Best places to buy vacation homes in California

Published Date: January 6, 2023

Marine Lair bedroom with view of beach
Whether you’re a California native or just wish you were, most people agree that the Golden State’s sunny skies, gorgeous beaches and laid-back culture all add up to the perfect setting for a vacation home. Ocean lovers and desert sun seekers alike can take their pick of amazing vacation homes in California. Check out our California second home heat index to see the latest up-and-coming locations, and read on to imagine the good life in any one of these seven enduring California vacation home destinations. 


These neighboring Central California towns offer activities for everyone, whether you enjoy beachcombing, wine tasting, golfing, or simply enjoying the beautiful surroundings. Charming Carmel includes Carmel-by-the-Sea, a one-square-mile village with a fairytale feel and storybook cottages. Just north of the village you’ll find the iconic Pebble Beach golf course. From there, head up to Monterey, the larger of the two towns, which boasts a beautifully rugged coastline, a storied history, and the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. And no matter which town you choose, you’ll be able to indulge in California farm-to-table cuisine and wines made with grapes grown in surrounding Monterey County. 

Laguna Beach

If you dream of a sand-and-surf getaway, the artsy community of Laguna Beach is calling. With seven miles of coastline and 20,000 acres of protected wilderness, the community is buffered from the hustle and bustle of bigger California cities. But Laguna Beach isn’t dull — the town’s diverse selection of quirky and unique boutiques, galleries, museums and restaurants means there’s always more to explore. (Fun fact: Laguna Beach has more people per capita employed as artists, designers and media professionals than 90% of the rest of the country.) Newport Beach and Corona del Mar are nearby for a change of pace.

Lake Tahoe

If you’re looking for California vacation homes with four-season appeal, Lake Tahoe is your dream destination. With a stunning, clear blue lake for summertime boating and water sports, and the highest concentration of ski resorts in America within 100 miles, Lake Tahoe has it all. If you want to be close to the lake, check out the South Tahoe neighborhoods of Stateline, Bijou, City Center and Tallac Village, or travel a little further north to Tahoma. 


White sand, blue water and dreamy retreats make Malibu a beach lover’s paradise. Close to downtown L.A., the town offers 27 miles of coastline to the west and stunning hills to the east. There’s something for everyone in this sophisticated yet laid back beach town. Given all that, it’s not surprising that Malibu has some of the priciest real estate not only in California but the entire country. 

Palm Springs

With classic, Mid-Century Modern homes and an air of old Hollywood glamor, Palm Springs has long been a desert oasis for California’s elite. The town is easily accessible from major California cities like Los Angeles and San Diego, and is within a day’s drive of Las Vegas, Phoenix and Tucson.While Palm Springs is popular with the snowbird set for its golf courses and constant sunshine, this desert town has also begun to attract younger crowds and families with the promise of outdoor adventures and star-studded events like Coachella. Palm Springs has restrictions on short-term rentals to maintain its residential feel, making it an even more prized spot for vacation homes in California. 

Sonoma County

With more than 425 wineries, miles of Pacific coastline and towering redwood forests, Sonoma County is truly a place for getting away from it all. Close to Sacramento and San Francisco, Sonoma is an easily accessible spot for vacation homes. And Sonoma County’s 30 small towns are perfect for day trips. 

San Diego

San Diego has more than enough family fun, nightlife, museums, parks and beaches to give you a new vacation experience every time you visit. The San Diego International Airport makes the city easy to get to. Popular neighborhoods include Easter Cross, Mission Hills and La Jolla. 


For the relaxation of the beach with the electric (and eclectic) buzz of the city, look no further than Venice. Much like its Italian namesake, Venice has its own system of picturesque canals lined with beautiful homes and adorned with arched bridges — and you may even spot a gondola or two.As an L.A. neighborhood, Venice gives you easy access to all that the major metropolitan hub has to offer, including theme parks, entertainment and a major international airport, but its bohemian vibe gives it a down-to-earth, small-town feel. Bring your bikes, skateboards and rollerblades to take in the sights of this historic neighborhood. 

More California gems

To see more of what the Golden State has to offer, check out Pacaso’s full lineup of listings for luxury vacation homes in California and beyond, and learn more about how Pacaso’s co-ownership LLC model can turn your dream of second home ownership into a reality. 

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Kasey Tross

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