Best places to retire on the West Coast

March 23, 2021
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Best places to retire on the West Coast

Retirement is known as one’s “golden years” for a reason. If planned well, retirement can be fun, social, and relaxing. However, much of retirement’s enjoyment depends on where one ends up living. And, for many, the West Coast is the ideal. There, you can find natural beauty, bustling cities, good hospitals, comfortable weather, and much more. But what areas of California, Washington, and Oregon are best for retirees? Wonder no more: Stacker has compiled a list of the 50 best places to retire on the West Coast.

Though the majority of these locations are in California, it’s worth noting that the California Dream can be complicated for retirees. It’s a notoriously expensive state. The U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey showed a 2020 poverty rate among California seniors of 10.5%. To combat the issue, the state government in 2019 launched CalSavers, a retirement savings program for those who aren’t offered such accounts by employers. State officials have also discussed increasing access to food stamps for seniors and making it easier to qualify for Medi-Cal. Given all this, it’s clear that, depending on where you live, 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 incomes or low incomes is that Oregon and Washington have plenty of attractive, typically more affordable options, too.

For this list, only towns, cities, and suburbs in California, Oregon, and Washington were considered. The data was gathered from Niche 2020 rankings, which 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.

What makes each of these cities fantastic for retirees? Read on to find out.

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#50. Woodway, Washington

- Population: 1,105 (13% age 55-64 and 23% age 65+)
- Median household income: $194,904
- Median home value: $1,212,000 (97% own)
- Median rent: $1,625 (3% rent)

Known as “The Quiet Place,” Woodway is a small community north of King/Snohomish County. Residents enjoy mature evergreens, safe biking and walking trails, and strict laws against speeding.

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#49. Orinda, California

- Population: 19,646 (16% age 55-64 and 23% age 65+)
- Median household income: $223,217
- Median home value: $1,464,400 (90% own)
- Median rent: $2,813 (10% rent)

Orinda offers a pastoral setting with a nifty downtown area, but is close to everywhere else in the San Francisco Bay Area, too. In Orinda, there’s a movie theater, a famed outdoor theater program called Cal Shakes, and much more. The town is so quiet and orderly, locals famously once organized a movement against noisy leaf blowers.

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#48. Cedar Ridge, California

- Population: 1,015 (23% age 55-64 and 29% age 65+)
- Median household income: $63,529
- Median home value: $279,200 (79% own)
- Median rent: $1,130 (21% rent)

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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#47. Laguna Beach, California

- Population: 23,036 (20% age 55-64 and 24% age 65+)
- Median household income: $129,983
- Median home value: $1,771,600 (64% own)
- Median rent: $2,299 (36% rent)

Laguna Beach is more than the home of the famed MTV reality show of the same name. With its famous surfing and beach volleyball culture, it’s no surprise that many Laguna Beach residents make use of its beaches. However, there’s also a rich arts culture there with the Laguna Art Museum as well as the annual Pageant of the Masters, for which actors recreate famous artworks.

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#46. Desert Edge, California

- Population: 3,319 (13% age 55-64 and 57% age 65+)
- Median household income: $31,604
- Median home value: $41,100 (81% own)
- Median rent: $700 (19% rent)

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 in driving distance of Desert Springs’ amenities.

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#45. Mill Valley, California

- Population: 14,330 (14% age 55-64 and 24% age 65+)
- Median household income: $163,614
- Median home value: $1,598,700 (70% own)
- Median rent: $2,270 (30% rent)

Mill Valley is where you can find Muir Woods National Monument, giant redwood trees, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and the famed 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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#44. Ocean Shores, Washington

- Population: 5,975 (23% age 55-64 and 41% age 65+)
- Median household income: $46,144
- Median home value: $233,300 (73% own)
- Median rent: $987 (27% rent)

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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#43. Solana Beach, California

- Population: 13,356 (13% age 55-64 and 23% age 65+)
- Median household income: $108,118
- Median home value: $1,192,600 (61% own)
- Median rent: $2,232 (39% rent)

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 Coaster commuter train station.

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#42. Port Townsend, Washington

- Population: 9,551 (18% age 55-64 and 31% age 65+)
- Median household income: $51,389
- Median home value: $338,000 (58% own)
- Median rent: $957 (42% rent)

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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#41. Mission Canyon, California

- Population: 2,508 (18% age 55-64 and 29% age 65+)
- Median household income: $135,972
- Median home value: $1,165,900 (87% own)
- Median rent: $2,181 (13% rent)

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 10-15 minute drive away.

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#40. Clyde Hill, Washington

- Population: 3,329 (14% age 55-64 and 18% age 65+)
- Median household income: $238,958
- Median home value: $2,000,001 (89% own)
- Median rent: $2,714 (11% rent)

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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#39. San Marino, California

- Population: 13,194 (17% age 55-64 and 21% age 65+)
- Median household income: $166,607
- Median home value: $2,000,001 (86% own)
- Median rent: $3,293 (14% rent)

San Marino is home to TheHuntington, 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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#38. Kensington, California

- Population: 5,329 (16% age 55-64 and 27% age 65+)
- Median household income: $146,563
- Median home value: $944,000 (84% own)
- Median rent: $2,763 (16% rent)

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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#37. Ross, California

- Population: 2,290 (10% age 55-64 and 27% age 65+)
- Median household income: $224,500
- Median home value: $2,000,001 (83% own)
- Median rent: $2,672 (17% rent)

In Marin County, the small town of Ross is an affluent neighborhood north of San Francisco. The amenities may be few, but the charm and beauty of the area is many. Explore Ross if you’re looking to escape the hectic activity of the big city.

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#36. Santa Monica, California

- Population: 91,577 (12% age 55-64 and 18% age 65+)
- Median household income: $96,570
- Median home value: $1,382,700 (29% own)
- Median rent: $1,802 (71% rent)

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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#35. Sausalito, California

- Population: 7,116 (20% age 55-64 and 30% age 65+)
- Median household income: $111,906
- Median home value: $1,346,000 (55% own)
- Median rent: $2,583 (45% rent)

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 Marin County bayside community is close to both San Francisco (you can take the ferry) and other major cities in Marin.

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#34. Alamo, California

- Population: 14,905 (20% age 55-64 and 24% age 65+)
- Median household income: $239,545
- Median home value: $1,670,500 (93% own)
- Median rent: $2,796 (7% rent)

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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#33. Rolling Hills, California

- Population: 1,513 (18% age 55-64 and 33% age 65+)
- Median household income: $250,001
- Median home value: $2,000,001 (95% own)
- Median rent: $3,501 (5% rent)

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 one 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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#32. Walnut Creek, California

- Population: 69,567 (12% age 55-64 and 30% age 65+)
- Median household income: $105,948
- Median home value: $793,100 (65% own)
- Median rent: $2,095 (35% rent)

Walnut Creek boasts popular amenities including shopping, dining, quiet residential neighborhoods, 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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#31. Palm Desert, California

- Population: 52,575 (14% age 55-64 and 36% age 65+)
- Median household income: $59,977
- Median home value: $350,400 (63% own)
- Median rent: $1,319 (37% rent)

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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#30. Hillsborough, California

- Population: 11,447 (17% age 55-64 and 22% age 65+)
- Median household income: $250,001
- Median home value: $2,000,001 (93% own)
- Median rent: $3,490 (7% rent)

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 interesting homes there, including “The Flintstone House,” the Western White House (a project commissioned by George Randolph Hearst and built by famed architect Julia Morgan), the Sidney Bazett Residence (built by Frank Lloyd Wright), and others.

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#29. Villa Park, California

- Population: 5,861 (18% age 55-64 and 28% age 65+)
- Median household income: $165,000
- Median home value: $1,184,100 (97% own)
- Median rent: $3,501 (3% rent)

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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#28. Palos Verdes Estates, California

- Population: 13,434 (18% age 55-64 and 27% age 65+)
- Median household income: $194,543
- Median home value: $2,000,000 (86% own)
- Median rent: $2,683 (14% rent)

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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#27. Santa Venetia, California

- Population: 4,474 (16% age 55-64 and 25% age 65+)
- Median household income: $93,194
- Median home value: $798,500 (83% own)
- Median rent: $1,417 (17% rent)

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 offering residents access to big-city amenities.

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#26. Montecito, California

- Population: 8,245 (12% age 55-64 and 32% age 65+)
- Median household income: $159,706
- Median home value: $2,000,001 (72% own)
- Median rent: $2,404 (28% rent)

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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#25. Gold River, California

- Population: 7,538 (18% age 55-64 and 28% age 65+)
- Median household income: $119,038
- Median home value: $499,300 (87% own)
- Median rent: $1,874 (13% rent)

Though Gold River has a mix of commercial and retail areas, this “census-designated place” 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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#24. Cerritos, California

- Population: 50,143 (14% age 55-64 and 23% age 65+)
- Median household income: $106,190
- Median home value: $685,300 (77% own)
- Median rent: $2,410 (23% rent)

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, and a large park that’s home to the Cerritos Olympic Swim and Fitness Center.

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#23. North Tustin, California

- Population: 24,705 (15% age 55-64 and 23% age 65+)
- Median household income: $156,176
- Median home value: $926,100 (92% own)
- Median rent: $2,033 (8% rent)

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 the amenities and low crime rates.

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#22. Piedmont, California

- Population: 11,317 (14% age 55-64 and 21% age 65+)
- Median household income: $224,659
- Median home value: $2,000,001 (88% own)
- Median rent: $3,229 (12% rent)

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 Fenton’s Creamery.

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#21. Yountville, California

- Population: 2,987 (18% age 55-64 and 48% age 65+)
- Median household income: $69,300
- Median home value: $486,300 (63% own)
- Median rent: $1,824 (37% rent)

Wine lovers adore Yountville, located in the middle of California’s Napa Valley. The area boasts award-winning restaurants, art galleries, wine tasting opportunities, hot air balloon rides over the vineyards, and gorgeous surroundings at every turn.

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#20. Westlake Village, California

- Population: 8,358 (18% age 55-64 and 26% age 65+)
- Median household income: $140,850
- Median home value: $953,700 (84% own)
- Median rent: $2,900 (16% rent)

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 L.A. 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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#19. Lincoln Beach, Oregon

- Population: 2,072 (20% age 55-64 and 52% age 65+)
- Median household income: $46,273
- Median home value: $279,000 (79% own)
- Median rent: $680 (21% rent)

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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#18. Raleigh Hills, Oregon

- Population: 6,146 (12% age 55-64 and 24% age 65+)
- Median household income: $82,745
- Median home value: $674,600 (53% own)
- Median rent: $1,162 (47% rent)

It may be just a 10-minute drive from Beaverton, but this unincorporated area feels like a world away. Fewer than 6,000 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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#17. Pismo Beach, California

- Population: 8,180 (20% age 55-64 and 34% age 65+)
- Median household income: $84,484
- Median home value: $768,600 (64% own)
- Median rent: $1,774 (36% rent)

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.

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#16. Harbor, Oregon

- Population: 1,958 (15% age 55-64 and 71% age 65+)
- Median household income: $30,791
- Median home value: $139,200 (84% own)
- Median rent: $855 (16% rent)

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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#15. Rancho Mirage, California

- Population: 18,193 (18% age 55-64 and 52% age 65+)
- Median household income: $78,682
- Median home value: $498,700 (82% own)
- Median rent: $1,191 (18% rent)

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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#14. Corte Madera, California

- Population: 9,838 (14% age 55-64 and 19% age 65+)
- Median household income: $149,439
- Median home value: $1,200,300 (66% own)
- Median rent: $2,642 (34% rent)

Corte Madera is located in lush Marin County. Here, visitors and residents can find a marsh, 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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#13. Camino, California

- Population: 1,903 (12% age 55-64 and 22% age 65+)
- Median household income: $117,625
- Median home value: $394,300 (83% own)
- Median rent: $1,405 (17% rent)

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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#12. Pacific Grove, California

- Population: 15,522 (15% age 55-64 and 27% age 65+)
- Median household income: $88,250
- Median home value: $857,900 (46% own)
- Median rent: $1,758 (54% rent)

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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#11. Manhattan Beach, California

- Population: 35,500 (14% age 55-64 and 17% age 65+)
- Median household income: $153,023
- Median home value: $2,000,001 (70% own)
- Median rent: $2,628 (30% rent)

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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#10. Tiburon, California

- Population: 9,144 (16% age 55-64 and 26% age 65+)
- Median household income: $154,915
- Median home value: $2,000,001 (67% own)
- Median rent: $2,440 (33% rent)

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 being one of the more expensive enclaves in the Bay Area.

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#9. Newport Beach, California

- Population: 85,694 (15% age 55-64 and 23% age 65+)
- Median household income: $127,223
- Median home value: $1,898,900 (57% own)
- Median rent: $2,251 (43% rent)

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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#8. Beverly Hills, California

- Population: 34,186 (13% age 55-64 and 21% age 65+)
- Median household income: $106,936
- Median home value: $2,000,001 (41% own)
- Median rent: $2,244 (59% rent)

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 famous Rodeo Drive shopping haven.

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#7. Larkspur, California

- Population: 12,319 (16% age 55-64 and 25% age 65+)
- Median household income: $109,426
- Median home value: $1,309,200 (51% own)
- Median rent: $2,080 (49% rent)

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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#6. Seal Beach, California

- Population: 24,204 (15% age 55-64 and 40% age 65+)
- Median household income: $68,852
- Median home value: $371,600 (76% own)
- Median rent: $1,907 (24% rent)

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 within close proximity to Long Beach and Huntington Beach.

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#5. Del Mar, California

- Population: 4,331 (11% age 55-64 and 27% age 65+)
- Median household income: $129,063
- Median home value: $2,000,001 (53% own)
- Median rent: $2,320 (47% rent)

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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#4. Belvedere, California

- Population: 2,134 (15% age 55-64 and 30% age 65+)
- Median household income: $245,208
- Median home value: $2,000,001 (76% own)
- Median rent: $2,690 (24% rent)

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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#3. Del Monte Forest, California

- Population: 4,105 (16% age 55-64 and 40% age 65+)
- Median household income: $147,500
- Median home value: $1,356,500 (82% own)
- Median rent: $2,914 (18% rent)

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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#2. Laguna Woods, California

- Population: 16,053 (14% age 55-64 and 83% age 65+)
- Median household income: $44,020
- Median home value: $288,400 (73% own)
- Median rent: $1,755 (27% rent)

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 arts studios, as well as golfing on two different courses. The retirement community is so vast that it has three neighborhoods to offer its residents.

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#1. Indian Wells, California

- Population: 5,370 (19% age 55-64 and 59% age 65+)
- Median household income: $107,500
- Median home value: $722,500 (84% own)
- Median rent: $788 (16% rent)

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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