Palm trees, a golf course and mountains in the background.

Best places to retire on the West Coast

January 18, 2023
Felipe Sanchez // Shutterstock

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.

Palm trees in a desert landscape with a city and mountains in the background.
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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.

Fog on the beach and land rising out of the sea in the distance.
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#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.

Lillypads on a pond and Asian inspired buildings by the water.
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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.

Tree-covered rolling hills by water.
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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.

A sunset over the mountains.
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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.

Homes and large rocks lining the coast.
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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.

A city on the water with a marina and boats.
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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.

Crowds of people on a dock with carnival rides by the water.
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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.

A beach with homes on the cliffs above.
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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.

Homes lining the hillsides.
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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.

A boardwalk going along the water and homes going up the mountain.
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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.

A view from above of a large bridge going over a waterway.
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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.

A lighthouse and palm trees on a rocky cliff over the water.
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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.

A historic home with columns surrounded by lush landscaping.
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Sanfranman59 // Wikimedia Commons

#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.

Historic homes and brick buildings with porches on the water.
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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.

A rolling green lawn on the water in front of a large home with palm trees and mountains in the background.
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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.

A white mission style building with a clocktower on top.
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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.

Historic buildings and a bell tower on a small street in town.
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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.

People on the beach with condos and homes going up the mountain in the background.
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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.

People strolling on a long white beach backed by greenery.
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#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.

Large homes on a steep terrace up the green mountain.
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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.

People fishing on a long pier at sunset.
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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.

A grassy slope down to homes in the trees.
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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.

Large homes on the water on low mountain hills.
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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.

People on small sailboats on the water in the hills.
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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.

An endless view of large homes at the foothills of the mountains.
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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.

Large hanging plants blooming in a park.
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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.

Sailboats and large homes along the turquoise water.
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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.

A view from the water of a long pier to the beach and homes.
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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.

A historic terra cotta colored building with a clock on top.
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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.

People flying colorful kytes on the beach.
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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.

Buildings with homes in the distance.
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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.

Palm trees on a golf course with a small pond, homes and mountains in the background.
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Isogood_patrick // Shutterstock

#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.

A winding road leading up to sprawling homes in the hills.
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Chris LaBasco // Shutterstock

#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.

Large homes and resorts along cliffs on the blue water.
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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.

Hills filled with large homes.
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Darryl Brooks // Shutterstock

#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.

Boats and homes on the water.
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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.

A large home with solar panels at the entrance to a neighborhood.
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BondRocketImages // Shutterstock

#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.

Boats in a marina and homes along the water.
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FourthNovemberStudio // Shutterstock

#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.

Rows of homes with solar panels and pools at the foothills of a mountain.
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Matt Gush // Shutterstock

#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.

A home on a rocky coast with turquoise water.
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Alexander Demyanenko // Shutterstock

#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.

Upscale shopping in the hills.
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Michael Urmann // Shutterstock

#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.

Giant boulders rising up out of the water.
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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.

Two people sitting on a steep green hill lined with trees and blue mountains in the background.
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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.

Homes along the beach with blue water.
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Jon Bilous // Shutterstock

#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.

An aerial view of foothills covered in homes on the water.
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trekandshoot // Shutterstock

#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.

Palm trees, a golf course and mountains in the background.
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Felipe Sanchez // Shutterstock

#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.

People with colorful umbrellas on a rocky beach and a home on a cliffside above.
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LuvAlisa // Shutterstock

#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.

Homes and boats on the water.
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Stas Volik // Shutterstock

#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.

A walking path along a rocky shore lined with trees and flowers.
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Dameon Hudson // Wikimedia Commons

#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.

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