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 45 out of 50 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. Statistics from the Kaiser Family Foundation show that one in five California seniors lives in poverty. The situation has become dire enough for the government to begin programs to create retirement savings accounts for those who aren’t offered such accounts by employers. Officials also have 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: In 2018, those over the age of 65 accounted for 14% of the population. There’s a reason why. 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 with 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 with more than 5,000 residents were considered. The data were compiled from Niche 2019 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. St. Helena, CA
- Population: 6,056 (15% age 55-64 and 26% age 65+)
- Median household income: $85,663
- Housing: $839,300 median household value and $1,491 median rent
Wine Country certainly isn’t a bad choice for retirement. Set in Napa County, St. Helena is home to some of Napa area’s finest tasting rooms and vineyards, luxury spas, and dining options. Because it’s a touristy town, there’s plenty to do and see, including an opera house in town, an annual film festival, and historic performance centers like The White Barn.
#49. West Slope, OR
- Population: 7,698 (13% age 55-64 and 14% age 65+)
- Median household income: $75,000
- Housing: $472,900 median household value and $1,072 median rent
West Slope is a suburb nestled between bustling Portland and the active city of Beaverton, meaning that residents have access to a variety of entertainment, food, and city amenities. West Slope is known for its neighborhood feel as well as its local restaurants, bars, parks, and cafes. While most people own their homes in this area, renting is relatively inexpensive.
#48. Fair Oaks, CA
- Population: 30,704 (16% age 55-64 and 21% age 65+)
- Median household income: $75,696
- Housing: $417,500 median household value and $1,184 median rent
At the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Fair Oaks is known for its comfortable weather and its proximity to the amenities offered in nearby Sacramento. Love adventure? Fair Oaks also abuts the American River, known for its rafting, kayaking, and wading.
#47. Coronado, CA
- Population: 24,053 (14% age 55-64 and 19% age 65+)
- Median household income: $99,641
- Housing: $1,423,600 median household value and $2,366 median rent
Why retire elsewhere else when you could retire in a resort town? Surfers and sunbathers love Coronado, which is near San Diego and is known for its beautiful beaches. The area boasts year-round tennis and golf, warm weather, and local theater acts.
#46. Moraga, CA
- Population: 17,231 (14% age 55-64 and 20% age 65+)
- Median household income: $139,018
- Housing: $1,035,000 median household value and $1,913 median rent
The town of Moraga is in the Bay Area, located in Contra Costa County and about 20 miles from San Francisco. Unlike the foggy city across the bay, Moraga does not suffer from chilly summers. The weather is pleasant year round, plus the town is near all of the entertainment and amenities offered by nearby Lafayette, Oakland, and Berkeley.
#45. Thousand Palms, CA
- Population: 7,356 (15% age 55-64 and 25% age 65+)
- Median household income: $41,510
- Housing: $148,800 median household value and $1,230 median rent
If the desert calls your name, Thousand Palms may be the place for you. It has hiking, golfing, casinos, and more. The area has been transformed recently by nearby events such as Coachella—a plus or a minus depending on what you’re looking for—and there are good options for shopping and medical care in nearby Palm Springs.
#44. Millbrae, CA
- Population: 22,738 (15% age 55-64 and 20% age 65+)
- Median household income: $109,984
- Housing: $1,131,500 median household value and $2,101 median rent
Millbrae neighbors San Francisco International Airport, if traveling during retirement to visit family or see far-off locales interests you. Millbrae’s Green Hills Country Club offers golf and social events, plus there are plenty of restaurants and parks for those who like to explore around town. Millbrae hosts an art and wine festival each year, in addition to a regular, well-attended farmer’s market.
#43. Los Gatos, CA
- Population: 30,709 (14% age 55-64 and 20% age 65+)
- Median household income: $132,671
- Housing: $1,476,700 median household value and $2,111 median rent
The town of Los Gatos has it all: Proximity to world-class medical care at places like Stanford Hospital, and entertainment in nearby San Jose. There are spectacular parks, such as Castle Rock State Park, and hiking trails. Even the beaches at Santa Cruz are within a relatively short drive.
#42. Kentfield, CA
- Population: 6,927 (14% age 55-64 and 23% age 65+)
- Median household income: $192,344
- Housing: $1,713,700 median household value and $1,725 median rent
Kentfield sits at the foot of Mount Tamalpais, one of the most spectacular natural wonders of the San Francisco Bay Area and is home to hiking and biking trails, wonderful views, and lookout points. Kentfield is in Marin County, just two miles from downtown San Rafael and all the dining and entertainment that city offers.
#41. Montecito, CA
- Population: 8,984 (14% age 55-64 and 29% age 65+)
- Median household income: $146,250
- Housing: $2,000,001 median household value and $2,453 median rent
Home to the Santa Barbara Zoo, the beautiful Butterfly Beach, and celebrities such as Oprah, 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.2018 All rights reserved.