Best Travel Nursing Locations in California In 2018

As a travel nurse, you have likely found that the best locations to work are those that offer great pay rates, prestigious hospitals, clinics, healthcare facility locations, and abundant opportunities for growth and experience. Many states nationwide have their crown jewel locations, as well as areas that likely would not be your first choice for a travel nursing position.

California, however, is one state that offers great travel nursing cities throughout, making it home to some of the best travel nursing locations in 2018. Below we have compiled some of the best travel nursing locations in California for 2018 – check them out now so you can start planning with your agency today!

San Diego

San Diego tops our list because when it comes to travel nursing in California, San Diego is the most in-demand city of them all.

It is home to three nationally ranked hospitals: University of California Medical Center, Rady Children’s Hospital, and Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, and while the pay is reportedly much higher in Northern California than in SoCal, San Diego pulls a lot of attention because it’s such a great place to live.

In San Diego, residents enjoy great weather year-round and some major perks: a variety of sunny beaches, a breathtaking coastline, urban and suburban living spaces, and plenty of “world-class” dining. San Diego is also home to plenty of free museums, gorgeous outdoor settings like parks, farmers markets, and festivals, and entertainment venues like PetCo Park that host sporting events and concerts.

In short, San Diego has a ton to offer, making it an ideal location since most travel nurses spend less than or up to one year here. What’s more, the cost of living and bill rates for travel nurses in San Diego is slightly lower than the rest of the state, making up for it’s lower travel nursing pay rate, which is about $1,558 per week – 12% above the national average but among the lowest for the state.

Of course, with all these amazing perks, competition for jobs here can be pretty intense. In fact, because San Diego has so much to offer, this highly desired location often doesn’t even have many open travel nursing jobs because there is already a high supply of nurses clamoring for a position.

With this in mind, you do have other options: if you want to at least be near the San Diego area, you can check out the surrounding cities such as Temecula, Laguna, Orange County, and Escondido. These locations offer some healthcare professional positions for travel nurses while also sporting close proximity to the main San Diego location.  Check with your agency to see how you can land a job in or around this area.

San Francisco

San Francisco makes our list of the best travel nursing locations in California in 2018 due to its high pay, high popularity, and the high cost of living. 

Yes, you read that right – the high cost of living is certainly a factor that makes San Francisco one of the best travel nursing spots. When travel nursing, you are able to live in a city with the majority of your expenses paid for a short while – a perk that is often built into your compensation package. However, this may not always be the case, so it is important you ask before you sign.

This means that taking a travel nursing job in San Francisco is an excellent way to experience living in the city for a few weeks or months without having to pay the high cost of living directly out of pocket. Travel nurses who land a spot in San Francisco can also enjoy rather high salaries due to the city’s proximity to Silicon Valley and its technological advances.

What’s more, there are tons of fun things to do and see in San Fran on your days off, making it a great location for a quick family vacation or a day trip. Enjoy the sea, the cool weather, and spooky sites like Alcatraz while you find work in one or more of their many prestigious medical centers and hospitals. 

The average pay rate in the San Francisco area falls between $45/hour and $80/hour or $82,865 per year, 12% above the national average. Most travel nurses spend about a year or less working in this location, making it an excellent experience for your nursing career. If you find landing a position directly in San Fran a little difficult (and you might!), you can certainly check out cities around the San Fran area. San Leandro,  Santa Rosa, and Napa, which is well known for housing locations for Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health, are just some locations close to San Fran with a thriving healthcare scene of their own. Oakland is another prime location, but you can learn more about that if you just keep scrolling.

Los Angeles

Do you love LA? If so, you’re in luck! Los Angeles is next on the list as it is one of the most popular cities in the entire state.

Like San Diego, Los Angeles is in high demand for travel nursing assignments despite the lower SoCal pay rate because it is a great place to live and visit. The music scene, arts and culture museums, excellent dining, and professional sports are just some of the perks Los Angeles has to offer.

It is also a great place for a vacation or day trip due to its many activities within the city as well as its proximity to the beach and nearby destinations such as Pasadena, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and many more. This city is also home to many prestigious hospitals and medical facilities such as Cedars-Sinai Medical CenterChildren’s Hospital Los Angeles and UCLA Medical Center.

These locations are well known for their medical advancements and amazing staff, making them great locations to glean experience. The average nurse salary per year is above $75,000 a year according to, a number which meets the national average.

Depending on the company or agency you work with and the types of specialties you are certified for, this number can double. Like San Diego and San Francisco, most travel nurses spend about a year or less here because the typical travel nursing assignment lasts between eight and 13 weeks.


As promised, Oakland makes the list. Both a great alternative to a San Francisco travel nursing job and on its own, travel nursing in Oakland, California is another coveted Northern California location that because of its high pay and prime location near San Francisco, Berkeley, and the Greater Bay Area.

On average, travel nurses can make $128,272 per year in Oakland, CA, making a year-long assignment here a great opportunity both for experience and finances. This high rate is thanks to its NorCal location and its many prestigious hospitals, healthcare facilities, and clinics.

Oakland is home to the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center, the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, and the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, the largest pediatric specialty center just for children in East Bay. Each of these locations offers great jobs and travel nurse opportunities, making them a top choice for many travel nurses.

This can lead to a high volume of competition amongst nurses, but if you can snag this location, you’re in for a real treat. When enjoying a day off in Oakland, CA, travel nurses have a lot of choices: you can explore the city and enjoy shopping in Jack London Square, go camping and hiking on Angel Island, and hit some of the very best coffee spots and local bars in the state.

If, however, you can’t snag the location, don’t worry – even Oakland the alternative has some great alternatives. You can search for travel nursing jobs in the surrounding cities of Emeryville, Richmond, Walnut Creek, Tracy, Vallejo, Fairfield, and Sacramento.

In short, you have a ton of choices! Be sure to speak with your agency to see whether Oakland or an Oakland-adjacent area is right for you.

Southern California

Our list of the best travel nursing locations in California in 2018 rounds out with the Southern California area as a whole.

Southern California is the perfect spot if you’re looking for that “California” experience. You can enjoy the nightlife, the beach, the abundant sunshine, and the fact that many California landmarks like Disneyland, Universal Studios, Joshua Tree, and more are not too far from one another.

The popularity, culture, restaurants, and overall gorgeous weather found in most SoCal cities are what make this region such an excellent choice for travel nurses. While San Diego and Los Angeles are the top SoCal picks, travel nurses can also find work throughout the San Gabriel Valley and Orange County.

Some prime cities include Long Beach, Torrance, and Riverside – each offering job opportunities for the searching travel nurse.  Notable Southern California hospitals include the Southern California Hospital at Van Nuys the Keck Hospital of the University of Southern California and CHOC Children’s Main Campus Orange

In most SoCal cities, the average pay per week for travel nurses runs between $400 and $2000 depending on your position, your hospital, and your agency.

Keep Southern California on your list for abundant opportunities!

Working as a travel nurse in California is truly a treat whether you find yourself in the southern or northern part of the state. These cities and regions are the best travel nursing location in California in 2018, but be sure to keep your eyes peeled for other opportunities throughout the state. Happy hunting!

Share this post