These Are The 20 Best Small Towns In California For 2018


We used science and data to determine which small towns in California are the best of the best.

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This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. Data updated for 2018.

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You’ve seen these lists before: Best places to live in California, Most Beautiful Downtowns, etc., etc. But all of them focus on major cities and towns in the Golden State and no one pays attention to the little guy.

Well, that’s all about to change as we put together a list of the best small towns in California based on numbers–not opinions or hearsay.

We’ll dive right into our methodology in the next section; but first, we thought you might just want to know which places in California ranked the based–you know, based on science.

Before we get to the top 20, here’s a look at the 10 Best Small Towns To Live in California for 2018:

  1. Ladera (Homes For Sale)
  2. Shell Ridge (Homes For Sale)
  3. Loyola (Homes For Sale)
  4. West Menlo Park (Homes For Sale)
  5. Mission Canyon (Homes For Sale)
  6. Acalanes Ridge (Homes For Sale)
  7. Emerald Lake Hills (Homes For Sale)
  8. Highlands-Baywood Park (Homes For Sale)
  9. Monte Sereno (Photos | Homes For Sale)
  10. Cambrian Park (Homes For Sale)

If you live in one of these small towns like Ladera, chances are, you’re not surprised. After all, you know how great you have it.

But for the rest of you–keep reading and we’ll get to just why these small towns made our list.

For more reading on the Golden State check out:

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How We Determined The Coolest Towns In California

We threw a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible. Using the most recent data from the Census’s 2012-2016 American Community Survey and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is the criteria we used:

  • Population Density (Higher is better)
  • Lowest Unemployment Rates
  • Housing costs (Higher is better. More demand.)
  • Adjusted Median Income (Higher is better)
  • Highly Educated Adults (Higher is better)
  • Insurance Rates (Higher is better)
  • Commute Times (Lower is better)

We looked at places with populations lower than 5,000 people and greater than 1,000, of which, there were a lot – 378 to be exact.

We then ranked each place in each category with scores from 1 to 378, averaged them out, and the lowest scores went to our Best Small Towns in California. Top of that list — Ladera.

Keep reading to find out more about our top 20 best small towns in California.

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1. Ladera


Population: 1,514
Median Income: $250,000 (1st Best)
Median Home Value: $2,000,000 (6th Best)
More on Ladera: Data| Homes For Sale

2. Shell Ridge


Population: 1,123
Median Income: $153,333 (22nd Best)
Median Home Value: $929,900 (30th Best)
More on Shell Ridge: Data| Homes For Sale

3. Loyola


Population: 3,425
Median Income: $204,726 (8th Best)
Median Home Value: $2,000,000 (6th Best)
More on Loyola: Data| Homes For Sale

4. West Menlo Park


Population: 3,830
Median Income: $180,192 (13th Best)
Median Home Value: $1,664,200 (13th Best)
More on West Menlo Park: Data| Homes For Sale

5. Mission Canyon


Population: 2,769
Median Income: $137,727 (25th Best)
Median Home Value: $983,600 (28th Best)
More on Mission Canyon: Data| Homes For Sale

6. Acalanes Ridge


Population: 1,000
Median Income: $187,604 (12th Best)
Median Home Value: $846,700 (35th Best)
More on Acalanes Ridge: Data| Homes For Sale

7. Emerald Lake Hills


Population: 4,716
Median Income: $171,522 (18th Best)
Median Home Value: $1,376,700 (17th Best)
More on Emerald Lake Hills: Data| Homes For Sale

8. Highlands-Baywood Park


Population: 4,261
Median Income: $162,552 (19th Best)
Median Home Value: $1,184,000 (20th Best)
More on Highlands-Baywood Park: Data| Homes For Sale

9. Monte Sereno

Monte Sereno, CA

Population: 3,514
Median Income: $202,321 (9th Best)
Median Home Value: $2,000,000 (6th Best)
More on Monte Sereno: PhotosData| Homes For Sale

10. Cambrian Park


Population: 3,259
Median Income: $106,037 (42nd Best)
Median Home Value: $899,400 (34th Best)
More on Cambrian Park: Data| Homes For Sale

11. San Pasqual


Population: 2,017
Median Income: $84,125 (82nd Best)
Median Home Value: $806,500 (38th Best)
More on San Pasqual: Data| Homes For Sale

12. Los Ranchos


Population: 1,630
Median Income: $117,740 (33rd Best)
Median Home Value: $838,200 (36th Best)
More on Los Ranchos: Data| Homes For Sale

13. Summerland


Population: 1,146
Median Income: $72,071 (116th Best)
Median Home Value: $1,023,400 (24th Best)
More on Summerland: Data| Homes For Sale

14. Carmel-By-The-Sea


Population: 3,852
Median Income: $81,607 (88th Best)
Median Home Value: $1,226,300 (18th Best)
More on Carmel-By-The-Sea: Data| Homes For Sale

15. Belvedere

Belvedere, CA

Population: 2,017
Median Income: $178,750 (14th Best)
Median Home Value: $2,000,000 (6th Best)
More on Belvedere: PhotosData| Homes For Sale

16. Reliez Valley


Population: 3,595
Median Income: $172,083 (17th Best)
Median Home Value: $903,500 (33rd Best)
More on Reliez Valley: Data| Homes For Sale

17. Hidden Hills


Population: 1,573
Median Income: $211,250 (6th Best)
Median Home Value: $2,000,000 (6th Best)
More on Hidden Hills: Data| Homes For Sale

18. Sleepy Hollow


Population: 2,275
Median Income: $208,452 (7th Best)
Median Home Value: $1,430,600 (16th Best)
More on Sleepy Hollow: Data| Homes For Sale

19. Granite Hills


Population: 3,071
Median Income: $116,146 (34th Best)
Median Home Value: $563,500 (76th Best)
More on Granite Hills: Data| Homes For Sale

20. Sea Ranch


Population: 1,092
Median Income: $77,759 (102nd Best)
Median Home Value: $674,900 (61st Best)
More on Sea Ranch: Data| Homes For Sale

Science Can Tackle Any Issue, Even Small Ones

We said it once and we’ll say it again — this list: it’s just science. We did the research, we crunched the numbers, and it turns out, these 20 small towns in California are the best, in which to live.

And who can argue with that?

If you’re curious, here are the worst small towns in California:

  1. Oasis
  2. North Shore
  3. Rancho Tehama Reserve

For more California reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Best Small Towns In California

Rank City Population Median Income Median Home Value
1 Ladera 1,514 $250,000 $2,000,000
2 Shell Ridge 1,123 $153,333 $929,900
3 Loyola 3,425 $204,726 $2,000,000
4 West Menlo Park 3,830 $180,192 $1,664,200
5 Mission Canyon 2,769 $137,727 $983,600
6 Acalanes Ridge 1,000 $187,604 $846,700
7 Emerald Lake Hills 4,716 $171,522 $1,376,700
8 Highlands-Baywood Park 4,261 $162,552 $1,184,000
9 Monte Sereno 3,514 $202,321 $2,000,000
10 Cambrian Park 3,259 $106,037 $899,400
11 San Pasqual 2,017 $84,125 $806,500
12 Los Ranchos 1,630 $117,740 $838,200
13 Summerland 1,146 $72,071 $1,023,400
14 Carmel-By-The-Sea 3,852 $81,607 $1,226,300
15 Belvedere 2,017 $178,750 $2,000,000
16 Reliez Valley 3,595 $172,083 $903,500
17 Hidden Hills 1,573 $211,250 $2,000,000
18 Sleepy Hollow 2,275 $208,452 $1,430,600
19 Granite Hills 3,071 $116,146 $563,500
20 Sea Ranch 1,092 $77,759 $674,900
21 Woodlands 1,075 $140,188 $717,600
22 San Miguel Cdp (Contra Costa County) 3,214 $156,591 $914,100
23 Del Rey Oaks 1,683 $86,806 $480,100
24 Portola Valley 4,550 $232,981 $2,000,000
25 Camino Tassajara 3,456 $175,382 $1,000,400
26 Moss Beach 3,706 $93,635 $740,200
27 Del Mar 4,312 $108,556 $2,000,000
28 Del Rio 1,577 $122,331 $713,100
29 Santa Rosa Valley 3,601 $178,400 $1,018,900
30 Toro Canyon 1,714 $91,125 $1,453,900
31 Rolling Hills 1,760 $220,764 $2,000,000
32 West Bishop 2,901 $89,917 $414,300
33 Ross 2,381 $199,107 $2,000,000
34 Bell Canyon 2,159 $201,875 $1,214,800
35 Castle Hill 1,202 $158,125 $1,030,200
36 Fairbanks Ranch 2,864 $134,250 $2,000,000
37 Yountville 2,991 $72,194 $561,000
38 Montara 2,895 $101,410 $824,800
39 Morada 4,783 $107,500 $552,400
40 Elkhorn 1,091 $103,750 $442,400
41 Corralitos 2,557 $115,244 $758,400
42 Rose Hills 3,033 $117,875 $555,900
43 Woodacre 1,542 $90,824 $704,800
44 Lake Sherwood 1,651 $250,000 $1,659,500
45 Lagunitas-Forest Knolls 1,530 $85,671 $637,800
46 Del Monte Forest 4,819 $105,208 $1,045,900
47 San Antonio Heights 3,099 $88,125 $618,400
48 Brisbane 4,568 $91,127 $699,800
49 Black Point-Green Point 1,592 $136,111 $987,200
50 Hidden Meadows 3,648 $90,536 $528,100
51 Ridgemark 3,175 $112,663 $552,000
52 Channel Islands Beach 2,954 $101,007 $705,800
53 Casa Conejo 3,180 $96,932 $468,800
54 Angwin 3,505 $65,656 $606,500
55 Bonsall 4,294 $78,493 $600,300
56 Lexington Hills 2,617 $146,726 $788,500
57 Penngrove 2,940 $74,294 $703,900
58 Santa Margarita 1,346 $50,083 $428,100
59 Felton 3,582 $95,260 $512,400
60 Mcswain 4,397 $104,722 $387,400
61 Burbank 4,984 $67,177 $533,900
62 Santa Ynez 4,468 $98,036 $739,800
63 Pasatiempo 1,288 $104,842 $926,700
64 Colma 1,540 $92,589 $587,700
65 Seacliff 3,364 $65,196 $609,200
66 Cayucos 2,987 $58,365 $685,900
67 Inverness 1,074 $57,404 $802,600
68 Lake Of The Pines 3,936 $80,096 $360,300
69 Norris Canyon 1,046 $223,542 $1,758,600
70 Deer Park 1,092 $69,821 $1,163,100
71 Green Valley Cdp (Solano County) 1,224 $66,710 $659,400
72 Squirrel Mountain Valley 1,077 $49,808 $265,400
73 East Richmond Heights 3,364 $70,299 $407,700
74 Sunnyside 4,066 $66,591 $272,600
75 La Selva Beach 2,633 $97,833 $795,100
76 Crockett 3,103 $78,750 $420,200
77 Meadow Vista 3,214 $81,681 $394,100
78 Monument Hills 1,864 $121,635 $485,000
79 El Verano 4,161 $74,870 $467,800
80 Twain Harte 2,275 $48,603 $311,800
81 East Sonora 2,504 $39,583 $246,900
82 Bishop 3,832 $40,182 $286,800
83 North El Monte 4,058 $67,392 $554,500
84 Rancho Santa Fe 2,763 $106,215 $2,000,000
85 Carmel Valley Village 4,282 $90,813 $791,300
86 Mission Hills 3,616 $85,052 $351,300
87 Pine Grove 1,653 $48,326 $248,000
88 East Oakdale 3,157 $108,292 $496,500
89 Bonny Doon 3,117 $91,394 $744,300
90 Temelec 1,627 $40,391 $390,000
91 Sunnyside-Tahoe City 1,249 $70,347 $628,000
92 Sunol 1,004 $90,682 $791,700
93 Lake San Marcos 4,529 $51,793 $506,500
94 Meiners Oaks 3,348 $74,216 $507,600
95 Avalon 3,767 $62,054 $680,300
96 Pine Canyon 1,799 $65,170 $306,400
97 San Juan Bautista 2,327 $59,643 $424,700
98 Redwood Valley 2,102 $78,819 $312,200
99 Agua Dulce 3,541 $104,861 $579,400
100 Butte Creek Canyon 1,089 $87,651 $436,400

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