The Best Places to Live on the West Coast in 2019

Discover metro areas near the Pacific Ocean that offer residents the most.

By Devon Thorsby, Editor, Real Estate |Aug. 7, 2019, at 4:47 p.m.

The Best Places to Live on the West Coast in 2019

Slideshow

Where on the West Coast should you live?

Colorful San Francisco building tops with Bay on a Sunny day. Oblique view with copy space.

(Getty Images)

For many people living in the U.S., the West Coast is the best coast. But when it comes to places along the Western Seaboard, there’s a wide variety of metro areas that offer a different climate, culture and cost of living. While some think of the West Coast as containing cities solely in California, we decided to look at all metro areas – out of the 125 most populous in the U.S. – that are within 100 miles of the Pacific Ocean, of which there are 14. Ranked based on where they fall on the U.S. News Best Places to Live list, the following metro areas make up the Best Places to Live on the West Coast.

14. Stockton, California

14. Stockton, California

Stockton is the county seat of San Joaquin County in the Central Valley of the U.S. state of California

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2019 Rank: 123
Metro Population: 724,153
Median Home Price: $352,350
Median Annual Salary: $46,770

Located 65 miles east of San Pablo Bay, which is just north of San Francisco, Stockton is an inland metro area with fairly easy access to the Pacific Ocean. Stockton ranks No. 123 out of 125 metro areas on the overall Best Places to Live list, ahead of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Bakersfield, California. The biggest contributing factor to Stockton’s low rank is the high cost of living. Stockton residents spend 27.42% of the area’s median household income on housing costs, making it the 12th-most expensive place to live out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S.

Learn more about Stockton.

13. Modesto, California

13. Modesto, California

Modesto is the county seat and largest city of Stanislaus County, California, United States. It is the 18th largest city in the state of California

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 120
Metro Population: 803,074
Median Home Price: $289,168
Median Annual Salary: $46,176

Modesto itself isn’t located on the coast, but you can still reach the San Francisco Bay with ease, as it’s just 75 miles away. Ranking No. 120 on the overall Best Places to Live list, Modesto is a pricey place, with 27.32% of the median household income required for the cost of living. The median home price of $289,168 is above the national median of $227,025. Additionally, Modesto’s unemployment rate is high at 7% – well above the national average of 3.9%.

Learn more about Modesto.

12. Salinas, California

12. Salinas, California

A green row of fresh crops grow on an agricultural farm field in the Salinas Valley, California USA

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 117
Metro Population: 433,168
Median Home Price: $581,342
Median Annual Salary: $48,290

The Salinas metro area is home to ample farmland, but it also has desirable coastal areas, including Monterey, home to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Salinas is the seventh-most expensive place to live out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., requiring 29.26% of the median household income. However, in the annual Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index – which surveys residents throughout the U.S. about their community pride, sense of security and overall health related to where they live, among other details – Salinas ranks fourth out of the 125 most populous places in the U.S.

Learn more about Salinas.

11. Los Angeles

11. Los Angeles

Aerial / elevated view of Downtown Los Angeles, backlit / silhouette-like with many lush vivid green palm trees and a blue sky with dramatic clouds.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 107
Metro Population: 18,585.594
Median Home Price: $526,214
Median Annual Salary: $53,803

Los Angeles and the beach cities within this Southern California metro area are often what people envision when they consider moving to the West Coast – and for good reason. The LA metro area is home to more than 18.5 million people and ranks No. 11 for desirability out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., based on a series of SurveyMonkey surveys that ask people where in the U.S. they would prefer to live. Requiring 30.28% of the median household income to cover the cost of living, Los Angeles is the third-most expensive metro area on the Best Places to Live list.

Learn more about Los Angeles.

10. Sacramento, California

10. Sacramento, California

Downtown Sacramento skyline with the Sacramento River and the historic Delta King riverboat in the foreground and puffy white clouds and a deep blue sky in the background.

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2019 Rank: 82
Metro Population: 2,268,005
Median Home Price: $389,858
Median Annual Salary: $55,010

The capital of California ranks No. 82 on the overall Best Places to Live list. Sacramento is located inland, but a drive of just 58 miles – about one hour – will get you to the San Pablo Bay. Sacramento residents benefit from a median annual salary of $55,010, above the national average of $50,620, and a below-average unemployment rate of 3.7%. Sacramento’s cost of living is high at 26.55% of the area’s median household income, but it is more affordable than many of the other California metro areas on the Best Places to Live list.

Learn more about Sacramento.

9. Salem, Oregon

9. Salem, Oregon

Salem, Oregon, USA town skyline at dusk.

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2019 Rank: 77
Metro Population: 410,119
Median Home Price: $269,367
Median Annual Salary: $47,240

Oregon’s capital is also located on the West Coast, offering a cooler, rainier climate than many of the California spots on the list. Salem is one of the smaller metro areas on the Best Places to Live list – home to just 410,119 people – but it’s seeing steady growth. Salem’s population increased by 5.05% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Salem residents spend 24.66% of the median household income on housing costs.

Learn more about Salem.

8. Santa Rosa, California

8. Santa Rosa, California

Dramatic clouds over dry grass in near Santa Rosa, California.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 74
Metro Population: 500,943
Median Home Price: $629,917
Median Annual Salary: $53,890

The Santa Rosa metro area has a strong job market, with a median annual salary of $53,890 and an unemployment rate of just 2.7%, compared to the national average of 3.9%. However, people moving to the Santa Rosa area should expect to spend more of their income on housing. The cost of living requires 28.22% of the median annual household income, making Santa Rosa the eighth-most expensive place to live out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S.

Learn more about Santa Rosa.

7. Santa Barbara, California

7. Santa Barbara, California

Cityscape stock photograph of downtown Santa Barbara, California, USA.

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2019 Rank: 73
Metro Population: 442,996
Median Home Price: $463,750
Median Annual Salary: $54,320

With a population of less than 500,000 people, Santa Barbara is nestled between the Pacific coast and the Los Padres National Forest. Santa Barbara ranks first out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for quality of life, which combines multiple data points, including property crime and murder rates, average commute time, college readiness among high school students based on U.S. News Best High Schools data, overall well-being and proximity to quality health care, based on U.S. News Best Hospitals data. Additionally, Santa Barbara ranks 17th for desirability out of the 125 metro areas on the Best Places to Live list.

Learn more about Santa Barbara.

6. Anchorage, Alaska

6. Anchorage, Alaska

Ithaca marina aerial view by drone

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 70
Metro Population: 399,360
Median Home Price: $259,900
Median Annual Salary: $58,980

The northernmost West Coast metro area on the list, Anchorage ranks No. 70 on the overall Best Places to Live list. Living in Anchorage certainly has its benefits – the cost of living requires just 22.61% of the median household income – but a high unemployment rate of 6.1% is a downside to the area. It's a perfect spot for people seeking a cold climate compared to the warmer spots in Southern California. The Alaska metro area ranks 21st for desirability out of the 125 metro areas on the Best Places to Live list.

Learn more about Anchorage.

5. San Diego

5. San Diego

San Diego, California, USA downtown city skyline.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 36
Metro Population: 3,283,665
Median Home Price: $555,325
Median Annual Salary: $56,410

At the No. 36 spot on the overall Best Places to Live list, San Diego ranks fifth for desirability out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. As a popular tourist destination for its many beaches, the San Diego Zoo and year-round beautiful weather, San Diego also ranks No. 1 on the Most Fun Places to Live list. In addition to the attractions that keep free time fun for residents, San Diego has an unemployment rate of just 3.3% as well as a median annual salary of $56,410.

Learn more about San Diego.

4. San Jose, California

4. San Jose, California

Drone photo of sunset over downtown San Jose in California

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2019 Rank: 14
Metro Population: 1,969,897
Median Home Price: $1,080,017
Median Annual Salary: $77,180

It should come as no surprise that San Jose, the capital of Silicon Valley, has the strongest job market out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., with a median annual salary of more than $77,000 and an unemployment rate of just 2.6%. Of course, the area's popularity and high income comes with a trade-off – the cost of living is also much higher. The median home price in San Jose is over $1 million, and residents spend 26.08% of the area’s median household income on housing costs.

Learn more about San Jose.

3. Seattle

3. Seattle

Seattle skyline, view from the Kerry Park, Seattle. WA.

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2019 Rank: 9
Metro Population: 3,735,216
Median Home Price: $442,333
Median Annual Salary: $63,120

Ranking No. 9 on the overall Best Places to Live list, Seattle is located on the Puget Sound and is an ideal home for outdoorsy residents who love taking advantage of the proximity to Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier National Park. Best known for its frequent rainy days and many tech jobs, Seattle ranks seventh for desirability out of the 125 metro areas on the Best Places to Live list. Seattle continues to grow steadily, having increased in population by 5.58% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration.

Learn more about Seattle.

2. Portland, Oregon

2. Portland, Oregon

Drone aerial view of downtown Portland showing the World Trade Center Portland from Waterfront Park in early morning sun

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2019 Rank: 8
Metro Population: 2,382,037
Median Home Price: $375,425
Median Annual Salary: $55,330

If a metro area with an emphasis on self expression – even embracing your inner “weird” – sounds ideal to you, look no further than Portland. The Rose City’s reputation precedes it, as the Oregon metro area ranks No. 1 for desirability, tied with San Francisco, Honolulu and Colorado Springs, Colorado. People keep moving to Portland as well, as the metro area's population increased by 4.85% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration. Portland’s job market also supports the ever-growing metro area, with an unemployment rate of 3.8% and median annual salary of $55,330.

Learn more about Portland.

1. San Francisco

1. San Francisco

The view on street from the hill in San Francisco.

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2019 Rank: 7
Metro Population: 4,641,820
Median Home Price: $768,517
Median Annual Salary: $69,700

The highest-ranking West Coast metro area on the Best Places to Live list is San Francisco. Tied for first for desirability out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., San Francisco also offers a strong job market. The metro area has a high median annual salary of $69,700, compared to the national median of $50,620, and an unemployment rate of just 2.7%, compared to the national average of 3.9%. The area's high income offsets the high cost of living, though new residents to the area may get sticker shock looking for homes in the area, as the median home price is $768,517.

Learn more about San Francisco.

The Best Places to Live on the West Coast in 2019 include:

The Best Places to Live on the West Coast in 2019 include:

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  • San Francisco.
  • Portland, Oregon.
  • Seattle.
  • San Jose, California.
  • San Diego.
  • Anchorage, Alaska.
  • Santa Barbara, California.
  • Santa Rosa, California.
  • Salem, Oregon.
  • Sacramento, California.
  • Los Angeles.
  • Salinas, California.
  • Modesto, California.
  • Stockton, California.

Read More

Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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