Comedy writer Robert Orben once said, “A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in.” That’s probably an apt summation of what most buyers want in their vacation homes—and apparently it’s becoming a popular goal. According to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2015 Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey, vacation home sales climbed to an estimated 1.13 million last year, the highest since NAR began its survey in 2003.

“Affluent households have greatly benefited from strong growth in the stock market in recent years, and the steady rise in home prices has likely given them reassurance that real estate remains an attractive long-term investments,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Furthermore, last year’s impressive increase also reflects long-term growth in the numbers of baby boomers moving closer to retirement and buying second homes to convert into their primary home in a few years.”

Interestingly, vacation home sales comprised 21 percent of all transactions in 2014—the highest market share since NAR began conducting its survey. Forty percent of vacation buyers bought a home in a beach area, 19 percent purchased in the country, and 17 percent purchased a vacation home in the mountains. The forty percent is what we want to focus on here, given California’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean and some of the nation’s most beautiful beaches. A look at some of our state’s favorite coastal areas show mostly price gains and strong sales*, underscoring what most of us already know: the beach will always be a desirable place to, well, do absolutely nothing.



Whether you’re longing for sandy or rocky shores, wetlands or pine forests, Monterey has something for every kind of beachcomber at places like McAbee Beach, San Carlos Beach, Del Monte Beach and Monterey State Beach with the wharf. Their’s diving, kayaking, surfing, seal watching, sand volleyball—you name it. Plenty of vacation memories can be made here.

If you happen to be in the market for a vacation home this year, you will pay a premium in and around Monterey. For example, this refurbished $4,549,000 Point Lobos beachhouse offers the most dramatic and intimate ocean-front vistas available anywhere in Cypress Cove. In general, the median sold price of existing sold single-family homes in Monterey was $530,000 in May, up 16.5% from the previous month and up 19.1% from the same time a year ago. Sales were up 4.1% from April and down 9.1% from a year ago. Of course, oceanfront homes like this one will typically cost more.

Santa Barbara


Santa Barbara County offers miles and miles of beautiful beaches, many of which are home to great surf breaks, stand up paddle board zones and gorgeous views of craggy mountainous coastline. Butterfly Beach is one of the most exclusive, and one of the few west-facing beaching beaches—perfect for catching a sunset.  East Beach has volleyball, plus you have restaurants along the wharf, the zoo and lots of opportunities for biking or blading. Leadbetter is another favorite—since it’s centrally located and a popular haunt for windsurfers, catamaran pilots, surfers and walkers.

Buying a vacation property—like this $4,575,000 Craftsman stunner—in Santa Barbara, is, of course, not for the faint of heart. The median sold price of existing sold single-family homes was $789,630 in May, up 17.4% from April and up 7.3% from the same time a year ago. Looking at sales, they were up a whopping 26.0% from April and 21.7% from a year ago.

Orange County


Orange County beaches have been immortalized by TV shows and films—so it should be no surprise that you will have 42 miles of beach and expansive recreation right at your fingertips. From the main street vibe in Seal Beach down to the historic surf spot of San Onofre and the legendary 20 beaches of Laguna Beach with coves for scuba diving and tide pool exploration, you will be forever surrounded by natural California beauty at its purest.

A vacation home in Orange County—like this $4,799,000 modern waterside perch in Newport Beach—won’t be cheap, but it will provide you with endless hours of holiday fun. Plus, you can rest easily, knowing that it will be an investment for the future. The median sold price of existing sold single-family homes was $717,850 in May, up just 1.8% from the previous month and 2.8% from the same month a year ago. However, sales dropped 5.0% from April, but were up 4.9% from last year.

San Diego

3921 Ocean Front Walk, San Diego, CA
With 70 miles of pristine coastline, year-around sunshine and mild temperatures, San Diego is one of the most popular vacation home destinations in California. Whether you prefer the drama of high cliffs lined right to the water’s edge at Solana Beach, the beaches and reefs mixed with the fine dining and Rodeo-Drive-like shopping in “The Jewel” (also known as La Jolla) or the easy-breezy family fun of Imperial Beach with it’s annual Sandcastle Competition, surfing, bodyboarding and swimming, you’ll find a true sandy summer wonderland in San Diego.

If San Diego is where you’d ideally like to settle for second home serenity, you can still find some great values here, like this ultra posh $6,499,900 contemporary smart home in Pacific Beach. Prices in San Diego are some of the most reasonable when it comes to coastal living in California. The median sold price of existing sold single-family homes was only $538,660 in May, up 1.5% from April and 8.2% from May 2014. May sales were slightly down— 3.9%—from April, but up 6.5% from the same month a year ago.

Where’s your next vacation home going to be?  Sound off in the comments below.

*May 2015 home sales and price report, California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.)