Considering its large area, varied landscape, and huge GDP which would make it the fifth largest in the world if it were its own country, California is practically a nation unto itself. The Golden State is the nation’s most populous, while many others dream of someday making a home in its borders.

With all of the great California communities, it’s hard to say which ones ought to top a list of the best cities to live in, but the following ones truly distinguish themselves as extremely comfortable communities.  

1. Santa Clara

Just west of San Jose in the Bay Area lies Santa Clara, California’s most liveable city. As part of the fabled Silicon Valley, Santa Clara is the home base for over a dozen top tech companies, including Synaptics and Intel. Additionally, Santa Clara University and a number of other universities are within the city’s borders. The combination of thriving industry and an atmosphere of higher learning leads to a high-earning, well-educated populace.

2. Aliso Viejo

We head to SoCal and Orange County for #2 Aliso Viejo. The newest city in the county and the only one to be incorporated this century, Aliso Viejo boasts a median household income of over $92,000 and borders the beautiful Aliso and Wood Canyons Regional Park.

3. Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is a large city along the Pacific coast that has it all: a bustling economy, resorts, national parkland, and a thriving education sector. UC Santa Barbara is the city’s largest employer, but the city is also home to a significant aerospace and defense sector.

4. Lompoc

We head to neighboring Lompoc for #4 on the list. The city of around 44,000 benefits from the excellent Mediterranean climate of the area and names Vandenberg Air Force Base as its most dominant economic force.

Closing out the top five is the idyllic lakeside community of South Lake Tahoe.

Best Cities to Live in California, 2019

RankCity
1Santa Clara
2Aliso Viejo
3Santa Barbara
4Lompoc
5South Lake Tahoe
6Santa Maria
7Rocklin
8El Dorado Hills
9Camarillo
10Mission Viejo
11Newbury Park
12Folsom
13Roseville
14Auburn
15Sonora
16Ridgecrest
17Claremont
18Monterey
19Poway
20Santee
21Lake Forest
22Carlsbad
23Emeryville
24Tustin
25Sunnyvale
26Rancho Santa Margarita
28Palm Desert
29Los Gatos
30Eureka
31Lincoln
32Thousand Oaks
33Davis
34Trabuco Canyon
35Encinitas
36Laguna Hills
37Atascadero
38Valencia
39Anaheim
40Clovis
41Chico
42Laguna Niguel
43Twentynine Palms
44Shingle Springs
45La Quinta
46Cupertino
47Ukiah
48Windsor
49Placerville
50Santa Cruz
51Ladera Ranch
52Rohnert Park
53Grass Valley
54Cypress
55Woodland
56Dublin
57La Mesa
58La Crescenta
59West Sacramento
60Santa Rosa
61Alameda
62Palm Springs
63Aptos
64Diamond Bar
65Lemoore
66Pleasanton
67Cerritos
68San Marcos
69Fair Oaks
70Milpitas
71West Hills
72Ventura
73Moorpark
74San Ramon
75Oceanside
76Hanford
77Fountain Valley
78Castro Valley
79Sebastopol
80Encino
81Agoura Hills
82Vista
83Pleasant Hill
84Costa Mesa
85Carson
86Fremont
87Arroyo Grande
88Lakeside
89Spring Valley
90Lemon Grove
91Orangevale
92Sacramento
93Livermore
94Red Bluff
95El Cajon
96Simi Valley
97Redlands
98El Centro
99Carmichael
100Brawley

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Methodology

We ranked a total of 2,509 qualified cities (those with populations above 25,000 and enough data for analysis) by five factors: employment (number of establishments, median earnings); housing (owner-occupied housing with a mortgage, monthly housing costs); quality of life (work commute, poverty levels); education (percentage with a bachelor’s degree or higher); and health (obesity ratios).