Best California Beach Towns

Best California Beach Towns

There are many beach towns and cities in California, so finding the best ones is no easy task. California and beaches go together like peanut butter and jelly. It’s hard to find a better combination!

We’ve decided to put together a list of our best California beach towns to help you plan your next beach escape. We’ve also included our Livability ratings for each town, so you can narrow down your options if you’re looking to move to a beach town. 

Pack your backs and grab your shades – it’s time to hit the Golden State for some beach fun!

La Jolla, San Diego

pexels lucas fonseca 2157685
Image sourced from

La Jolla is a beautiful seaside village in the city of San Diego. It encompasses 11 miles of coastline along the Pacific Ocean. As a result, it is a truly picturesque area that you should definitely add to your bucket list. Although it is located in San Diego, La Jolla is separate. This doesn’t mean that the village is forgotten. There are over 1000 shops and over 100 restaurants in the area. Due to its convenient location, La Jolla offers the best of both worlds. It provides modern city amenities while still providing a place to kick back and enjoy a vacation. Don’t forget La Jolla receives 266 sunny days every year – so you’re almost guaranteed fantastic weather!

In terms of Livability, La Jolla has limited data due to being a smaller area. However, San Diego receives a rating of 63/100. The cost of living, crime rates, and education standards are average, meaning you don’t miss out on much. Don’t forget that this data isn’t for La Jolla itself. If you’re looking to move to La Jolla, property prices will set you back over $2 million, whereas the average property value in San Diego is around $873,825. So it may be an expensive move. However, for the beaches and chilled-out vibes, you can’t really go wrong!

Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, California

SD Beach town southern california
Image sourced from

Crystal-clear water, palm-lined streets, and white sandy beaches. That’s Avalon. It is a unique seaside town located on Catalina Island. You’ll need to catch an hour-long ferry ride from Long Beach, San Pedro, Dana Point, or Newport Beach but it is well worth it. There’s plenty on offer within Avalon and Catalina island, from snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, and even hiking. The iconic Catalina Casino is also located in Avalon, a cultural hub and famous landmark. This city is a must-visit if you’re looking for a beach paradise. 

In terms of Livability, the city scores 65/100, with the cost of living around the national average. House prices stand at around $800,000 at the time of writing, which isn’t a lot when you consider it would be a property on an island!

Fort Bragg, California

Next up on our list of best beach towns in California is Fort Bragg. Located in Mendocino County, the city is known for its unique rocky cliffs and beautiful beaches. The coveted Glass Beach is located near Fort Bragg. From using the area as a dump, the beach now holds glass treasures that many visitors view yearly. If you decide to go, remember that collecting glass from the beach is illegal! Additionally, due to its location, the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens has located a 6-minute car ride away from Fort Bragg. The city makes for an excellent destination for a relaxing coastal getaway.

In terms of Livability, the town scored 62/100. The cost of living and education standards are above the average; however, it is affected by higher-than-average crime rates.

Avila Beach, California 

Our next entry for the best beach towns in California is Avila Beach. Located in San Luis Obispo County, the city is another example of a beautiful beach town. The picturesque harbor, wide sandy beaches, and delightful weather make for a fantastic getaway. With all the usual beach activities and amenities you can expect, Avila Beach is also home to the Central Coast Aquarium, providing an exciting day trip. 

In terms of Livability, the town scores 57/100, which is relatively low compared to others on this list. This is mainly due to the high cost of living, with property values soaring over $1 million. However, the town’s crime rate is extremely low, making it a safe place to live. 

Newport Beach

Newport Beach
Image sourced from

Newport beach, located around 45 minutes from LA, is a perfect destination for those seeking an upscale beach town experience. There’s plenty to do, from shopping, dining, and of course, beach activities. Additionally, the Newport Beach Pier provides an excellent place for fishing and sightseeing. The city is also home to Balboa Island, which offers incredible views and an unbeatable atmosphere. Besides the nightlife, bars, and restaurants, the city hosts the Newport Beach Film Festival, attracting many visitors.

In terms of Livability, Newport Beach scored 60/100 with a higher-than-average cost of living. Property values in the city can hit over $3 million. However, while you may be paying more, Newport Beach has lower crime rates than the national average, making it a safe place for families and tourists.  

San Clemente

Image sourced from

Next up is San Clemente, which is a famous surfer town popular with surfers, beach-goers, and tourists alike. The San Clemente Coastal Trail or Beach Trail is famous amongst visitors. The 2.3-mile trail provides amazing views. Additionally, with many beaches to choose from, you’ll always have somewhere to kick back and relax. Additionally, the San Clemente Pier provides excellent views of the white sand beaches.

In terms of Livability, San Clemente scores 65/100, with the low rate of crime being rated an A-. However, property values are high, with the average reaching almost $1.5 million. The overall cost of living is still around the national average, ensuring you can enjoy this beach town without feeling too much strain. 

Santa Cruz, California

Beach texas
Image sourced from

Santa Cruz is the next addition to our list of best beach towns in California. Known for the famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the town is great for a family vacation. With plenty of dining and shopping options, you’ll never run out of things to do. 

In terms of Livability, the town scores a rather low score of 56/100. Of course, it doesn’t help that the average property value is also well over $1 million. However, living close to the beach and with plenty of amenities may just be the trade–up you need. 

Morro Bay, California

Our next best beach town in California is Morro Bay. The town is home to stunning natural beauty, one of the main attractions being Morro Rock. Additionally, visitors are able to enjoy numerous outdoor activities at the nearby Morro Bay State Park. With so much to do, the town is a great vacation place. 

In terms of Livability, the town scored 64/100, with the best feature being the low crime rates. If you’re considering a move to this town, average property values stand at around $900,000 at the time of writing, which is slightly more affordable than other cities on this list. 

Shelter Cove, California

Shelter Cover is a small seaside town that provides an access point to the Lost Coast of Humboldt County. With pristine beaches and breathtaking ocean views, Shelter Cove attracts many visitors. Besides the town, visitors are also drawn to the attractions of Black Sands Beach and the Lost Coast Hiking Trail. 

Due to the town’s nature, there isn’t enough data available to create a Livability ranking. However, property prices are around $400,000 on average. However, due to the remote nature of the town, the cost of living may be higher.

Carmel-By-The-Sea, California

beach picture
Image sourced from

Next up on our list of best beach towns in Carmel. A charming coastal town with beautiful white sandy beaches and access to a range of activities. The Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is also only an 8-minute drive away. There you can engage in hiking. Carmel-by-the-Sea is a truly remarkable seaside town and is definitely worthy of being on this list.

In terms of Livability, Carmel scores 65/100. Property values in the town do stand at almost $2 million on average, which may price some would-be residents out. However, for what’s on offer, it’s no debate that it’s worth it. 

Laguna Beach

Laguna beach
Image sourced from

Next up, we have Laguna Beach. Located in Orange County, this picturesque beach town is one of a kind. It’s packed with stunning beaches, beautiful coves, and fantastic scenery. The town features a vibrant arts scene, specifically the Sawdust Art Festival, which takes place annually in the summer. If you’re visiting out of season, be sure to check out the Laguna Art Museum. 

In terms of Livability, Laguna Beach scores 56/100. The cost of living is relatively high, with house prices at almost $2,000,000. However, crime rates are pretty low, so you’ll definitely feel safe living in Laguna Beach.

Santa Monica

Santa Monixa
Image sourced from

Next up, we have Santa Monica. Located just a short 20 minutes ride away from Los Angeles. It’s a popular choice for tourists and residents wishing to head to the beach. Here you’ll find the iconic Santa Monica Pier as well as numerous shopping and dining options. Downtown Santa Monica is our top recommendation for shopping, and you’re guaranteed to find what you need here. 

In terms of Livability, Santa Monica scores 55/100. While things like the cost of living and crime rate aren’t the best, being close to Los Angeles, you’ll be able to find something within budget though it may take some time. 

Huntington Beach

Surf city
Image sourced from

Our next recommendation is Huntington Beach, AKA Surf City USA. Also, around a 40-minute drive from Los Angeles, the lively surf culture is what Huntington Beach is most well-known for. In addition, the annual week-long US Open of Surfing brings in surfers from around the world and avid viewers. The Pierside Pavilion also offers some great restaurants and is a must-visit if you’re in the area. 

In terms of Livability, Huntington Beach scores 62/100. In addition, the low crime rates compared to the average makes this small beach town an attractive option.

Santa Barbara

Santa Monica Beach town
Image sourced from

Finally, our last recommendation is Santa Barbara. Home to multiple wineries and a vibrant arts and culture scene, there’s lots going for this small beach town. As a small town, having the ability to spend time outside and getting around on foot is one of the most attractive features of Santa Barbara. Added to this is the ability to go hiking, with plenty of scenic options to visit. 

In terms of Livability, Santa Barbara scores 62/100. Ratings for the cost of living, education standards, and crime rates are all around the national average. But, again, for the beauty the small town has on offer, there’s nothing lost at all in living there! 

What is the most famous beach in California?

The most famous beach in California has to be Santa Monica. However, Laguna Beach is another close second. In fact, many of California’s beaches are world-renowned, including ones such as Venice Beach.

What is the safest beach in California?

Carpinteria City Beach is the safest beach in California and the world. With small surf and the absence of riptides, Carpinteria City Beach has benefited from this accolade for over 100 years!

What is the most affordable beach city in Southern California?

The most affordable beach town in California in Oceanside. Additionally, affordability can be subjective and will depend on personal factors. Although we hadn’t mentioned Oceanside in the list above, we thought we’d include it here.

What is the most beautiful beach town in California?

The most beautiful beach town in California is extremely subjective. From La Jolla, Laguna Beach, or perhaps even Malibu – it’s a tough one! So we’ll leave this one to you, leave a comment below or send us an email with your suggestions and we’ll update this with the most popular one!

What is the prettiest part of the California coast?

Another difficult question to answer, from the beaches, cities, and trails – there are so many places to choose from. However, the California coastal vista trail is truly beautiful and one of our favorites. Yet, the Pacific Coast Highway is extremely scenic too. So, a toss-up between the two is our selection!

Bottom Line

There you have it; that’s our list of the best beach towns in Southern California. We hope we’ve helped you decide on where to go. 

We hope you enjoyed this article. Feel free to browse the rest of our site for more informative articles about the cities in America.


Citytistics is the leading website for city data and insights for cities in America. Our goal is to help you find the right place to live, work, and play. We provide cost of living, crime rates, and happiness levels for cities across the United States. Whether you are looking to move to a new city or just want to learn more about your current city, Citytistics has the information you need!

Leave a Comment