Best Small Towns In California For 2020


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

This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. This is our sixth time ranking the best small places to live in California.

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 15, here’s a look at the 10 Best Small Towns To Live in California for 2020.

What’s the best small town in California? Mission Canyon is the best small town in California based on the most recent Census data. If you live in one of these small towns like Mission Canyon, 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:

The 15 Best Small Towns In California For 2020

Overall SnackAbility

7.5
/10

Population: 2,755
Median Income: $140,081 (27th Best)
Median Home Value: $1,147,600 (25th Best)
More on Mission Canyon: Data | Homes For Sale

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 1,465
Median Income: $250,001 (2nd Best)
Median Home Value: $2,000,001 (6th Best)
More on Ladera: Data | Homes For Sale

Overall SnackAbility

7.5
/10

Population: 3,364
Median Income: $224,091 (7th Best)
Median Home Value: $2,000,001 (6th Best)
More on Loyola: Data | Homes For Sale

Overall SnackAbility

7.5
/10

Population: 4,594
Median Income: $233,281 (6th Best)
Median Home Value: $1,723,700 (15th Best)
More on Emerald Lake Hills: Data | Homes For Sale

Monte Sereno, CA

Overall SnackAbility

10
/10

Population: 3,492
Median Income: $250,001 (2nd Best)
Median Home Value: $2,000,001 (6th Best)
More on Monte Sereno: PhotosData | Homes For Sale

Overall SnackAbility

7.5
/10

Population: 4,116
Median Income: $197,222 (16th Best)
Median Home Value: $2,000,001 (6th Best)
More on West Menlo Park: Data | Homes For Sale

Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

Population: 3,855
Median Income: $90,734 (75th Best)
Median Home Value: $1,384,000 (19th Best)
More on Carmel-By-The-Sea: Data | Homes For Sale

Overall SnackAbility

7.5
/10

Population: 3,094
Median Income: $146,406 (25th Best)
Median Home Value: $1,224,100 (21st Best)
More on Cambrian Park: Data | Homes For Sale

Overall SnackAbility

7.5
/10

Population: 4,564
Median Income: $189,856 (17th Best)
Median Home Value: $1,582,300 (16th Best)
More on Highlands-Baywood Park: Data | Homes For Sale

Belvedere, CA

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 2,098
Median Income: $223,182 (8th Best)
Median Home Value: $2,000,001 (6th Best)
More on Belvedere: PhotosData | Homes For Sale

Overall SnackAbility

7
/10

Population: 3,575
Median Income: $167,500 (19th Best)
Median Home Value: $940,900 (31st Best)
More on Reliez Valley: Data | Homes For Sale

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 1,281
Median Income: $210,313 (11th Best)
Median Home Value: $965,700 (30th Best)
More on Shell Ridge: Data | Homes For Sale

Overall SnackAbility

7.5
/10

Population: 1,932
Median Income: $94,050 (67th Best)
Median Home Value: $861,700 (42nd Best)
More on San Pasqual: Data | Homes For Sale

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 1,835
Median Income: $250,001 (2nd Best)
Median Home Value: $1,822,100 (13th Best)
More on Lake Sherwood: Data | Homes For Sale

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 1,730
Median Income: $132,000 (33rd Best)
Median Home Value: $932,100 (33rd Best)
More on Los Ranchos: Data | Homes For Sale

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 2014-2018 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 – 360 to be exact.

We then ranked each place in each category with scores from 1 to 360, averaged them out, and the lowest scores went to our Best Small Towns in California. Top of that list — Mission Canyon. You can download the data here.

Keep reading to find out more about our top 15 best small towns in California.

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 15 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. North Shore
  2. Berry Creek
  3. Oasis

For more california reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Best Small Towns In California

Rank City Population Median Income Median Home Value
1 Mission Canyon, CA 2,755 $140,081.0 $1,147,600.0
2 Ladera, CA 1,465 $250,001.0 $2,000,001.0
3 Loyola, CA 3,364 $224,091.0 $2,000,001.0
4 Emerald Lake Hills, CA 4,594 $233,281.0 $1,723,700.0
5 Monte Sereno, CA 3,492 $250,001.0 $2,000,001.0
6 West Menlo Park, CA 4,116 $197,222.0 $2,000,001.0
7 Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 3,855 $90,734.0 $1,384,000.0
8 Cambrian Park, CA 3,094 $146,406.0 $1,224,100.0
9 Highlands-Baywood Park, CA 4,564 $189,856.0 $1,582,300.0
10 Belvedere, CA 2,098 $223,182.0 $2,000,001.0
11 Reliez Valley, CA 3,575 $167,500.0 $940,900.0
12 Shell Ridge, CA 1,281 $210,313.0 $965,700.0
13 San Pasqual, CA 1,932 $94,050.0 $861,700.0
14 Lake Sherwood, CA 1,835 $250,001.0 $1,822,100.0
15 Los Ranchos, CA 1,730 $132,000.0 $932,100.0
16 Pasatiempo, CA 1,018 $151,250.0 $1,043,500.0
17 Ross, CA 2,309 $250,001.0 $2,000,001.0
18 Portola Valley, CA 4,594 $210,625.0 $2,000,001.0
19 Del Mar, CA 4,340 $110,966.0 $2,000,001.0
20 Hidden Hills, CA 1,634 $216,786.0 $2,000,001.0
21 Del Rey Oaks, CA 1,596 $90,795.0 $577,500.0
22 Del Monte Forest, CA 4,197 $138,889.0 $1,210,400.0
23 Eldridge, CA 1,351 $139,107.0 $747,100.0
24 Santa Rosa Valley, CA 3,180 $201,250.0 $1,150,200.0
25 El Verano, CA 3,424 $90,221.0 $624,100.0
26 Morada, CA 4,068 $147,564.0 $673,700.0
27 Sleepy Hollow, CA 2,200 $201,838.0 $1,767,200.0
28 Moss Beach, CA 3,799 $136,830.0 $939,600.0
29 Seacliff, CA 3,201 $69,846.0 $740,400.0
30 Castle Hill, CA 1,145 $134,167.0 $1,205,100.0
31 Camino Tassajara, CA 3,798 $209,417.0 $1,226,300.0
32 Toro Canyon, CA 1,735 $135,735.0 $1,453,500.0
33 Del Rio, CA 1,235 $164,808.0 $996,000.0
34 San Antonio Heights, CA 3,034 $88,729.0 $703,400.0
35 Rose Hills, CA 2,612 $97,813.0 $562,300.0
36 East Richmond Heights, CA 3,214 $77,778.0 $544,700.0
37 Casa Conejo, CA 3,366 $100,000.0 $565,000.0
38 West Bishop, CA 2,661 $93,214.0 $440,300.0
39 Santa Venetia, CA 4,790 $94,643.0 $740,100.0
40 Rolling Hills, CA 1,630 $239,375.0 $2,000,001.0
41 Bell Canyon, CA 2,391 $202,475.0 $1,452,400.0
42 Woodacre, CA 1,303 $75,982.0 $841,900.0
43 Lexington Hills, CA 2,603 $155,781.0 $882,900.0
44 Ridgemark, CA 3,062 $116,923.0 $602,700.0
45 Mcswain, CA 4,137 $101,211.0 $425,900.0
46 Black Point-Green Point, CA 1,655 $129,167.0 $1,027,200.0
47 Brisbane, CA 4,692 $110,372.0 $872,700.0
48 Woodlands, CA 1,743 $131,563.0 $761,800.0
49 Hidden Meadows, CA 3,386 $86,667.0 $558,600.0
50 Sea Ranch, CA 1,161 $78,350.0 $785,900.0
51 San Juan Bautista, CA 2,106 $79,375.0 $546,500.0
52 Yountville, CA 2,982 $63,561.0 $507,000.0
53 Fairbanks Ranch, CA 2,901 $182,600.0 $2,000,001.0
54 Meadow Vista, CA 3,460 $98,068.0 $457,400.0
55 Colma, CA 1,450 $94,279.0 $679,300.0
56 Shingle Springs, CA 3,865 $89,256.0 $488,200.0
57 Corralitos, CA 2,381 $150,064.0 $898,700.0
58 Penngrove, CA 2,961 $80,147.0 $762,900.0
59 Angwin, CA 3,424 $71,570.0 $674,300.0
60 East Sonora, CA 2,189 $43,750.0 $227,500.0
61 Camino, CA 1,799 $116,071.0 $403,700.0
62 Lagunitas-Forest Knolls, CA 1,504 $79,491.0 $748,300.0
63 Bishop, CA 3,765 $44,797.0 $302,200.0
64 Sunnyside, CA 4,451 $71,136.0 $291,900.0
65 Aromas, CA 2,553 $101,926.0 $609,400.0
66 Inverness, CA 1,127 $73,833.0 $913,000.0
67 Woodbridge, CA 3,865 $89,014.0 $386,800.0
68 Mountain View, CA 2,066 $90,066.0 $382,800.0
69 Allendale, CA 1,362 $130,987.0 $632,100.0
70 Cutten, CA 3,029 $53,079.0 $296,000.0
71 Lake Of The Pines, CA 4,137 $88,160.0 $388,900.0
72 Tahoe Vista, CA 1,288 $71,094.0 $605,600.0
73 Pine Canyon, CA 2,294 $70,875.0 $329,600.0
74 Avalon, CA 3,763 $69,440.0 $707,300.0
75 Felton, CA 3,810 $111,250.0 $614,700.0
76 Day Valley, CA 3,439 $122,105.0 $883,000.0
77 North El Monte, CA 4,028 $59,375.0 $623,500.0
78 Bonny Doon, CA 3,009 $97,593.0 $845,600.0
79 East Oakdale, CA 3,344 $114,637.0 $586,900.0
80 Rancho Santa Fe, CA 2,591 $113,456.0 $2,000,001.0
81 Coronita, CA 3,138 $107,656.0 $393,500.0
82 Lincoln Village, CA 4,768 $68,567.0 $254,100.0
83 Meiners Oaks, CA 3,508 $79,880.0 $609,600.0
84 Palo Cedro, CA 1,151 $83,148.0 $331,400.0
85 Crockett, CA 3,094 $74,534.0 $470,200.0
86 Bolinas, CA 1,077 $57,708.0 $1,061,300.0
87 Montara, CA 2,692 $90,066.0 $914,400.0
88 March Arb, CA 1,150 $77,857.0 $300,000.0
89 Granite Hills, CA 2,833 $113,438.0 $606,700.0
90 Minkler, CA 1,074 $93,086.0 $356,700.0
91 Channel Islands Beach, CA 2,864 $101,091.0 $825,900.0
92 Ferndale, CA 1,365 $49,750.0 $393,900.0
93 Cayucos, CA 2,692 $63,205.0 $706,600.0
94 La Selva Beach, CA 2,917 $99,236.0 $929,900.0
95 Clay, CA 1,083 $73,365.0 $486,400.0
96 Mission Hills, CA 3,796 $85,531.0 $396,400.0
97 Fetters Hot Springs-Agua Caliente, CA 4,697 $67,008.0 $549,600.0
98 Pine Valley, CA 1,669 $105,789.0 $439,900.0
99 Carmel Valley Village, CA 4,293 $93,681.0 $889,200.0
100 Forestville, CA 3,685 $69,406.0 $482,900.0

About Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar has been in the real estate business for almost ten years now. He originally worked for Movoto Real Estate as the director of marketing before founding HomeSnacks.

He believes the key to finding the right place to live comes down to looking at the data, reading about things to do, and, most importantly, checking it out yourself before you move.

If you've been looking for a place to live in the past several years, you've probably stumbled upon his writing already.

You can find out more about him on LinkedIn or his website.