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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The last time we visited data which involved California, we analyzed the worst places to live there. What we found didn’t surprise anyone at the office: Southern California has, by far, the worst places to live in the state, if you’re looking at it scientifically.

Nothing against SoCal or anything, but we grew up in Cali, and we know it’s hella better up north.

So, with that aside, it’s time to visit the lighter side and take a look at the best places to live there. Because, after all, California has some really great places. You just have to know where to look. (Hint: Look up).

After analyzing all 624 cities with a population of over 5,000, we came up with this list as the 10 best places in California:

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

Well, it looks like you should check out Los Altos if you’re thinking of moving to California — it’s the best the Golden State has to offer according to the data.

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.

For more California reading, check out:

Mapping The Best And Worst Places To Live in California

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, 381 towns, and 265 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.

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.

Los Altos, CA

Overall SnackAbility

10
/10

Population: 30,238
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $2,000,000 (3rd best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.2% (5th best)
More on Los Altos: Real Estate| Data| Photos

Los Altos is unequivocally the best place to live in California. Not only do they have the highest student expenditure in the state, meaning they place a very high value on their students’ education, but they also have the 7th highest median income.

Additionally, they have the 25th lowest crime rate, making it one of the safest city in California. If that wasn’t enough, their unemployment rate is only 3.2%%.

Overall, Los Altos is the place to live in California.

Los Altos Hills, CA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

10
/10

Population: 8,376
Rank Last Year: 3 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $2,000,000 (3rd best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.5% (10th best)
More on Los Altos Hills: Real Estate| Data| Photos

If you don’t have a job in Los Altos Hills, you’re most likely not trying very hard. The unemployment rate here is almost as low as you can get — 3.5%. In fact, there are probably enough butler and landscaping jobs available here to put every single unemployed resident to work, what with a median income of $243,701.

That’s actually not a bad idea…

Aliso Viejo, CA

Overall SnackAbility

10
/10

Population: 50,219
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 6)
Median Home Value: $539,000 (131st best)
Unemployment Rate: 5.9% (84th best)
More on Aliso Viejo: Real Estate| Data| Photos

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.

Piedmont, CA

Overall SnackAbility

10
/10

Population: 11,201
Rank Last Year: 2 (Down 2)
Median Home Value: $1,572,700 (14th best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.7% (13th best)
More on Piedmont: Real Estate| Data| Photos

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.

Coronado, CA

Overall SnackAbility

9.5
/10

Population: 24,852
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $1,332,500 (20th best)
Unemployment Rate: 6.1% (98th best)
More on Coronado: Real Estate| Data| Photos

Coronado has a really low crime rate (66th lowest) and only 6.1% of the people are unemployed. Additionally, residents here have high paying jobs ($92,413). And that goes a long way.

The population is growing at a steady clip, and the cost of living is lower than it should be. So people have an extra incentive to live in Coronado.

Belmont, CA

Overall SnackAbility

10
/10

Population: 26,918
Rank Last Year: 11 (Up 5)
Median Home Value: $1,074,600 (31st best)
Unemployment Rate: 5.0% (48th best)
More on Belmont: Real Estate| Data| Photos

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 at 5.0%, 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.

Cupertino, CA

Overall SnackAbility

10
/10

Population: 60,297
Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 2)
Median Home Value: $1,214,300 (21st best)
Unemployment Rate: 6.8% (142nd best)
More on Cupertino: Real Estate| Data| Photos

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.

Atherton, CA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

9.5
/10

Population: 7,127
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 4)
Median Home Value: $2,000,000 (3rd best)
Unemployment Rate: 6.1% (98th best)
More on Atherton: Real Estate| Data| Photos

Atherton has been called one of the best small towns in America. If you live here, you’re most likely already aware of how great it is to live there.

Just about everyone who wants a job in Atherton has one; the unemployment rate is hovering at about 6.1% and lowering. And the Atherton police department is doing a solid job, as crime is the 48th lowest in the state here.

Who wouldn’t want to live in a place like this?

Hillsborough, CA

Overall SnackAbility

10
/10

Population: 11,312
Rank Last Year: 8 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $2,000,000 (3rd best)
Unemployment Rate: 5.4% (66th best)
More on Hillsborough: Real Estate| Data| Photos

Hillsborough has it made. In fact, according to science, it’s one of the best places to live in the state of California.

The unemployment rate is the 66th lowest in the state at 5.4%, and residents make a pretty penny. Median incomes are $216,292, and the average cost of a home is $2,000,000. Which is an indication that lots of people want to live here.

We wouldn’t be surprised if more and more publications call Hillsborough one of America’s gems.

San Ramon, CA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

10
/10

Population: 74,366
Rank Last Year: 14 (Up 4)
Median Home Value: $810,700 (54th best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.9% (16th best)
More on San Ramon: Real Estate| Data| Photos

San Ramon isn’t just the nicest place to live in California – it’s also the one of the fastest growing places in the state. And with good reason.

It’s got the 16th lowest unemployment rate, the 21st highest adjusted income, and rates above most places in education.

When you’re looking at science and data, San Ramon definitely deserves a spot on the list for 2018.

Wrapping Up The Best Places When It Comes To Living 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. Blacklake (Pop. 895)
  2. Diablo (Pop. 807)
  3. Alto (Pop. 649)
  4. Tomales (Pop. 245)
  5. Spreckels (Pop. 745)
  6. Alhambra Valley (Pop. 501)
  7. Silverado Resort (Pop. 988)
  8. Los Olivos (Pop. 871)
  9. Rolling Hills (Pop. 832)
  10. Lake Almanor Country Club (Pop. 357)

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

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

For more California reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Best Places To Live In California

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

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19 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.

    1. I agree, Laguna deserves to be in the Top 5. San Juan, too.
      But actually, Laguna (I’m from there) is an oasis of Liberalism in Red desert of Orange County. So anyone who left it out was probably a Trumpist.

  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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