Chat to anyone about the West Coast of the US and beach towns in particular, and their eyes are likely to glaze over as they consider, what is for many, a dream beyond reach. Like so many things in life, fortunately, the fear of the unknown is a lot more frightening than the reality, and with some research, you just may get that beach vacation or retirement on the West Coast yet.
Affordable beach towns on the west coast do exist. Some examples are:
- Long Beach, Washington
- Coos Bay, Oregon
- Crescent City, California
- Eureka, CA
- Lompoc, CA
Affordable means different things to different people. Our criteria were:
- Low accommodation prices
- Enough to do to make a vacation worthwhile
Are you looking to vacation in a West Coast beach town or move there permanently, either now or when you retire? All three options are very doable, and they are all possible without having to sell your soul, but what are the options, and which are the affordable beach towns on the West Coast?
From SoCal to Washington, there are beach towns that are not only affordable but, depending on where you are living presently, might be noticeably less costly to live in. Since the advent of Covid-19 (and its successors, wave #1 – wave #infinity), there is no reason for an enormous part of the so-called workforce to physically go in to work daily.
First, we were forced to work from home wherever possible, then it was requested that we do so, and now millions of people around the world – myself included – work remotely, from home, or more often than not, our favorite coffee shop or tea garden.
Depending on your line of work, the bare minimum you need to continue earning is a strong internet connection, power, and access to couriers and the postal service, all of which are available in these towns and several others:
Affordable Beach Towns On The West Coast
Washington – Long Beach
While not the cheapest Real Estate in our study, Long Beach is worth considering when you note that no income taxes are levied in the state. Another financial plus is that there is no sales tax levied in nearby Oregon, and Astoria (in Oregon) is less than 20 miles away for any shopping you will need to do.
- A typical open plan bungalow will cost U$90.00 per night for two people and offer the following:
- Barbeque Grills
- Cable Television
- Coffee/Tea Maker
- A flat-screen TV with cable
- DVD Player
- Dish-Cleaning Supplies
- Outdoor Space
- VCR Movies (Remember them?!)
- Pets Allowed
- Free WiFi
The local motel (which looks perfectly reasonable in pics although I didn’t stay there) offers a standard room at U$61.00 per night for two people and provides:
- Queen-sized bed
- Flat-screen 32″ television
- Custom countertops
- Coffee pot
- Alarm clock
- Complimentary shower amenities.
Certainly, if you’re after warm seas and sunny days on the beach, then the northern part of the West Coast is not for you, but if it’s exquisitely angry seas, lobsters, and bracing beach walks, you’re after Oregon and Washington are perfect. Of course, you will also pay far more for property in the warm south, and even within one state (e.g., California), the prices soar as the latitude drops.
Things To Do In Long Beach, WA
As any saltwater fisherman will confirm, cold water generally makes for really good fishing, and the waters off Washington do not disappoint. Willapa Bay, the Pacific Ocean, Columbia River, and several surrounding tributaries create a national fishing and foraging hot spot in the state’s southwestern corner.
Pacific County’s famed fisheries, including some of the finest razor-clam grounds in the Pacific Northwest, provide outstanding fishing, oyster-gathering, and clamming to the seafood enthusiast. Coho (Silver) Salmon, halibut, albacore tuna, and chinook are popular sport-fish off the coast.
The locals come together to celebrate the historical tradition of clam digging at the annual Razor Clam Festival, held every April. These giant clams have to be seen to be appreciated and have been found at more than six inches in length. Clam chowder, anyone?
Horseback riding on the beach is high on the bucket list of most romantics, and Long Beach has been a favorite riding spot for locals and visitors for decades. Crashing waves, clean air, and the thrill of riding these exquisite animals in a safe environment is an experience hard to beat.
Hiking is tremendously popular in WA, and Leadbetter Point, Fort Columbia, and Cape Disappointment State Parks are ideal for those with a penchant to follow Bill Bryson into the Wilderness. Mountain bike rentals are available for those wanting to tone those glutes, but if you prefer storm-watching to cadence counting, that’s also available.
Storm season brings with it beautiful skies, crashing waves, rainbows, and incredible photo ops to the Long Beach Peninsula and Pacific County area. Waikiki Beach at Cape Disappointment State Park is famous among serious photographers and amateurs:
Its view of the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse atop a 200-foot cliff in the background with explosive white breakers in the foreground can create stunning photos and is probably the most popular photo-op spot.
There almost seems to be an endless array of things to do in Long Beach, and taken with the affordable nature of the place, it sails onto our list.
Oregon – Coos Bay
Coos Bay enjoys some of the most scenic shorelines in Oregon, where the highlight is probably Sunset Bay State Park, (although North Coast towns like Cannon Beach tend to dominate the spotlight.) Sunset Bay’s secluded cove is surrounded by towering cliffs where miles of hiking trails offer breathtaking vistas and photo ops.
- Motel 6 seems to be the best value for money in Coos Bay, but there are four or five other motels to choose from and several small hotels worth checking out. Still, with a room for two people offering two queen-sized beds and a shower at U$64.00 per night, Motor 6 gets my vote. (Did I mention up to three kids under 18 stay free?)
- Satellite / Cable TV
- LAN access
- Bath/Shower with disabled access
Things To Do In Coos Bay, OR
With accommodation prices so low in this beach town, you would be forgiven for doubting the veracity of the offers, but there’s no need – there’s plenty to keep you busy.
You’re probably aware that Oregon has some of the most stunning coastline and nature areas in the world, so remember to pack your hiking boots.
Cape Arago State Park is a great place to start and splits into a North area, wonderful for fishing and beachcombing, and which offers views of Shell Island and Simpson Reef just offshore, where hundreds of sea lions and seals come out of the water to breed,
and a South area.
The South area has several tidal pools to explore and will keep families busy for hours.
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is another great day out and encompasses the world’s largest span of temperate sand dunes – some believed over 500 feet in height.
The Bull Run Staging Area provides good access to visitors and locals wishing to take ATVs onto the dunes, which is awesome.
The Egyptian Theatre is a landmark building near the Coos Bay Boardwalk that screens cult classics, film festivals, and independent movies. Egyptian temple adornments, hieroglyphics, and pharaoh statues cover the interior of the 750+ seat auditorium, which takes any movie screening to a new dimension.
A four-mile hiking trail from Sunset Bay to Cape Arago State Park forms part of the state-spanning Oregon Coast Trail and is very popular with hikers.
Since most people associate an affordable beach town on the West Coast with warm weather, sandy beaches, and frolicking in the ocean wearing as little as possible, let’s move over the border to California:
California – Crescent City
Crescent City is the first of our Californian towns located just over the Oregon border, so sales-tax-free shopping in Oregon is a bonus to the attractions in this, our most affordable beach town on the entire West Coast. Surrounded by nature in every direction and placed closer to the sea than most beach towns on the West Coast, Crescent City is a quiet treasure, though we’re not yet far south enough for warmer seas.
The Crescent Beach Motel claims that if you stay at their motel, it would be impossible to get closer to the water without your blankets getting wet, and they’re not wrong. A basic room for two people with a bed each offering a full sea view is U$80.00 per night.
- Cable TV
- Free WiFi
- Tea, coffee, and hot chocolate are offered from 6:30 am to 9:45 pm
- Oatmeal and fresh fruit are available every morning
Things To Do In Crescent City, CA
Crescent Beach is an extremely long stretch of beach offering plenty of brisk walks, but note there is no shade, so you might care to bring an umbrella if planning to lounge in the sun. Swimming is only an option if you enjoy a cold, bracing dip, but if not, bring binoculars and enjoy the antics of sea lions and seals on and around the rocks. Dogs welcome if on a leash.
Pebble Beach is a lovely, quiet place to visit with your kids and family dog and might easily be renamed Driftwood Beach, so keep an eye out for these meaningful souvenirs. Sunset sundowners enjoyed here are memorable – bring your own – and watching a storm and the resultant waves from here is mesmerizing.
In the winter, expect rain and wind, so prepare correctly if you’re taking advantage of nature, in Jedediah Smith State Park, for example. Precipitation in December peaks at an average of 10 inches, but if you have the correct gear, you will be perfectly fine. Situated just a few miles NE of Crescent City, Jed Smith offers wonderful camping opportunities among some of the most magnificent trees anywhere on the planet.
Kayak the Smith River, crossing small rapids while gliding over hundreds of Steelhead and Chinook Salmon, and take in the beauty of California’s largest free-flowing river system through exquisite scenery. Local guides are available for tours.
For the less energetic, California’s northernmost lighthouse is worth a strolling visit, perched as it is on an offshore island that can be reached only at low tide and on foot but is worth the effort and only lightly energetic. The 360-degree views from the top of Battery Point Lighthouse are breathtaking and make fine photo-ops.
If it’s a lazy day you’re after, browse the shops and restaurants in CC’s quaint downtown area, and visit California’s oldest family-owned cheese company, Rumianos, at 511 9th Street, or grab some craft beer at the `Port O’ Pints Brewing co. The city is fairly large but retains a lot of small-town charm and is more affordable than any other beach town we could find in California.
California – Eureka
Heading south, the next beach town in California is also not a heck of a lot warmer than Oregon and certainly not as warm as the beach towns further south. Still, it’s very affordable (not an expression normally associated with CA) and worth a visit. Eureka is the biggest coastal city between San Francisco and Portland, OR, but somehow retains a smaller town feeling.
- Being larger than our previous options, Eureka has a lot of accommodation available, and prices are surprisingly competitive (and, yes, downright affordable for California.) The Seadrift Inn offers a room for two people at U$70.00 per night in a shared Queen-sized bed, or U$85.00 to have one each.
- Flat-screen TV
- Free WiFi
- Tea/Coffee machine
Things To Do In Eureka, CA
Tucked away in Eureka’s majestic Sequoia Park, the Redwood Sky Walk is suspended 100 feet above the lush forest floor. It is a self-guided walk that will bring you directly into the bosom of these magnificent trees. Connecting visitors and nature in a wonderfully submerging way, the walk is the longest of its kind in the western US, at one-eighth of a mile in length.
Hikers can walk the length of Eureka, viewing dune systems, salt marshes, and wildlife, including migrant birds over six miles of the Eureka Waterfront Trail. Alternatively, you can take advantage of the opportunities for running, hiking, mountain-biking, bird-watching, dog walking, and wildlife viewing among the giant redwoods in Mckay Tract Community Forest.
Samoa Beach is a perfect beachcombing destination with driftwood and shells for the beach- house scavengers and a huge open tract of beach for volleyball, strolling, and chilling out on. The beach here stretches continuously south to Samoa Dunes Recreation Area at the North Jetty and entrance to Humboldt Bay.
Beanies and sweatpants are more the norm than thongs on Samoa Beach, but Eureka is a marvelous place to visit or buy a home, and you may well fall in love with the people and vibe of this coastal gem. Living here allows for indulging in fine cuisine wherever you turn while being surrounded by Victorian architecture and olde-worlde charm.
California – Lompoc
As we head south down Route 101, the weather starts to warm considerably, but there are no truly affordable beach towns before we hit Lompoc, 54 miles before Santa Barbara. Lompoc is not on the beach and lies 9 miles from the shorefront, and is very laid back.
The Inn of Lompoc is very affordable, and with rooms at U$66.00 per night, it provides a good night’s sleep in a well-run establishment.
- Extra-large double bed (isn’t that a Queen size?)
- Cable TV
- En Suite shower or bath
Things To Do In Eureka, CA
Sanford Winery & Vineyards is in this part of the country (well known for good wines), and you can take an enjoyable guided walk through the oldest vines in Santa Barbara County or take a tour of the estate. Take a very educational, mostly-behind-the-scenes tour of Sanford’s sustainable winemaking facility, or just enjoy a wonderful picnic lunch alongside the vines.
The Sta. Rita Wine region makes this part of SoCal the perfect way to spend a few wine-soaked days, and there are numerous wineries you can visit or tour and whose products can be sampled and bought.
Jalama Beach, just 30 minutes out of Lompoc, is another great day out, with a drive winding past wine farms and cattle ranches, over streams and through beautiful groves of oak and sycamore trees, as you dodge deer and wild turkeys.
Camping out is a fabulous experience here, and the stars in the pitch dark sky are beyond anyone’s ability to describe – for a city-slicker, this is a soul-squeezing experience and a solid reminder of one’s insignificance in the larger picture.
Once at the beach, head north to the wrecked sailboat for a photo op and enjoy the solitude as you experience nature as it has been for millennia. Sadly, I missed out on a Jalama Burger from the Beach Grill near the car park, so don’t make the same mistake. I’ve heard only good things about them, much to my chagrin.
The beach is well known for surfing, nature photography, kite-surfing, bird watching, fishing, and hiking and is well worth the U$ 10-day charge per vehicle. (Dogs will be pleased as they get a special price of U$3 per day!)
La Purisima Mission is the most extensively restored mission in California. Founded in 1787, La Purisma presents visitors with a superb opportunity to explore California’s heritage. Free guided tours are given at 11 am Wednesdays through Saturdays and from 1 pm Saturday & Sunday. Expert guides lead you through the historic buildings, bringing them to life with true stories of mission lives and the people who lived them. The 90-minute tour covers approximately one mile through rustic terrain, stairs, and doorways.
Beach towns are more affordable as you head north, out of California, but are also colder, so perhaps your next trip will be governed by checks and balances. Still, if you’re serious about finding affordable beach towns on the West Coast, they do exist. Visit these, but have a blast finding some others yourself.