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Convenience, beauty, nature, quiet, community, neighbours, and proximity – these are all words that you will hear associated with Orinda, CA. People who live there simply love it. Orinda, CA which has a population of about 18,000 people, lies east of Berkeley, is a bedroom city – most people who live there commute to neighboring cities such as downtown Oakland, San Francisco and Walnut Creek for work. The area was known mainly for ranching and summer cabins in the late 19th century and it was a product of Mexican land grants. It was eventually named Orinda after poet Katherine Phillips who also went by Matchless Orinda.

According to Wikipedia, “In the 1880s, the United States Surveyor General for California, Theodore Wagner, built an estate which he named Orinda Park. The Orinda Park post office opened in 1888. The post office’s name was changed to Orinda in 1895. Orinda was also the site of Bryant Station, a stop on the failed California and Nevada Railroad around the turn of the 20th century. In later times, the area around Bryant Station was known as Orinda Crossroads.” The city became more popular after 1937 after a highway was constructed that connected it to neighboring cities. Incorporation came a long time later though – 1985. Today it has its own station, the Bay Area Rapid Transit, which makes commutes a breeze.

Many people move to Orinda not just for its renowned natural beauty but also for the real estate. The area has some of the highest performing schools in the state of California, it is safe, the community continues to be small and the community has a rich culture. The area continues to be semi-rural unlike most of the other surrounding cities. Real estate tends to be more expensive that the average California rate – a single-family home averages about $1.2 million. Most homes are within proximity of Orinda Country Club, which features a golf course, an award-winning swim program, clubhouse, and tennis and fitness facilities. There is some new construction underway, and the community has been kind enough to develop living facilities for seniors that go for 67% lower rental rates than the average in the state. A growing retirement community has provided additional jobs for those who don’t want to commute into the cities.

How is living in Orinda?

The best way to describe life in Orinda is to look at what some of the residents have to say. According to one anonymous resident on, “We lived in Berkeley for 15 years before moving to Orinda last August. We love it and I am sorry we waited so long. Our kids are 9 and 12 and they love it too. There is so much space here, it is quiet, it is safe, and the people we’ve met have been so, so nice. We have a large yard with lots of birds, lots of neighbors with kids, a creek in the back, and my kids can wander on their own down to the school to play. I am so glad to be free of the constant traffic, crowding, and Berkeley attitude, which I found at times to be rather self- important, self-righteous, and sometimes anti-family. There is a grain of truth to the stereotype about shallowness and materialism and those kind of people and values are more noticeable in Orinda than they are in Berkeley. You will have to deal with them sometimes, but they definit
ely are the minority”

Another one adds, “…we love it here. We have a bigger house, giant front/back yard, kids can run/play in the yard after school and on weekends w/o direct supervision. Before we lived on a street that had a nice sidewalk for running and biking but no way for the kids to play on their own. Very friendly families and many families with young kids. And it is sunny and warm when it is cool and foggy in Alameda. Happy with our move.”

As you can see, if you have a family and can afford the real estate this is definitely somewhere you should consider moving to. The other great thing about this city is the weather. Like the rest of California, it has long, hot summers and mild, wet winters that facilitate for beautiful hills. You can expect to enjoy most of your time outdoors in the sunshine. The city’s leaders rely on public input to maintain the small town feel of the city.

Things to do in Orinda

If you enjoy hiking trails you will love Orinda because there are thousands of them in the hills, and they are safe to hike even on your own. Whether you are a weekend enthusiast or an avid hiker you can be sure that there is a lot of ground to cover. Many people travel from surrounding cities just to enjoy the trails during weekends. There are also lots of parks where you can meet other families. People tend to be friendly and polite, but they are also involved in each other’s lives.

You have a lot of options when it comes to shopping because there are lots of businesses in Orinda and they have everything you would need for day to day living. There are several high end boutiques that offer shoppers special items.

There is also a film festival every year and famous actors sometimes fly in to promote new films in which they starred. The California Independent Film Festival also screens new movies there.

In August Orinda hosts a huge swim meet, typically attended by more than 2,000 swimmers. According to Wikipedia, “Orinda has raised numerous competitive swimmers (and waterpolo players) from Orinda have gone on to compete for major colleges and in the Olympics. Notables include Kirk Everist ’86 (US Olympic Team ’92 and ’96), Heather Petri ’96 (Gold: 2012 Olympics; Silver: 2000 Olympics, 2008 Olympics; Bronze: 2004 Olympics), and Michael Sharf (NCAA All-American, 2007 US National Team Member).”

There is a regular farmer’s market in spring that is held in downtown Orinda and from there you can buy all manner of fresh produce from farms in the surrounding areas.

Still not sold on moving to Orinda? Read this last review from “We’ve lived here for just over 4 years now and I know quite a few neighbors by now. Almost everyone is very friendly and warm. We get invited into their homes and gardens frequently when we take walks, and I’ve learned we have a professor of botany and a master quilt maker on our street as well as two CFOs. Because of the hills it can be a little hard to meet people, but there are many devoted walkers and you will slowly get to know people if you spend time out on your land (weeding, most likely) or walking around yourself. Most of our neighbors are in their late 40’s through age 70+ as well as a few teens, and many children 12 and under. Our neighborhood has a somewhat funky mix of old ranch homes (built in the 50s) and older cottages- some updated, some not, as well as many with recent major renovations. Most people seem very down to earth, intelligent, friendly, but also generally private and respectful of others time/privacy.”