The 20 Best Places to Live in California – 2022 Update with Latest Data

We looked through all the latest data to find the best places to live in California for 2022. Our updated list details the best cities to live in California after accounting for several key metrics, such as quality of life, affordability, entertainment, and overall happiness.

It was not easy to narrow our list down to just 20 of the best places to live in California since there are so many desirable cities within the Golden State.

But, we managed to take a methodical approach to determine the best of the best so that you can understand where you may want to relocate to next.

All of the cities on our list offer a well-rounded way of life that is suitable for virtually everybody, from young professionals, to families, and all the way to retirees.

To figure out how to rank all of the best places to live in California, we considered several major aspects of each city, including:

  • Standard of living
  • Amenities and things to do
  • Quality of education
  • Safety levels
  • Arts and culture
  • Desirability

We rated every city in each of these categories with the latest information in 2022 and added up their scores to get our results. So, here are the best cities to live in California.

The 20 Best Places to Live in California in 2022

20. Sacramento

Pros and Cons:
+ Relatively affordable
+ Lots of outdoor and city activities
Crime in certain areas
Fewer amenities than other big cities

Location: Check on Google Maps

We start our list of the best places to live in California with the state capital of Sacramento. The city offers many things to do, like the Old Sacramento Waterfront entertainment district and the Downtown Commons next to the Golden 1 Center, which is home to the Sacramento Kings basketball team.

The cost of living in Sacramento is pretty low compared to the rest of California, coming in at around 20% less than the state average.

Meanwhile, homes are also quite affordable here, with average prices hovering around $400,000 to $450,000.

That is a good deal considering Sacramento’s excellent location. It is just an hour and a half from San Francisco and only 2 hours away from Lake Tahoe.

19. Los Angeles

best-places-to-live-in-california-LA

Pros and Cons:
+ The entertainment capital
+ Great job prospects
Never-ending traffic
Expensive lifestyle

Location: Check on Google Maps

Of course, Los Angeles makes our list of the best cities to live in California. It is the ideal city for those looking for non-stop action and entertainment.

For example, you could check out one of the 11 professional sports teams that call LA home. Or, you can enjoy one of the best nightlife scenes in the country.

Los Angeles also offers a huge variety of outdoor activities. The beach is never too far away, while hiking and biking paths can be found in the foothills just outside the city center.

Just be ready to spend some frustrating hours sitting in traffic if you plan on driving around the area.

18. Calabasas

Pros and Cons:
+ Strong privacy and security
+ Nearby to parks and mountains
Very expensive
Isolated location

Location: Check on Google Maps

This upscale suburb of Los Angeles is a haven for the rich and famous, with notable residents such as Kim Kardashian, Britney Spears, and Will Smith.

But, it’s not just for celebrities. Calabasas is a great place to live for those seeking privacy and exclusivity, but still want to be close to downtown Los Angeles.

It features gated streets and huge estates that can suit the needs of any high-level actor or executive.

However, this package comes at a price. The average home in Calabasas costs more than 3 times the US average.

17. Walnut Creek

Pros and Cons:
+ Nice downtown area
+ Tight-knit community
Expensive homes
Elevated cost of living

Location: Check on Google Maps

Walnut Creek is a city of just under 70,000 people that sits only 30 minutes from San Francisco and 45 minutes from San Jose. This prime location makes it an excellent place for professionals and families who want to stay close to the big cities, but far enough to enjoy a smaller, more tight-knit community.

The city itself has its own downtown that features historic buildings with many restaurants, cafes, and boutiques.

However, neighborhoods in Walnut Creek are pretty pricey as the average home goes for over $1 million in 2022.

16. Monterey

best-places-to-live-in-california-Monterey

Pros and Cons:
+ Breathtaking scenery
+ Small town feel
Expensive housing options
Packed with tourists

Location: Check on Google Maps

Monterey is a small beach town that is located about 2 hours south of San Francisco by car. Residents here can enjoy the stunning beachfront or stroll around downtown Monterey and visit one of its many high-end restaurants or cozy cafes.

There are other things to do, including visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium or hiking in nearby Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.

But, the cost of living is pretty high in Monterey, coming in at around 75% higher than the US average.

15. Mission Viejo

Pros and Cons:
+ Perfect for nature lovers
+ Safe area
Rising housing costs
Far from Los Angeles

Location: Check on Google Maps

Mission Viejo started as a master-planned community and has grown into one of the largest planned areas in the nation.

It is located right at the base of the foothills in Southern California and is a great residential community for those looking for a quiet and safe location.

Mission Viejo is also just 20 minutes from Laguna Beach, which makes it an ideal place to experience both the mountains and the ocean in a few minutes from home.

Many families have been flocking to the tree-lined streets of Mission Viejo lately though, as the average home price is now approaching $1 million here.

14. Kingsburg

Pros and Cons:
+ Extremely affordable
+ Historic downtown
Far from major cities
Hot desert summers

Location: Check on Google Maps

Kingsburg is the smallest place on this list of the best cities to live in California, with a population of just 12,000 residents. But, it offers a charming and historic downtown and many quiet neighborhoods that make it ideal for a family to settle in.

It is located about 25 minutes outside of Fresno and is one of the few cities in Central Valley on this list.

Kingsburg’s biggest draw is probably its affordability. The cost of living here is roughly 30% lower than the rest of California. Meanwhile, homes here are priced at an average of around $350,000 to $400,000, which is an absolute steal in California.

13. Palo Alto

Pros and Cons:
+ Spotless and safe
+ Energetic downtown area
Eye-watering home prices
Extreme Bay Area congestion

Location: Check on Google Maps

We think that Palo Alto is one of the best places to live in California for those looking for a suburb close to San Francisco.

It is located about 30 minutes south of SF and is also close to many Silicon Valley companies like Google and Facebook.

The city itself also offers a complete lifestyle. You can spend time in the walkable streets of downtown Palo Alto, where there are numerous restaurants, cafes, and boutiques.

Or, you can enjoy some time outdoors at Byxbee Park that is located right on the bay.

But, this high standard of life doesn’t come cheaply. According to Zillow, the average value of a home in Palo Alto is about $3.6 million in 2022.

12. San Jose

best-places-to-live-in-california-San-Jose

Pros and Cons:
+ Prime location for tech jobs
+ Great amenities
Inflated living costs
Lack of lively nightlife

Location: Check on Google Maps

San Jose is often the forgotten city in the Bay Area, but it is actually one of the best cities to live in California, especially for those with job opportunities in Silicon Valley.

Its population of 1 million residents makes it the 3rd biggest city in California and it offers many things to do that you would expect from a city of this size.

For example, there are several places to go around the city, such as San Jose’s downtown district or Santana Row, which are filled with international restaurants, breweries, and cafes.

There are also numerous family attractions like the zoo, the San Jose Museum of Art, and several parks that can be found around the city.

But, San Jose is quite expensive to live in. Its cost of living is roughly 80% higher than the national average.

11. San Luis Obispo

Pros and Cons:
+ Numerous outdoor activities
+ Energetic college town
Worsening traffic
Isolated location

Location: Check on Google Maps

San Luis Obispo is a city of about 47,000 residents that sits right in between the major cities of California. Both San Francisco and Los Angeles are about a 3 to 3 and a half hour drive away from the city.

It is also home to California Polytechnic State University, which gives the city a lively college town atmosphere.
San Luis Obispo’s prime location allows its residents to access the mountains, beaches, or ocean in just a short drive from the city.

Meanwhile, the walkable downtown area of San Luis Obispo offers many restaurants, shops, and bars, which also makes it a great place to enjoy the nightlife.

10. Anaheim

Pros and Cons:
+ Relatively affordable in SoCal
+ Lots of entertainment 
Overcrowded with tourists
Safety concerns in some areas

Location: Check on Google Maps

You might have heard of Anaheim since it is the home of Disneyland as well as the Anaheim Ducks and Anaheim Angels.

But, this SoCal city has emerged as one of the best places to live in California for those looking for an entertaining, yet affordable location in the southern part of the state.

There is never a shortage of things to do in Anaheim. On top of the theme parks and sporting events, there is also the revitalized downtown district that offers a haven for foodies and beer lovers.

You could always just head to the beach as well. Huntington Beach and Long Beach are just 30 minutes from the city.

All of this comes at a relatively affordable cost for Southern California standards. According to the latest data from Zillow, the average home here is valued around $800,000 these days.

9. San Francisco

best-places-to-live-in-california-San-Francisco

Pros and Cons:
+ Prime amenities for arts and culture
+ Great job opportunities
Astounding cost of living
Becoming less family friendly

Location: Check on Google Maps

Of course, we had to include San Francisco on our list of the best places to live in California in 2022.

It is still a great city to live in, especially for those looking for a diverse and progressive environment along with world-class amenities and things to do.

We know that it is still a super expensive place to live, with homes going for an average price of $1.5 million, but it is worth it for those who can afford it and want to access some of the best restaurants, cultural events, and job opportunities in the nation.

8. Newport Beach

Pros and Cons:
+ Idyllic beach town vibes
+ Top dining and nightlife
Expensive place to live
Crowded during the summers

Location: Check on Google Maps

The fancy beach town community of Newport Beach is one of the best cities to live in California around the Los Angeles area. It is located about 45 minutes from downtown Los Angeles and is situated right on the water, which gives its residents access to the beach all year round.

Newport Beach is also known for featuring some of the best restaurants in the nation as well as a lively nightlife that can spill over to Huntington Beach if you ever get bored.

Additionally, there is the picturesque Balboa Island that features a peaceful and unspoiled neighborhood with upscale boutiques and pricey homes.

That brings us to our next point of affordability, which Newport Beach is not entirely known for. The average home price here is around $3 million.

7. Dublin, California

Pros and Cons:
+ Family friendly, tight-knit community
+ Affordable city near SF
Bay Area traffic
High housing costs

Location: Check on Google Maps

The city of Dublin, California has been booming recently as more and more people have been moving to this Bay Area suburb.

It is an ideal place for commuters and young families to settle in as it is just 30 minutes from San Jose and only 45 minutes from San Francisco. It is also possible to take public transportation to get you into SF in about one and a half hours.

Meanwhile, the city itself offers many great community events, such as a farmers market, outdoor summer concert series at the amphitheater, and many annual events and festivals.

Its cost of living is quite reasonable for the Bay Area, but home prices are still quite high. The average home value is around $1.4 million in Dublin, California.

But, that is still a good value compared to some of the neighboring communities.

6. Los Altos

best-places-to-live-in-california-los-Altos

Pros and Cons:
+ Excellent amenities
+ Clean and safe area
Astronomical home prices
Limited public transportation

Location: Check on Google Maps

The exclusive city of Los Altos is one of the best places to live in California for Bay Area residents. That is, if you can afford it.

This small community of around 30,000 residents is located between San Jose and San Francisco and offers one of the highest qualities of life in all of California. 

It earned an A+ rating from AreaVibes in almost every assessment of the city, including its amenities, school system, and safety.

Los Altos also features a quaint little downtown area that is home to numerous restaurants, cafes, and shops.

We would have ranked Los Altos a bit higher on our list of the best cities to live in California, but its super high cost of living dropped it down a few spots.

The average home here costs around $4 million.

5. Santa Barbara

Pros and Cons:
+ Stunning natural scenery
+ Nice downtown district
High cost of living
Far from the rest of Southern California

Location: Check on Google Maps

Santa Barbara is a beautiful city that is located directly on the coast. It is also right next to the Santa Ynez Mountains, which makes it a great spot for nature lovers to enjoy the ocean and hiking trails.

Residents here can enjoy seaside views from the cliffs or take a stroll downtown on the tree-lined streets and stop at one of the many gourmet restaurants or unique shops.

Santa Barbara is a bit far from the rest of SoCal, as it takes one and a half hours by car to reach Los Angeles.

But, that may be a good thing for those looking for a quiet, upscale community that offers everything within the city.

4. Irvine

Pros and Cons:
+ Great for families
+ Lots of amenities and things to do
Limited public transportation
High home prices

Location: Check on Google Maps

Irvine is probably the best place to live in California for families. It was even ranked the 2nd best city to raise a family in the nation by WalletHub.

What makes this city of 250,000 people so special? Well, let’s start with the quality of its education. Irvine’s school system is regarded as one of the best in the US. It ranked 3rd overall in that same WalletHub survey.

Meanwhile, Irvine is quite safe, with about 30% less crime than the national average for cities.

Additionally, the city offers many things to do. For instance, there is the Irvine Spectrum Center, which is a fun shopping and entertainment destination right in the heart of the city.

There are also outdoor activities like the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary as well as the beach that is just 10-15 minutes from the city.

The only drawback we see here is the high cost of living. Irvine’s cost of living is roughly 90% higher than the US average, with home prices that are around $1 million.

But, we think that Irvine still represents a pretty good value considering all of the things it has to offer.

3. Clovis

best-places-to-live-in-california-clovis

Pros and Cons:
+ Very affordable for California standards
+ Ideal for nature lovers
Limited job market
Very hot summers

Location: Check on Google Maps

Clovis is the highest ranked place on our list of the best cities to live in California that is located in the state’s Central Valley. It is a suburb of Fresno that is both affordable and filled with amenities.

For instance, this “Gateway to the Sierras” is right next to the mountains and is only 2 and a half hours from Yosemite National Park.

There are also several commercial districts, where you can find virtually everything you need without ever leaving the city.

Meanwhile, Clovis is really affordable compared to the rest of the state. The cost of living here is about 30% lower than the California average. Home values are also around the $400,000 to $500,000 range as well, making it very attractive for those looking to move to California on a budget.

2. Folsom

Pros and Cons:
+ Great community for families
+ Quaint historic area
Congestion due to growth
High housing costs

Location: Check on Google Maps

The data shows that Folsom has become one of the best places to live in California. It is a quiet suburb of Sacramento that sits right on Folsom Lake that offers a high quality of living for virtually all ages.

Folsom’s idyllic Historic District features an old town charm and many dining, drinking, and shopping options.

Meanwhile, outdoor lovers will be happy to hear about Folsom’s plentiful green spaces and hiking trails around the city.

While it is not exactly a cheap place to move to, Folsom is relatively affordable compared to the rest of California.   

The cost of living here is roughly the same as the state’s average, which also goes for its home prices. Zillow indicates that the average value of a house is around $700,000 to $800,000 in Folsom.

That’s not bad for those looking to settle in a nice little community that is also close to a big city.

1. San Diego

best-places-to-live-in-california-San-Diego

Pros and Cons:
+ Great weather all year
+ Filled with entertainment and amenities
Elevated cost of living
Minimal public transportation

Location: Check on Google Maps

San Diego tops our list of the best places to live in California by being one of the most well-rounded cities in the nation. It offers something for everyone and consistently provides a high quality of life for all of its residents.

It is the 2nd biggest city in California behind Los Angeles, yet feels more like a small town with its easy-going culture and friendly and walkable downtown district.

You can visit one of San Diego’s legendary beaches or hike in the mountain ranges that are just outside of the city. The region’s perfect weather all year round also makes it a joy to spend time outdoors.

Or, you can enjoy the bustling neighborhoods of downtown San Diego, where you can grab a delicious bite of some authentic SoCal cuisine, relax at a local cafe, or party the night away in its entertaining nightlife scene.

Yes, all of these delights do not come cheap. The average cost of living in San Diego is about 50% higher than the US average.

Additionally, home values are around $800,000 to $900,000, but that’s actually the average in California. Therefore, we think that is a fair price to pay to live in such a well-balanced city.

Best Places to Live in California – Summary

After we tallied up all the numbers and processed all the data, we found that the best places to live in California for 2022 are: 

  1. San Diego
  2. Folsom
  3. Clovis
  4. Irvine
  5. Santa Barbara
  6. Los Altos
  7. Dublin
  8. Newport Beach
  9. San Francisco
  10. Anaheim
  11. San Luis Obispo
  12. San Jose
  13. Palo Alto
  14. Kingsburg
  15. Mission Viejo
  16. Monterey
  17. Walnut Creek
  18. Calabasas
  19. Los Angeles
  20. Sacramento