Are you considering moving to Salinas, CA? With a cost of living below the California average, beautiful beaches just minutes away, and amazing weather, it’s easy to see what makes the Monterey Bay area so attractive. Salinas, Spanish for “saltworks,” has a small-town feel yet offers all the historical attractions, entertainment, shopping, and excitement you’re looking for.

What is Salinas, California known for? Its agriculture, budding arts and culture, diversity, and the birthplace of author John Steinbeck. Salinas has earned the nickname the “Salad Bowl of the World” thanks to its fertile land and huge agriculture industry.

The town of Salinas was established in 1854 and named for the former “Rancho Las Salinas” in the area which was named for the salt marshes that were later drained. Within two decades, what was once grazing land was converted to crops, a profitable move that gave Salinas the highest per capita income in the country by the 1920s. The city began to transform into urban and suburban developments in the 1950s which picked up again in the 1990s. Today, many areas of the city are being revitalized to create walkable entertainment districts while retaining the city’s historic charm.

Here’s everything you want to know about living in Salinas to decide if it’s the right move for you.

Salinas Population & Demographics

The population of Salinas, California is 163,542, up almost 9% from the 2010 census. The city is densely populated with 6,491 people per square mile. Salinas is the largest city in Monterey County in central California in the Salinas Valley. Part of the Monterey Bay Area, the metro population is 431,000 people. The city is 8 miles from the Pacific Ocean with the Santa Lucia and Gabilan mountains to the west and east.

Salinas is surrounded by several unincorporated communities. The seaside city of Marina is 8 miles to the west. How far is Salinas from Monterey? It’s about 19 miles from Salinas to Monterey. The distance from Salinas, California to Los Angeles is about 300 miles or 5 hours.

Salinas is a minority-majority city and known for its racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. The city is 82% Hispanic, 10% white, 5% Asian, and 1% Black or African American. About 35% of the population is foreign-born, significantly higher than the California average, with 90% of foreign-born residents coming from Latin America. Salinas has the highest share of Hispanic residents among all California cities. During the late 19th century to early 20th century, it had America’s second largest Chinatown that was just slightly smaller than San Francisco’s.

Additional Salinas demographics:

  • Median age: 30
  • Sex ratio: 51% male, 49% female
  • Median household income: $69,117
  • Per capita income: $22,091
  • Poverty level: 17.9%
  • Educational attainment: 60% high school grad or higher; 12% bachelor’s degree or higher

Is Salinas, CA safe? Like many California cities, the Salinas crime rate is higher than the national average. The crime rate in Salinas is 2,787 crimes per 100,000 people with 555 violent crimes and 2,232 property crimes per 100,000. That’s 19% above the national average and a bit higher than the state average.

Salinas has struggled with gang violence, particularly in central and East Salinas and around the Salinas Valley State Prison, although violent crime was recently down 75% since 2015. You can see Salinas crime statistics from the Salinas Police Department which serves the city with 170 sworn officers and 55 civilian personnel.

There are many famous people from Salinas, CA including actress Vanessa Hudgens and musician Sammy Hagar. The most famous resident is John Steinbeck, author of The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men. Most of his work is set in the Salinas Valley. His childhood home, the John Steinbeck House, is one of the most popular things to do in Salinas, CA. His influence can also be seen at the National Steinbeck Center, John Steinbeck Library, the Steinbeck Institute for Arts and Culture, and the famous Steinbeck Festival.

Salinas CA Cost of Living

One of the many questions you may have about living in Salinas, CA is the average cost of living. The good news is the cost of living in Salinas is lower than the California average! The city’s cost of living index is 138 which makes it 38% more expensive than the national average.

Groceries, utilities, and transportation are all close to average while healthcare is 29% higher than the national average. The biggest factor pushing up the living cost is the high price for Salinas CA real estate.

The median home price is $688,000, up 12% year-over-year, and up from $500,000 in 2019. You can see homes for sale in Salinas, CA here to get an idea of what you can get with your budget.

Planning to rent after moving to Salinas? The average rent in Salinas, CA is $2,072 according to RentCafe.

Best Neighborhoods in Salinas, CA

Where are the best places to live? It depends on what you’re looking for! East Salinas, CA, also known as Alisal, is the most dangerous area of the city. Despite its high crime rate, East Salinas offers a lower cost of living and a strong sense of community.

The safest and most affluent Salina neighborhoods are in the south and north. South Salinas, particularly the southeast area around Maple Park, is known for its stately homes, mature landscaping, and large lots. The area also offers plenty of shopping along S Main Street and entertainment options with Valley Center Bowl and the Alvarado Street Brewery & Tasting Room.

North Salinas is one of the best neighborhoods in Salinas if you love the outdoors. It’s home to the best parks in Salinas as well as Northridge Mall, one of the main shopping destinations in the region.

Want to live close to the action? Downtown Salinas, CA has a lot to offer. Popular with retirees and millennials alike, the historic downtown, long known as Oldtown or Old Town Salinas, was recently renamed Salinas City Center thanks to improvement efforts. Residents enjoy casual and fine dining, entertainment, boutique shopping, and more within walking distance including some of the city’s top attractions like Bankers Casino, the historic Fox Theater, and Maya Cinemas. There are several apartment buildings in the area with new developments in the works.

Salinas Climate | What Is the Weather in Salinas Like?

Salinas has a mild Mediterranean climate strongly influenced by the bay instead of the inland valleys. The Salinas weather is generally moderate and cool with ocean fog unlike the hot summers experienced further north. The daily high ranges from 63 degrees in the winter to 75 degrees in the summer. You’ll get just 15” of annual rainfall on average, far lower than the U.S. average of 38”.

Things to Do in Salinas

Looking for ideas on what to do in Salinas, CA? You’ll find plenty to keep you busy in the city itself and the surrounding valley and bay. The drive from Salinas to Monterey Bay is just minutes with gorgeous beaches near Salinas CA like the Salinas River State Beach and the family-friendly Marina State Beach. You’ll love spending weekends exploring the region’s wineries, historic missions, and attractions like Pinnacles National Park and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

While living in Salinas, CA, you’ll also enjoy great shopping at Northridge Mall, Laurel West Shopping Center, and Harden Ranch Plaza with several major chains like Nob Hill Foods, El Super, and Costco.

Here are just a few of the top things to do in Salinas, CA.

National Steinbeck Center

This museum is a memorial to author John Steinbeck and explores his work through artifacts and interactive exhibits.

National Steinbeck Center, 1 Main St, Salinas, CA 93901 (831) 775-4721

Maya Cinemas

A favorite among locals, this retro theater in Oldtown screens new releases.

Maya Cinemas, 153 Main St, Salinas, CA 93901 (831) 757-6292

Tatum’s Garden

This fully accessible and inclusive playground is the vision of the parents of native Tatum Bakker who has spina bifida. Children of all abilities and ages can enjoy creative play at one of the best parks in Salinas.

Tatum’s Garden, 1 Maryal Dr, Salinas, CA 93906

Additional Salinas attractions:

Best Restaurants in Salinas

Don’t be fooled by its size – Salinas boasts world-class cuisine and everything from fine dining restaurants to casual eateries. Here are just some of the best places to eat in Salinas.

City of Salinas Jobs & Average Salary

What kind of jobs are available in the Salinas Valley? How much do you need to earn to afford the cost of living?

As you might expect, agriculture is the backbone of the Salinas economy along with education and healthcare. The city is an emerging AgTech capital and hosts the annual Forbes AgTech Summit.

The average salary is $70,000 or $19.73/hour according to Payscale.

Major employers in Salinas include:

  • Monterey County
  • Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital
  • Natividad Medical Center
  • Tanimura & Antle (vegetable grower)
  • Taylor Farms
  • Mann Packing (vegetable shipper and supplier)
  • Newstar Fresh Foods
  • Matsui Nursery

Ready to explore job opportunities before moving to Salinas? You can search for City of Salinas jobs, Monterey County careers, and jobs on Indeed.

Schools in Salinas

Moving to Salinas with kids? You will be served by one of seven school districts. The largest Salinas, CA school district is Salinas Union High School District (SUHSD) with over 13,500 students and ten campuses.

There are three Salinas elementary districts, the largest of which is the Salinas City Elementary School District with 13 schools. Other elementary schools in Salinas, CA are in the following districts: Graves Elementary School District, Santa Rita Union Elementary School District, Alisal Union School District (with Alisal High, one of the best high schools in metro Salinas), Lagunita School District, and Washington Union School District, home to San Benancio Middle School, one of the highest rated public schools in California.

You can also choose from several private schools in Salinas, CA and neighboring communities. The all-girls Notre Dame High School and all-boys Palma School are in the city limits. The Santa Cataline School in Monterey is another highly rated option nearby.

While living in Salinas, CA, you can pursue higher education at Hartnell College, a community college, and California State University, Monterey Bay.

Salinas Statistics & Information

  • Zip codes: 93901, 93902, 93903, 93905–93908, 93912, and 93915
  • Area code: 831
  • County: Monterey County
  • Time zone: UTC-8 (Pacific Time Zone)
  • Elevation: 52 feet
  • Area: 23.45 square miles

Salinas California Map

Tips for Moving to Salinas

  • Pro: Lower cost of living than most California cities
  • Pro: Great outdoor recreation and quality air
  • Pro: Minutes from the coast
  • Pro: Exciting historic downtown packed with things to do
  • Con: High home prices
  • Con: Limited career options outside agriculture, education, and healthcare

Ready to see the benefits of life in Salinas for yourself? Call the 5-star movers in Salinas, CA at Southbay Movers today to get started with a free, personalized moving quote. We’ll help you get settled into your new home in no time!