Best Places to Live on the West Coast

It’s been said “the West Coast is the best coast,” but where are the best places to live on this coast? If you’re thinking about a change of scenery, you’ll want to check out these ten West Coast cities!

Eugene, OR

Home of the University of Oregon, Eugene is a charming college town with a great literary and athletic tradition. Steve Prefontaine, one of the world’s great long-distance runners, called Eugene home, and his influence is still felt. Eugene even boasts some of the best jogging trails in America.

The Willamette River runs through downtown, providing numerous popular swimming holes and tubing spots, while restaurants and hotels line its grassy banks. Despite being home to one of America’s premier research universities, Eugene still maintains a slow, manageable pace of life.

A popular Saturday Market still brings residents together each weekend to shop for fresh produce, meet neighbors, or join the traditional drum circle. In spite of being only an hour from Portland and just minutes from hiking and boating in beautiful Willamette National Forest, Eugene enjoys a relatively low cost of living.

Portland, OR

Yes, a distinct aspect of Portland’s appeal is its famous weirdness, but there’s a lot more to this city than just nude cyclists and parks for leprechauns. Compared to the rest of the West Coast, this city can be downright affordable with median homes prices around $319,400 and median monthly rent around $1,025.

Additionally, Portland has emerged as one of the Pacific Northwest’s leading hubs of industry, playing host to giant global companies like Intel, Nike, Boeing, and Daimler Trucks. If you’re not into tech or sports, Portland is also home to Weiden and Kennedy, one of the world’s best creative agencies.

This combination of good jobs and a fairly reasonable cost of living makes Portland an attractive destination for young professionals and families alike. Having easy access to outdoors activities in the Columbia River valley doesn’t hurt either.

San Clemente, CA

Called “The Spanish Village by the Sea,” San Clemente is the southernmost city in Orange County, about halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego. This vibrant seaside town shares many of the advantages of the major cities it sits between, but without the traffic or congestion.

The Spanish influence remains strong here with much of the historic downtown showcasing traditional mission-style architecture. The sleepy, south-of-the-border vibe and beautiful beachside homes make San Clemente a favorite destination for retirees—Richard Nixon actually retired here after the Watergate Scandal, and his house is still a local landmark.

If you’re into peace and quiet, beach volleyball, or proverbial long walks on the beach, San Clemente is one of the best cities to live in on the West Coast.

San Diego, CA

For a place with unbeatable beacheslots of good jobs, and perfect weather year-round, San Diego is remarkably affordable. Particularly when compared to San Francisco or Los Angeles, the median monthly rent and home prices look like an absolute steal (often around less than $500,000).

One of the often-overlooked advantages of living in San Diego is the relatively low crime rate. Compared to the rest of California, San Diego stands out as one of the safer communities for families. For all the perks of Southern California without the exorbitant cost of living, San Diego is an outstanding choice.

Just a few minutes away from Tijuana, there’s perhaps no other major American city that’s as closely-connected culturally to Mexico, meaning the city has its share of fantastic Mexican food.

San Jose, CA

As the third-largest city in California, San Jose is a diverse, booming hub of activity and industry. It provides the full Silicon Valley experience while maintaining a slightly lower cost of living than San Francisco or Palo Alto.

The presence of tech giants like Apple and Google means that salaries in San Jose tend to be large: the average yearly income for a tech worker is $84,224. It’s a good thing, too, because with the number of fantastic restaurants in the downtown area, you’ll want to maintain a healthy food budget!

A famously diverse city, San Jose’s ethnic food is legendary—particularly the pho. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering that San Jose is home to the largest Vietnamese population outside Vietnam).

Santa Barbara, CA

Santa Barbara is the ultimate SoCal beach town: laid-back, unpretentious, and inviting. Cradled perfectly between the rugged Santa Ynez mountains and a calm, warm part of the Pacific Ocean, the city is as attractive to backpackers as it is to surfers.

The beaches here are so good that Santa Barbara is colloquially referred to as “The American Riviera.” The city also boasts a thriving art scene with dozens of galleries featuring Western art. Historic State Street is home to some of the best restaurants in Southern California.

Of course, all that beauty and recreational opportunity comes with a price—Santa Barbara is not the cheapest city on the West Coast by a long shot. The good news is that the city is making serious strides toward ensuring affordable housing so that its pleasures can belong to more than just the beautiful and wealthy—although there will likely always be plenty of them there.

Santa Monica, CA

Remember the last beautiful, sunny day in your neighborhood? What if every day was like that? That’s pretty much what life is like in Santa Monica. This beautiful corner of Western LA gets an average of 281 days of sunshine each year.

There are very few places in Santa Monica that aren’t within walking distance of the beach—where world-class surfers share the waves with amateurs and bodybuilders. However, with the average house costing more than a million dollars, you won’t want to be a beach bum forever.

Fortunately, with easy access to Los Angeles proper, the entertainment capital of the world, art, music and creative jobs are everywhere. Santa Monica itself is home to some of the best advertising agencies and production companies in America.

Seattle, WA

There are no two ways about it: Seattle is gorgeous. From the iconic Space Needle and Pike’s Place Marketto the views across Puget Sound and the city’s many ferries, it’s tough to beat for sheer rugged beauty. As if that wasn’t enough, Seattle’s widely recognized as the best city in the world for coffee-lovers, and all that rain makes it one of the greenest places in America.

The cost of living is appreciable, but so are the opportunities for income. The average Seattle household earns $20,995 more in a year than the national average. Ever heard of a little company called Amazon? They’re headquartered in Seattle. Other big businesses have followed their lead, giving Seattle a comparatively hot job market.

The food and music scenes here are some of the best in the U.S. Seattle has moved on from grunge rock, although the roots still run deep. Today, the city is known as the home of Band of Horses, Pedro the Lion, Foo Fighters, and many other rock and indie artists. Chefs like Tom Douglas are turning traditional favorites like pancakes and seafood on their head, attracting national attention.

Vancouver, WA

Named for English explorer Captain James Vancouver, this West Coast city lives up to its namesake by being the perfect place for exploring. Located just across the Columbia river from Portland, Vancouver shares many of its larger sister city’s attractions, but without the price tag.

The proximity to Portland means short commutes to a large job market. Washington has fairly low state taxes, and Oregon has no sales tax at all, so living in Vancouver and shopping in Portland is a sound financial proposition. Overall, the one-two punch of great quality of life and low cost of living make Vancouver one of the best cities to live in on the West Coast.

For outdoorsy people, Vancouver is an absolute paradise. You can ski at White Pass, find dozens of great hikes within 30 minutes of downtown, and explore the areas dozens of waterfalls. For dog lovers, Vancouver is an exceptionally dog-friendly city with dog parks scattered across town and even a special Dogtoberfest event every year designed to celebrate residents’ canine companions.

Thousand Oaks, CA

For many years now, Thousand Oaks has been ranked among the top ten safest cities in America with an overall crime rate nearly 50% lower than the national average. That makes it a very attractive destination for families—or just about anybody who wants to live in a nice place.

Thousand Oaks also offers award-winning schools like California Lutheran University and academic powerhouse La Reina High, an outstanding quality of living, and cool places to visit like Paradise Falls.

The West Coast features some of the most incredible scenery, best food, and exciting cultural scenes in the U.S., and Thousand Oaks is indisputably one of its best communities!

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Best Places to Live on the West Coast