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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- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Population: 16,425 (16% age 55-64 and 26% age 65+)
- Median household income: $63,950
- Housing: $351,100 median household value and $1,107 median rent
Adore fishing, kayaking, boating, or hiking? Anacortes, which is on Fidalgo Island at the midway point between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., may intrigue you. The city has cafes, restaurants, shopping, art galleries, parks, and more, but it’s also a destination point for ferries heading to the beautiful San Juan Islands.
- Population: 8,490 (18% age 55-64 and 26% age 65+)
- Median household income: $248,218
- Housing: $2,000,001 median household value and $2,307 median rent
Los Altos isn’t just the wealthiest town in Silicon Valley or California, but one of the richest in the entire nation. Located just outside of Mountain View in Santa Clara County, powerhouses such as baseball player Barry Bonds and Google founder Sergey Brin have lived there. The town is known for exclusivity: There’s no commercial commerce allowed except for a book store and one gift shop; there’s not even a post office or library. As such, Los Altos Hills known for being peaceful, scenic, and quiet, even though it’s close to busier areas of Silicon Valley.
- Population: 14,392 (14% age 55-64 and 22% age 65+)
- Median household income: $141,698
- Housing: $1,242,100 median household value and $2,209 median 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.
- Population: 9,315 (20% age 55-64 and 30% age 65+)
- Median household income: $50,330
- Housing: $298,700 median household value and $917 median 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.
- Population: 23,224 (18% age 55-64 and 23% age 65+)
- Median household income: $117,586
- Housing: $1,570,700 median household value and $2,191 median 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.
- Population: 5,714 (23% age 55-64 and 40% age 65+)
- Median household income: $40,451
- Housing: $198,600 median household value and $916 median rent
With rivers and lakes, Ocean Shores is a water lover’s dream. Fishermen will be able to snag plenty of tuna in the nearby waters. The area also boasts a quilt show, 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, but the larger cities of Olympia and Tacoma aren’t too far away.
- Population: 5,934 (19% age 55-64 and 41% age 65+)
- Median household income: $65,788
- Housing: $620,400 median household value and $1,347 median rent
Fancy visiting historic locations like Hearst Castle? Checking out beaches? Hanging out near elephant seals and other incredible wildlife? All that is possible in Cambria, a village located along the coast in San Luis Obispo County. Though the area can feel touristy, it has a small-town feel, mild weather, a quaint vibe, and low crime rates, as well as proximity to numerous Central Coast wineries.
- Population: 19,248 (16% age 55-64 and 22% age 65+)
- Median household income: $186,075
- Housing: $1,221,800 median household value and $2,231 median 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. If you’re looking for a peaceful place to relax, this town in Contra Costa County is so quiet and orderly that locals famously organized a movement against noisy leaf blowers.
- Population: 30,527 (15% age 55-64 and 20% age 65+)
- Median household income: $208,309
- Housing: $2,000,001 median household value and $2,891 median rent
In northern Silicon Valley, Los Altos isn’t cheap, but it offers a great California lifestyle. Los Altos itself is an unincorporated, tree-dense residential area surrounded by small retail districts. In addition to hiking and soaking in the beautiful views, it offers the Los Altos History Museum, a beautiful farmhouse dedicated to chronicling the rise of the Silicon Valley area.
- Population: 50,145 (15% age 55-64 and 22% age 65+)
- Median household income: $98,953
- Housing: $638,600 median household value and $2,215 median 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.
- Population: 8,229 (16% age 55-64 and 26% age 65+)
- Median household income: $131,471
- Housing: $1,153,700 median household value and $3,152 median rent
Equestrians will love Rolling Hills Estates for the horseback riding paths around the city, an unusual feature for Los Angeles County. Another benefit of the area is its proximity to the coast as well as to Long Beach, which is a hub for entertainment, top hospitals, and other amenities.
- Population: 7,147 (21% age 55-64 and 27% age 65+)
- Median household income: $110,385
- Housing: $1,191,700 median household value and $2,101 median 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.
- Population: 25,364 (16% age 55-64 and 23% age 65+)
- Median household income: $134,519
- Housing: $871,600 median household value and $1,824 median rent
North Tustin is largely residential. But this unincorporated area in Orange County is close to both the City of Orange (home to fantastic antique shops and entertainment), the City of Santa Ana (where you can find the Santa Ana Zoo) and the City of Anaheim (where Disneyland is located). North Tustin locals love it for the amenities and low crime rates.
- Population: 92,495 (12% age 55-64 and 17% age 65+)
- Median household income: $86,084
- Housing: $1,168,500 median household value and $1,669 median 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.
- Population: 7,182 (18% age 55-64 and 22% age 65+)
- Median household income: $250,001
- Housing: $2,000,001 median household value and $3,501 median rent
One of the most expensive towns in the United States, it sure is nice to live in Atherton if you can afford it. Atherton almost exclusively has high-end homes, which is why it has attracted many tech billionaires. There’s a small downtown area with excellent restaurants and the Menlo Circus Club hosts a charity hunter/jumper horse show every year, in addition to polo matches.
- Population: 13,395 (14% age 55-64 and 25% age 65+)
- Median household income: $56,287
- Housing: $310,100 median household value and $999 median rent
If you’re looking for a quiet, affordable place to settle down, North Auburn might just be the ticket. Want somewhere that’s residential but doesn’t feel like it’s in the middle of nowhere? This unincorporated area of Placer County is within driving distance of both Sacramento (40 minutes) and Nevada City (30 minutes). Lovers of the outdoors will also appreciate its proximity to the beautiful Folsom Lake State Recreation Area.
- Population: 13,362 (14% age 55-64 and 23% age 65+)
- Median household income: $103,864
- Housing: $1,103,900 median household value and $1,990 median 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.
- Population: 68,516 (13% age 55-64 and 29% age 65+)
- Median household income: $86,845
- Housing: $704,900 median household value and $1,803 median rent
Walnut Creek contains everything one could want: 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.
- Population: 15,521 (19% age 55-64 and 21% age 65+)
- Median household income: $207,008
- Housing: $1,517,700 median household value and $2,881 median rent
Former home of Warriors star basketball player Stephen Curry, Alamo is known for its lovely, 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.
- Population: 13,591 (15% age 55-64 and 26% age 65+)
- Median household income: $180,815
- Housing: $1,637,600 median household value and $2,850 median 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.
- Population: 5,762 (16% age 55-64 and 24% age 65+)
- Median household income: $68,714
- Housing: $616,100 median household value and $1,093 median 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, a retirement community, nice yet affordable homes, and the verdant open spaces common in Oregon.
- Population: 11,436 (15% age 55-64 and 22% age 65+)
- Median household income: $238,750
- Housing: $2,000,001 median household value and $2,952 median 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.
- Population: 5,935 (17% age 55-64 and 29% age 65+)
- Median household income: $142,628
- Housing: $1,077,600 median household value and $3,501 median 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 it does sidewalks, and low crime rates.
- Population: 51,675 (15% age 55-64 and 33% age 65+)
- Median household income: $56,262
- Housing: $328,300 median household value and $1,195 median rent
Palm Desert residents appreciate the area’s golf courses and country clubs amid the desert setting. It’s close to Indio, where Coachella and other music festivals take place annually. 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.
- Population: 8,060 (18% age 55-64 and 29% age 65+)
- Median household income: $77,316
- Housing: $660,000 median household value and $1,555 median 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.
- Population: 35,698 (13% age 55-64 and 16% age 65+)
- Median household income: $148,899
- Housing: $1,694,900 median household value and $2,393 median 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. Check out the concert in the parks series. And, if you ever want to get away, Los Angeles International Airport is just a five-mile drive.
- Population: 17,975 (17% age 55-64 and 52% age 65+)
- Median household income: $64,754
- Housing: $483,100 median household value and $1,251 median 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.
- Population: 8,450 (18% age 55-64 and 26% age 65+)
- Median household income: $136,131
- Housing: $866,400 median household value and $2,420 median 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 LA area. However, much of the city is surrounded by open space and is only nine miles from the ocean. The city has seven parks, including a dog park.
- Population: 11,296 (17% age 55-64 and 20% age 65+)
- Median household income: $202,631
- Housing: $1,715,700 median household value and $2,929 median 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.
- Population: 15,617 (16% age 55-64 and 26% age 65+)
- Median household income: $80,788
- Housing: $764,600 median household value and $1,606 median 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.
- Population: 86,793 (15% age 55-64 and 22% age 65+)
- Median household income: $119,379
- Housing: $1,695,700 median household value and $2,118 median 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.
- Population: 5,573 (18% age 55-64 and 26% age 65+)
- Median household income: $140,000
- Housing: $852,700 median household value and $2,598 median 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.
- Population: 34,506 (12% age 55-64 and 21% age 65+)
- Median household income: $103,698
- Housing: $2,000,001 median household value and $2,036 median rent
As Weezer once sang, “Beverly Hills, that’s where I want to be.” This exclusive, expensive city in the Los Angeles area is home to celebrities and professional athletes, and includes the famous Rodeo Drive shopping haven. It’s a beautiful place to live for those who can afford it, and it also has a number of senior housing options.
- Population: 9,205 (15% age 55-64 and 25% age 65+)
- Median household income: $151,429
- Housing: $1,922,000 median household value and $2,347 median rent
How quaint: 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.
- Population: 24,510 (17% age 55-64 and 38% age 65+)
- Median household income: $65,401
- Housing: $338,100 median household value and $1,758 median rent
Hang out at the lovely Seal Beach Pier, enjoy the area’s 1.5 miles of beach, or even go fishing. This may be a quiet, small beach community, but its amazing weather and proximity to Long Beach and Huntington Beach make it a winning choice for many retirees.
- Population: 7,460 (21% age 55-64 and 28% age 65+)
- Median household income: $113,031
- Housing: $451,500 median household value and $1,671 median rent
The median age for this Sacramento County community is 51. 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 initially discovered in California.
- Population: 9,811 (14% age 55-64 and 18% age 65+)
- Median household income: $134,902
- Housing: $1,144,800 median household value and $2,350 median rent
Corte Madera is located in verdant 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.
- Population: 16,314 (15% age 55-64 and 82% age 65+)
- Median household income: $40,837
- Housing: $246,600 median household value and $1,656 median rent
Tons of retirees come to Laguna Woods: The median age is 78. That’s largely because 90% of this city encompasses the Laguna Woods Village retirement community. Laguna Woods Village 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.
- Population: 12,367 (17% age 55-64 and 25% age 65+)
- Median household income: $95,592
- Housing: $1,181,400 median household value and $1,987 median 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.
- Population: 5,267 (21% age 55-64 and 60% age 65+)
- Median household income: $103,516
- Housing: $680,000 median household value and $857 median rent
When there’s an affordable oasis in the desert, why choose to retire anywhere else? Indian Wells prides itself on being a vacation town, with many country clubs, resorts, hotels, amazing tennis facilities, and nearby mineral-water spas. But it also maintains much of its original desert beauty, with the stunning Santa Rosa Mountains overlooking over the city.