5 sun-soaked SoCal beach towns for your vacation home

Published Date: January 5, 2023

Aerial shot of beach town
Sun, sand and that endless summer feeling … what’s not to love about Southern California? If you’re dreaming about buying a vacation home in California, it’s hard to know where to begin. Whether you’re looking for a quiet getaway, a big social scene or a laid-back surfer feel, every beach town is a little different. Start your search here, with five great Southern California beach towns to own a second home. 


The vibe: Malibu has a feel that is at once super-luxury and delightfully low-key. With 27 miles of Pacific coastline, you might spot your favorite Hollywood celebrity walking their dog along Billionaire’s Beach, but you’ll also see plenty of shaggy-haired, sun-kissed surfers catching waves at iconic Surfrider Beach.With rugged canyons directly east of the often-narrow beach, Malibu is also a paradise for nature lovers, from equestrians to hikers to bird-watchers. Home types: While Malibu is known for its exclusive beachfront properties, this beach town also boasts a wide range of property types in a variety of architectural styles. You’ll find modern waterfront condominiums, sprawling hillside retreats with views of Santa Monica Bay, and ranch-style properties set in the canyon landscape. Live like a local: Catering to the many Los Angeles residents who spend their summers just up Highway 101 in Malibu, this beach town is full of celebrity-owned restaurants as well as offshoots of upscale, big-city favorites. See if you can snag an uber-exclusive membership at Little Beach House by Soho House, dine on seaside sushi at Nobu Malibu, or try the Malibu-style fish tacos at Rande Gerber’s Cafe Habana (oh, and karaoke on Wednesday night is popular with celebs). For a lower-key social scene, spend a Sunday morning at the Malibu Farmers Market or take a surfing lesson from a local surf shop.   

Santa Monica

The vibe: Whereas Malibu has the feel of an outdoorsy getaway, Santa Monica is the perfect Southern California vacation home destination for those who want their days to be more go-go-go than nice and slow. A coastal city just west of downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica is a vibrant, colorful outpost featuring sprawling beaches, paved biking and running paths, and the iconic Santa Monica Pier. Santa Monica residents soak up every drop of that Southern California sunshine, whether they’re enjoying an al fresco brunch, playing beach volleyball or meandering down the Third Street Promenade to peek into its myriad of boutiques.  Home types: Given the oceanside locale, pretty much every vacation home in Santa Monica is blissfully close to the beach. You’ll find classic single-family homes on tree-lined streets, modern beachfront stunners and high-rise condominium buildings with unparalleled views. No matter where you put down roots, you’ll find Santa Monica to be wonderfully walkable, with outdoor plazas and wide sidewalks that connect you with dining, shopping and entertainment. Live like a local: Santa Monica is a wellness-focused beach town — after all, it was home to the first Muscle Beach, before it was moved down the coast to Venice. Sunny days are best spent on active pursuits like lawn bowling at Douglas Park, a bluffside yoga class at Palisades Park, or walking through one of the city’s four weekly farmers markets, which have been lauded by Travel + Leisure

Newport Beach

The vibe: 87,000 people call this coastal community home, perhaps because life here has the feeling of being on a permanent luxury vacation. Upscale Newport Beach boasts more than 400 restaurants, the ultra-chic Fashion Island outdoor mall, five-star hotels, and world-class golf at the oceanfront Pelican Hill Golf Club. Newport Beach also has a nautical feel: Newport Harbor is the largest recreational harbor on the West Coast, so the boating and yachting scene is prominent. Home types: Newport Beach offers a wide range of home types, with single-family homes in upscale residential areas,  peaceful, bayfront living in Dover Shores, and closely arranged oceanfront condos, townhomes and freestanding houses that line the ocean boardwalk, just steps from the sand. Live like a local: With near-perfect weather and less than 10 inches of rain per year, almost every day in Newport Beach is the ideal beach day. If you ever get tired of sinking your toes in the sand and watching the waves crash (but who would?!), you can treat yourself to the variety of annual events. The Newport Beach Jazz Festival, International Film Festival, Newport Boat Show, and Christmas Boat Parade are among the best known. 

Laguna Beach

The vibe: Tucked away on the southern edge of Orange County, with Crystal Cove State Park to the north and Dana Point to the south, the hidden gem of Laguna Beach has a friendly, small town feel. Midway between Los Angeles and San Diego, this town of 23,000 is known for its vibrant art scene, with famous art festivals, gallery exhibits, art classes and the popular First Thursdays Art Walk. There’s a strong sense of community in this coastal town, making volunteering and local events a great way to get to know your neighbors. Home types: Homes in Laguna Beach include historic estates, quaint beach bungalows and modern luxury properties. Find peace and privacy away from the beach-going crowds in one of Laguna Beach’s upscale gated communities, or choose a neighborhood like Irvine Cove, with its own private beach. Love to be in the middle of the action? The neighborhood known as The Village is among Laguna Beach’s most walkable, as it’s close to both the beach and downtown’s many amenities. If your idea of charm includes picket fences and quirky cottages, look no further than charm-filled South Laguna Village.  Live like a local: A paradise for nature lovers, Laguna Beach is surrounded by unspoiled natural beauty. Spend a leisurely morning exploring the town’s seven miles of coastline, which offer your typical sandy beaches, but also sea caves, tide pools and bluffs. If you can tear yourself away from the beach, you’ll find 20,000 acres of protected wilderness. Put on your hiking shoes or hop on your mountain bike to explore hundreds of miles of trails, and you’ll be rewarded with dramatic landscapes and take-your-breath-away ocean vistas. 

La Jolla  

The vibe: Head south from Orange County and you’ll find yourself in the enclave of La Jolla, the hilly neighborhood that’s technically part of San Diego proper but has its own small-town feel. Compared to the rest of San Diego, La Jolla residents enjoy a slightly slower, more relaxed pace of life. From wandering the boutiques of downtown La Jolla to marveling at the coastline’s craggy cliffs and abundant marine wildlife, La Jolla offers Southern California living with an idyllic feel. Home types: With residents ranging from college students attending the University of California San Diego to a large population of retirees, La Jolla’s population is diverse, which means the homes are too. Beachfront neighborhoods like La Jolla Cove and Bird Rock tempt with multi-million-dollar homes (and views that can’t be beat). There are also plenty of condominiums and townhomes, plus inland properties near the university. Live like a local: The first step is making sure you’re pronouncing the neighborhood’s name right: It’s pronounced “la hoy-a.” Once you’ve got that down, you’re ready to embrace everything this seaside retreat has to offer. And while there’s plenty to do on land, La Jolla’s most exciting activities happen on the water. Snorkel among leopard sharks in the late summer (they won’t bite), take a nighttime kayak expedition to see bioluminescent creatures glowing in the dark water or compete with the local sea lion population for the best sunning rock at La Jolla Cove. 

Find your SoCal second home with Pacaso

Your beachside oasis could be within reach when you buy your California vacation home with Pacaso. As a co-owner of a second home in Southern California, you’ll enjoy all the benefits of owning, at as little as ⅛ of the cost of full ownership.

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Jen Lyons

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