The third largest state by size and most populous is packed with towns to get away from the busy cities without the crowds or touristy atmosphere. From Napa Valley and San Francisco to Los Angeles and even San Diego, we bring you a selection of welcoming cities, some of which are officially ranked as the friendliest in the state. Enjoy the pleasant weather for outdoor activities and the relaxed atmosphere along the streets as you immerse yourself in shopping and culinary delights.
These eight towns deserve the spotlight for being the friendliest in California while wowing you with their dramatic nature that is tamer when you explore. Enjoy pristine beaches, verdant state parks and orchards, all with little traffic, to spend the best moments in close company and unobstructed views. Explore at your own pace with the ever-welcoming locals to make friends and get tips on their beloved towns.
This town in the far north of Southern California is a true picture of perfection, with a laid-back “SloCal Land” vibe. Find the friendly face of Cambria peeking out peacefully between Cayucos and San Simeon in a moving and amazing sight to behold. The seaside village welcomes visitors for enjoyable experiences surrounded by some of the best nature in the state, such as horseback riding along the coast or jogging through the hills.
Take a morning walk on Moonstone Beach, which you will frequent during your vacation days, and in the evenings at sunset. The cultured city awaits the artistic type downtown, full of creativity, wonderful architecture, art galleries, boutiques and antiques. Enjoy the lively energy of the street and head to the pleasant surroundings of Monterey Pines for a picnic in the shade, or visit nearby Hearst Castle. Settle into Cambria any time of year with warm service, farm-to-table feasts and the region’s finest wines.
The small town with easy access between the ocean and San Diego Bay is a quiet place away from the city. Indulge in your favorite seasonal activities after checking into the cozy and historic Hotel Del Coronado with friendly service that has seen celebrities like Oprah, multiple US Presidents and even the British Monarch. Leave the impressive accommodations for now, with the irresistible outdoors waiting in warm weather and smiling locals on a sunny promenade.
Explore Coronado, surrounded by water views on all sides and named the 3rd friendliest city in the US by Expedia readers in 2015. Enjoy a leisurely morning of browsing through its literary landmark, Bay Books, with the cutest stationary section to stock up for your friends back home. The Bluewater Grill invites you to a once-in-a-lifetime sunset dinner experience on a custom seafood menu with exquisite views of the bay.
Encinitas is an exquisite SloCal city with a relaxed local pace to enjoy sights and activities for everyone at your leisure. It is also among the few places in the state that retain the revered appeal of Old Cali, along with the typically spectacular swimming and sunbathing beaches along the beautiful coastline. Soak up the retro feel, unique culture, and beachy vibes along the streets on your way to sandy shores and stunning water views.
Spend a leisurely afternoon in refreshing nature on a stroll through the city’s many green spaces, such as the San Diego Botanical Gardens or the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve, with seven miles of hiking and walking trails. Get acquainted with wildlife at the Nature Center and explore the distinctive and friendly neighborhoods. With delicious dining options and shopping hotspots around every corner, you’ll fall in love with the city and visit again, just a short drive or train ride from San Diego.
Laguna Beach is a friendly place with no secrets that captures hearts at first sight, with a special aura emanating from this part of the SoCal coast. Enjoy year-round beachgoing and a variety of feel-good activities to diversify your stay alongside friendly locals on and off the water. The delicious slice of California beckons with the famous sidewalk cafes where you’ll feel part of the atmosphere as you soak up the culture through the many independent coffee shops.
Start a relaxing day on the patio of the relaxed Café Laguna with unhurried locals, no matter what day of the week. Seek the friendly advice of a new friend or your gracious hotel concierge to experience all your beloved town has in store with no regrets when it’s time to leave. You will feel right at home and you will always be tempted to come back with new experiences and amazing hotspots every time.
Orinda is a homey west coast suburb east of Oakland with just over 19,000 educated residents. Ranked the second friendliest city in the country by Forbes readers in 2017, it’s a desirable place to live with low crime and a relaxed place to visit for a weekend getaway away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Join the friendly community at cheese parties featuring fresh regional treats, and stop by the California Shakespeare Theater for a memorable nighttime experience.
Come loose with year-round pleasant weather, such as during the cozy pumpkin-carving season with neighborhood wine gatherings and contests. Visit in time for the Orinda Film Festival or the 4th of July celebration that begins with a pancake breakfast. Orinda will lament the lack of interaction in the hustle and bustle of the fast-paced city with alluring small-town vibes to feel refreshed and ready to get back in the game of life at home.
Rancho Mirage is a truly miraculous Southern California resort getaway, under the radar and without the tourist vibe. It was rated the second friendliest city in the country by Expedia readers in 2015 for its welcoming atmosphere. The elegant residences and a dose of vitamin D will make you believe in humanity once again. Stroll through the sun-drenched streets brimming with friendly services such as the Shame on the Moon and Gioia restaurants for the best pastas that will fill you with energy and good feelings.
Explore the friendly nature around this area of Palm Springs, such as hiking trails through the Indian Canyons, or join the locals for a round of world-class golf. Rancho Mirage, 650 feet above the Palm Springs Valley in the Santa Rosa Mountains, has been a dazzling home to celebrities over the years with gorgeous landscaping, luxurious accommodations, and panoramic views. Dine fabulously every day and indulge in award-winning spa experiences in a weekend retreat you’ll remember as the most relaxing of your life.
This charming, walkable beach town with a revered vibe for relaxing couldn’t be friendlier if you tried, with resident seals who love to watch visitors from their sunbathing spots along the seaside rocks. . Seal Beach is down-to-earth and one of the friendliest cities in the country, according to Forbes readers, at the gateway to Orange County’s 42-mile coastline. Explore the friendly city’s immaculate, quaint neighborhoods and a walkable main street packed with hotspots. It is a year-round destination for Seal Beach’s Christmas lighting ceremony and the wide stretches of sand.
Enjoy easy access to its pristine 1.5-mile stretch of beach, just 28 miles south of Los Angeles, and take a day trip to Long Beach one way and Huntington Beach the other. Find several great spots to windsurf and ride the waves alongside the locals, or fly kites and build sand castles with your family. The Surfside Pier is the second longest wooden pier in the state, dating back to the 1900s, for sunset strolls and picnics. The city of less than 25,000 residents is home to a whopping 18 parks to stay active outdoors with as much company as you like.
Visalia is not only one of the friendliest cities in the Golden State, but also one of the most beautiful to explore, where nature is as friendly as the residents. Find the small town looming among the beautiful fruit orchards along California’s Central Valley waiting for friendly tourists to lighten their loads. Take a relaxing walk in the sun and enjoy fruit picking with your family before hitting the shops for homemade jams to take away.
Discover history along the streets dating back to 1852 with museums and various forms celebrating the thriving agriculture through the years. Find a cozy stay and enjoy easy access from historic downtown to explore some of California’s best national parks. Get really personal with the wilderness of the world’s largest tree volume at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, complete with friendly hiking trails, rivers and waterfalls.
California is a friendly state, with plenty of year-round vitamin D in its southern reaches and a laid-back feel creeping downtown via SloCal Land. Enjoy pleasant weather year-round, with diverse nature to explore throughout the Golden State. Choose a city with a local vibe, an easy commute from US cities, and the nearby coast.
Get away from the hustle and bustle of the city to pristine beach landscapes with a refreshing pace of seaside life. These cities welcome you with a welcoming atmosphere, attractive streets, and charming residents who make you feel part of the crowd.