The Best Places to Live on the West Coast in 2021-2022

Where on the West Coast should you live?

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 150 most populous in the U.S. — that are within 100 miles of the Pacific Ocean, of which there are 16. 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.

16. Stockton, California

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 147
Metro Population: 742,603
Median Home Price: $438,645
Average Annual Salary: $49,880

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. 147 out of 150 metro areas on the overall Best Places to Live list, ahead of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the noncoastal California metro areas of Visalia and Bakersfield. The biggest contributing factor to Stockton’s low rank is the high cost of living. Stockton residents spend 26.61% of the area’s median household income on housing costs, making it the 15th-most expensive place to live out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S.

Learn more about Stockton.

15. Modesto, California

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 146
Metro Population: 814,576
Median Home Price: $311,393
Average Annual Salary: $48,820

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. 146 on the overall Best Places to Live list, Modesto is a pricey place, with 26.61% of the median household income required for the cost of living. The median home price of $311,393 is just slightly below the national median of $315,743. Additionally, Modesto’s average monthly unemployment rate in 2020 was high at 11.2% — well above the national average of 8.1%.

Learn more about Modesto.

14. Salinas, California

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 141
Metro Population: 433,410
Median Home Price: $628,350
Average Annual Salary: $52,060

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 sixth-most expensive place to live out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S., requiring 29.13% of the median household income. However, in the annual Sharecare Community 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 27th out of the 150 most populous places in the U.S.

Learn more about Salinas.

13. Vallejo and Fairfield, California

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 135
Metro Population: 441,829
Median Home Price: $440,550
Average Annual Salary: $57,640

Located north of the San Francisco Bay Area, off San Pablo Bay, Vallejo and Fairfield is a smaller metro area that is considered a less expensive option for people looking to escape the high home prices of San Francisco and San Jose. That doesn’t mean Vallejo and Fairfield is cheap compared to the rest of the U.S., however. Area residents need 26.94% of the median household income to cover housing costs.

Learn more about Vallejo and Fairfield.

12. Los Angeles

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 126
Metro Population: 18,657,347
Median Home Price: $527,818
Average Annual Salary: $57,373

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. 1 for desirability out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S., tied with San Francisco, Honolulu and Colorado Springs, Colorado, based on a SurveyMonkey survey asking people where in the U.S. they would prefer to live. Requiring 29.66% 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.

11. Santa Rosa, California

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 121
Metro Population: 499,772
Median Home Price: $617,550
Average Annual Salary: $57,080

The Santa Rosa metro area has a strong job market, with an average annual salary of $57,080 and an average monthly unemployment rate for 2020 below the national average at 7.9%. However, people moving to the Santa Rosa area should expect to spend more of their income on housing. The cost of living requires 27.75% of the median annual household income, making Santa Rosa the ninth-most expensive place to live out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S.

Learn more about Santa Rosa.

10. Santa Barbara, California

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 115
Metro Population: 444,829
Median Home Price: $464,954
Average Annual Salary: $56,540

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 sixth out of the 150 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 33rd for desirability out of the 150 metro areas on the Best Places to Live list.

Learn more about Santa Barbara.

9. Sacramento, California

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 98
Metro Population: 2,315,980
Median Home Price: $549,893
Average Annual Salary: $58,390

The capital of California ranks No. 98 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 San Pablo Bay. Sacramento residents benefit from an average annual salary of $58,390, above the national average of $53,490, though the area’s monthly average unemployment rate in 2020, at 8.7%, was above the national average of 8.1%. Sacramento’s cost of living is high at 26.01% 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.

8. San Diego

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 97
Metro Population: 3,316,073
Median Home Price: $835,207
Average Annual Salary: $60,230

At the No. 97 spot on the overall Best Places to Live list, San Diego ranks eighth for desirability out of the 150 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. The COVID-19 pandemic caused San Diego’s job market to struggle in 2020, however: The average monthly unemployment rate for the metro area in 2020 was 9.3%.

Learn more about San Diego.

7. Anchorage, Alaska

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 90
Metro Population: 398,000
Median Home Price: $265,900
Average Annual Salary: $60,020

The northernmost West Coast metro area on the list, Anchorage ranks No. 90 on the overall Best Places to Live list. Living in Anchorage certainly has its benefits — the cost of living requires just 23.07% of the median household income and is the most affordable place to live on the West Coast. Like the rest of the U.S., Anchorage saw its average monthly unemployment rate rise in 2020 to 7.6%, but it stayed below the national average of 8.1%.

Learn more about Anchorage.

6. Eugene, Oregon

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 65
Metro Population: 373,340
Median Home Price: $323,000
Average Annual Salary: $48,820

Eugene receives its highest scores in the overall Best Places to Live ranking for its desirability as a place to live among U.S. residents and for the number of people moving to the area. Between 2015 and 2019, the Eugene metro population increased by 6.74% due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. When it comes to desirability, Eugene ranks 19th out of the 150 metro areas on the list.

Learn more about Eugene.

5. Salem, Oregon

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 62
Metro Population: 422,678
Median Home Price: $304,333
Average Annual Salary: $50,290

Oregon’s capital is also located on the West Coast, offering a cooler, rainier climate than many of the California spots on the list. Though a bit larger than Eugene, Salem is one of the smaller metro areas on the Best Places to Live list — home to just 422,678 people — but it’s seeing steady growth. Salem’s population increased by 5.19% between 2015 and 2019 due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Salem residents spend 24.34% of the median household income on housing costs.

Learn more about Salem.

4. San Jose, California

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 36
Metro Population: 1,987,846
Median Home Price: $1,302,118
Average Annual Salary: $83,960

It should come as no surprise that San Jose, the capital of Silicon Valley, has a strong job market. Though it was unseated by Washington, D.C., for the No. 1 job market in the U.S. in the Best Places to Live in 2021-2022 ranking, the average annual salary over $80,000 certainly attracts plenty of professionals. 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 $1.3 million, and residents spend 25.54% of the area’s median household income on housing costs.

Learn more about San Jose.

3. Seattle

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 19
Metro Population: 3,871,323
Median Home Price: $675,237
Average Annual Salary: $68,460

Ranking No. 19 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 ninth for desirability out of the 150 metro areas on the Best Places to Live list. Seattle continues to grow steadily, having increased in population by 4.62% between 2015 and 2019 due to net migration.

Learn more about Seattle.

2. San Francisco

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 15
Metro Population: 4,701,332
Median Home Price: $1,047,714
Average Annual Salary: $75,890

The second-highest ranking West Coast metro area on the Best Places to Live list is San Francisco. Tied for first for desirability out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S., San Francisco also offers a strong job market. The metro area has a high average annual salary of $75,890, compared to the national average of $53,490, and an average monthly unemployment rate of 8.2% in 2020, roughly on par with the national average for 2020 of 8.1%. 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 over $1 million.

Learn more about San Francisco.

1. Portland, Oregon

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 10
Metro Population: 2,445,761
Median Home Price: $515,360
Average Annual Salary: $58,240

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. 5 for desirability. People keep moving to Portland as well, as the metro area’s population increased by 3.79% between 2015 and 2019 due to net migration. Portland’s job market also supports the ever-growing metro area, with an average monthly unemployment rate of 7.8% in 2020 and average annual salary of $58,240, well above the national average of $53,490.

Learn more about Portland.

The Best Places to Live on the West Coast in 2021-2022 are:

— Portland, Oregon.

— San Francisco, California.

— Seattle.

— San Jose, California.

— Salem, Oregon.

— Eugene, Oregon.

— Anchorage, Alaska.

— San Diego.

— Sacramento, California.

— Santa Barbara, California.

— Santa Rosa, California.

— Los Angeles.

— Vallejo and Fairfield, California.

— Salinas, California.

— Modesto, California.

— Stockton, California.

More from U.S. News

25 Best Places to Live in the U.S. for Quality of Life

The 25 Most Desirable Places to Live in the U.S. in 2019

The 25 Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2021-2022

The Best Places to Live on the West Coast in 2021-2022 originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 11/02/21: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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