The 10 Best Places To Live In California For 2022

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

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California is in its own league compared to other states. To give you an idea, if California were a country, it would have the sixth largest economy in the world. But being such a large state, there’s a wide discrepancy in quality between the best and the worst places to live in California and we’re here to talk about what makes the best places…well, the best.

People in Cali know they’ve got things pretty good, which is why they’re nationally known for being maddeningly laid-back about everything. But when you’re home to some of America’s most prized sites of natural beauty (Big Sur, Yosemite, and Redwood National Forest, to name a few), you can’t really be blamed for believing that life’s too good to bother stressing over.

California undeniably plays a big role in shaping our world today. Between Hollywood dominating the international media game and tech giants like Facebook and Google acting as global leaders in the handling of data, you can’t question California’s cultural ascendancy.

Sure, California’s great, but what does it take to earn a place in the state’s upper eschelon? Well, we looked at a number of factors, but it turns out the best places in Cali all share one thing: wealth. With incomes well over the $100,000/year mark and home prices breaking $500,000, you’d better believe that the best of the best in California ain’t cheap. By and large, the places that made the cut are located around San Francisco in Silicon Valley, so while housing certainly isn’t cheap, big salaries keeps the overall cost of living at a reasonable level.

We don’t mean to offend anyone from SoCal, but the data shows that it’s hella better up north. And with better schools, safer streets, and stronger economies, it’s no surprise that NoCal has the market cornered on quality cities. So break out your avocado toast, pour yourself a glass of Napa Valley wine, wax your surfboard, and keep reading to find out which places in The Golden State get gold medals for excellence.

What is the best place to live in California? Looks like the best place to live in California for 2022 goes to Los Altos. Right in the heart of Silicon Valley, this city combines all the great things of San Francisco, without all the negatives.

To be clear, the price of admission to these cities is steep — with median home prices above $500,00 and median incomes over $100,000 — but the reward is worth it.

Continue on for more on how we calculated the best places to live in the Golden State and for a detailed breakdown of the top ten. We also mapped out the location of each city so you figure out how long your commute will be.

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:

The 10 Best Places To Live In California For 2022

Los Altos, one of many Silicon Valley representatives to make the cut this year. Unsurprisingly, residents of Los Altos are highly educated, with over half of folks having a master’s degree or higher. Bigger degrees lead to bigger paychecks, which leaves the residents of Los Altos in the comfortable position of earning around $240,094/year. So, while the $2,000,001 price tag on homes in Los Altos is quite expensive, the overall cost of living is actually quite reasonable.

If you want to settle down in Los Altos for good, you’re in luck because the local schools scored an average of 9/10 on GreatSchools. On top of that, Los Altos has the 28th lowest rate of violent crime in California.

With all of these awesome features, it’s unsurprising that the Los Altos Farmer’s Market is one of the city’s top attractions. If your shopping needs fall outside the purview of a farmer’s market, Santana Row in San Jose is just a fifteen minute drive away.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 30,878
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $2,000,001
Unemployment Rate: 3.6%
More on Los Altos: Real Estate | Crime Report | Cost Of Living

Los Altos, CA

We don’t to drive very far to arrive at California’s 2nd best city to call home, Los Altos Hills. The unemployment rate in Los Altos Hills is a mere 2.1%, the 10th lowest of anywhere on this list. Which makes sense when you consider that a staggering 50%+ of Los Altos Hills’ population has received AT LEAST a master’s degree, seeing as you don’t normally find a person with a Ph.D out of work. It also explains why folks in Los Altos Hills earn around $250,001/year, the 3rd highest in California.

Los Altos has the 12th lowest overall crime rate in the state, about 75% below the national average. So you can take full advantage of the 24 miles of trails available at Rancho San Antonio without fearing for your safety.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 8,496
Rank Last Year: 3 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $2,000,001
Unemployment Rate: 2.1%
More on Los Altos Hills: Real Estate | Crime Report | Cost Of Living

Los Altos Hills, CA

Source: Public domain

Located in Orange County to the east of Anaheim and north of Santa Ana is our 3rd best place to live in California – Villa Park. While the main draw of the town may be its proximity to major cities, it also offers a lot of high quality shopping options in the Towne Centre, restaurants, and local amenities.

But really stands out about Villa Park? The near absence of crime. The city has the lowest rate of violent crime in the Golden State per the latest FBI data. That means it’s safe to let your kids walk to school or keep your doors unlocked during the day.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,883
Rank Last Year: 14 (Up 11)
Median Home Value: $1,238,800
Unemployment Rate: 2.2%
More on Villa Park: Real Estate | Crime Report | Cost Of Living

Villa Park, CA

Ever wonder why Cupertino is the default option for weather on the iPhone? That’s because, in addition to being the 4th best place to live in California, Cupertino is also the home of Apple’s Headquarters. Being the hub of a tech behemoth like Apple, it’s no surprise that Cupertino’s population of 59,799 is hyper-educated, with more than 40% of residents having a master’s, Ph.D, or professional degree.

All that extra time in school really pays off, because folks in Cupertino enjoy a median household income of $182,857/year, which you’ll need to pay off the $1,866,200 mortgage. Only 1.4% of people are on SNAP and 2.6% of people are without health insurance, so you know the residents of Cupertino aren’t struggling to get by.

We all know you can’t really consider yourself a part of the elite unless you’re a wine snob, so be sure to get in on the culture at one of the several vineyards in the Cupertino area.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 59,799
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 5)
Median Home Value: $1,866,200
Unemployment Rate: 2.5%
More on Cupertino: Real Estate | Crime Report | Cost Of Living

Cupertino, CA

We’re departing from Silicon Valley and heading towards Los Angeles’ Orange County to arrive at Aliso Viejo, the 5th best place to live in California. Aliso Viejo is a vibrant, youthful city where the median age is only 37. It’s also the most densely populated city you’ll see on this list, so if you crave constant activity, Aliso Viejo is probably your jam.

Aliso Viejo has the 148th best home price to income ratio. That low cost of living means you won’t have to break the bank to enjoy yourself here. As a bonus, you won’t have any trouble getting friends and family to come visit you in Aliso Viejo, because Disneyland is just a hop, skip, and jump away.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 50,385
Rank Last Year: 2 (Down 3)
Median Home Value: $656,600
Unemployment Rate: 3.5%
More on Aliso Viejo: Real Estate | Crime Report | Cost Of Living

Aliso Viejo, CA

Saratoga is a city of 31,084 located on the western side of the Santa Clara Valley. Of all the San Jose suburbs, Saratoga is the closest to Big Basin Redwoods State Park, California’s oldest state park and home to the largest stand of redwoods south of San Francisco. That oughta satisfy even the most voracious nature-lover.

Public schools is Saratoga received a 9/10+ on GreatSchools, so you know kids get off to a good start growing up here. Which obviously translates into greater success in later life, seeing as over 40% of residents have a master’s degree or higher. One good thing leads to another, because residents of Saratoga earn a median household income of $201,046, the 8th highest in Cali.

Add to that the 11th lowest rate of crime statewide and the 8th largest percentage of insured residents, and you’ve got a recipe for the 6th best place to call home in California.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 31,084
Rank Last Year: 7 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $2,000,001
Unemployment Rate: 4.0%
More on Saratoga: Real Estate | Crime Report | Cost Of Living

Saratoga, CA

Source: Public domain

Located at the tip of the Tiburon Peninsula reaching into the San Francisco Bay, Tiburon ranks as the 7th best place to live in California. Tiburon’s poverty level of 1.3% is the 2nd lowest in the state, and the 4.2% unemployment rate is the 97th lowest. Which helps explain why 98.0% of Tiburon’s residents have health insurance, the 28th highest rate of coverage in California.

Tiburon has the 28th lowest rate of crime in California, so you probably won’t need that health insurance to cover you for an assault. Tiburon is also a great jumping off point for getting to Angel Island for a 360 degree view of San Francisco Bay Area or the imposing Alcatraz Island for a history lesson.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 9,167
Rank Last Year: 6 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $2,000,001
Unemployment Rate: 4.2%
More on Tiburon: Real Estate | Crime Report | Cost Of Living

Tiburon, CA

Source: Public domain

Mission Viejo is located in the southern part of the greater Los Angeles metro area, outside of Irvine. The city offers plenty of outdoor activities for you and your family as there is plenty of shopping to be had at the Shops at Mission Viejo and hiking to be done at Mission Viejo Lake and Rancho Santa Margarita Lake.

It finds itself as the 8th best place to live in California for 2022 because of a low crime rate, a ton of things to do, a relatively low cost of living for California, and a solid school system. Great Schools ranks the schools systems as some of the best in Southern California.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 95,638
Rank Last Year: 19 (Up 11)
Median Home Value: $732,100
Unemployment Rate: 4.2%
More on Mission Viejo: Real Estate | Crime Report | Cost Of Living

Mission Viejo, CA

Source: Public domain

Nex on our list of the best places to live in California is Palos Verdes Estates, a city of 13,359 located just south of Los Angeles. For some, it’ll be enough to mention that Disneyland is just a short drive away to convince them that moving to Palos Verdes Estates is a good course of action.

But if even if you’re not into Mickey and the gang, there’s plenty to love right in your neighborhood, like having the Palos Verdes Estates Shoreline Preserve Beach, a rocky beach and bluff, to visit year-round.

Palos Verdes is exceptionally safe, with the 7th lowest overall crime rate in California. That may have something to do with how educated residents are, considering that over 30% of people have a master’s degree or higher.

More degrees lead to bigger paychecks, and Palos Verdes Estates residents prove that with a median household income of $197,826. Which is kind of essential when your typical Palos Verdes Estates home sells for $1,935,900. Unemployment is at rock-bottom levels thanks to low levels of high school dropouts. In fact, GreatSchools gave Palos Verdes Estates schools an average score of 8.5/10, so everyone is set up for success here.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 13,359
Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $1,935,900
Unemployment Rate: 2.1%
More on Palos Verdes Estates: Real Estate | Crime Report | Cost Of Living

Palos Verdes Estates, CA

I imagine if you live in Coronado, you consider yourself lucky and don’t need us to be singing your praises. The city is literally an island off of San Diego, which means that it’s beaches to the east and beaches to the west. You get to enjoy all that San Diego has to offer while getting to live the island life.

And the island life is not really an exaggeration. Some of the best things to do on the island include going tide pooling, boating on the bay, or a bonfire on the beach. And after all that time on the beach, you can peruse downtown Coronado shopping.

The overall quality of life in Coronado is very high as people make good incomes, unemployment is low, and crime is basically non existent.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 24,526
Rank Last Year: 16 (Up 6)
Median Home Value: $1,656,800
Unemployment Rate: 4.0%
More on Coronado: Real Estate | Crime Report | Cost Of Living

Coronado, CA

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 503,482 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 cities to live in California 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.

Methodology: How We Calculated The Best Cities 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. You can download the data here.

After the dust settled, what was the best place to live in California? That would be Los Altos.

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.

Summary: 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 the best place to live in California for 2022.

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. Mendota (Pop. 12,173)
  2. Avenal (Pop. 13,033)
  3. Clearlake (Pop. 15,329)

For more California reading, check out:

Where Are The Best Places To Live In California?

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Los Altos 30,878 3.6% $2,000,001
2 Los Altos Hills 8,496 2.1% $2,000,001
3 Villa Park 5,883 2.2% $1,238,800
4 Cupertino 59,799 2.5% $1,866,200
5 Aliso Viejo 50,385 3.5% $656,600
6 Saratoga 31,084 4.0% $2,000,001
7 Tiburon 9,167 4.2% $2,000,001
8 Mission Viejo 95,638 4.2% $732,100
9 Palos Verdes Estates 13,359 2.1% $1,935,900
10 Coronado 24,526 4.0% $1,656,800
11 Hillsborough 11,608 3.5% $2,000,001
12 Solana Beach 13,301 2.4% $1,333,200
13 Los Gatos 31,943 4.6% $1,775,500
14 Danville 44,933 3.8% $1,152,300
15 Rancho Santa Margarita 48,280 3.2% $679,500
16 Orinda 19,461 3.2% $1,515,500
17 Yorba Linda 68,103 3.8% $862,900
18 Sunnyvale 152,569 3.8% $1,397,200
19 Piedmont 11,454 4.5% $2,000,001
20 Lafayette 25,949 4.2% $1,557,200
21 Manhattan Beach 35,064 5.0% $2,000,001
22 San Ramon 81,344 4.3% $1,001,600
23 Newport Beach 86,694 2.9% $1,976,400
24 Rancho Palos Verdes 41,635 4.4% $1,209,200
25 Atherton 7,060 4.5% $2,000,001
26 Dana Point 33,782 4.1% $923,100
27 Menlo Park 35,211 3.7% $2,000,001
28 Sierra Madre 10,829 4.9% $1,007,800
29 Palo Alto 67,973 3.3% $2,000,001
30 Windsor 27,635 3.2% $620,600
31 Belmont 26,963 5.4% $1,604,700
32 Mill Valley 14,456 2.2% $1,625,400
33 San Marino 13,020 2.2% $2,000,001
34 Pacific Grove 15,471 5.6% $897,000
35 Moorpark 36,443 4.0% $662,400
36 Redondo Beach 66,663 3.6% $974,200
37 Agoura Hills 20,269 4.5% $828,100
38 Laguna Niguel 65,048 5.7% $863,600
39 Folsom 79,584 3.9% $558,900
40 Clayton 11,585 5.2% $806,600
41 Santa Clara 126,723 4.0% $1,120,400
42 Moraga 16,896 5.0% $1,171,500
43 Mountain View 80,104 3.4% $1,560,600
44 Hermosa Beach 19,147 3.9% $1,649,900
45 Encinitas 62,967 4.2% $992,100
46 Pleasanton 79,975 3.5% $1,056,100
47 Camarillo 68,583 4.2% $619,100
48 Rolling Hills Estates 8,025 5.3% $1,362,900
49 Lake Forest 84,666 4.9% $682,700
50 Thousand Oaks 127,648 4.2% $751,900
51 San Clemente 64,929 4.4% $931,400
52 La Palma 15,657 2.8% $686,800
53 Buellton 5,276 1.3% $580,100
54 Dublin 63,856 3.6% $934,500
55 Albany 20,145 3.0% $907,700
56 South Pasadena 25,478 4.1% $1,113,100
57 Arroyo Grande 17,924 2.3% $610,000
58 Livermore 91,763 3.0% $806,100
59 Burlingame 30,071 3.9% $2,000,001
60 St. Helena 6,049 3.3% $1,281,500
61 Laguna Hills 31,613 4.7% $744,800
62 Milpitas 75,182 3.7% $927,200
63 Pacifica 38,663 3.5% $943,500
64 Scotts Valley 12,055 4.3% $811,900
65 Hercules 26,090 3.5% $564,600
66 San Bruno 44,663 4.4% $958,300
67 Cypress 49,137 4.1% $665,100
68 Campbell 42,891 2.5% $1,156,000
69 Poway 49,780 6.5% $716,300
70 Lincoln 48,150 3.1% $468,400
71 Truckee 16,666 2.8% $603,900
72 Ripon 16,049 3.6% $472,100
73 San Mateo 103,619 4.5% $1,186,400
74 La Habra Heights 5,318 2.2% $916,500
75 Sausalito 7,177 6.1% $1,451,800
76 San Carlos 29,647 4.0% $1,756,800
77 Rocklin 67,070 4.6% $513,600
78 Benicia 28,158 3.4% $597,500
79 South San Francisco 66,878 2.5% $911,000
80 Martinez 38,397 4.6% $622,800
81 Irvine 272,694 5.3% $861,700
82 Morgan Hill 44,789 4.3% $886,300
83 Indian Wells 5,463 4.0% $723,600
84 San Anselmo 12,623 4.5% $1,147,100
85 Laguna Woods 16,056 4.7% $309,400
86 Torrance 144,430 4.8% $796,800
87 Walnut 29,764 4.2% $806,900
88 Arcadia 57,053 4.7% $1,136,700
89 Goleta 32,142 4.4% $813,000
90 Fremont 234,829 4.0% $999,500
91 Eastvale 65,766 4.5% $596,200
92 Diamond Bar 55,870 4.2% $690,500
93 Simi Valley 125,768 4.4% $612,700
94 Laguna Beach 22,991 7.5% $1,874,400
95 San Juan Capistrano 35,976 3.3% $760,400
96 Woodside 5,593 3.1% $2,000,001
97 Larkspur 12,363 3.2% $1,311,000
98 Canyon Lake 11,237 4.2% $479,500
99 Carlsbad 114,411 5.8% $857,300
100 Sonoma 11,082 6.8% $825,600

How Is Your Town In ?

Editor’s Note: We updated this article for 2022. This is our ninth time ranking the best places to live in California.

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.