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Some cities on the California coast have no hotels (or very few), but they can still be the home base for your next vacation. When lodging is unavailable, you can book a vacation rental home in one of these communities and kick back and relax. In many cases, these towns offer a different experience than the big cities, while still being a short drive from the cities. 

All of the towns and private communities we have chosen on this list would make a great vacation getaway, however they might not be known as such. These off-the-beaten-path locales offer a quieter experience compared to the large and medium-sized coastal destinations. The beaches near these towns tend to be less crowded too!

Vacation rental homes on the bluff in Sea Ranch, CA

If you haven’t stayed in a vacation rental before, you might notice that they are more expensive than a typical hotel room. That is because you get the whole house or condo vs. a hotel room that doesn’t come with a full kitchen, bedrooms, and other homey amenities. The larger homes are big enough to sleep more than just a single family (so bring friends!).

A minimum stay of 2 or 3 nights is often required so they are better suited for vacations vs road trips where you’ll be bouncing from town to town. In addition to minimum stays, there might be other rules and restrictions so be sure to read the fine print. Each of the destinations listed below have a link to VRBO, HomeToGo, or another vacation rental listing company that covers the area well.

Here is our list of the top 15 cities on the California Coast to book a vacation rental (listed south to north).

Solana Beach

Rancho Palos Verdes



Monterey Dunes Colony

Pajaro Dunes, Watsonville

Rio Del Mar, Aptos

Muir Beach

Seadrift, Stinson Beach



Dillon Beach

Sea Ranch

Irish Beach, Mendocino

Shelter Cove