What's it like to live in Salinas, CA?


Deb Hopewell

Profile written by local expert:

Deb Hopewell

Salinas, California, promotes itself as the "Salad Bowl of the World" as tribute to the area's huge farming business that produces lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, broccoli, grapes for wine, and flowers. Salinas has enthusiastically embraced its most famous son, "The Grapes of Wrath" author John Steinbeck, who was born and raised here. The area has named libraries, museums and festivals after him, and locals happily welcome tourists who come seeking the Steinbeck connection.

This truly is an urban area that agriculture built: Salinas has one of the largest collections of art deco and Depression Moderne buildings in the state, due to the fact that crop production meant Salinas was one of the few areas to thrive during the Great Depression. In addition, there are a surprisingly large number of original Victorian homes and buildings that have survived since the late 19th century. As the metropolitan area spreads south, newer homes sit on large lots that accommodate horses and vineyards.

But the heart and soul of Salinas is Oldtown, or Main Street, anchored on the north end by the National Steinbeck Center. The community is fiercely proud that there isn't one chain store to be found downtown; instead, the families, students and couples who gather here to shop, eat, stroll the farmers market and attend movies or concerts all do so at locally owned, mostly mom-and-pop businesses.

Rankings

U.S. News analyzed 125 metro areas in the United States to find the best places to live based on quality of life and the job market in each metro area, as well as the value of living there and people's desire to live there.

Salinas, California is ranked:

#114 in Best Places to Live

5.7

Overall

Scorecard

Best Places to Live

  • Desirability
    7.4
  • Value
    4.2
  • Job Market
    5.1
  • Quality of Life
    6.7
  • Net Migration
    5.2

Read how we rank places

Salinas, CA Quick Stats

  • 430,201

    Metro Population

  • $47,660

    Average Annual Salary

  • N/A

    Avg High/Low Temps

  • 33.7

    Median Age

  • $478,521

    Median Home Price

  • N/A

    AVG Annual Rainfall

  • 7.1%

    Unemployment Rate

  • $1,275

    Median Monthly Rent

  • 22.5 minutes

    Avg Commute Time

What's the cost of living in Salinas, CA?

Salinas is more expensive than other metro areas around the country. The region's high cost of living is mostly driven by real estate prices, which are more than twice the national median home sale price. However, home prices in Salinas are more affordable by California standards, particularly when compared to nearby coastal towns like Monterey, Pacific Grove and Carmel, not to mention the Silicon Valley, which is an hour's drive north. Other costs, such as food, transportation and utilities, are in line with the national average.

Value Index

Index Score: 4.2 /10

How we calculate this.


Salinas offers a lower value than similarly sized metro areas when you compare housing costs to median household income.

Housing Costs this Year


Salinas
$478,521

USA
$222,408

Housing Costs Over Time

Data sourced from Zillow median home sale price data series. Additional data provided by the Austin Board of Realtors, Houston Association of Realtors, Intermountain MLS, Omaha Area Board of Realtors, San Antonio Board of Realtors, and the Salt Lake Board of Realtors.

Buying or selling a home? Find top real estate agents in Salinas, CA.

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What's the weather like in Salinas, CA?

The American Lung Association deemed Salinas one of the cleanest places in the country for ozone and particulate matter, due in large part to the cool onshore coastal breezes that push fresh Pacific air from the coast to the inland areas. It's those same breezes that are responsible for Salinas' mild Mediterranean climate, which stays at very comfortable temperatures year-round.

What's the best way to get around Salinas, CA?

Because Salinas is fairly spread out and jobs aren't often close to home, many people choose to drive. For those without a car, the centrally located Salinas Transit Center is the hub of the metro area's public transportation, with Monterey-Salinas Transit buses serving Salinas proper and providing lines to other communities in the county, such as Monterey and King City. It also runs lines to the surrounding counties of Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo and Santa Clara, where passengers can catch the Caltrain commuter rail to the San Francisco Bay Area.
 
A couple blocks away from the transit center is the Amtrak Salinas Station, where the Coast Starlight train stops twice a day, once going south to Los Angeles and once going north to Seattle. The Greyhound bus station also recently located to this station.

While Monterey does have a small airport, the destinations are limited; San Jose International Airport is about an hour away and offers more direct flight options.

Commuting in Salinas, CA

Means of Transportation
Driving
82%
Below national average

Bicycling
1%
Equal to national average

Walking
3%
Equal to national average

Public Transit
2%
Below national average
Average Commute Time

22.5 minutes

3.6 minutes less than national average

Average Commute Times by Zip Code

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

Who lives in Salinas, CA?

The population of metropolitan Salinas rises during peak agricultural months due to an influx of migrant farm workers. Because agricultural work booms in certain seasons, some residents cannot work in winter months, and about a fifth of residents live below the poverty level. 
 
About half the residents in the metropolitan area claim a religious affiliation, and of those, the overwhelming majority identify as Catholic. 
 
However, the face of Salinas is changing, as young people from many backgrounds come to the area to study at Hartnell College, California State University Monterey Bay and a number of vocational schools. 

Salinas' ties to Mexico run deep, from when Mexican land grants were given for cattle grazing, until today, when much of the agricultural work is performed by Mexican immigrants or those of Mexican descent.

Age Distribution

Marital Status Breakdown


About the same number of single people in Salinas as national average

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

What is there to do in Salinas, CA?

Salinas' mild Mediterranean climate means there's something to do year-round, whether it's hiking one of the many trails in the 4,756-acre Toro Park, attending the monthly First Friday Art Walk or touring the Monterey Zoo, which is also a sanctuary to elephants, big cats and other animals that were once part of the entertainment industry.

The nationally famous California Rodeo Salinas, one of the biggest events in the county since its inception in 1911, attracts more than 50,000 people a day over four days in July. The 17,000-seat Salinas Sports Complex where the rodeo is held is also used as a concert venue for big-name entertainers, like Blake Shelton, Mary J. Blige, the Eagles and Aerosmith, and a track for car and motorcycle racing and monster truck shows. The complex also includes baseball and soccer fields and an aquatics center.
The River Road Wine Trail begins on the west side of Salinas at the foot of the Santa Lucia Mountains, and winds its way south through roughly 40 miles and 11 wineries.
 
There's also an up-and-coming art scene in Salinas, with galleries like @Risk Gallery tackling challenging issues through art. Music lovers can also find live music at the Fox California Theater downtown, as well as Sherwood Hall, Hartnell College and numerous restaurants.