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Want to turn your California dream into a reality? Here are the best California beach towns to buy a home.
7 min read
April 27, 2021
Living in California is a dream for many. People from across the globe choose to move or buy a second home here because of the abundant sunshine, diverse culture, and relaxed lifestyle.
A beautiful California beach house can serve as a place for personal enjoyment and also generate additional revenue when not in use. The Golden State is filled with beachside cities, but there are a few can’t miss coastal towns that are ideal for those seeking to live the fabled California lifestyle. Here are the best California beach towns to buy a home.
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Median home price: $2,662,486
Del Mar, Spanish for "by the sea", is a laid-back, family-oriented beach town in San Diego County. The swoon-worthy coastal town is particularly popular for its ultra-fine sand beaches, upscale living, and a plethora of activities. Buying a beach house at this San Diego location comes with plenty of adventures to enjoy. The horse races at the world-renowned Del Mar Racetrack have been a major social event since 1937, attracting numerous locals and tourists alike during the summer months.
If you love to cook (or watch cooking shows), then you’re bound to enjoy the Kaaboo Del Mar, a three-day festival featuring gourmet cuisine and demonstrations by celebrity and local chefs—plus shows by acclaimed comedians like Wayne Brady, contemporary public art installations, and over 100 musical performances by such famous artists as Kings of Leon, Snoop Dogg, and Mumford & Sons.
Another fun thing to do in Del Mar is to visit the weekly farmers market, which offers international cuisine, organic produce, meats, and fresh seafood. So if you’re looking to buy a beach house in a place that is known for good eats and family-friendly events, Del Mar should be a top contender for you.
Median home price: $1,874,385
The idyllic California beach home probably most resembles one you might find in La Jolla, a beautiful coastal town in San Diego County surrounded by pristine waters, diverse marine life, and an abundance of recreational activities. Thousands of people flock to La Jolla in search of a perfect weekend escape where they can enjoy surfing, kayaking, shopping, and gourmet dining. Owning a beach house in San Diego would be a dream for many.
If you can’t wait to hit the water, take a snorkeling or scuba diving tour at the La Jolla Underwater Park, explore the seven famous caves of La Jolla via kayak, or catch a wave at La Jolla Shores. But if you prefer to stay on land, you can go for a scenic and romantic sunset stroll in Ellen Browning Scripps Park, bike or hike to the top of Mount Soledad and admire its panoramic views, or catch a Tony Award–winning show at the La Jolla Playhouse.
It’s also fun to go window-shopping along Prospect Avenue, visit the popular art galleries around town, or simply walk around and explore. You may even stumble upon the famed hidden mermaid statue of La Jolla! Living or vacationing in a La Jolla beach house is a dream come true.
Median home price: $961,137
Huntington Beach—or as it’s affectionately called, Surf City USA—is the ideal location for those who love to surf. Huntington City Beach is the most popular spot in town and is a great place to spend the day swimming, riding the waves, playing volleyball, fishing, and lounging under the shade of your beach umbrella.
It’s also home to the iconic Huntington Beach Pier (which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places), where you can take a relaxing stroll after your fun in the sun. The pier is approximately 1,850 feet long and ends at Ruby's Surf City Diner, a great spot to watch the sunset and see young fishermen learning how to cast a line.
But there’s much more to this Orange County city than just the beach! There are several hiking and biking trails, nearly 70 parks, various day spas, and world-class shopping destinations to enjoy when living in a California beach house here. Huntington Beach also hosts “Surf City Nights” on Tuesdays, when a section of the town’s Main Street is closed to traffic and filled with artisans showcasing crafts and handmade goods, vendors selling everything from farm-fresh produce to flowers, and musicians performing a wide array of tunes.
Median home price: $1,858,634
Another competitor regarding beach houses in Los Angeles is none other than Santa Monica. While it’s not among the most affordable beach towns in California, it’s definitely quite alluring. Santa Monica is perfect if you’re looking for a place that boasts the best of both worlds: a classic beach town vibe with the energy and amenities of a big city. On the Santa Monica Pier, you’ll find Pacific Park—an amusement park complete with roller coasters, games, and shops—and right underneath it, the famous Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.
But you may be interested in purchasing a Santa Monica beach house just to be close to its world-renowned, palm tree–lined Third Street Promenade. The Promenade is a year-round attraction rife with vibrant nightlife destinations and various upscale shopping options. If you’re looking to buy a second home in a place where you can relax on the beach on a Tuesday afternoon and listen to a live jazz band on a Wednesday night, this Los Angeles County town might be the perfect place for you. Whenever you’re searching for beach homes for sale in California, keep Santa Monica on your radar.
Median home price: $4,469,687
There are few places in the world as universally appealing as Malibu. The renowned beach town has made its way into pop culture through films, shows, and songs, garnering a glamorous reputation. While it’s true that celebrity homes and swanky pads are abundant here, there’s much more to Malibu than meets the eye.
Owning a Malibu beach house translates to living in a picturesque SoCal paradise. You’re surrounded by more than 20 beaches, dramatic canyons, historical landmarks, gorgeous trails, and world-class hotels. You’ll be spending your days strolling along the Malibu Pier, soaking in the sun at Zuma Beach, and catching swells at Surfrider Beach. Malibu’s permanent state of being a popular tourist destination also makes it a top place to buy a rental property. The year-round influx of tourists means there will always be a market for short-term rentals for your Malibu beach house.
Median Home Price: $1,288,886
It’s easy to see why Santa Barbara is the dream location for purchasing a California beach house. Year-round sunshine, pristine beaches, gorgeous Spanish architecture, and a wealth of alfresco activities are things anyone would enjoy on a daily basis.
Leave your Santa Barbara beach house and enjoy all the fun adventures the city has to offer. Tour the Old Mission Santa Barbara, then make your way to the downtown district. You’ll find the coolest eateries on State Street and Funk Zone. Enjoy everything your heart (and stomach) desires from seafood to French cuisine. Feast your eyes on ancient and contemporary artworks at the one and only Santa Barbara Museum of Art. More of a fan of sporty adventures? Go on a hike in the mountains above Goleta, watch the migrating whales from the Channel Islands, or go skydiving in Lompoc. Endless adventures await you in Santa Barbara.
Median home price: $1,769,795
Carmel-by-the-Sea is one of the most charming beach towns in all of California. The one-square-mile village is entirely walkable and filled with boutiques, so it is not surprising that one of the primary attractions here is shopping. Even if you're only window-shopping, a downtown stroll is enjoyable any day of the week in Carmel, especially along the popular Ocean Avenue.
Let yourself wander a bit, too, and you may even come across beautiful, hidden courtyards and picturesque views. If you continue walking west down Ocean Avenue, you’ll arrive at the famed Carmel Beach, a pristine stretch of white sand surrounded by old, majestic Cypress trees. Take some time to meander along the Scenic Bluff Path bordering the beach, then sink your toes into the soft sand.
Artists and art enthusiasts will also find that Carmel-by-the-Sea is a top place to buy a California beach house, as there are close to 100 art galleries packed into this little coastal enclave along the Monterey Peninsula. Additionally, outdoor aficionados will find plenty to explore in the town and be pleased to know that the gorgeous Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is just a 10-minute drive away. With all this and more, who wouldn’t want to own a beach house in Monterey?
Median home price: $1,378,324
The idyllic NorCal beach town of Half Moon Bay invites you to get a taste of life in the slow lane. Those who enjoy the perks of a coastal community while being within proximity to big-city amenities will be happy to hear that Half Moon Bay is just 35 minutes away from S.F.
Your Half Moon Bay beach house is the perfect escape from the busy city life. You'll be surrounded by spectacular natural beauty, blooming wildflowers, majestic mountains, artisanal shops and eateries, and ocean views for days. Half Moon Bay’s reputation as a top romantic getaway spot in NorCal also ensures that you’ll have a wealth of spas and charming hotels at your disposal. What could be more enticing than a forever vacation?
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