free streets and 23 miles of horse trails. Folks who chose to move here do so for the safety, community feel, and equestrian focus.

Sunrise in the East Bay

Chris LaBasco // Shutterstock

#86. Walnut Creek, California

– Population: 69,836

Walnut Creek lies at the junction of three highways (leading from Sacramento, San Jose, and San Francisco/Oakland) and is easily accessible by the BART, making it a commuter’s dream. Equal parts laid-back and high-energy, the town has both a thriving nightlife scene and plenty of outdoor activities, like several golf courses, miles of biking trails, and easy access to everything Mt. Diablo State Park has to offer.

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City of Claremont welcome sign

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#85. Claremont, California

– Population: 35,610

“The city of trees and P.H.d’s,” Claremont boasts seven colleges and some of the best-preserved historic districts in the United States. Primarily residential, those working outside of academia will likely need to commute to nearby Los Angeles or San Bernardino, but travel time to both places is quite short.

The city also hosts several large retirement communities, making it an excellent option for those looking to slow down with other folks in the same stage of life.

Marina and homes in Belvedere

FourthNovemberStudio // Shutterstock

#84. Belvedere, California

– Population: 2,246

Belvedere is a wealthy sailing community consisting of two islands and a lagoon that boasts two major yacht clubs. Although its cost of living is high, the town is incredibly safe and home to several of the state’s best public schools. Like Claremont, it’s largely residential, but folks won’t have to travel far for work as it’s only 4 miles north of San Francisco.

Aerial view of Folsom bridge


#83. Folsom, California

– Population: 79,584

Folsom may be best known for Folsom State Prison, but it offers much more than its correctional center.

Folsom is home to 30 miles of bike trails that cater to folks of all skill levels, highly rated public schools, and a family-oriented feel. It also ranked as one of the safest cities in the state as recently as 2019, with a violent crime rate of just 0.82 per 1,000 people.

Rooftops and mountain ridge in California

Eric Urquhart // Shutterstock

#82. North Tustin, California

– Population: 25,147

An unincorporated community in Orange County, North Tustin is growing at a fairly decent clip. With a low poverty rate and a median household income that is well above the national average, there seems to be plenty of opportunity in the southern California town.

Aerial view of suburban Seattle neighborhoods

Cascade Creatives // Shutterstock

#81. Lake Forest Park, Washington

– Population: 13,455

On the banks of Lake Washington, not far from Seattle, is Lake Forest Park. The wealthy community is known for its low crime rate, low unemployment rate, and excellent school system.

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Aerial view of the downtown Aliso Viejo

Matt Gush // Shutterstock

#80. Aliso Viejo, California

– Population: 50,385

Aliso Viejo is a wealthy community with some of the highest real estate values in the nation. It also attracts young, single, and sociable residents, many of whom work in math and science or the arts.

Aerial view over San Rafael, California, near Ross.

Matt Gush // Shutterstock

#79. Ross, California

– Population: 2,453

Despite being just outside of San Francisco, Ross offers residents a fairly rural experience. Quiet, family-oriented, and surrounded on one end by a protected watershed, it’s hard to believe that it’s located in one of the densest counties in the country. A small downtown area, gorgeous homes, and the pristine Pheonix Lake are some of the area’s biggest assets.

Aerial view of Montecito

Darryl Brooks // Shutterstock

#78. Montecito, California

– Population: 8,210

Home to famous faces like Oprah, Ellen, Prince Harry, and Meghan Markle, Montecito is something of a celebrity enclave. Luxurious, quiet, and laid-back, the city has gorgeous views, as well as plenty of shopping, dining, and outdoor activities.

East bay hillside

Chris LaBasco // Shutterstock

#77. Alamo, California

– Population: 13,864

One of the most affluent suburbs of San Francisco, Alamo is chosen by many residents for its luxurious lifestyle and bucolic countryside feel. Good schools, dozens of well-designed parks, and a high safety rating are among the city’s best attributes.

Mission Santa Clara de Asis


#76. Santa Clara, California

– Population: 126,723

Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Santa Clara has it all: the headquarters of some of the country’s biggest tech firms, the oldest university in the state, an NFL stadium, and a 112-acre amusement park. The cost of living certainly isn’t cheap, but residents will never find themselves without something to do or somewhere to explore.

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Bridge on American River in Sacramento Area

Andrew Zarivny // Shutterstock

#75. Gold River, California

– Population: 7,930

Gold River holds the distinction of being the highest-income-per-household town in all of Sacramento Valley ($117,000). A fully planned community, Gold River is primarily residential, though there are a handful of retail and commercial areas.

South Bay lifeguard tower in Torrance Beach

KevinKim // Shutterstock

#74. Torrance, California

– Population: 144,430

With 1.5 miles of coastline and year-round moderate weather, Torrance is an outdoorsman’s dream. The city has more than 200 acres of natural space that include everything from beaches to hiking and biking trails. With a crime rate well below the national average (and among the lowest in Los Angeles county) and booming manufacturing and oil industries, this southern California town is also perfect for folks looking to lay down some roots.

Aerial view of Oak Park

Joe Mabel // Wikimedia Commons

#73. Oak Park, California

– Population: 13,987

Oak Park is a safe, quiet suburb of Los Angeles that has a family-friendly feel to it. With plenty of parks, hiking and biking trails, award-winning schools, and beautiful neighborhoods, it makes an excellent place to start a family.

Park in Beaverton, Oregon

Thye-Wee Gn // Shutterstock

#72. Oak Hills, Oregon

– Population: 11,682

Oak Hills is located in northwest Oregon along the Columbia River and the border with Washington state. It is known for its master-planned Oak Hills community, built in the 1960s. Key assets for residents include an elementary school, pool and tennis courts, green spaces, and plenty of walking paths.

Homes along the shores of Lake Oswego


#71. Lake Oswego, Oregon

– Population: 39,476

Just south of Portland, Lake Oswego is a historic community known for its beautiful homes and access to nearby nature, from the Columbia River Gorge to Mt. Hood and the 405-acre lake itself. Lake Oswego is also peppered with art galleries and performing arts centers, making it one of the more culture-rich places to live in the area.

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Aerial view of Cupertino

Uladzik Kryhin // Shutterstock

#70. Cupertino, California

– Population: 59,799

Cupertino is one of the top cities to live in, not only in California but in the nation. According to AreaVibes, it has a low crime rate and a school system that is well above the national average. An impressive 97% percent of the youth graduate high school, and test scores are 75% higher than the U.S. average.

Aerial view of Temple City Arcadia area at Los Angeles County

Kit Leong // Shutterstock

#69. Arcadia, California

– Population: 57,053

Located in Los Angeles County, Arcadia is one of the best places to live on the West Coast, thanks to its suburban living, restaurants, parks, and diversity. Niche reports that 60% of its residents are homeowners. 

Mount Hood from Rocky Butte

Nadia Yong // Shutterstock

#68. Cedar Hills, Oregon

– Population: 9,514

The affluent Cedar Hills is a safe, wealthy community with a low crime rate and excellent education, according to AreaVibes. Crime was 32% lower than the national average in 2020, according to FBI data. 

Bridge in West Linn


#67. West Linn, Oregon

– Population: 26,764

Poised between the Willamette and Tualatin rivers just outside of Portland, West Linn is one of the most historical places in the state. Residents love it for its outdoor activities like golfing, cycling, kayaking, and skiing, but it’s also a hot spot for fresh Oregon cuisine and wine. It is also steeped in Native American history.

Rossmoor viewed from trail above

Lucy Autrey Wilson // Shutterstock

#66. Rossmoor, California

– Population: 11,923

In 1951, an enterprising businessman bought the land Rossmoor now lays on with the sole intent of creating a planned community of about 3,500 houses. Though the town’s boundaries have shifted some since then, the core of it— a residential community with two commercial areas, a single park, and a well-funded school—remains the same.

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Hills North of Mt. Tamalpais

Lucy Autrey Wilson // Shutterstock

#65. Kentfield, California

– Population: 7,423

Outdoorsy, quiet, and packed with historic homes, Kentfield is a Marin county gem. Excellent schools, perfect weather, and tons of local activities make this suburb appealing to folks who are looking to commute to San Francisco for work but who aren’t looking to partake in the city’s hustle and bustle on the weekends.

Aerial view of downtown Cerritos, California

Matt Gush // Shutterstock

#64. Cerritos, California

– Population: 49,388

A so-called “gateway city,” Cerritos lies just outside Los Angeles, providing a suburban landing place for thousands of primary city workers. The town places a lot of emphasis on the arts (it has a notable art in public places program), takes pride in its many public parks, and focuses heavily on its educational opportunities (one high school has a 99% graduation rate and was ranked 14th in the nation by U.S. News in 2022).

Kirkland Homeport Marina

The Image Party // Shutterstock

#63. Kirkland, Washington

– Population: 91,146

Located on the eastern shore of Lake Washington, Kirkland is all about outdoor living, cuisine, and arts and culture. Parkland comprises about 25% of the city, while the downtown area is packed with restaurants showcasing the farm-to-table cuisine and wine of the region. In addition, the Kirkland Performance Center is a 400-seat theater that hosts a year-round calendar of music, theater, and dance performances.

Residential neighboorhoods in the Issaquah Highlands

Ryan C Slimak // Shutterstock

#62. Issaquah, Washington

– Population: 38,707

On the shores of Puget Sound and at the base of the Cascade Mountains just east of Seattle, Issaquah is heaven for outdoor enthusiasts. In addition to its outdoor activities, Issaquah has a charming downtown with shopping, museums, and restaurants—all within a short drive from the cosmopolitan cultural hub of Seattle.

Sunrise and sunset in the East Bay

Chris LaBasco // Shutterstock

#61. Lafayette, California

– Population: 25,949

Lafayette is steeped in history, packed with ways to enjoy the great outdoors, and home to a popular art and wine festival. With its own Bay Area Rapid Transit District station, the trip from the sleepy community to downtown San Francisco is easy, something that’s undoubtedly appealing to its large mass of commuters. Low crime rates and highly-rated public schools round out the area’s appeal.

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Los Altos hills homes

Sundry Photography // Shutterstock

#60. Loyola, California

– Population: 3,404

The home of Facebook’s first headquarters, Loyola is a woodsy area between Los Altos and Los Altos Hills. It provides residents a rural experience without being too far from major industry hubs. Ranked a great place for families and diversity, it is easy to see why it falls so high on this list.

Aerial view of coastal homes

GagliardiPhotography // Shutterstock

#59. Rancho Palos Verdes, California

– Population: 41,635

The coastal community of Rancho Palos Verdes is an affluent town with high-net-worth residents. The vast majority of residents work white-collar jobs, according to Neighborhood Scout. There is a high diversity of residents, with nearly a third born outside of the U.S.

Coastal homes and bay area

Charles Cathey // Shutterstock

#58. Larkspur, California

– Population: 12,363

Larkspur, California, is a short drive north of San Francisco, nestled among centuries-old redwood trees. With its turn-of-the-century feel and historic downtown, the city offers a unique old-world feel in a future-focused state.

View towards Stanford campus, Palo Alto and Menlo Park,

Sundry Photography // Shutterstock

#57. Atherton, California

– Population: 7,060

Atherton may be one of the best places to live on the West Coast, but as recently as 2019, it was also one of the most expensive. Located just 20 minutes from major companies like Facebook, Tesla, and Google headquarters, the suburban community is filled with mega mansions and little else (there are no restaurants or shopping centers within city limits). The average household income here is above $450,000, and the median home price is north of $6 million. All that money may not buy you a lot of adventure, but it will buy you safety and privacy if that’s what you’re after.

Mt. Tamalpais looking north.

Drew Shetter // Shutterstock

#56. Corte Madera, California

– Population: 9,793

Nestled at the base of beautiful Mount Tamalpais, Corte Madera is a small, charming coastal community at the convergence of San Francisco Bay and Corte Madera Creek. As such, it is packed with stunning scenery, but it also offers its affluent residents high-end shopping, restaurants, and Shorebird Marsh, a 31-acre wildlife habitat.

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San Elijo state beach in Encinitas

Marcel Fuentes // Shutterstock

#55. Encinitas, California

– Population: 62,967

Southern California is packed with beautiful beach towns, but Encinitas remains one of the best. A vibrant downtown is packed with coffeehouses and restaurants, while the coastline calls surfers and outdoor enthusiasts. Residents take pride in the outdoor offerings but are also among the highest net-worth individuals, as real estate is some of the highest in the country.

Homes in highlands of Newcastle

Ryan C Slimak // Shutterstock

#54. Newcastle, Washington

– Population: 12,078

Newcastle is a highly affluent community located at the edge of Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, southeast of Seattle. Residents have access to acres of outdoor activities within the park. AreaVibes notes that crime is lower than the U.S. average.

Valley homes in Belmont


#53. Belmont, California

– Population: 26,963

Belmont is a Bay Area community just outside of San Francisco. The community is known as being top-notch for families thanks to its public school system. Niche gave Belmont an A for ethnic and economic diversity in 2022.uuuu

Historic Saratoga Village sign

Sundry Photography // Shutterstock

#52. Saratoga, California

– Population: 31,084

Saratoga is a suburb outside San Jose, perched on the edge of wine country and Portola Redwoods State Park. Its residents are surrounded by nature, at the doorstep of many restaurants and outdoor activities, and within easy reach of the attractions, airport, and services of San Jose.

Aerial view of Ladera Ranch


#51. Ladera Ranch, California

– Population: 24,996

Ladera Ranch has some of the highest real estate in California and offers a quiet, family-friendly vibe. Residents work in white-collar jobs like management, sales, and finance, according to Neighborhood Scout.

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Vascona Park in Los Gatos

Mariusz S. Jurgielewicz // Shutterstock

#50. Monte Sereno, California

– Population: 3,511

Monte Sereno is one of the most expensive places to live in California. Residents are attracted to low crime rates, excellent public schools, and access to hundreds of acres of nature, from Castle Rock State Park to El Sereno Preserve, Mt. Bielawski, and Portola Redwoods State Park.

Aerial view of West Menlo Park

Sundry Photography // Shutterstock

#49. West Menlo Park, California

– Population: 3,720

West Menlo Park, located in the Bay Area, is one of the most affluent cities in the nation. In fact, according to AreaVibes, it’s more suitable for “executive lifestyles” than 99.6% of the neighborhoods in the U.S. About 54% of residents have earned a master’s degree or higher, and nearly 80% of the workforce comprises executives, managers, and professionals.

Murphy Historic Avenue in Sunnyvale

Sundry Photography // Shutterstock

#48. Sunnyvale, California

– Population: 152,569

Sunnyvale is a bustling city in the Bay Area. Niche rated it among the best in the U.S. for young professionals, thanks to its diversity, activity, public schools, and low crime rate. The mix of urban and suburban vibes gives residents plenty to do, from restaurants and bars to parks and recreation.

Entrance to the Old Town Center Shopping Center in Los Gatos

Sundry Photography // Shutterstock

#47. Los Gatos, California

– Population: 31,943

Los Gatos is a mid-sized city not far from the Bay Area. The downtown area offers a small-town vibe with pedestrian-friendly shopping and dining, as well as historic architecture. AreaVibes reports the crime rate islower than the U.S. average, and students test significantly higher than the rest of the country.

Life Guard Tower at El Segundo Beach

Paul W Thompson // Shutterstock

#46. El Segundo, California

– Population: 16,575

El Segundo may cover just 5.5 square miles, but it’s an economic powerhouse. The aerospace capital of the world, at least seven aerospace companies, including Boeing, have offices in the town, as do several other Fortune 500 companies like Mattel and Direct TV. Economic opportunity, therefore, is a driving factor in folks’ decision to settle down here, but beautiful neighborhoods, good schools, and a thriving nightlife scene don’t hurt either.

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Beach and homes at Carmel by the Sea

David A Litman // Shutterstock

#45. Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

– Population: 3,789

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a poetically beautiful community along California’s central coast. Its beaches,  90 acres of parks, performing arts events, galleries, and restaurants attract residents.

San Anselmo Ridge Trail

Will Alpert // Shutterstock

#44. San Anselmo, California

– Population: 12,623

Marin County’s San Anselmo is a historic small town that is big on community vibes. It is also nestled between San Francisco and Napa, offering its residents the benefits of culture and cosmopolitan living. It’s near Mount Tamalpais State Park and the Robson-Harrington Gardens, giving outdoor enthusiasts access to miles of hiking and biking trails.

San Francisco skyline

Pete Niesen // Shutterstock

#43. San Francisco, California

– Population: 874,784

San Francisco is one of the world’s most famous cities, but it comes in a pint-sized package. The city measures 46.87 square miles but is filled with expensive homes, museums, restaurants, and culture. It is also at the doorstep to some of the most exciting outdoor adventures in Northern California.

Downtown Pleasanton sign

Michael C. Berch // Wikimedia Commons

#42. Pleasanton, California

– Population: 79,975

Forty-five miles east of San Francisco is the city of Pleasanton. Home to the Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park, a 9,090-acre preserved natural area, it’s a prime spot for outdoor lovers. Pleasanton is also close enough to the culture and employment opportunities of San Francisco, giving residents a well-rounded living experience.

Tree lined suburban street


#41. Cedar Mill, Oregon

– Population: 18,661

Cedar Mill is an affluent suburb of Portland. Neighborhood Scout reports it is more expensive than nearly 84% of the neighborhoods in the U.S. Residents get a lot for what they pay for, however, from access to nature with Forest Park, Cooper Mountain Nature Park, and the Willamette River to the culture and diversity of nearby Portland.

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Hillside housing development in Los Altos


#40. Los Altos, California

– Population: 30,878

Los Altos sits in northern Silicon Valley, near San Francisco. It is an affluent and well-educated community and offers its residents much to do, from hundreds of acres of nearby preserved forest to art and museums. Niche reports that the area also has an excellent public school system.

Aerial view of Mercer Island

Russ Heinl // Shutterstock

#39. Mercer Island, Washington

– Population: 25,820

Located in Lake Washington between Seattle and Bellevue, Mercer Island is rated the sixth-best suburb to live in Washington, according to Niche. Peppered with public green spaces like Luther Burbank Park, Mercerdale Park, Pioneer Park, and Groveland Beach Park, there is ample opportunity for outdoor recreation.

Coronado Island Beach


#38. Coronado, California

– Population: 24,526

Just across the bay from San Diego, Coronado has a private-community vibe that makes it one of the most exclusive places to live in the state. The beaches are stunning, and locals love the restaurant scene, bike paths, shopping, and views of downtown San Diego.

Hillside view of San Ramon at dusk

Zhuo Wen Chen // Shutterstock

#37. San Ramon, California

– Population: 81,344

The City of San Ramon is one of the newer cities in California, having been incorporated in 1983. It is 35 miles east of San Francisco, and residents are attracted to its natural beauty, school systems, and job opportunities. San Ramon has 58 parks, as well.

Historic mansion in Hillsborough

Gary gary gary // Wikimedia Commons

#36. Hillsborough, California

– Population: 11,608

The small town of Hillsborough is located in San Mateo County in the Bay Area. It is a white-collar community. The majority work in management, sales, and health care. It’s a great community for families, as well, due to its excellent public schools and educated adults.

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Bicycles inside Facebook's main campus in Menlo Park

Sundry Photography // Shutterstock

#35. Menlo Park, California

– Population: 35,211

The San Jose suburb of Menlo Park is an affluent community that is significantly more expensive than the U.S. average, according to AreaVibes. Its public school system is highly rated, with a 92% high school graduation rate, and students test 9% higher than the U.S. average.

Elevated view of Seattle Space Needle and downtown

kan_khampanya // Shutterstock

#34. Seattle

– Population: 741,251

Seattle’s quality of living is one of the best in the United States. The cosmopolitan city is perched at the doorstep of expansive natural beauty, from Puget Sound and the surrounding lakes to the Cascade Mountains and forests. The city is packed with restaurants, bars, art galleries, and performance spaces. Thanks to its public schools, diversity, and educated residents, it’s a great place for young professionals.

Marina in Newport Beach

Marie Appert // Shutterstock

#33. Newport Beach, California

– Population: 86,694

Newport Beach is one of the jewels of Southern California. Residents love it for its 10 miles of coastline offering ample opportunity for surfing, swimming, and fishing. Local life centers on the bustling harbor, as well as its dining, shopping, and restaurants.

Coastal view of Seal Beach

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#32. Seal Beach, California

– Population: 24,268

Seal Beach is a laid-back coastal community that serves as the start of the 42 miles of Orange County coastline. Great for surfing and other waterfront activities and within close distance to the airports of Orange County and Los Angeles, Seal Beach offers that small beach town vibe with all the fast-paced perks of the big cities nearby.

Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills

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#31. Beverly Hills, California

– Population: 33,709

One of the most iconic zip codes in the country, Beverly Hills has a reputation for a reason. The highly affluent suburb of Los Angeles is well regarded for its low crime, excellent public schools, sprawling mega-mansions, and educated residents.

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Japanese Garden

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#30. San Marino, California

– Population: 13,020

Located in Los Angeles County, San Marino is one of the most affluent areas of California and the United States. According to AreaVibes, it is significantly more expensive than the national average and features low crime rates and highly rated public schools.

Train depot in Davis California at dawn.

jared ropelato // Shutterstock

#29. Davis, California

– Population: 68,640

Just outside of Sacramento, Davis is a university town with a highly educated population. Thanks to the university culture, Davis has a high population of scientists, mathematicians, and creatives.

Residential neighborhood near Pulgas Ridge, San Carlos

Sundry Photography // Shutterstock

#28. San Carlos, California

– Population: 29,647

San Carlos is a coastal city and wealthy suburb of San Francisco, putting it within a short distance of all the culture and city life of the Bay Area, as well as the technology and job opportunities of Silicon Valley. As such, it has a high percentage of the population working in computers and mathematics. Residents are highly educated.

Homes in the hills east of San Francisco

Sharon Hahn Darlin // Wikimedia Commons

#27. Moraga, California

– Population: 16,896

East of Oakland, Moraga is a medium-sized city with a high cost of living and equally high quality of life. Neighborhood Scout says the workforce is primarily employed in white-collar jobs like management, business, finance, and sales. It has low crime, an educated community, and great public schools.

Lighthouse on Palos Verdes Peninsula

MILA Zed // Shutterstock

#26. Rolling Hills, California

– Population: 1,439

Rolling Hills is home to much of Los Angeles County’s elite: think gated entrances and A-list views. The planned community sits on 2,000 acres and was designed with the white-glove dude ranch in mind. Today it has 30 miles of riding trails and housing lots that start at 1 acre. It also has stellar views, no public infrastructure, and a libertarian way of living.

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Pine Lake Neighborhood Sammamish Washington

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#25. Sammamish, Washington

– Population: 65,265

Sammamish is one of the wealthiest cities in the country and attracts a large percentage of high-earning residents. According to the Seattle Times, many people who live in Sammamish work in industries such as tech, management, sales, and finance.

Coastal area near Bellevue


#24. Yarrow Point, Washington

– Population: 1,353

A suburb of Seattle, Yarrow Point is a community that thrives on the water, as it is bordered on three sides by Lake Washington and sits on a 231-acre peninsula. The affluent, exclusive community has an exceedingly low crime rate, making it attractive for families. According to Niche, it has a highly rated public school system, as well.

Aerial view of Foster City, California


#23. Foster City, California

– Population: 33,056

Foster City is a Bay Area community with a wealthy population. According to Neighborhood Scout, most of the population works in white-collar careers like management, computer science, and finance. It has more than 160 acres of park and green space, from bike paths and a softball field to picnic areas and a wildlife refuge.

Culver City sign


#22. Culver City, California

– Population: 38,913

Steeped in Hollywood history, Culver City is considered one of the best communities in Los Angeles County. It was put on the map in the early 20th century with historic film studios like Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Today, according to the New York Times, Amazon, Apple, and HBO have helped give the city a makeover, bringing new jobs in addition to high rents and home prices.

Little Corona Del Mar Beach

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#21. Del Mar, California

– Population: 4,331

Del Mar sits just north of San Diego, bordering the Pacific Ocean and Torrey Pines State Reserve. The community has so much to offer its residents, from its many beaches and parks to the Del Mar Racetrack, fine dining, shopping, golf, and wellness offerings.

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Main Street in Burlingame


#20. Burlingame, California

– Population: 30,071

Located in San Mateo County, Burlingame is perched on the edge of San Francisco Bay. It has a fantastic public school system, a key reason many families elect to live there, but it also has restaurants, coffee shops, and parks.

Hanging flower baskets in Beaverton City Park

Serenethos // Shutterstock

#19. Bethany, Oregon

– Population: 28,047

A suburb of Portland, Bethany is a haven for outdoor adventurers at the edge of Forest Park and Willamette River. Residents appreciate its low crime rate and excellent school system.

Aerial view of Palos Verdes Estates

GagliardiPhotography // Shutterstock

#18. Palos Verdes Estates, California

– Population: 13,359

Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Palos Verdes Estates is one of the four cities that makes up the Palos Verdes Peninsula. It’s considered to have one of the best views in Los Angeles County and is the front door to all the outdoor activities of the surrounding mountains and beaches. Residents can enjoy cycling, surfing, hiking, and dining.

House in a residential neighborhood in Oakland

Sundry Photography // Shutterstock

#17. Piedmont, California

– Population: 11,454

East of Oakland, the small city of Piedmont is a historic Northern California city. The area is well known for its historic architecture and educated, high-earning residents.

Homes in the Los Altos hills


#16. Los Altos Hills, California

– Population: 8,496

A residential community within Silicon Valley, Los Altos Hills is one of the best suburbs of San Francisco. It has a rural vibe but is close enough to the city’s cosmopolitan culture. It borders the Rancho San Antonio Preserve, and Niche notes it has a low crime rate.

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Coastal view of Solana Beach

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#15. Solana Beach, California

– Population: 13,301

Solana Beach, located in Southern California, is about 30 minutes from downtown San Diego. Residents can enjoy its 1.7 miles of coastline, which draws swimmers and surfers, and the delightful year-round weather, shopping, dining, nightlife, and golf.

Pasadena street view


#14. La Cañada Flintridge, California

– Population: 20,078

Located in the Crescenta Valley of Los Angeles County, La Cañada Flintridge is one of the country’s most expensive and desirable places to live. Residents have access to the outdoor opportunities of the Angeles National Forest and the San Gabriel Mountains, and it’s also home to the Descanso Gardens and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Street view in Palo Alto

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#13. Palo Alto, California

– Population: 67,973

Palo Alto is a gem of Silicon Valley, home to Stanford University and tech giants Google and Facebook. It is a highly educated, affluent, and cultural community, with University Avenue as its main artery. It is lined with restaurants, shops, markets, and more.

Aerial view of Redondo Beach


#12. Redondo Beach, California

– Population: 66,663

Redondo Beach is one of the top places to live along the California coast. It has world-class beaches and an iconic pier. Residents and visitors love the restaurants and cafes, year-round attractions, shopping, and, of course, life on the water.

Rooftops in Clyde Hill


#11. Clyde Hill, Washington

– Population: 3,360

Clyde Hill is surrounded by nature, from Lake Washington to Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountains. This suburb of Seattle is also known for its lush, evergreen forests. According to Neighborhood Scout, the residents are largely white-collar and mainly work in management, health care, and sales.

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Waterfront homes and boats in Bellevue


#10. Bellevue, Washington

– Population: 146,145

Across the water from Seattle, Bellevue is a world-class city known for its attractions, culture, business, shopping, and entertainment. AreaVibes reports that it has a low crime rate, and the majority of students graduate high school.

Aerial view of Irvine, California


#9. Irvine, California

– Population: 272,694

Irvine was developed as a master-planned community and has grown to be one of the most exclusive towns in Southern California. The developed community is multicultural, with more than 70 spoken languages. There are more than 16,500 acres of parks and open space and miles of hiking and biking trails. Its beachfront location makes it a prime destination for restaurants, shopping, and tourism.

Fair Oaks Pharmacy and Soda Fountain in South Pasadena

Philip Pilosian // Shutterstock

#8. South Pasadena, California

– Population: 25,478

The mid-size city of South Pasadena is only 6 miles from downtown Los Angeles. It’s called the City of Trees, thanks to the 21,000 that line its streets and the fact that it is in the San Gabriel Mountains’ foothills. There are more than 100 acres of parks and playgrounds to be enjoyed.

Campus view in Berkeley

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#7. Berkeley, California

– Population: 123,065

Berkeley is one of the most enviable communities in the Bay Area. Perhaps it’s because it is a sophisticated university city, home to the University of California, Berkeley. As such, the community has grown into a thriving hub of restaurants, arts, shopping, and culture.

Aerial view of Manhattan Beach Pier

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#6. Manhattan Beach, California

– Population: 35,064

Along the south coast of Los Angeles Bay is Manhattan Beach, a ritzy yet laid-back Southern California beach paradise. Known for its iconic pier, surf culture, healthy living, and high-end shopping, Manhattan Beach is beloved by its residents. The Los Angeles Times called it “the quintessential oceanside living experience, for those who can afford it.”

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Mountain View City Hall and Center for the Performing Arts

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#5. Mountain View, California

– Population: 80,104

Mountain View enjoys prime real estate between the San Francisco Bay and the Santa Cruz Mountains. That puts it at the doorstep of some spectacular outdoor activities, but also in the heart of Silicon Valley and 35 miles from San Francisco. Hence, culture, job opportunities, and educational centers surround residents.

Lake Sammamish from above

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#4. Redmond, Washington

– Population: 67,959

Redmond is a Pacific Northwest city that truly seems to have it all. Not only is it surrounded by natural beauty, from Lake Sammamish to the Cascade and Olympic Mountains, but it also has restaurants, parks, and a full calendar of events. Job opportunities abound for techies, as well, as it is home to both Microsoft and Nintendo of America.

Bay trail along Richmond Inner Harbor

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#3. Albany, California

– Population: 20,145

Tucked to the northwest of Berkeley, Albany is a smaller city on San Francisco Bay. Its proximity to Oakland and San Francisco gives residents ample opportunity for culture, education, and job growth. The city has a great school system, a waterfront, and several parks.

Bike bath on the strand from Hermosa Beach to Manhattan Beach

emmavgerard // Shutterstock

#2. Hermosa Beach, California

– Population: 19,147

Southern California’s Hermosa Beach is where fitness-minded sun-worshippers come to roost. The beautiful beaches embrace outdoor activities like volleyball, surfing, and skateboarding, as well as cycling up and down Santa Monica Bay. Dining, shopping, hotels, and entertainment help to make this one of the best beach communities on the West Coast.

Aerial view of the Santa Monica Pier

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#1. Santa Monica, California

– Population: 91,600

The #1 place to live on the West Coast won’t come as a surprise. On the north coast of Los Angeles Bay, Santa Monica draws residents to beautiful beaches, a world-famous pier, and thriving restaurants and bars. According to the Los Angeles Times, its residents are focused on progress yet are still thinking about the city’s history, opting for healthy tech ecosystems and housing and hotels that don’t destroy its character.

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