By H. Michael Hervey

Have you ever thought about retiring in California? Is it just too expensive, haughty, or traffic congested for your taste? Well, think again! While certain extreme pockets do exist, California is still within reach for your dreams and desires. I’ve listed the top 10 places seniors ought to consider when retiring in California that will meet any of your personal living requirements.

While Florida attracts lots of seasoned citizens, the Sunshine State fluctuates between hot and just plain steamy most of the year. Florida’s seniors must contend with hurricanes, mosquitoes, gators, and venomous snakes lurking in unexpected places. Makes you wonder why so many retire there in the first place. Avoiding pythons in the backyard doesn’t strike most people as being very relaxing.

Arizona is another popular choice for retirees, but it’s like living in a furnace half the year. Great place to study scorpions and cacti, though.

San Francisco downtown skyline at dusk from Treasure Island, California, sunset, USA. Panorama

Most of California, on the other hand, has perfect weather year-around and no flying insects to speak of. The only alligators you’ll find in the Golden State are in zoos. There are few places in America that hold the promise of a true golden life for seniors more than sun-drenched California.

The state adopted its name from the mythical island of California that was populated by Amazon warriors who fashioned tools and weapons of pure gold. These mythological warriors were ruled by the stunning Queen Califia as outlined in a 16th-century Spanish fictional romance novel. Of course, the real California had a non-fiction gold rush at Sutter’s Mill in 1848.

There’s still “gold in them thar hills” these days, but it’s in the form of valuable property rights and multi-million homes. And precious water rights. And nuggets of exquisite beachfront properties. For seniors, the real value of living in well-chosen locations around California, however, is the incredible lifestyle associated with being able to watch magnificent sunsets while strolling, hand-in-hand, on mystic pacific sands or majestic hillsides…every day.

Come and stay awhile; you’ll never regret it. Don’t pay attention to fake news about earthquakes. Hollywood still has a great sense of humor.

1. Greater San Diego

SAN DIEGO CA USA 04 08 2015: The Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego, California, The Gaslamp Quarter extends from Broadway to Harbor Drive, and from 4th to 6th Avenue.

People often use the term “God’s Country” when describing this part of California. Blessed with idyllic weather 360 days/year, San Diego, Coronado, La Jolla, Carlsbad and all points around these bucolic towns offer some of the best lifestyles for seniors in America. Nice homes, friendly neighborhoods, great shopping, and a wide range of multi-cultural dining opportunities (Gas Lamp District) are just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Those outstanding features are supplemented with impressive museums, memorable zoos, three national and local parks, and enough resplendent beaches to last a lifetime.

2. San Clemente

Train tracks run through San Clemente State Beach in Southern California in summer.

Just south of heavily populated Santa Ana, the sweet little town of San Clemente offers a respite from the hustle and bustle of “regular” Southern California. It’s close enough to see all the cool stuff in Los Angeles on weekends yet far enough away to avoid the beastly weekday traffic jams of the SoCal Megaplex. San Clemente’s 67,000 residents enjoy a wonderful climate, affordable housing, and regular attractions like serene beaches and beautiful parks that make their lives interesting and enjoyable yet relaxing.

3. Palm Springs

Palm Springs golf in the early morning light

If you like rest, relaxation, and communing with nature, then Palm Springs is the place for you. Do you enjoy hiking, biking, golfing, swimming and exploring? Palm Springs is for you. If you appreciate luxurious hotels, splendid resorts, exquisite spas and eclectic shopping, then Palm Springs is for also you. In order words, Palm Springs is for you because you probably enjoy most of those wonderful activities at different times.

While it’s hot like Arizona during the summer, you can beat the heat by driving west for a few hours to San Diego and San Clemente or by sprinting east to Las Vegas to catch a show and “roll dem bones.” At an elevation of 8,000 ft., however, San Jacinto Peak is the best way to get cool because it’s right next door.

But there is no place like Palm Springs from November to April. The air is so cool, dry, and crisp you can almost chew it. Paradise is where you can don a light sweater for a morning round of golf and switch to a bikini to laze by the pool in the afternoon. There is one small downside for seniors who want to live in Palm Springs; it’s not cheap.

4. Santa Barbara

Wrought iron chairs and glass top table setting at sidewalk caf

This wonderful and serene city on California’s central coast offers seniors such a wonderful and relaxed lifestyle that few ever contemplate leaving, even after a short visit. The beauty of its beaches, the elegant yet affordable neighborhoods, and nearby enchanted state parks create an attraction that’s almost impossible to break.

If you tire of being overwhelmed by elegant homes, great food and perfect weather all the time, just drag yourself to Stearns Wharf for a lively change of pace or the town’s world-class zoo or go camping in Los Padres National Forest, which is only five miles inland. It’s a tough life, but somebody has to live there so it may as well be you.

5. Monterey and Carmel

Driving on the Pacific Ocean coast, in Carmel-by-the-sea, Monterey Peninsula, California

Just 110 miles South of San Francisco, these enchanting towns offer seniors the chance to relax and enjoy their days under tall redwoods, lush palisades, and rustic beaches. Carmel is a quaint little town that is big on boutique art galleries and cozy bars. Carmel is so hip and charming, Clint Eastwood decided to be Hizzoner the Mayor for a while. Monterey is known for its wonderful pier, savory restaurants, and excellent nightlife.

Residents have a choice of living in mega-million-dollar mansions along world-famous 17 Mile Drive and Pebble Beach or more affordable abodes a few miles inland and Big Sur. Just driving around this modern-day Garden of Eden or walking along the coast is one of life’s little pleasures that’s available every day; lucky you. You’ll soon appreciate why John Steinbeck and Robert Louis Stevenson adored this part of the state.

6. Sausalito

Views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco skyline from Battery Spencer. Sausalito, Marin County, California, USA.

Ensconced in the awesome shadows of the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito offers seniors the best of everything. You can stroll along the main street loaded with interesting shops, memorable restaurants, and world-class art galleries. This heavenly village has the most amazing views of the Golden Gate, Alcatraz and Angel islands, San Francisco Bay, and the full-frontal skyline of San Francisco; all from its meandering shoreline. Treasure Island is visible at a distance, too.

Seniors can live in friendly neighborhoods perched on the beautiful hills just above town or reside on more affordable but elegant boathouses warmly embraced by the Kappas and Waldo Point Yacht Harbors. Like San Francisco, Sausalito is much cooler than other parts of California due to its location on the Bay, so bring that luxurious sable coat you’ve been hiding.

One of the great perks of living in Sausalito is that you can take a short ferry ride to Fisherman’s Warf or drive 20 minutes over the Golden Gate into the heart of the city. Beautiful and challenging biking and hiking trails abound just 10 minutes west in the Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate State Park.

7. Napa Valley

Napa Valley vineyard in California at sunset

Only a 60-mile jaunt north of San Francisco, Napa Valley offers great wines, bucolic rolling hills covered with chardonnay grape vines, impressive horse ranches, and a clutch of seven Michelin-rated restaurants within 10 miles of each other. This Valley offers seniors the chance to live in a verdant dreamland surrounded by pastoral resorts and world-famous wineries while simultaneously keeping a low profile away from the maddening crowds.

Napa, Yountville, Oakville, St. Helena, and Deer Park are wonderful little towns that are unsurpassed in terms of providing a quiet elegance that seniors will cherish for the rest of their days.

8. Shasta Lake Region

Panorama of valley reservoir lake by Mount Shasta in northern California

This rustic and serene area of California will appeal to those who want to have a more tranquil lifestyle. The small towns of Reading, Whiskeytown, and O’Brien will never be confused with San Diego or Sausalito, but that’s the whole point. Great trout fishing, quiet communities, cozy homes, and fresh mountain air attract many seniors to the Shasta Lake.

No need for fancy evening attire; comfortable flannel shirts and well-worn boots are all that’s required most of the time. Trade your old Buick for a new Jeep and you’ll fit right in. Relax and enjoy the tall pine trees, bountiful lakes, and immaculate streams.

9. Lake Tahoe Area

Sand Harbor area with rocky shore, Lake Tahoe

Truckee, Incline Village, Tahoe City, and South Lake Tahoe offer the serenity of the Shasta region with the added twist of having a few lively casinos nearby. For those who dare, there are also world-class ski resorts like Squaw Valley, Northstar Resort, and Alpine Meadows around every mountain ridge.

While the housing is affordable, save some cash to help pay for all your ski-related medical bills. Relax; the casinos in Reno (East) and South Lake Tahoe (South) are only 45 minutes away so you can easily recoup those hospital expenses.

10. Yosemite Valley

Meadow with boardwalk in Yosemite National Park Valley with Yosemite Falls at cloudy autumn morning. Low clouds lay in the valley. California, USA.

About 200 miles east of San Francisco, Yosemite Valley is a grand venue for seniors. Those who want a little more company than living around Shasta Lake. There is no shortage of secluded yet affordable housing for seniors in this area. The only downfall is, it does catch a bit of snow during winter. But it would be difficult to find better walking, hiking, and camping opportunities than Yosemite National Park.

Just catching a glimpse of the 3,000-foot tall granite edifice of El Capitan will leave you breathless. No matter how often you see it, especially when standing at its base. Actually, you’ll be gobsmacked. God knows how to build monuments, for sure. The lifestyle is totally relaxed yet consistently memorable. Make sure to have your photography skills up to date.

Michael Hervey is a freelance writer who lives in Los Gatos, California.

He graduated from Penn State University with a B.A. in Political Science and worked in a Wall Street bank before setting off on a life of discovery and adventure.  He joined the United States Marines, attained the rank of Captain, was a fixed-wing/helicopter pilot, and a Squadron Legal Officer. He also held senior sales positions in the semiconductor, software, and wireless industries

Harold has written seven (7) eBooks on travel, food, and business plus numerous articles and blogs about lifestyles, current events, and politics.

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