States – Idaho


Many retirees are turning their attention to Idaho because of its many outdoor attractions, mild climate, and reasonable costs of living. In 2015 Bankrate ranked Idaho the fourth-best state to retire in, based on its costs of living, crime rate, healthcare quality, tax burden, weather, and overall well-being among seniors. AARP ranked Idaho the second-best state for retirement in 2012 based on a good economy and low crime rate.

The Gem State offers tremendous scenery and recreation opportunities, as well as abundant natural resources. Skiing, hiking in the Boise and Sawtooth Mountains, and white-water rafting and kayaking in the Snake River are popular among both visitors and residents. Idaho has more miles of river for white-water rafting than any other state in the continental U.S. There is also excellent fishing in the river and the many lakes throughout the state.

The east side of the state borders Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks which offer even more outdoor recreation. The climate is known as steppe, characteristic of a high altitude. Humidity is low and rainfall is about one-third of the U.S. average. There is abundant sunshine. Summers can be hot except in the mountains, and winter temperatures are cold.

As of 2015 the cost of living in Idaho is 98, slightly below the U.S. average. The median home price is $180,000 which is also below the U.S. average. Real estate prices and the general cost of living vary dramatically depending on location. Homes in vacation spots like Sun Valley are much pricier than those in Boise.

The total state and local tax burden in Idaho is about average for the nation. The top marginal income tax rate is 7.8%, which applies at just over $24,000 for couples. Social Security benefits are not taxed, and civil service and military retirement pay is partly exempt. The state sales tax is 6%. Property taxes rank 37 in the nation. There is a partial exemption for residents age 65 and older. There is no state inheritance or estate tax.

Here are several places in Idaho to consider for retirement.

Coeur D’Alene

Coeur D’Alene is a resort area in northern Idaho and offers retirees a vacation resort-like atmosphere but at a reasonable price. Residents have scenic views of lakes, mountains and forests. Approximately 14.6 percent of its residents are age 65 and older. Lake City Center and the Jewett House offer places for seniors to get together for activities, educational programs and meals.

Other local amenities are 150 miles of bike trails, six blocks of shops and restaurants in the downtown, and the Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course. The golf course is considered one of the best in the United States. Its 14th hole features the world’s only movable floating green.

The surrounding area also provides many outdoor recreational opportunities, such as mountain biking, hiking, camping, hunting, and fishing. Healthcare is provided by Kootenai Health, which is the primary medical center serving Coeur d’Alene and greater north Idaho, and is the largest employer in its county, employing more than 1,700 people.

The town experiences warm and dry summers, with temperatures reaching 80 degrees, and the average winter low is 25 degrees.

Idaho Falls

A town of 58,000 located in the eastern part of the state, Idaho Falls regularly appears on lists of the best places to live in the U.S. Real estate blog Movoto named Idaho Falls one of the best places to live in Idaho.

Like other parts of Idaho, this area offers many ways to enjoy the great outdoors. Idaho Falls has extensive green space located along miles of the Snake River that flows through the center of the city. Because of its location at the convergence of Henry’s Fork of the Snake River and the South Fork of the Snake River, the area is famous for fly fishing, and several lakes like the Palisades Reservoir just east of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, are filled with trout.

The town is also close to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Due to its proximity to so many renowned outdoor destinations, Idaho Falls was named in 2015 to National Geographic‘s list of “100 Best Adventure Towns”

Idaho Falls has recently gained a reputation as a regional cultural destination. The Willard Art Center, The Colonial Theatre and Civic Auditorium host concerts, plays, and events year-round. The green spaces along the Snake River are the site of many community events, such as the Melaleuca Freedom Celebration (on the Fourth of July), the Roaring Youth Jam, and the Farmers Market.

The Museum of Idaho is a popular local attraction which showcases local artifacts and history. It also brings in major traveling exhibits such as dinosaur bones, Gutenberg Bibles, Titanic remnants, and “Bodies: the Exhibition.”


Located in southeastern Idaho, Pocatello was named by AARP as one of the most affordable places to retire in the nation. The town of 55,000 is home to Idaho State University. Located on the university campus is the 123,000-square-foot L.E. and Thelma E. Stephens Performing Arts Center, which is on a scenic location overlooking the city and the lower Portneuf River Valley. The center’s three live performance venues including the Joseph C. and Cheryl H. Jensen Grand Concert Hall provide state-of-the-art facilities.

The city’s continuing education institute offers adults age 50 and older unlimited classes ranging from woodcarving to golf to creative writing. Other attractions in town are the Idaho Museum of Natural History and the Pocatello Zoo. Outdoor sports of various types are popular in Pocatello. Pebble Creek, located just south of town, offers world class skiing and snowboarding.


The state capital of Boise is a cultural center in Idaho. The city has its own opera and ballet company and philharmonic orchestra. The Boise Art Museum and Boise State University’s Morrison Center for the Performing Arts are other cultural attractions. Other live performance venues include Boise Little Theatre, Boise Contemporary Theater, and Prairie Dog Productions. The Gene Harris Jazz Festival is held in Boise each spring. The city also hosts an annual Shakespeare Festival held in a large open-air amphitheater.

The city’s location in southwestern Idaho on the Boise River provides many recreational opportunities, including extensive hiking and biking in the foothills immediately north of downtown. Also, an extensive urban trail system runs along the river. The river itself is a popular location for fishing, swimming, and rafting.

The Bogus Basin ski area hosts multiple winter activities, including alpine skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and snow tubing. For those who like to shop, Boise hosts the state’s largest shopping mall and several shopping districts.

Boise regularly receives recognition for its quality of life. In 2009, U.S. News & World Report named it among the 10 best places to live in America, and in 2013 Men’s Health named it #1 on the best places for men. The city has also been mentioned in Forbes and Fortune for its high quality of life.

For more information about retirement in Idaho:

State overview in facts and figures

State taxes

State services for senior residents

Profiles of major cities

Retirement communities

Best regions for retirement