Home to vibrant LA and the family-friendly Orange County, Southern California has something to please everyone. Single millennials will find plenty of hotspots offering enough recreation and nightlife opportunities to keep them entertained from dusk to dawn, while families will find an equal number of fabulous places offering first-rate schools, low crime rates, and safe, walkable streets.
Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find plenty of choice and inspiration on our round-up of the 20 very best places to live in Southern California in 2019.
20. Loma Linda
If affordable housing is top of your wish list, you may want to cast your eyes in the direction of Loma Linda, where just $333,200 will get you a more than decent family home.
Schools are exceptional (Bryn Mawr Elementary School, a recent nominee for the National Blue-Ribbon School honor, ranks as one of the best in the state), while crime, unemployment, and poverty are all low. The community is friendly, tight-knit and active, while the range of amenities and services are beyond fault.
Cypress may only be 6.6 square miles, but this little town packs a mighty punch. Its superb proximity to four freeways gives it easy access to the amenities and job opportunities of the surrounding cities, while its low crime rate, first-rate school system, diverse, welcoming community, and great range of places to eat, shop, and relax makes it more than worthy of its $576,500 median home value.
“Placentia is a very safe neighborhood, hardly any crime. The people here are great too! Everyone is very friendly. Placentia is also very diverse, you can meet people with very different backgrounds here. There is lots to do as well, many places to eat and have fun!
Overall a great experience in this small city and a great place to call home,” … so say’s one resident of Placentia on Niche, and with the suburb’s great school system, friendly community, and diverse range of amenities, it would be hard to disagree with either the enthusiasm or the truth of the town’s motto of “A Pleasant Place to Live”.
17. Seal Beach
If you want good schools, you’ll find Seal Beach hard to beat. Along with a stellar education system, the quiet community boasts reasonably affordable housing (at $ 338,100 for a family home, prices are still above the national average, but by South California standards, trust us when we say this counts as reasonable), a strong economy, and, for the recreationally minded, the second-longest pier in the state.
In some parts of the US, $367,400 may be considered a massive price to pay for a 3-bedroom family home. For most parts of Southern California, it ranks as a positive bargain. For those looking to get their foot on the property ladder, the charmingly affordable Murrieta may well be the best place to do it.
Along with the reasonable property prices, the suburb boasts a great location (the popular tourist locations of Knotts Berry Farm and Little Italy are both within easy reach), a desirably low crime rate, an above-average median income of $80,373, a clutch of great schools, and all the amenities and recreational pursuits the 110,043 strong population needs to keep itself thoroughly entertained.
Anaheim may be best known as the birthplace of Disneyland, but there’s a lot more to this great city than theme parks and rollercoasters. Located just a quick jaunt away from the beach, and with a city center overflowing with cultural, shopping, and recreational opportunities (including the outstanding Anaheim Ballet and Anaheim Packing House, a food hall jam-packed with every type of eating establishment you could imagine), this is a city that has something to offer everyone, no matter how diverse their interests.
14. San Clemente
With its stunning beachside location and equally breathtaking mountain views, few cities can rival San Clemente’s excellent setting. Crime is low enough to give residents the luxury of safe, walkable streets, while the job market is buoyant enough to support the very unaverage household median income of $101,843. Schools are excellent, and, given its divine situation, residents have all the outdoor recreation they could dream of.
13. Manhattan Beach
If you have kids, Manhattan Beach makes a prime location to live. As Only in Your State reports, this lovely chunk of Los Angeles County offers some of the best schools in the nation (its public high school ranks #1) while its incredibly low crime rate, stunning beachfront location, vibrant community, great parks, and easy access to nearby cities makes for a great standard of living. The $148,899 median household income doesn’t exactly hurt, either.
If you like nature, you’re going to love Calabasas. With its village-like feel, stunning surrounds, and a community dedicated to preserving the natural beauty of its excellent setting, it’s got more green spaces than you can shake a stick at. It’s also got an enviably low crime rate, great schools, a strong economy that’s doing well enough for itself to support a median household income of $114,143, and, for those looking for the thrills of the big city, easy access to LA.
11. Mission Viejo
Property in Mission Viejo may be expensive, but with its tree-lined streets, low crime rate, healthy job market, a median income of $107,988, great schools, active, family-friendly community, and stunning scenery, it’s not hard to explain away that $640,800 price tag.
10. Yorba Linda
Charming Yorba Linda offers all the attractions of city living combined with a friendly, small-town vibe. Expect amenities galore, low crime, unemployment and poverty rates, some standout schools (Valencia High School, Yorba Linda High School, El Dorado High School, Lakeview Elementary School, and Fairmont Elementary School all come particularly recommended), and all the fresh air, nature, and wildlife you could wish for. As an added boon, the plethora of excellent job opportunities supports the very healthy median income of $123,962.
9. Santa Susana Knolls
Quaint and low key, Santa Susana Knolls may not be as widely known as some of the other places to make our list, but this well-kept secret ranks as one of California’s best places to live. You may not find much by way of nightlife, but the stunning nature surrounding this rural community more than makes up for it- as does the great school system, low crime rate, and incredible community spirit.
8. Rolling Hills Estates
Safe, crime-free streets? Check. Great job opportunities? Check. A first-rate school system? Check, check, check. The small suburb of Rolling Hills Estates has it all: according to Area Vibes, total crime is 27% lower than the US average, the median household income (which currently stands at $129,728) is 134% higher than the US average, income per capita is 119% higher than the US average, the unemployment rate is 51% lower than the national average, high school graduation rate (an impressive 98%) is 18% higher than the US average, while test rates are 65% higher than the US average.
The flipside to all these great features? A whopping $1,153,700 median home value, and an equally staggering $3,152 median rent (just to put this in perspective, the national median home value is $184,700, while the median rent is $940). But then again, no one ever said the good life comes for free…
7. Agoura Hills
Property in the LA suburb of Agoura Hills may cost a whopping $745,000, but it’s a price that’s more than countered by the sublimely high $116,652 median household income. Even leaving the above-average income aside, there’s a lot to love about Agoura Hills, as local residents are very keen to point out on Niche.
“There are mountain views everywhere, great hiking spots and the houses and neighborhoods are very nice. In Old Agoura, there are horses everywhere, and the community is friendly. A lot of things are within walking distance,” raves one, while another enthuses “Very friendly people, wonderful parks, and beautiful hills nearby to hike in. The nature is very nice to behold and the area is very family-friendly. I grew up in this area and hold it dear to my heart because of all the amazing memories that I was able to make here. The schools are really good in the area and there persists a feeling of community.”
6. Aliso Viejo
You may need $582,300 in your bank account to buy a property in the charming Irving suburb of Aliso Viejo, but few would argue it’s a worthy investment. Crime is low, the median income of $106,353 is high, schools are first-class (Aliso Niguel High School, El Morro Elementary School, Top of the World Elementary School, Thurston Middle School, and Laguna Beach High School are among the best of the best) while the great combination of outdoor and indoor recreational opportunities gives the suburb’s 50,691 residents all they could wish for by way of entertainment.
Quant, picturesque Fullerton is one of the jewels in Orange County’s crown. With nine parks, dozens of libraries, book stores, and unique boutiques, along with an outstanding range of wining and dining options, this little city truly has something for everyone. Families will love the safe, walkable streets and great education system, while the diverse, artistic community and superb nightlife are guaranteed to appeal to the younger crowd.
4. Costa Mesa
Orange County isn’t exactly short of desirable places to live, but the delightful Costa Mesa ranks as one of the best. Housing is certainly not cheap (expect to part with around $671,800 for a good-sized family house) but the list of attractions more than makes up for the high cost of living.
Most residents can expect to earn a very decent income of $75,109, while the abundance of shops, bars, and restaurants gives residents plenty of opportunities to spend that considerable disposable income. Outdoor enthusiasts, meanwhile, are equally well catered to thanks to the city’s excellent proximity to the beach, the mountains, the dessert, and a clutch of national parks.
3. Rancho Santa Margarita
Within striking distance of the ocean lies Rancho Santa Margarita, a master-planned city that straddles the territory between big city living and small-town community. Its two local schools have excellent graduation rates and test scores, while the strength of local businesses ensures the kind of economy that supports a healthy median income of $106,939. Completing the pretty picture is a stunning lakeside location, an abundance of shops, supermarkets, clothing stores, boutiques, and restaurants, and a supremely low crime rate.
2. Newport Beach
There’s a lot to love about the bright, cheerful seaside city of Newport Beach. For outdoor lovers, the abundance of water sports on offer is a dream come true, while those who prefer indoor entertainment are well served by a plethora of cute cafes, quirky boutiques, yoga studios, bowling alleys, theatres, and more besides. Home prices are steep (expect to pay around $1,695,700 for a family home), but the excellent schools, low crime rate, and median household income of $119,379 make it a hugely desirable destination, none-the-less.
As Nerd Wallet reports, the education system in Irvine in almost faultless; in addition to achieving a top score on Great Schools, the city’s schools have great support from the local community, with initiatives such as Challenge Match Grant program matching the exact amount raised by the nonprofit Irvine Public Schools Foundation.
Despite the large population of 256,877, there’s a real sense of community spirit, while the crime rate is one of the lowest of any city in America. All the amenities you could possibly need are within walking distance, while the opportunities for outdoor fun and games are endless. Property prices are, as you’d expect, on the high side- however, with most residents earning the very robust income of $95,573, you’ll hear few complaints about the cost of living.
You can also read:
- The 20 Best Places to Live in Northern California
- The 10 Cheapest Places to Live in Southern California
- The 20 Safest Places to Live in California
- The 20 Best Places to Live in California Near the Beach
- The 20 Worst Places to Live in California (As of 2022)