San Luis Obispo, California

Best Places to Retire in California


San Luis Obispo (population 45,000) is located on the central coast, midway between San Francisco (about 230 miles north) and Los Angeles (about 200 miles to the south). It is eight miles inland from the Pacific, nestled in the rolling foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountain Range. Like a number of the oldest cities in California, San Luis Obispo was founded as a Mission – Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa — which was established as the fifth mission in the state in 1772. The old mission, which was built of adobe bricks made by the local Chumash Indians, is still standing in the center of the town and is a Catholic Church.

San Luis Obispo County (total population just over 250,000) consists of 16 relatively small communities in a beautiful setting along the central coast and into the foothills. Many of its towns and places have taken their names from Spanish rancheros. Its fertile lands and mild year-round climate supports a thriving agricultural industry, including more than a dozen wineries.

San Luis Obispo is the county seat and a number federal, and state regional offices are located here. It is also the home of California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) and Cuesta Community College. The downtown area is highlighted by Mission Plaza, a two-block public plaza alongside historic San Luis Creek. The area functions as the cultural and social heart of the city with extensive landscaping, outdoor dining, pathways for strolling, seating areas, and bridges connecting the old mission with the businesses on the other side. The plaza is the site for many festivals, fairs and celebrations throughout the year.

The city offers a great many festivals, activities and amenities, including live theater, opera, symphony, and ballet. There is nightlife with live music and entertainment, good shopping and a great many dining choices. Recreation in the area includes the nearby ocean beaches and rocky coastline, hiking and biking, state parks, lakes, and visits to the surrounding wine country.

Arts & Culture

The Performing Arts Center San Luis Obispo incorporates the 497-seat Cal Poly Theatre, a 1,282-seat concert hall, and the 170-seat Christopher Cohan Center.

The Cal Poly Music Department sponsors a number of performing groups, which includes the Cal Poly Symphony, university jazz bands, plus guitar, piano, string, and wind ensembles. 

Cuesta College Library/ Learning Resource Center –

Hearst Castle, the dream house of William Randolph Hearst, is 45 miles north of San Luis Obispo, about an hour’s drive. Craftsmen worked nearly 28 years on the magnificent 250,000-acre estate.

Pacific Repertory Opera is a professional opera company that presents a season of opera productions.

San Luis Obispo Symphony offers a season of concerts at the Performing Arts Center, and a series of chamber concerts.

The SLO Mozart Festival is a summer music festival that takes place at beautiful venues across SLO County. It includes performances and a variety of receptions and social events at historic missions, performing arts centers, wineries and intimate settings.

The SLO Vocal Arts Ensemble is a choral group that performs at the Performing Arts Center, the Clark Center in Arroyo Grande, the Mission San Luis Obispo, and the Cambria Community Presbyterian Church.

San Luis Obispo County Historical Society operates the Historical Museum Building at 696 Monterey Street in San Luis Obispo. The museum features exhibits that tell the story of the great ranchos in San Luis Obispo County that thrived from the late Mission Period in the 1820’s until the Great Drought of 1862-64. There are also many artifacts and pictures.


The city’s Parks & Recreation Department operates a great many facilities and programs and offers classes for persons of all ages.

San Luis Obispo County Parks Department manages about 15,000 acres of parklands with many recreational facilities. There are vast inland wilderness areas surrounding Lopez and Santa Margarita Lakes, and small parks along the scenic coast with public access to the Pacific Ocean. The county maintains hiking and biking trails, three golf courses, community parks, pools and special purpose park sites.


California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo is part of the 23-campus California State University System. It has over 18,000 students and a 1,321-acre main campus. Including its additional properties, the university has 9,678 acres and is the second largest land-holding university in California. The university offers a comprehensive undergraduate education that combines technical and professional curricula with the arts and humanities.

Cuesta College, with a 150-acre main campus in San Luis Obispo, was established to serve San Luis Obispo County. There are more than 8,500 students at the main campus, and more than 10,500 students when including both the North and South County campuses. The college offers 61 degree programs and 70 certificate programs.

Senior Programs

The Senior Center is the hub of activities for seniors. Members receive a monthly newsletter and the opportunity to sign-up for many recreational programs. There are also food services, legal services and health screenings.

San Luis Obispo has an active Meals-on-Wheels program. (805) 541-1336 Hospitals Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center is a 201-bed hospital that provides a wide-range of medical and surgical services.

French Hospital Medical Center is a 114-bed full-service acute care medical and surgical facility with 24-hour emergency services.


San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport provides facilities for several airlines to offer scheduled commuter services.

Santa Maria Airport Public is a full-service general aviation, corporate, and air carrier facility. It has two active runways and serves over 200 general aviation aircraft, and a regional commercial carrier.


The average high temperature for January is 65 degrees and the average low is 44 degrees. The average temperatures for July are a high of 80 and low of 55 degrees.


The Tribune –

Property Taxes

The County of San Luis Obispo –
Assessor –

State Taxes

Chamber of Commerce

State Aging Agency


Arroyo Grande – 16 miles
Atascadero – 17 miles
Santa Maria – 31 miles
Santa Barbara – 106 miles
Bakersfield – 137 miles
San Francisco – 230

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