As you head toward southern California (SoCal), the weather is really unbeatable. The average days of sun range from 260-275 days per year. As you get closer to the coast, the temperature remain very moderate, from lows in the upper 30’s to highs near the lower 80’s. It is one of the biggest attractions to living in this area, which is not surprising considering how fickle we humans can be about the weather. 😂 If you don’t mind a slightly broader range in temperatures, head east to the desert and enjoy the dryer heat and comfortable nights.
The coastal area offers beach time, surfing, and many other outdoor activities that you can enjoy year-round. The desert towns have more resort and retirement communities, with casinos and spas, but also have Joshua Tree and other natural surrounding areas that offer hiking you can enjoy during the more temperate winter months. By and large, access to parks increases and walkability and bikeability improve the closer you get to the coast. In fact, San Diego is 27th in the nation for parks access. Even so, the area is only somewhat bikeable and mostly car-dependent.
Further, the closer you get to the coast and the San Diego area, the higher the cost of living gets and the traffic becomes more prolific. Median housing prices range from $400-$550,000 in the Indio/Palm Desert/Palm Springs area, and increase to $600-$815,000 in San Diego and the surrounding areas, while the median income ranges from only $45,500 to $78,500, with Temecula having the highest incomes out of all of the areas we explored.
The entire region of southern California in which we traveled is moderately liberal with some very liberal pockets, and offers employment in a wide array of industries, especially now with more remote work opportunities available, but unemployment is slightly higher than the national average, ranging from 6-8%. And unfortunately, the entire state of California has some of the worst roads in the nation, which was updated late last year.
So what does all this stuff mean?!? If you are looking for a more affordable place to live than the Bay Area, but still want to be closer to a metropolitan center on the west coast with even nicer weather, you might like living in the San Diego region. Coastal life gives you access to the ocean, wine country and is a quick drive to the desert. Anecdotally speaking, all of the people I have known that grew up in SoCal are some of the nicest, most laid back people I’ve ever met. If that stereotype still stands, this could be a little slice of paradise for you.
If you love the desert life and/or are closer to retiring, you might like the quieter, more affordable areas in southeastern California. Personally, I don’t think I could handle the traffic in the San Diego area nor the hot, dry climate in the California desert, but I was truly pleased to have the chance to visit these areas and enjoy all they have to offer.
California is such a large and diverse state and I don’t think you can really make any mass generalizations about it, because it varies so much from town to town. Yes, it is quite liberal in the metropolitan areas, and yes the traffic and roads are terrible, and yes the cost of living can be astronomical; BUT, without California we wouldn’t have the array of food we enjoy on our plates as this state still leads the nation in food production and is the 5th largest producer in the entire world. And, the variety of climate, geography, and diversity in its population make it a unique place.
There’s a reason it is so populous and the subject of so many songs, artistic creations, and writings throughout the world. There is no state like it in our nation, and it’s a special place that I think many people can take for granted. Visit this vast state before you write it off and see for yourself what everyone is talking about. If you don’t find an awe-inspiring corner, I would be very surprised.