Does the idea of living at the beach in California entice you? Do you dream of salt-filled air and whispering waves? Life at the beach is slow-paced and laidback, but is it right for you? If you turned that California dreaming into a reality, would it live up to your expectations? To answer that, let’s weigh the pros and cons of living at the beach in California.
I’ve lived at the beach in California for about ten years but really planted my roots in the South Bay area for six years.
I recently moved to Huntington Beach and bought a condo, and settling in here has been a lovely adventure (despite this crazy year!). I’m a salty-haired, sandy toed walking cliché — and I’m good with that! Aside from the ultra tanned skin (I’m a ginger, after all).
Personally, I’ll probably never leave! Why?
Because the weather in California is excellent, it’s always summer, and beach life is slower-paced. There are lots of outdoor water activities, people are super friendly, and having the entire beach to yourself during the off-season is the absolute best!
That said, I’m a diplomat at heart and always like to play devil’s advocate. Are there downsides to living at the beach in California? 100%.
So, while my heart flutters under the sun where sand meets the shore, I’m a pragmatist here to offer a balanced viewpoint of beach life in California.
Let’s dive in!
As much as I love my native Golden State, living in California is straight-up expensive. We also don’t get autumn here at the beach, so that’s a bummer.
Let’s take a deep dive into the pros and cons of beach living in California to get the full picture (swaying palm trees, traffic, and all) of beach life on the West Coast!
California has golden beaches and endless sunshine, but it also has some of the best food in the United States. The Golden State’s cornucopia of culinary traditions comes from its diverse population, sunny climate, and ocean access. With Mexico a stone’s throw from So Cal, we get delicious Mexican cuisine, too, which is built into your bones when you live in So Cal.
As the most agriculturally diverse state in the US, California has something for every palate. Farmers in So Cal produce sun-loving crops like avocados, oranges, and dates. The coastline is packed with fresh seafood, so you’ll have no trouble scooping up fresh catches on the reg.
California has a thriving farm-to-table movement, and it’s on offer in nearly every beach town.
Pop into any beach city along the coast and you’ll find a plethora of local eateries serving up organic eats, including a ton of vegan and vegetarian options if you’re a leaf-eater like me! 😉
I won’t sugarcoat it: living in California is expensive. And living at the beach in California? Well… It’s not cheap. At all. Housing is freaking expensive. Whether you rent or buy, you’re going to pay more to live in California than in most states.
The average price of a home in California is $552,800, which is almost $300,000 more than the rest of the US. Because of skyrocketing housing costs, lots of people move away from the coast, and I don’t blame them.
Before you freak out, it’s important to keep in mind that salaries are also higher in California. From 2017 to 2018, the average Californian’s salary increased by 4.8%!
So if you’re thinking of packing everything up and making the move to California, line up a solid job to cover the exorbitant housing costs. You may also need to spend a little extra time house hunting.
Like any state, rental and mortgage prices fluctuate based on location and the current state of the economy (which isn’t great as of late, thanks to COVID). If you’re willing to give up your beach dreams, consider moving inland where housing is more affordable. You can secure a nice pad and head to the coast on the weekends.
If you’re like my husband and me and refuse to give up the beach life, you’ll have to buy (or rent) smaller property for the same amount as you’d pay for a large house inland.
It boils down to lifestyle preference. We bought a condo in Huntington Beach to maintain our active, outdoors beach lifestyle, and we’re thrilled with our new home!
But it can still be a tough pill to swallow when you see what your money can buy inland.
For example, my brother and I both bought property this year and each paid nearly the exact amount for our places. He got a 3,000 square foot, brand new, huge home inland, and we got a 3 bedroom, 1300 square foot, older condo at the beach.
We’re both extremely happy with what we bought because each of our homes fits our lifestyles. Ultimately, decide what is most important and above all: create a budget for living in California and stick to it.
As long as you live at the beach in California, you’ll never be bored! We have 420 public beaches! Each California beach town has a unique vibe, and you could easily spend your entire time living here exploring them.
From Santa Cruz surfing to Santa Barbara wine country to eclectic Venice to laid back San Diego — there is something for everyone at the beach.
I spend a lot of my time at the beach, but I’m not even a surfer! There’s more to do than ride the waves.
Kayaking and Paddle Boarding – Good news because pretty much every beach city in California has a harbor, pier, or marina to explore! Huntington Harbour in Sunset Beach is one of my absolute favorite spots to get out on the water. The water is glassy and I love getting lost meandering through the winding waterways and admiring the gorgeous property.
Hiking – Where there’s a beach, there are usually trails. If not, kick off your shoes and get your toes in the sand for a long beach walk. Let the serene waves lull you into a trance and the ocean spray tickle your skin. I’ve learned over the years that there’s nothing a long beach walk can’t fix!
Driving Pacific Coast Highway – An exciting way to take in multiple beaches in one day is to cruise PCH. You can map out a route, or let the wind guide you! I love to hop in my husband’s 87 convertible Bimmer with no agenda and see where the road leads. Some favorite stops along the way are Santa Barbara, Malibu, Dockweiler Beach, and San Diego.
Snorkeling and Diving – Most beaches have certification schools if you’d like to learn how to scuba dive. Some hotspots for diving and snorkeling include Redondo Beach pier, Catalina Island, the Channel Islands in Santa Cruz, and Old Marineland in Rancho Palos Verdes.
Sunbathing – No instruction manual required. Pack up a lunch, some cold drinks, sunscreen, a good book or magazine, and a beach towel and head to the sand to access the endless summer lifestyle beach living is famous for!
Sailing, Parasailing, Kneeboarding, Surfing, Boogie Boarding — there’s no limit to what you can do on the water here. Ok, well, technically there are laws and such, so long as you don’t litter or swim publically in the buff, you should be good!
These are just a few highlights, there are also tons of natural parks, caves, state beaches, tide pools, and more water sports like jet skiing and sailing to help you soak up the best of So Cal beach living!
Wait, what? Did you think living at the beach in California was all sunshine and tan lines? Believe it or not, California weather can be unpredictable.
True, you won’t have to scrape ice off your car windshield every morning, but you will absolutely have to deal with wildfires, gloomsville, and a total lack of seasons.
Craving a white Christmas? You’re not gonna find snow at the beach. Plus, summers can scorch. These consistently high temperatures combined with California’s lack of rainfall can cause seemingly never-ending draughts that last years. No — decades!
Is it worth it? For the sunshine: absolutely. Living at the beach means you’ll miss out on seasons, though. For example, sometimes it feels like we only get Spring and Summer. For months on end, it’ll be gloomy all day until finally, Summer hits.
And I don’t mean in July. At the beach, summer sometimes doesn’t hit full swing until mid-August.
And you can say goodbye to Fall *insert crying emoji*. Don’t you just love the picturesque blanket of red and orange leaves in the streets? Yeah… you’re not gonna get that at the beach in So Cal.
What you will get are orange and pink sunsets that make your jaw drop. And honestly, living in a climate that stays around 75 degrees year-round isn’t the worst thing in the world.
Aside from the yearly wildfires and gloom, the weather in California is hard to beat!
Your desire to get out and explore other parts of California is well-intentioned but impractical. The beach gets its grip in you and before you know it, you’re trapped in a beach bubble. When you leave, you miss the beach because it becomes a part of you.
Perhaps you intended to buy a home inland after you rounded out your beach escapade, but then years go by and you realized you’ve slowly mutated into a sun-baked beach bum.
Being by the coast means you’re further from the freeways that connect Californians, so you’re harder to reach. Friends will stop visiting because of traffic and beg you to move closer. Living in a beach bubble can be lonely at times if you don’t have family or friends close by.
Fortunately, beach locals are friendly and warm, so you’ll have no trouble making friends here! Looks like you just gained a paddle-boarding partner!
Even though living a “clean” lifestyle has become trendier than ever, many people’s diets are still full of processed foods and sugars, which lead to lasting health issues. However, Californians tend to live healthier lifestyles. In fact, California has one of the lowest obesity rates in the country.
We can thank the abundance of healthy produce and endless outdoor activities I mentioned earlier. But that’s not the only reason Californians are healthy. Our state funding prioritizes health, and in 2016, launched the Whole Person Care initiative to use food as medicine in hopes of reversing chronic illnesses.
But I wouldn’t entrust your health to the state gov. Instead, take matters into your own hands by cooking at home, staying active, and soaking up the fresh beach air.
Tourism is a major source of income for California residents… but it’s also a major source of annoyance. Peak tourist season is June through August, and for those few months, the beaches are packed (yup, all 420 of them!) restaurants are full, and the traffic goes from bad to worse.
But after those three popping months, your favorite beaches and taco stands will return to normal, and you can relax! At least, until next season.
This leads to my favorite benefit of living at the beach in California:
Once the crowds dwindle, the weather changes and the temps lower a bit, solitude sweeps across the sandy shores.
This is my FAVORITE time of year: shoulder season. Right around Spring and Fall, you can stroll the beach and only pass by a few locals. Of course, it depends on what beach you’re visiting, but there’s always a quieter beach nearby if you’re willing to look.
While the water is too cold for anyone other than the brave surfers and swimmers, the off-season is lovely for going on long walks, having a beach picnic, or biking the strand.
Just be sure to pack a sweater!
So what do you think? Are you finally going to pack that suitcase and head West? Or did the idea of high rent prices and tourist-crowded coastlines spook you? Look, I’m a native Californian, but I’ve traveled all over the globe and my favorite place is So Cal.
Sure, I wish housing was less expensive, but that’s the price we pay to live in one of the most desirable locations on the planet.
Sounds like you need to visit to see if California beach life is right for you! Be warned, though: you might get sucked into a beach bubble and never leave!
If you plan on staying awhile, dip your toes in the Pacific, relax in the eternal sunshine, and get used to a uniform of flip flops and tank tops.
You’re a So cal beach local now, and life is good.
What’s your favorite beach in California? Share in the comments below!
Christina Lyon is a coffee-sipping, word-obsessed business blogger, content writer, and blog consultant. She’s on fire for helping creative entrepreneurs and small biz owners build thriving blogs that enhance online visibility and convert to sales. When she’s not reading or writing, she loves to play music and explore the beaches and wild trails along the California coast with her husband Steve and rescue pup, Clio.
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