12 Best Places to Live in Southern California in 2023 – Updated Power Rankings

There is no place on earth like SoCal, so we wanted to find the best places to live in Southern California for 2021 and give you the top options in this slice of paradise.

We updated our reviews and rankings of these cities from last year to better reflect the shift from crowded, urban places to cities that prioritize green areas and offer its residents more space.

Therefore, we revised our list and placed more significance on the city’s proximity to outdoor areas like beaches, parks, and mountains.

Additionally, we updated this list of the best cities to live in Southern California with research and statistics from trusted online communities like Areavibes and Niche.com. We made sure to only include cities that provide an excellent mix of living and having fun, so we prioritized:

  • Standard of living
  • Affordability
  • Job prospects
  • Things to do
  • Quality of schools
  • Low crime rates

Using these parameters, we were able to identify the 12 best cities in Southern California. So, let’s dive in and see which cities made our list of the best places to live in Southern California in 2023.

Please note that some links below are affiliate links, which means that we receive a small commission if you make a purchase through our links, but at no extra cost to you. Thank you in advance for your support!

12 Best Places to Live in Southern California – 2023

12. Temecula


Pros and Cons:
+ Full of things to do
+ Beautiful vineyards
Lots of tourists
Heavy traffic

Location: Check on Google Maps

Temecula starts off our list of the best cities to live in Southern California. It’s the primary city in the Temecula Valley Wine Country, which offers miles of rolling hills filled with vineyards and gives a distinctly Mediterranean feel in the heart of SoCal.

It’s perfectly located just 1 hour away from San Diego and 1.5 hours from Los Angeles, making it a great place to live quietly while still being close to the big cities.

Best of all, it’s relatively affordable, especially for SoCal standards. The cost of living in Temecula is actually about 5% lower than the rest of California.

11. Los Angeles

Pros and Cons:
+ Unlimited entertainment
+ Strong job market
Excessive traffic
High cost of living

Location: Check on Google Maps

No list of the best places to live in Southern California can exclude Los Angeles. The city exudes the heart of the SoCal culture and offers countless things to do and see.

It is home to 11 professional sports teams and a nightlife that is unrivaled by any other city in the nation.

However, it dropped a few spots on our list due to its continuously rising cost of living, especially home value, as well as its limited space around the city.

Sure, there are beaches and mountains that are 30 to 60 minutes away, but Downtown LA is quite dense and does not have as many green spaces as other cities on this list.

Still, it is one of the top cities in the world and is perfect for someone looking to establish themselves.

10. Loma Linda

Pros and Cons:
+ Strong sense of community
+ Outdoor activities
Limited job market
Not ideal for singles or young professionals

Location: Check on Google Maps

Loma Linda is not quite like most other cities on this list. It is a small city of about 23,000 people that is about an hour east of Los Angeles.

It is also home to the Loma Linda University School of Public Health, giving the community some strong college town vibes.

But, Loma Linda’s real claim to fame is that it has been identified as one of five “Blue Zone” regions in the world where people lived the longest.

It is theorized that the city’s strong ties to the Seventh Day Adventist Church has helped its citizens achieve good health and long lives and makes it one of the best cities in Southern California.

9. Manhattan Beach


Pros and Cons:
+ Beach town living
+ Excellent schools
Skyrocketing home prices
More and more tourists

Location: Check on Google Maps

Manhattan Beach is the perfect place for people who want to live right on the water and enjoy the laid back atmosphere of a beach town. It is located just 25 minutes away from Los Angeles and it features its own little downtown area.

On its pristine beachfront, you can find many surfers and beach volleyball games. You will also find the Manhattan Beach Pier as well as the Roundhouse Aquarium.

Meanwhile, Manhattan Beach has been known for having one of the best school districts in the area, making it a great community for families.

8. Calabasas

Pros and Cons:
+ Private and safe
+ Close to many outdoor activities
Extremely expensive
Isolated feeling

Location: Check on Google Maps

Calabasas is probably best known as being a celebrity magnet, attracting stars like Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, The Rock, and Will Smith. If it’s good enough for them, then it’s good enough to make it onto our list of the best places to live in Southern California.

This private suburban community of only 24,000 people offers expansive estates and a close proximity to Downtown LA, which can be reached in about an hour.

Its gated streets offer residents safety and peace of mind, which is ideal for the type of high-profile actors, athletes, and executives that live here.

Of course, this privacy and beauty comes at a price. Housing costs in Calabasas are over 3 times higher than the US average.

7. Riverside

Pros and Cons:
+ Affordable suburb of LA
+ Bustling downtown area
Urban sprawl
Long commutes

Location: Check on Google Maps

Riverside is a quiet, affordable suburb of Los Angeles that we think is one of the best cities to live in Southern California. This 300,000+ community is located about 50 miles east of Los Angeles near the desert, which makes it a bit drier than the rest of SoCal.

It’s a top choice for people looking for a bit more space and a reasonable cost of living while still being near LA. The cost of living in Riverside is almost 20% lower than the rest of the state. The average home is just over $500,000 according to the latest figures from Zillow.

Riverside also features a lively downtown area with many buildings with Spanish inspired architecture.

6. Mission Viejo

Pros and Cons:
+ Great for outdoor lovers
+ Low crime rates
Expensive housing costs

Location: Check on Google Maps

Mission Viejo is one of the best places to live in Southern California in the Orange County area. It’s situated right at the base of the mountains and is also only 20 minutes away from the ocean at Laguna Beach, making it a dream location for outdoor lovers.

Mission Viejo is a mostly residential neighborhood that is actually one of the largest master-planned communities in the US. It features beautiful, tree-lined streets and many pre-planned developments that are now thriving across the city.

But, housing costs are quite high in Mission Viejo. The average home costs almost $900,000 here.

5. Anaheim

Pros and Cons:
+ Affordable for the OC
+ Packed with things to do
Crowded with locals and tourists
Some areas of crime

Location: Check on Google Maps

Anaheim is probably best known for being the home of Disneyland, but it has evolved since then to become one of the best cities in Southern California. There are tons of activities and amenities for the whole family to enjoy. Anaheim is even home to 2 professional sports teams, the Anaheim Angels baseball team and Anaheim Ducks hockey team.

Best of all, it is relatively affordable compared to the other big cities in Orange County and SoCal. The cost of living in Anaheim is right around the California state average, with homes going for $700,000 to $800,000 on average.

4. Newport Beach


Pros and Cons:
+ Peaceful beach community
+ World-class restaurants
$2 million+ average home prices
Heavy tourism in the summer

Location: Check on Google Maps

Newport Beach is an upscale beach community about 45 minutes from Downtown LA. It offers a pristine coastline that is filled with laid-back surfers and sunbathers throughout the year.

It is also a haven for foodies, who can indulge in several of the high-end restaurants that are scattered across the city. Additionally, Newport Beach features some of the best shopping options in the area, such as the famed Fashion Island outdoor mall.

There is also the quaint Balboa Island, a small piece of land within Newport Bay with a picturesque main street among a sea of million dollar homes.

Speaking of million dollar homes, be sure to consider the cost of living in Newport Beach before moving here. Average home prices are over 500% higher than the US average.

But, if you can afford it, it remains one of the best cities to live in Southern California and gives you direct access to the beach.

3. Santa Barbara

Pros and Cons:
+ Dedicated to education
+ Beautiful landscape
Elevated home values
Fairly isolated from the rest of SoCal

Location: Check on Google Maps

This 90,000 resident community is located right on the Pacific Ocean and in between the Santa Ynez Mountains. It is about 1.5 hours northwest of Los Angeles and is best known for its stunning landscape and breathtaking views from the cliffs that directly overlook the water.

There are also beautiful, tree-lined blocks in the core of the city with many upscale boutiques and restaurants.

Santa Monica is also very serious about education, as there are 4 colleges located within the city along with some of the best school districts in the area.

The city is a bit expensive compared to other cities in SoCal. Its cost of living is about 50% more than the California average, mainly due to housing values that are almost 3 times higher than the rest of the US.

2. Irvine

Pros and Cons:
+ Top-rated school system
+ Outstanding weather
Car dependent
Steep cost of living

Location: Check on Google Maps

The city of Irvine is a community of about 250,000 people that sits in the heart of Orange County and is about 40 minutes from Los Angeles.

Its neighbors include other cities on this list like Anaheim, Newport Beach, and Mission Viejo. Orange County contains a strong cluster of the best places to live in Southern California and we think Irvine is the top of the whole class.

Why is Irvine regarded so well? Let’s start with how family friendly this clean and safe city is. Irvine is routinely ranked as one of the best places to raise a family and offers a world-class education system. In fact, it was named the 2nd best city to raise a family in the whole US, with a school system that was rated #3 in the nation.

It is also home to universities like the University of California, Irvine and Concordia University Irvine, which provides the city with a youthful energy.

Irvine’s ideal location makes it easy to access outdoor activities, like swimming in the ocean and hiking in the mountains, as well as getting to Downtown LA.

Before you sign up to live in Irvine, just be aware that home prices are quite elevated here. The average house goes for about $800,000 to $1 million.

1. San Diego

Pros and Cons:
+ Perfect weather
+ Unlimited things to do
High cost of living
Limited public transportation & heavy traffic

Location: Check on Google Maps

San Diego is one of the most desirable cities in the US and we think it is the best place to live in Southern California.

We even ranked it #1 on our list of top cities in California for 2023. It truly has everything you would want or need in a city.

It is quite sizable, with a population of about 1.3 million people. Yet, its laid-back culture and easy access to many outdoor activities makes it feel more open and relaxed.

San Diego is packed with things to do both indoors and outdoors. There are numerous top notch beaches to visit, like the sandy shores of Mission Beach or the rocky terrain at Torrey Pines State Beach. Meanwhile, the mountains are just a short drive away.

Meanwhile, it offers a thriving arts and culture scene as well as being one of the best culinary cities in the nation. There is also the San Diego Padres baseball team that play their home games in the beautiful stadium that is right in the heart of downtown.

San Diego is not the cheapest place to live. It costs about 50% more to live here than the rest of the US, but we think it’s worth it considering all the great things it has to offer.

Summary – Best Places to Live in Southern California

As you can see, SoCal is filled with many exciting, vibrant places and we think that the ones listed above are the best cities to live in Southern California.

Most of them are clustered around Los Angeles and San Diego, which makes sense since this region offers some of the best weather and easy access to beaches, national parks, and mountains to explore.

There is also quite some diversity of cities on our list, so be sure to review it again to ensure that you choose one that best aligns with what you are looking for. The best city to live in Southern California may be a bit different for you depending on your exact needs, so we hope this list will be able to help you decide.