These Are The 10 Best Places To Live In California For 2018


We used science to determine which cities in the Golden State are pure gold.

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This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. Don’t freak out that we updated it for 2018.

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Where are the best places in the state of California?

To the untrained eye they are the places that have awesome economies. They’re the places in Golden State where people have the best jobs, residents are all above average, and the sun shines the most.

However, here at HomeSnacks, we don’t trust the untrained eye and instead look to data to understand the best places to call home in California.

There might be some surprises on this list, but when you look at the unbiased data, it’s hard to argue against.

After analyzing 410 places in California, we came up with this list of the best places:

  1. Los Altos (Photos)
  2. Los Altos Hills (Photos)
  3. Aliso Viejo (Photos)
  4. Piedmont (Photos)
  5. Coronado (Photos)
  6. Belmont (Photos)
  7. Cupertino (Photos)
  8. Atherton (Photos)
  9. Hillsborough
  10. San Ramon (Photos)

Follow along as we provide more insight into how we reached our overall best places to live in California.

If you’re looking for something more national, check out the best states in America or the best places to live in America.

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The Pressing Question: Size

Before we even started to collect data, we had to answer a tough question: Is it fair to pit Sacramento with a population of 484,530 against places with a population of 18?

We firmly decided no, that just isn’t fair.

So to create our ranking, we broke places to live into three tiers:

  • Cities — Populations over 5,000
  • Towns — Populations between 1,000 and 5,000
  • Small Towns — Populations below 1,000

This left us with 410 cities, 397 towns, and 481 small towns.

We then decided, no matter how much anyone loves their town, the best places have more of everything and therefore you need to have over 5,000 people to truly be ‘the best’.

Now we also realize that city living might not be your cup of tea, so we ran the following analysis on towns and then again for small towns.

You can see those two top tens at the bottom of the post.

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How We Calculated The Best Place To Live In California

Now that we had our set of cities, it was time to rank them.

We ranked each place in California across a number of criteria from one to 410, with one being the best.

We then took the average rank across all criteria, with the city posting the lowest overall score being crowned the winner of the title “Best Place To Live In California”.

The criteria we looked at were:

  • Median Home Values
  • Median Income
  • Population Density (Higher better)
  • Unemployment Rate
  • Commute Time
  • Crime
  • Education Levels
  • Health Insurance Coverage
  • Poverty rates

Sources of criteria include the New Census Data and FBI Crime Data.

If your city or town isn’t among the top 10, jump down to the bottom of the post to see a detailed chart of the best places in California.

Otherwise, buckle up for a ride down good living lane with Los Altos at the end of the cul-de-sac.

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1. Los Altos

Los Altos, California

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 30,238
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Home Values: $2,000,000 (3rd best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.2% (5th best)
Los Altos makes a case for being one of the best places to live in California mainly because of a low crime rate and a higher than average household income level.

And when school spending is higher than the national average and only 3.2% of folks are jobless, you can bet Los Altos residents are glad to live where they do.

2. Los Altos Hills

Los Altos Hills, California

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 8,376
Rank Last Year: 3 (Up 1)
Home Values: $2,000,000 (3rd best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.5% (10th best)
Los Altos Hills makes a case for being one of the best places to live in California mainly because of a low crime rate and a higher than average household income level.

And when school spending is higher than the national average and only 3.5% of folks are jobless, you can bet Los Altos Hills residents are glad to live where they do.

3. Aliso Viejo

Aliso Viejo, California

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 50,219
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 6)
Home Values: $539,000 (131st best)
Unemployment Rate: 5.9% (84th best)
Aliso Viejo is Mission Viejo’s twin sister. The unemployment rate here is the 84th lowest in the state of California, and almost everyone who lives here has a job. That’s almost unheard of. The only real difference between the two is that Aliso Viejo has slightly lower priced homes, meaning it’s not as popular here as it is in Mission.

But, come on. Both are the best enclaves in the O.C.

4. Piedmont

Piedmont, California

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 11,201
Rank Last Year: 2 (Down 2)
Home Values: $1,572,700 (14th best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.7% (13th best)
Piedmont gets to enjoy the best Oakland has to offer without dealing with all of the crime that plagues Oakland. Residents here earn a staggeringly high income, and get some of the warmer weather that the east bay gets without the hot, dry climate in the Sacramento Valley.

So, yes, in this case, life up in the hills is better.

5. Coronado

Coronado, California

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 24,852
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 1)
Home Values: $1,332,500 (20th best)
Unemployment Rate: 6.1% (98th best)
Crime is something that doesn’t happen very often in Coronado. Statistically the 66th safest place in the state, there were only 26 violent crimes in the entire city last year.

It’s really beautiful in Coronado, and new homes continue to replace older homes. Resident earn $92,413 a year, and homes are valued at more than $1,332,500.

What else could you possibly want if you’re someone who likes the the good things in life?

6. Belmont

Belmont, California

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 26,918
Rank Last Year: 11 (Up 5)
Home Values: $1,074,600 (31st best)
Unemployment Rate: 5.0% (47th best)
You might be surprised to see the Town of Belmont so high on the list. Unless you live in Belmont.

The unemployment rate here is really low, and at5.0%, Belmont residents are some of the hardest working in the state of California. When you factor in high home prices, high incomes and low crime, Belmont is doing quite well.

Let’s be honest — Belmont is the kind of place you brag to your friends on Facebook about.

7. Cupertino

Cupertino, California

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 60,297
Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 2)
Home Values: $1,214,300 (21st best)
Unemployment Rate: 6.8% (142nd best)
Back to the Bay Area we go. There’s two types of people who live in Cupertino. Either the old hold outs who have lived there forever and are watching their home values skyrocket, or the tech elite who work in the Silicon Valley and who can afford to buy a home there.

Either way, you’re set. Your kids go to great schools, there’s a ton of things to do, and you earn a great salary. Cupertino is exactly what you hoped for when you played that board game, LIFE as a kid.

8. Atherton

Atherton, California

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 7,127
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 4)
Home Values: $2,000,000 (3rd best)
Unemployment Rate: 6.1% (98th best)
Good things do come in small packages; it’s true for Atherton, which with a population of 7,127 makes it one of the smallest on this list.

Relatively low unemployment and relatively high adjusted income are just two blessings Atherton residents enjoy.

The 48th lowest crime rate in all of California makes Atherton one of the safest place on this list.

9. Hillsborough


Population: 11,312
Rank Last Year: 8 (Down 1)
Home Values: $2,000,000 (3rd best)
Unemployment Rate: 5.4% (66th best)
The crime is the 23rd lowest in the state in Hillsborough, and there were only 9 violent crimes in the entire city last year. We think it’s even safer here than the numbers indicate.

The schools are some of the best in California, and residents live in very expensive homes. They also earn more than most every other city in the state. Residents in Hillsborough earn $216,292 a year.

10. San Ramon

San Ramon, California

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 74,366
Rank Last Year: 14 (Up 4)
Home Values: $810,700 (54th best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.9% (16th best)
When you’re looking at the best places you could live in California, San Ramon came in 10th. Let’s see why.

It has a low unemployment rate and high incomes.

Plus, San Ramon has an impressive history for a place of just over 74,366 people. The median home costs a cool $810,700 and households make $134,188 which is good for 21st in California.

Wrapping Up The Best Of The Best In California

If you’re looking at areas in California with the best economic situations, where there’s lower than average crime, and a lot to do, this is an accurate list.

Los Altos made a strong showing to take in the overall number one spot for 2018.

Best Towns To Live In California

  1. Shell Ridge (Pop. 1,123)
  2. Ladera (Pop. 1,514)
  3. Loyola (Pop. 3,425)
  4. West Menlo Park (Pop. 3,830)
  5. Acalanes Ridge (Pop. 1,000)
  6. Emerald Lake Hills (Pop. 4,716)
  7. Mission Canyon (Pop. 2,769)
  8. Monte Sereno (Pop. 3,514)
  9. Highlands-Baywood Park (Pop. 4,261)
  10. Los Ranchos (Pop. 1,630)

Best Small Towns To Live In California

  1. Fort Washington (Pop. 737)
  2. Diablo (Pop. 807)
  3. Blacklake (Pop. 895)
  4. Alto (Pop. 649)
  5. Tomales (Pop. 245)
  6. Acampo (Pop. 466)
  7. Creston (Pop. 68)
  8. Stinson Beach (Pop. 603)
  9. Keddie (Pop. 45)
  10. Strawberry CDP (Tuolumne (Pop. 116)

If you’re curious enough, here are the worst places to live in California:

  1. Desert Hot Springs (Pop. 28,092)
  2. Clearlake (Pop. 15,070)
  3. Wasco (Pop. 26,061)

For more California reading , check out:

Detailed List Of The Best Cities In California

City Rank Previous Rank Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
Los Altos 1 1 30,238 3.2% $2,000,000
Los Altos Hills 2 3 8,376 3.5% $2,000,000
Aliso Viejo 3 9 50,219 5.9% $539,000
Piedmont 4 2 11,201 3.7% $1,572,700
Coronado 5 6 24,852 6.1% $1,332,500
Belmont 6 11 26,918 5.0% $1,074,600
Cupertino 7 5 60,297 6.8% $1,214,300
Atherton 8 4 7,127 6.1% $2,000,000
Hillsborough 9 8 11,312 5.4% $2,000,000
San Ramon 10 14 74,366 3.9% $810,700
Tiburon 11 20 9,170 3.9% $1,847,800
Mill Valley 12 10 14,318 2.6% $1,201,600
Saratoga 13 7 30,830 5.5% $1,742,900
Sunnyvale 14 23 149,596 6.0% $859,100
Palos Verdes Estates 15 15 13,582 2.0% $1,609,500
Danville 16 27 43,758 5.1% $919,500
Palo Alto 17 21 66,649 4.8% $1,702,100
Mission Viejo 18 24 96,178 6.0% $608,100
Manhattan Beach 19 17 35,573 5.1% $1,537,200
Pacific Grove 20 12 15,546 4.6% $700,500
Menlo Park 21 13 33,319 3.6% $1,581,700
Orinda 22 16 18,936 4.6% $1,125,000
Rancho Santa Margarita 23 25 49,038 3.6% $584,000
Rancho Palos Verdes 24 26 42,412 4.3% $1,003,300
Solana Beach 25 42 13,312 3.3% $1,045,900
Sierra Madre 26 19 11,067 5.3% $861,200
Lafayette 27 34 25,381 5.0% $1,127,400
Los Gatos 28 32 30,491 5.0% $1,338,400
Hermosa Beach 29 36 19,726 4.1% $1,166,800
Newport Beach 30 38 86,813 5.4% $1,584,900
Laguna Niguel 31 31 64,984 6.4% $712,000
Mountain View 32 40 78,827 4.7% $973,000
Moraga 33 29 16,977 6.0% $971,700
San Marino 34 22 13,324 4.3% $1,518,400
Yorba Linda 35 33 67,362 6.5% $728,300
Santa Clara 36 46 122,725 5.2% $734,500
Clayton 37 47 11,655 6.3% $629,200
Rolling Hills Estates 38 28 8,206 4.4% $1,096,400
Agoura Hills 39 58 20,689 5.3% $699,200
Villa Park 40 18 5,922 8.7% $1,030,800
Irvine 41 37 246,992 6.2% $718,800
Redondo Beach 42 45 67,664 5.8% $775,300
Folsom 43 39 74,960 5.6% $433,300
Calabasas 44 51 24,091 5.2% $926,800
Lake Forest 45 49 80,658 5.2% $550,600
Goleta 46 30 30,671 5.8% $650,200
Pacifica 47 59 38,844 4.1% $680,500
Pleasanton 48 54 77,046 4.3% $828,900
Larkspur 49 63 12,268 5.3% $1,117,800
San Clemente 50 50 65,082 5.5% $801,100
Poway 51 43 49,675 5.4% $583,100
Campbell 52 48 40,788 3.9% $804,500
Encinitas 53 62 62,160 6.0% $820,400
Burlingame 54 44 30,118 4.5% $1,447,400
Scotts Valley 55 57 11,824 5.9% $654,600
Fairfax 56 34 7,598 3.4% $733,800
Laguna Hills 57 66 31,127 6.2% $628,800
Dublin 58 53 54,523 4.0% $693,900
San Mateo 59 56 102,224 5.3% $850,200
Camarillo 60 59 66,630 5.5% $493,800
Cypress 61 65 48,978 5.2% $540,900
Corte Madera 62 75 9,694 4.5% $1,061,700
Sausalito 63 61 7,115 6.6% $1,163,500
South Pasadena 64 71 25,936 6.2% $876,900
Torrance 65 52 147,307 6.4% $652,600
Moorpark 66 64 35,594 6.6% $567,300
San Anselmo 67 82 12,623 7.2% $914,400
Dana Point 68 70 34,009 6.1% $780,300
Albany 69 81 19,420 6.1% $697,600
Arroyo Grande 70 73 17,842 4.7% $472,400
Thousand Oaks 71 67 128,623 7.9% $637,100
San Bruno 72 79 42,736 5.4% $668,700
La Habra Heights 73 41 5,406 4.9% $893,200
Fremont 74 74 227,934 5.3% $702,800
Buellton 75 5,021 3.4% $410,200
Huntington Beach 76 84 198,724 6.0% $659,700
South San Francisco 77 80 66,587 6.6% $644,500
Laguna Woods 78 69 16,347 5.1% $228,700
Fountain Valley 79 76 56,670 6.6% $626,600
Milpitas 80 87 73,447 7.3% $635,300
Carlsbad 81 85 112,008 6.1% $674,400
San Carlos 82 83 29,596 5.8% $1,107,600
Simi Valley 83 93 126,126 6.2% $472,700
Beverly Hills 84 78 34,627 8.0% $1,900,500
Hercules 85 67 25,011 5.3% $422,200
Windsor 86 94 27,318 7.1% $445,700
Walnut 87 72 30,026 6.6% $679,700
Davis 88 55 66,886 5.5% $565,700
Livermore 89 95 86,493 4.6% $595,500
Rocklin 90 103 60,509 7.3% $381,000
Healdsburg 91 109 11,614 6.1% $596,700
Indian Wells 92 117 5,194 8.7% $667,000
Pismo Beach 93 89 7,984 4.5% $633,300
Novato 94 113 54,790 4.7% $625,900
Martinez 95 110 37,544 6.7% $462,300
Placentia 96 106 52,168 6.8% $554,500
Benicia 97 91 27,780 6.2% $475,500
Diamond Bar 98 102 56,456 7.3% $593,100
Walnut Creek 99 99 67,568 6.7% $647,400
Arcadia 100 88 57,755 6.5% $920,700

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18 thoughts on “These Are The 10 Best Places To Live In California For 2018

  1. Do you realize that “Up North” in California does not end in the Bay Area? You missed many beautiful parts of our State by ending your ridiculous and biased “survey”…in which you completely left out 1/2 of the state…

  2. Burbank has a population of 5789? Looks like there are problems with your data, to say nothing of methodology. Income means nothing if it’s not compared to housing etc. cost of living.

  3. I live in San Diego County and I am appalled that you totally skipped my beautiful city in your “best of” list but included many of the small towns of San Diego in you worst list. Hey, talk to us in December when we are in shorts and flip flops with our sunny skies and 70 degree temperatures and you guys in SFO are freezing!

  4. Dude, I liked your article. Not science but info-taining. I grew up in Mission Viejo in the 70’s and am glad to see it made your list. I would probably be one of those “shady” people moving back to MV. Hahaha

    1. Downey used to be a fantastic place. Then again, Southern California used to be a fantastic place until it turned into the mecca for every 3rd world immigrant. There are still pockets of goodness in Downey, if you have the money, but overall Downey is surrounded by gangster crime ridden sanctuary cities or cities of very high immigrant populations Norwalk, Pico Rivera, Bell, Compton, Lynwood, Bell, Cudahy, Santa Fe Springs, Paramount. Downey is also surrounded by 4 freeways so it like a pollution vortex (105, 5, 605, 710). Downey’s biggest claim to fame, Karen Carpenter lived there.

  5. Seriously? Have you ever BEEN to Foster City? There’s no “there” there! Just shopping malls and business parks. And being literally on the water, it’s gray a good part of the time.

    I grew up in Goleta, and it’s quite nice now, but to mention it without mentioning that it’s a suburb of Santa Barbara is ridiculous. Most of what there is to do is in Santa Barbara.

  6. Ridiculously biased article. Anyone who has lived in CA, knows that Southern is 10 times better than Northern in most every category. Better weather & people, waaay lower crime and any list of best which leaves off Laguna Beach and San Juan Capistrano, was written by a Communist.

  7. I have lived in Hemet for 35 years. It is a pretty good size city. Size wise. Everything from A to Z. Orange groves. Big Lake. Farms. Horses. Nice schools. Lots of nice shopping nearby.
    Very affordable. Now the bad part. Water rates and taxes are high. Drugs. Unemployment.
    Minimum hour drive for a decent paying job. Very few people maintain their property. This is probably due to so many people renting. Sections of downtown are kinda scruffy. But if you like a house with a little land to do something. Hemet is really nice. Yes Hemet has bikers. Gangsters. Street people. People that live in the parks. Alot of the community services that once helped the retirees that flocked their in the 70’s and 80’s now attract people that need that kind of support. It was bad for a few years. But it is
    stabilizing. The high cost of housing in surrounding areas is forcing people to take another look at Hemet. Just find a nice part of town. And get a good dog or two.
    By the way. Hemet city is run very well. San Jacinto city is corrupt as hell.

  8. Heh, La Mirada made the list. I’m happy to see that since I have been a resident nearly my entire life. Hoping not to sound bias but La Mirada has the distinction of remaining a very good city for many years despite being surrounded by cities with “issues”. It’s not to say there aren’t spots within all cities that are good or have great people.

    La Mirada is also interesting in that it manages to retain a lot of people that grew up here as children. I’m 53 and still run across multiple people I grew up with. Many school classes still get together annually for parties. La Mirada is truly unique. Part of the allure of living in La Mirada is that it is a “Bedroom Community”. Not a lot of shopping or dining opportunities here. People complain about it but I like it that way. Keeps out the un-disirables looking for trouble.

    Sadly though, So Cal traffic and crime keeping squeezing La Mirada and the “area” (not specifically La Mirada) isn’t what is used to be. Traffic is stifling, crime is increasing, and starting to look more like the United Nations. La Mirada City council has undergone some significant changes in recent years and the conservative old guard isn’t here to watch over as it once did. We hope the newer council remains firm.

  9. I live in Camarillo now, from Thousand Oaks. Love both towns. Camarillo (and San Diego) has the most even temp in the state, average year round is about 71 degrees F. While Thousand Oaks jas the lowest crime rate in the country for cities of 100k or more. The folks from No-Cal that put the data amd article together are just jealous, as So-Cal is so much better; No-Cal is full of SFO weirdos, they can have it.

  10. Just goes to show how scientific methods skew the facts. Cupertino and Foster City are just typical slightly higher end suburbs with cookie cutter development and traffic conjestion. The sky high costs, generic exixtence and that Foster City sits on fill that becomes jello in an earthquake make neither of these cities the best of anywhere.

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