If you’ve lived inland and near the coast, you’ll know there’s no comparison. Coastal areas tend to stay cooler with fog rolling in. On hot days, you can go to the beach and swim or surf to cool down in the waves.
Keep in mind that living in a beach town comes with a high price tag; the cost of living will be higher in beach towns than elsewhere. However, in general, so will the salaries associated with many jobs.
Right in the middle of the central coast, you’ll find a unique town called Santa Cruz, where the motto is “Keep Santa Cruz Weird.” This liberal college town, home to the University of California Santa Cruz, has temperate weather year-round, is accepting of people from all walks of life, and the entire county has beautiful beaches. It is also home to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, which has the oldest wooden roller coaster in the state, The Giant Dipper, which opened on May 17, 1924.
Down the road from the Boardwalk is the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, with amazing ocean views, restaurants with fresh seafood, and fishing. While at the Boardwalk, you can head down to the beach to swim, or play some beach volleyball. Don’t forget surfing! Santa Cruz has an active surfer culture, including classes and surf shops.
Santa Barbara is another university town, home to the University of California Santa Barbara, and a city full of culture. You’ll find the Santa Barbara Zoo, Mission Santa Barbara, and the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, among other sites. There are also plenty of beaches, whether you want to go to play in the sand, have a picnic, or learn to surf, sites like Goleta Beach Park, East Beach, and Butterfly Beach will have you covered.
Beautiful and classy, the seaside at Laguna Beach is known for its calm, clear waters. There are great spots to play volleyball, stroll on the clean, warm sand or in the shallow waves, and relax in the sun. You’ll surely find your own favorite beach spot, but make sure to visit Salt Creek Beach Park, a popular surfing spot.
Other places you’ll enjoy if you live in Laguna Beach include Mission San Juan Capistrano, the Laguna Art Museum with its collection of more than 3,500 works of modern art, and Aliso Woods Canyons Wilderness Park, the local wildlife sanctuary.
How long has the beach in Coronado been a popular spot? Try since the opening of the famous Hotel Del Coronado in 1888. This town has a 1.5 mile stretch of beach where you’ll find people enjoying themselves every sunny day. It’s a great place for surfing, swimming, boogie boarding, and relaxing in the sun. Every winter, people engage in whale watching.
Other places you may enjoy include Spreckels Park, especially during the summer concert season, and Coronado Tidelands Park, or, if you’d like to catch a show, you an see what’s playing at the Lamb’s Players Theater.
Santa Cruz isn’t the only West Coast city with a boardwalk. The Venice Beach Boardwalk, also known as the Ocean Front Walk, is like a turn-of-the-20th-century carnival. There, you’ll find tarot card and palm readers, performance artists, sand sculptors, fast food, flea markets, and much more. Of course, you can always step off the boardwalk and enjoy sun, sand, and waves at the beach. Residents who love the waves can take surfing lessons.
Santa Monica is well-known for the Santa Monica Pier, a fun place to take a walk, enjoy seafood, or ride on one of the many amusement park rides. You’ll also find street performers, ice cream, and souvenir shops. Yes, the pier does get a lot of foot traffic from tourists, but it’s a fun place to visit even for locals. You’ll also want to spend time on the three miles of Santa Monica State Beach, which is kept clean and welcoming, as it’s managed by the City of Santa Monica and California State Parks. And yes, you and your kids, can learn to surf at the local beaches.
There are many other amazing beach towns in California. So, start your search by learning about those on this list, but don’t feel limited by it. You’re sure to find a place to suit your lifestyle.