Discover the Healthiest Cities in California: Top 7 Destinations for Well-being

California is renowned for its numerous attractions! This state offers a wide array of experiences, from famous Hollywood celebrities and picturesque sandy beaches to magnificent redwood forests and stunning national and state parks. With such a diverse collection of landmarks, it’s no surprise that this state maintains its well-being.

Here are the top 7 healthiest cities in the Golden State.

1. San Jose

  • Niche fitness score: A
  • Smoking rate: 7.3
  • Physical inactivity rate: 13.4
  • Air quality rate: 4

In the heart of Silicon Valley lies San Jose, the largest city in Northern California. This city embodies a captivating blend of agriculture and innovation. Within its borders, various neighborhoods are dedicated to celebrating the diverse cultures that contribute to its vibrant community, such as Japantown, Little Italy, Little Portugal, and Little Saigon.

San Jose boasts a rich Californian history, with some of its landmarks dating back to 1872. One such landmark is Alum Rock Park, the city’s oldest municipal park, spanning 720 acres. This expansive park offers an array of activities, including hiking and horseback riding, with a network of 13 miles of trails.

Among them are six miles of trails specifically designed for horse enthusiasts and three miles of bike paths. The park also features open lawn areas and scattered playgrounds, providing enjoyable experiences for families.

2. San Mateo

  • Niche fitness score: A+
  • Smoking rate: 7.2
  • Physical inactivity rate: 13.3
  • Air quality rate: 10

San Mateo, located just west of San Francisco Bay, offers a delightful blend of urban and outdoor spaces. Its downtown area is pedestrian-friendly and vibrant, featuring a diverse range of restaurants and a thriving retail community.

Whether you’re in search of charming boutiques or Michelin-starred dining, you’ll find it all here. For a complete bayside experience, head to Coyote Point Park. This scenic destination allows you to partake in various water activities such as swimming, windsurfing, boating, sailing, and fishing in the Bay.

If you prefer to stay on land, the park offers five paved trails where you can bike, jog, or take a leisurely stroll. Additionally, you can make the most of your time outdoors by enjoying a picnic on one of the park’s spacious lawns.

Moving further inland, San Mateo’s Central Park is an excellent choice for families, boasting baseball fields, tennis courts, and playgrounds. On weekends and during the summer weekdays, kids can also enjoy riding the park’s mini train.

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3. Santa Monica

  • Niche fitness score: A+
  • Smoking rate: 7.4
  • Physical inactivity rate: 12.8
  • Air quality rate: 20

Santa Monica, known as the “coolest neighbor” in Los Angeles, perfectly captures the essence of Southern California beach towns. With its 3.5-mile stretch of stunning sand and waves, Santa Monica Beach is a true paradise.

The beach is surrounded by walkable neighborhoods filled with hotels, shops, and restaurants, offering a vibrant atmosphere. Anchoring the area is the Santa Monica Pier, where you can engage in fishing, shopping, dining, or simply enjoy a ride on the iconic Ferris wheel at the amusement park.

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast looking to explore beyond the shoreline, Santa Monica has more than 15 parks to choose from. Whether you prefer the bustling atmosphere of Ocean View Park, located by the beach, or the serene walking paths of Mary Hotchkiss Park, there’s a park that suits your preferences perfectly.

During the summer, Santa Monica comes alive with the Pier 360 Summer Festival. This event takes advantage of the sunny days by offering various competitions, including paddleboard races, beach volleyball, surfing, skateboarding, and swimming contests. If you prefer being a spectator, you can enjoy live music, pop-up events, obstacle courses, and indulge in delicious food and drinks—all with free entry!

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4. Oakland

  • Niche fitness score: A+
  • Smoking rate: 7.5
  • Physical inactivity rate: 12.6
  • Air quality rate: 6

Oakland, located just across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco, offers a diverse culture that perfectly complements its diverse topography. In just 20 minutes, residents of Oakland can go from enjoying the waterfront to exploring the majestic redwoods.

One of the places to experience Oakland’s natural wonders is Joaquin Miller Park, a 500-acre park that caters to hikers, cyclists, joggers, and picnickers. Visitors can immerse themselves in the beauty of redwood groves, oak woodlands, lush creek sides, and vibrant wet meadows.

The best part is that you can bring your four-legged companion along to enjoy the park too! Another fantastic spot is Lake Merritt, where you can engage in various water activities such as sailing, kayaking, canoeing, or renting pedal boats.

On weekends, make sure to arrive early and explore the offerings of over 40 local farmers at the lakeside fresh produce market. To celebrate Oakland’s great outdoors, the city hosts the annual Oakland Running Festival, featuring full or half marathons, 10k, and 5k races.

Additionally, participants have the option to contribute virtually by submitting their race times to help raise funds for their favorite charitable causes.

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5. San Francisco

  • Niche fitness score: A+
  • Smoking rate: 9.2
  • Physical inactivity rate: 11.5
  • Air quality rate: 12

San Francisco is famous for its iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and its unique cable car system. However, it’s also renowned as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the United States.

The city has been actively working on improving its streets and neighborhoods to accommodate cyclists better. This includes the addition of protected bike lanes and numerous bike racks throughout the city.

Despite being the second most densely populated large city, San Francisco offers a respite from the hustle and bustle with over 200 city parks. Within these parks, you can find 42 community gardens that provide fresh produce throughout the year.

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6. San Diego

  • Niche fitness score: A
  • Smoking rate: 8.9
  • Physical inactivity rate: 13.4
  • Air quality rate: 14

San Diego, the second-largest city in California, is well-known for its extensive coastline spanning over 17 miles, offering easy access to the water. The city boasts more than 11 public beaches where visitors can enjoy swimming, fishing, boating, and various water activities.

If you’re a dog owner, you can even bring your furry companion to Dog Beach, situated on the northern end of Ocean Beach, for an off-leash adventure. For those who prefer the water without the sandy shores, San Diego provides over 14 public pools and aquatic centers throughout the city.

If you’re looking to immerse yourself in San Diego’s natural beauty, you can explore the numerous parks, such as Balboa Park, which features stunning gardens, 15 museums, and the renowned San Diego Zoo.

7. Irvine

  • Niche fitness score: A-
  • Smoking rate: 9.2
  • Physical inactivity rate: 15.0
  • Air quality rate: 9

Irvine is located in the southeastern region of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. While it’s close to the big city, most residents of Irvine don’t consider themselves part of it. The city is made up of villages, creating safe and family-friendly neighborhoods.

Irvine is committed to promoting bike-friendly transportation, with over 250 on-road bicycle lanes spread throughout the city. Additionally, Irvine is renowned for its neighborhood and community parks, with the Great Park being a standout.

This innovative park offers a range of exciting activities and has been recognized as one of the most modern metropolitan parks worldwide. Visitors can enjoy themed playgrounds, walking and biking paths, and a lively farmers market held every Sunday.

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