The vitality of youth and a strong belief in the future virtually guarantees that the last thing young people want to consider is their own infallibility and the gradual onset of old age. Indeed, 73% of adults in the West have no wills in place simply because they ‘haven’t gotten around to it.’ Retirement comes to us all if we make it that far, so why not consider where you’d like to retire?
The best beach towns to retire to on the West Coast are: (in no specific order)
- Coos Bay, Oregon
- Port Angeles, Washington
- Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA
- Newport Beach, CA
- Bainbridge Island, WA
- Cannon Beach, OR
- Del Monte Forest, CA
- Gig Harbor, WA
- Yachats, OR
- Laguna Beach, CA
It’s expected that you will live at least 15-20 years after retirement, which is around a quarter of your entire life, so with a bit of financial planning from early on, retiring to a beach town on the West Coast is a real possibility. Different towns offer different possibilities, so let’s see which are the best for you.
The Best Beach Towns To Retire To On The West Coast
Considerations Regarding Choosing A Town
With a coastline as long as our West Coast, there is no end to the number of beach towns to which you can retire, but several criteria are prevalent in many of these:
- Financial constraints – Retirement can often mean the end of a steady stream of income, and rather than settling back in comfort on the beach, too many retirees see their living standards drop alarmingly. If you can draw a pension, you at least have a reliable income.
To qualify for benefits under the current pension program of the United States, you are required to have contributed to the program for a minimum period.
The maximum benefit for a retiree is $3,345 a month if they file for Social Security this year at the full retirement age, i.e., the age from which you qualify for 100% of the benefit, as calculated from your historical earnings. Not all senior citizens qualify for this, and the U.S. poverty rate for people over 65 is currently 9.4%.
California might not be the best bet when finances are tight, as it is notoriously expensive. However, it does boast a high life expectancy, a wide array of sights and attractions, coastal living, and year-round access to the outdoors. Sun, sea, and smiles can’t be all bad.
- Climatic considerations – Although California may be too warm for some folk, particularly those attuned to far cooler climes, the cold and long periods of dampness in certain states could put a ‘damper’ on your retirement if you move there. The strong winds off the ocean are also worth consideration.
Wet, bracing mornings, followed by an afternoon of strong winds, might sound like the stuff intrepid explorers thrive on. However, you can expect a dismal retirement when your knees creak every time the wind buffets you, and your hands stiffen each time it rains or the temperatures drop.
- Distance – Distance can also be an issue when choosing a beach town to retire to on the West Coast. This is not only from the viewpoint of the cost of movers, insurance of goods, and the transportation of your vehicles but also proximity to family and friends.
If you’re moving to a point on the West Coast far away from your loved ones, you can be almost certain that visits to you will decrease over time. (This may be great news for some!) The expense of getting to you and the increased inconvenience will make it difficult for most folk to visit regularly.
- Requirements – This is vitally important. What do you want from a beach town in your retirement? In your youth, it may have been fun in the sun and even more fun under the stars that grabbed your attention, but chances are your values have changed over time.
Perhaps long walks on the beach in the early morning sound attractive, and if so, you’ll need a sandy beach of enough length to accommodate this. Is it a quiet town you are after with just the basic shops so you can avoid crowds and get on with the watercolors you love? Or a town with beautiful walks through exquisite forests nearby that you can explore at will?
We’re all very familiar with the adage that ‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,’ and it is never better applied than to your retirement.
The Best Beach Towns To Retire To On The West Coast
These are naturally in no specific order, as each town will appeal to different people:
Del Monte Forest, California
With a very small population (just over 4000), Del Monte is a picturesque setting in the beautiful Monterey County. 56% of the residents are aged 55+, and the beach is glorious and perfect for long walks. If long walks are your bag, there are some superb golf courses on your doorstep: Pebble Beach, Poppy Hills, Monterey Peninsula, and Spyglass Hill are all close by. Not technically a town, Del Monte is definitely a plum retirement spot.
Coos Bay, Oregon
The scenic hamlet of Coos Bay in the Beaver State offers many outdoor recreational activities for retirees as well as museums, restaurants and shops, athletic clubs, full-service libraries, and cultural events. Technically a city, Coos Bay retains its regional charm and welcoming nature and is a joy to behold.
This is possibly the most affordable coastal town or community along the U.S. West Coast for those who desire to have gorgeous beach views available on a budget. According to SmartAsset, which analyzed U.S. Census Bureau data, Coos Bay is the most affordable of the U.S. Pacific coastal communities.
Coos Bay is located along the bay that carves a small inlet into the Beaver State’s coastline along the Pacific Ocean. Close by is the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, which offers fishing, clamming, wildlife (both land and sea-based), birding, whale watching, cycling, and four-wheel dune-buggy excursions.
The Umpqua Dunes are Oregon’s largest and are closed to vehicles, making this a popular area with hikers. Flatwater kayaking is very popular in the area’s waterways and local estuaries. For golfers, there are challenging courses that feature well-maintained greens, the best of which are Coos Bay and Sunset Bay.
State parks surround much of Coos Bay, and these parks feature botanical gardens, glorious ocean views, waterfalls, sandy beaches – perfect for swimming, – boating, and numerous hiking trails.
The cuisine in Coos Bay comes highly recommended, which is perfect after expending energy hiking, fishing, or swimming. Blackberry, cranberry, seafood, crab, clam, and local produce festivals abound. No one can ever complain about the variety and freshness of Coos Bay cuisine.
Port Angeles, Washington
Technically a city, Port Angeles oozes old town charm and is a wonderful place to retire. Just a short ferry ride from Victoria in Canada, Port Angeles offers plenty of outdoor attractions, including waterfalls, hiking trails, and wonderful beaches. Glacier-capped mountains and the hot springs of the Olympic National Park are also nearby.
Washington state is well known for its outdoor beauty, and both the Hoh Rainforest and the red sands of Ruby Beach are easily reached from Port Angeles and are well worth the time spent there. Since the city sits in a rain shadow, this means more sun and less rain than anywhere else in western Washington.
If you’re planning to grow some of your own food once you retire, the mild climate allows local farmers to grow vegetables year-round, which will interest you. In fact, the Port Angeles Farmers Market is one of only two markets in Washington that is open all year long. Port Angeles is also one of the best seed-producing regions in the country.
If you have green fingers and care to sell your crops, the Farmers Market offers tables to vendors at a nominal price.
Laguna Beach, California
One of Orange County’s hidden gems, located halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, Laguna is another artists’ enclave and enjoys seven miles of coves and beaches. There is no chance of getting easily bored here; residents can explore sea caves, tidal pools, ocean side bluffs, natural tide pools, and the magnificent sandy beaches for which California is famous.
If that list wasn’t enough, Laguna also offers world-renowned mountain biking trails for all levels of expertise, some of which are very easy. There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails, dramatic vistas, and marine sanctuaries, and there’s no limit to new places to discover once you move to Laguna Beach. Pack your fishing pole or hiking shoes, bicycle, or sedan – you’ll love Laguna Beach.
Newport Beach, California
With 40% of residents aged over 55, this elegant beach community presents a relaxed vibe with plenty to see and do. Sea lovers can take to the ocean aboard boats or yachts (either your own or a charter), families can check out the Balboa Fun Zone amusement park and Newport’s two piers, and there are local museums where art lovers can lose themselves.
Carmel is kissed by the sun and blessed with wonderful beaches, fishing, and swimming. The rocky coastline offers exhilarating walks, and the town has a vibrant art scene. With an enlightened wine-appreciating clientele, Carmel has 18 different wine tasting rooms, most of which offer indoor wine tastings and retail purchases.
Bainbridge Island, Washington
Across Puget Sound and just a short ferry ride from Seattle is this scenic community with eclectic boutiques and an artsy vibe nestling on an inlet. You can kayak or canoe around the island to get some amazing views or hike to get the most of the local scenery.
If that sounds too energetic, take in a History Buff’s tour or find a restaurant, diner, or hole-in-the-wall that will surprise and delight you. Globally-inspired fare shares the streets with innovative casual cuisine and exquisite, seasonal offerings created by award-winning chefs.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
With shop names like ‘Basket Case’ and ‘The Good Life Shop,’ it’s clear that Cannon Beach is a small town that makes an effort. There is plenty in this beyond-charming town to keep you busy, but it’s never crowded and is an ideal place to retire. A local landmark, Haystack Rock is the third-highest monolith globally and is just walking distance away.
Haystack can’t be climbed, but it can be reached on foot and is a great place to take grandchildren, with scores of tidal pools created with the tide’s receding twice a day. There are hundreds of invertebrates and other creatures just waiting to be discovered by the young and the young at heart. There is even a sandcastle-building contest every summer.
Gig Harbor, WA
Gig Harbor is a breathtakingly-beautiful seaside town with a long maritime history, from boat building to commercial fishing. Known as ‘The Maritime City,’ Gig Harbour is an ideal destination for visitors who love water sports, from sailing to kayaking.
If you prefer your adventures on land, the lush landscape offers numerous walking trails. The Harbor History Museum is a must-visit attraction for nautical buffs, complete with a historical schoolhouse and its maritime vessels. Gig Harbor is also a tranquil place to relax, with a beautiful waterfront that is ideal for taking a leisurely stroll along and which offers galleries, boutiques, and mouth-watering dining spots.
Few (if any) seaside villages of 620 inhabitants can boast their own lighthouse and covered bridge, but Yachats (Yah-hots) is one-of-a-kind in more than one sense of the word. Surrounded by a Coastal Range forest and the Pacific Ocean, exquisite Yachats is one of the West Coast’s best-kept secrets.
The art scene in Yachats is alive and thriving, and artists and ordinary folk mingle with no pretentiousness from either, just appreciating the beauty and charm of the stillness.
Spend time on the beach, search for agates on the uncrowded pebble beaches, gaze out from Cape Perpetua—the highest point on the state coastline—or just soak up Yachat’s particular brand of ‘relaxed.’
The peaceful, unhurried atmosphere makes this a great spot to retire to, but don’t be fooled – there is plenty to do if you love nature.
I’ve tried to paint an honest picture of what awaits you when you retire to a West Coast beach town but have avoided trying to grade the towns in any way. That’s your homework today – do more research on the towns that sound good, and remember: Don’t fail to plan.