San Luis Obispo, with a population of 43,685 as of 2011, is located inland a bit from the California coast. It was founded as a mission in 1772 by Padre Serra, and the parish is still active today. San Luis Obispo (SLO) has a high quality of life and vibrant community spirit, where retirees will find that the combination of urban amenities and relaxed rural charm is an ideal balance.
Climate: With a pleasant climate, summers in SLO are generally warm and sunny, and winters are mild although there could be freezing temperatures at times. The area receives 31 inches of rain per year.
Cost of living: A nice surprise for a California coastal town, the cost of living in San Luis Obispo is 2% less than the national average. Housing costs, however, will run approximately 139% greater than the U.S. average with the median home cost in San Luis Obispo at just under $500,000.
Colleges and Universities: There is an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the Continuing Education Department of Cal Poly in SLO, which has recently been awarded a $100,000 grant. OLLI programs provide a variety of university-level intellectual opportunities and classes to those 50 and over who are retired or semi-retired.
Transportation: Non-stop commercial flights to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Phoenix are available out of San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport. Daily rail service is offered by Amtrak, and bicycling is a popular method of getting around town. Priority is given to bicycle traffic with a special bicycle traffic signal, one of only a few in the U.S.
Travel and tourism: Thursdays in SLO the famous farmers market (5-9 pm) turns the down town into a giant street party. Retirees will enjoy food on the barbecue, plus live music and entertainment, in addition to farm-fresh produce. San Luis Obispo’s location makes it readily accessible to beaches, state parks and Hearst Castle.
Monterey, with a population of 27,810 as of the 2010 census, is a place famous for its beauty, golf, galleries and aquarium. The rich Hispanic heritage of California has been carefully preserved here with numerous lovingly restored adobe buildings from the Spanish and Mexican periods in the town’s historic quarter to explore. Monterey is a waterfront community which features kayaking, scuba diving, surfing, whale watching and beach-going.
Climate: Monterey has a temperate climate with 20 inches of rain per year, and 267 sunny days for retirees to enjoy golfing at such prestigious resorts as Pebble Beach.
Cost of living: Retirees will need a supplement for their Social Security to live in Monterey where the cost of living is 52% greater than the national average. Even more expensive is the cost of housing, at 271% higher than the national average. Retirees would expect to pay around $662,800 on average for a home here.
Colleges and Universities: CSU Monterey Bay established an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute here in 2007. Adults age 50 and better who are interested in university-level education without the pressure of course credits or grades will enjoy OLLI programs which bring the joy and stimulation of lifelong learning to retirement.
Transportation: Flights to San Jose (SJC) and San Francisco (SFO) International Airports can be accessed by Monterey Airbus which offers shuttle van service. Local transportation in the greater Monterey area is provided by Monterey-Salinas Transit.
Travel and tourism: Whale watching trips are launched from Fisherman’s Wharf, and 20 minutes to the north in Moss Landing where Sanctuary Cruises operates dolphin-spotting cruises led by marine biologists. The eco-conscious Monterey Bay Aquarium and the National Steinbeck Center are other notable attractions. Of course, fine dining options featuring fresh seafood abound.
South Lake Tahoe, with a population of 23,503 as of 2011, straddles the California-Nevada state line and borders one of the most beautiful lakes in the U.S. Lake Tahoe is also the second deepest with an average depth of 1000 feet. Its breathtaking beauty can be experienced by a 72-mile drive around the lake which offers an overview of the various areas. In general, the north shore is quiet and upscale, the west shore is a bit more rustic, the east shore is largely undeveloped, and the south shore is busy and heavily commercialized with rows of hotels and gaudy casinos. The area experienced huge growth and popularity in the 1950s and 60s when it became popular as a year-round playground for outdoor pursuits, with gambling thrown in.
Climate: The area receives 12 inches of rain per year, and snowfall of 64 inches. Summers are warm, but there can be frost in every month of the year so gardening in retirement at this high elevation is tricky.
Cost of living: Retirement life in a tourist area can be expensive, and South Lake Tahoe’s cost of living is 22.40% higher than the U.S. average. A retirement home will be relatively affordable, however, with a median cost of about $283,500.
Colleges and Universities: Sierra Nevada College/Incline Village has a Lifelong Learning Program which allows residents over the age of 60 to register (space available) in up to three undergraduate classes on a non-degree seeking basis with very reasonable tuition.
Transportation: The closest airport is Reno/Tahoe International. Both Greyhound and Amtrak have service to Truckee and Reno, where retirees can catch local buses to most Lake Tahoe towns. Wintertime conditions require drivers to carry chains.
Travel and tourism: With sunshine blessing Tahoe three out of four days in the year, it is ideal for outdoor pursuits of all types such as swimming, boating, fishing, kayaking, windsurfing and other water-based activities in the summer, as well as hiking and camping. Winter brings lots of snow, and skiing is available at more than a dozen resorts. Retirees who enjoy gaming have access to many high rolling casinos with entertainment and fine dining just across the state line in Nevada.
El Centro, with a population of 42,598 as of the 2010 census, is the largest city in Imperial County. It is located 117 miles east of San Diego and just 15 minutes from the international industrial complexes in Mexicali, Baja California. The El Centro region has become one of the most agriculturally productive areas in the country, so retirees who like to garden will appreciate the opportunity to get their hands dirty.
Climate: With over 350 days of sunshine and under 3 inches of rain annually, golfers will delight in this desert climate.
Cost of living: The cost of living in El Centro is 22% greater than the national average, although 7% less than the California average. However, homes are much more affordable, at 56% less than the California average, and 7% less than the U.S. average. Retirees can expect to find an average home cost in El Centro of around $160,300.
Colleges and Universities: There are a variety of stimulating and enlightening continuing education courses specifically designed for adults 50 years and older at El Centro College. These programs focus on leisure enjoyment and lifelong learning.
Transportation: Connections to San Diego International Airport and Mexicali International Airport can be made out of Imperial County Airport. Local bus service is provided by Imperial Valley Transit.
Travel and tourism: Nearby Algodones Dunes draws thousands of visitors each year, and water sports enthusiasts head to the Colorado River for rafting, fishing, and cooling off. Big city amenities like museums, a zoo and a sports/convention center are available in Mexicali, 10 minutes away.
Newport Beach, with a population of 86,738, surrounds a beautiful natural harbor where more than 9,000 boats of all types are docked. There are several “villages” in Newport Beach, each with its own distinct character and appearance, one of which is Balboa Peninsula. There is water everywhere, as Newport Beach faces the harbor on one side and the open ocean on the other.
Climate: Newport Beach’s moderate climate is influenced by the Pacific Ocean which tends toward warm winter temperatures and cool summer temperatures. With only 11 inches of rain per year, golfers and other outdoor enthusiasts will find much to enjoy.
Cost of living: Retirement life in this lovely area is not cheap, where the cost of living is 43% greater than the national average. But even worse, the median cost of a home here is 539% greater than the U.S. average at somewhat over $1.1 million.
Colleges and Universities: Learning in retirement can be pursued at Coastline Community College which describes itself as one of the nation’s most innovative institutions with accessible and flexible education within and beyond the traditional classroom.
Transportation: Los Angeles and San Diego are both close, so many transportation options exist in Newport Beach. Local transportation is largely by car.
Travel and tourism: The stunning coastal location and sunny year-round weather of Newport Beach offer a variety of things to do from the oldest and most celebrated holiday events to Restaurant Week to the beginning of whale watching season and the migration of thousands of birds in the Upper Newport Bay.