Best counties to live in California

Written by:
June 17, 2021
Jennifer Williams // Wikimedia Commons

Best counties to live in California

What makes a particular county the best? Oftentimes, it's a good mix of opportunities for fun outdoor activities and cultural attractions. Throw in some historical sites, good schools, job opportunities, and affordable housing, and the county will most likely have happy residents.

Stacker compiled a list of the best counties to live in California using rankings from Niche. Niche ranks counties by a variety of factors including: public schools, educational attainment, cost of living, and housing.

Many counties on the list are experiencing growth due to their job opportunities, education, or home values. Others are adored for their historic or well-designed value, or devotion to cultural opportunities. Keep reading to see if your county made the list.

1 / 18
DimiTalen // Wikimedia Commons

#18. El Dorado County

- Population: 188,563
- Median home value: $460,900 (76% own)
- Median rent: $1,260 (24% rent)
- Median household income: $83,377
- Top public schools: Oak Ridge High School (A), Miller's Hill (A), Oak Meadow Elementary School (A)
- Top private schools: El Dorado Adventist School (B+), Holy Trinity School (unavailable), Providence Christian School (unavailable)
- Top places to live: El Dorado Hills (A), Camino (B), South Lake Tahoe (B)
2 / 18
Canva

#17. Ventura County

- Population: 847,263
- Median home value: $588,400 (63% own)
- Median rent: $1,776 (37% rent)
- Median household income: $88,131
- Top public schools: Westlake High School (A+), Oak Park High School (A+), Santa Susana High School (A+)
- Top private schools: The Thacher School (A+), Villanova Preparatory School (A+), Besant Hill School of Happy Valley (A+)
- Top places to live: Oak Park (A), Thousand Oaks (A), Moorpark (A)
3 / 18
BDS2006 // Wikimedia

#16. Los Angeles County

- Population: 10,081,570
- Median home value: $583,200 (46% own)
- Median rent: $1,460 (54% rent)
- Median household income: $68,044
- Top public schools: California Academy of Mathematics & Science (A+), Palos Verdes Peninsula High School (A+), Whitney High School (A+)
- Top private schools: Harvard-Westlake School (A+), Flintridge Preparatory School (A+), Polytechnic School (A+)
- Top places to live: City Center (A+), Ocean Park (A+), Mid-City (A+)
4 / 18
Fred Hsu // Wikicommons

#15. Sonoma County

- Population: 499,772
- Median home value: $609,600 (61% own)
- Median rent: $1,621 (39% rent)
- Median household income: $81,018
- Top public schools: Maria Carrillo High School (A), Technology High School (A), Petaluma Accelerated Charter School (A)
- Top private schools: Sonoma Academy (A+), Cardinal Newman High School (A), Rio Lindo Adventist Academy (A)
- Top places to live: Petaluma (B+), Sebastopol (B+), Healdsburg (B+)
5 / 18
Stan Shebs // Wikicommons

#14. Napa County

- Population: 139,623
- Median home value: $635,900 (64% own)
- Median rent: $1,700 (36% rent)
- Median household income: $88,596
- Top public schools: Saint Helena High School (A), Robert Louis Stevenson Intermediate School (A), Howell Mountain Elementary School (A)
- Top private schools: Justin-Siena High School (A+), Pacific Union College Preparatory School (A), Kolbe Academy & Trinity Prep (A)
- Top places to live: St. Helena (A), American Canyon (B), Napa (B)
6 / 18
Basar // Wikicommons

#13. San Luis Obispo County

- Population: 282,165
- Median home value: $574,000 (62% own)
- Median rent: $1,476 (38% rent)
- Median household income: $73,518
- Top public schools: San Luis Obispo High School (A+), Bellevue-Santa Fe Charter School (A), Templeton High School (A)
- Top private schools: Mission College Preparatory Catholic High School (A), Coastal Christian School (B+), San Luis Obispo Classical Academy (B)
- Top places to live: San Luis Obispo (A), Pismo Beach (A), Los Osos (B+)
7 / 18
Pixabay

#12. Santa Barbara County

- Population: 444,829
- Median home value: $577,400 (52% own)
- Median rent: $1,643 (48% rent)
- Median household income: $74,624
- Top public schools: Cold Spring Elementary School (A+), Dos Pueblos Senior High School (A+), Ballard Elementary School (A+)
- Top private schools: Cate School (A+), Midland School (A+), Laguna Blanca School (A+)
- Top places to live: Montecito (A), Mission Canyon (A), Santa Barbara (A)
8 / 18
Epolk // Wikimedia Commons

#11. Yolo County

- Population: 217,352
- Median home value: $424,900 (52% own)
- Median rent: $1,324 (48% rent)
- Median household income: $70,228
- Top public schools: Davis Senior High School (A+), Da Vinci Charter Academy (A+), Robert E. Willett Elementary School (A)
- Top private schools: Woodland Christian School (A), St. James School (unavailable), Our Lady of Grace School (unavailable)
- Top places to live: Davis (A+), West Sacramento (B+), Woodland (B)
9 / 18
Doug Olson // Wikimedia Commons

#10. Placer County

- Population: 385,512
- Median home value: $471,500 (72% own)
- Median rent: $1,542 (28% rent)
- Median household income: $89,691
- Top public schools: Granite Bay High School (A+), Rocklin High School (A), Rocklin Academy Turnstone (A)
- Top private schools: Lake Tahoe Preparatory School (A), Weimar Academy (B+), Tahoe Expedition Academy (B+)
- Top places to live: Olympus Pointe (A), Johnson Ranch (A), Granite Bay (A)
10 / 18
SD Dirk // Flickr

#9. San Diego County

- Population: 3,316,073
- Median home value: $563,700 (53% own)
- Median rent: $1,658 (47% rent)
- Median household income: $78,980
- Top public schools: Canyon Crest Academy (A+), Torrey Pines High School (A+), Westview High School (A+)
- Top private schools: The Bishop's School (A+), Francis Parker School (A+), Pacific Ridge School (A+)
- Top places to live: Torrey Pines (A+), Torrey Hills (A+), Solana Beach (A+)
11 / 18
Canva

#8. Sacramento County

- Population: 1,524,553
- Median home value: $351,900 (56% own)
- Median rent: $1,252 (44% rent)
- Median household income: $67,151
- Top public schools: Folsom High School (A+), West Campus (A+), Mira Loma High School (A+)
- Top private schools: Sacramento Country Day School (A+), Jesuit High School (A+), St. Francis High School (A+)
- Top places to live: Broadstone (A+), Lexington Hills/The Parkway (A+), Boulevard Park (A+)
12 / 18
Aaronbrick // Wikicommons

#7. Santa Cruz County

- Population: 273,962
- Median home value: $756,600 (60% own)
- Median rent: $1,717 (40% rent)
- Median household income: $82,234
- Top public schools: Pacific Collegiate Charter School (A+), Happy Valley Elementary School (A), Santa Cruz High School (A)
- Top private schools: Kirby School (A+), Mount Madonna School (A), St. Francis High School - Salesian College Preparatory (A)
- Top places to live: Mount Hermon (A), Aptos (A), Santa Cruz (A)
13 / 18
MARELBU // Wikimedia Commons

#6. Contra Costa County

- Population: 1,142,251
- Median home value: $625,800 (66% own)
- Median rent: $1,819 (34% rent)
- Median household income: $99,716
- Top public schools: Campolindo High School (A+), Dougherty Valley High School (A+), Miramonte High School (A+)
- Top private schools: The Athenian School (A+), Bentley School (A+), Carondelet High School (A+)
- Top places to live: Moraga (A+), San Ramon (A+), Twin Creeks (A+)
14 / 18
Hollywood // Wikimedia Commons

#5. Orange County

- Population: 3,168,044
- Median home value: $679,300 (57% own)
- Median rent: $1,854 (43% rent)
- Median household income: $90,234
- Top public schools: Troy High School (A+), Orange County School of the Arts (A+), University High School (A+)
- Top private schools: Sage Hill School (A+), TVT Community Day School (A+), St. Margaret's Episcopal School (A+)
- Top places to live: Turtle Rock (A+), Westpark II (A+), South Irvine (A+)
15 / 18
Kglavin // Wikimedia Commons

#4. Marin County

- Population: 259,943
- Median home value: $995,800 (64% own)
- Median rent: $2,069 (36% rent)
- Median household income: $115,246
- Top public schools: Redwood High School (A+), Tamalpais High School (A+), Sir Francis Drake High School (A+)
- Top private schools: The Branson School (A+), Marin Academy (A+), San Domenico School (A+)
- Top places to live: San Anselmo (A+), Corte Madera (A+), Larkspur (A+)
16 / 18
Craig Howell // Wikimedia Commons

#3. San Mateo County

- Population: 767,423
- Median home value: $1,089,400 (60% own)
- Median rent: $2,316 (40% rent)
- Median household income: $122,641
- Top public schools: Aragon High School (A+), Mills High School (A+), Burlingame High School (A+)
- Top private schools: Crystal Springs Uplands School (A+), The Nueva School (A+), Menlo School (A+)
- Top places to live: Burlingame (A+), Foster City (A+), San Carlos (A+)
17 / 18
Jennifer Williams // Wikimedia Commons

#2. Alameda County

- Population: 1,656,754
- Median home value: $769,300 (54% own)
- Median rent: $1,797 (46% rent)
- Median household income: $99,406
- Top public schools: Amador Valley High School (A+), Foothill High School (A+), Piedmont High School (A+)
- Top private schools: The College Preparatory School (A+), Head-Royce School (A+), The Quarry Lane School (A+)
- Top places to live: North Berkeley (A+), Las Positas Gardens (A+), Central Berkeley (A+)
18 / 18
Uladzik Kryhin // Shutterstock

#1. Santa Clara County

- Population: 1,927,470
- Median home value: $984,000 (56% own)
- Median rent: $2,268 (44% rent)
- Median household income: $124,055
- Top public schools: Henry M. Gunn High School (A+), Saratoga High School (A+), Palo Alto High School (A+)
- Top private schools: Castilleja School (A+), The Harker School (A+), BASIS Independent Silicon Valley (A+)
- Top places to live: Ventura (A+), University South (A+), Old Palo Alto (A+)

Trending Now