The Best Places to Live By the Beach in the U.S.

Where to move for sun and sand.

For people who aren’t big fans of frigid winters or sweltering summers, climate may be a deciding factor in where to live — with some narrowing the possibilities even further because they can’t resist the call of the ocean. Out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S., we looked at coastal spots where locals love spending time on the beach. These 20 places are ranked according to the order they appear on the overall Best Places to Live 2020-2021 list, which factors in each area’s affordability, job market, morning commute and access to quality health care, among other details.

20. Miami

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 127

Metro Population: 6,070,944

Median Home Price: $247,112

Average Annual Salary: $48,240

Beach cities in the U.S. can’t be mentioned without a nod to Miami. The South Florida hot spot is the seventh-most populous metro area in the U.S., and its beaches attract vacationers year-round. Living in Miami comes with a high price, however, as it takes more than 30% of the area’s median annual household income to cover living costs, including mortgage payments, rent, property taxes and utilities. Miami is the second-most expensive place to live on the Best Places to Live list, following San Juan, Puerto Rico.

19. Corpus Christi, Texas

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 122

Metro Population: 452,295

Median Home Value: $174,369*

Average Annual Salary: $43,960

Situated on the Gulf of Mexico, Corpus Christi brings plenty of tourists that venture out to Padre and Mustang islands, which create the outer coastline near Corpus Christi. But the metro area isn’t all about tourism, as the largest employer in Corpus Christi is the Naval Air Station, where naval pilot training and other duties take place. The beaches and nearby islands attract many vacationers, so the tourism and hospitality industries are a major part of the local economy.

(*The median home price for Corpus Christi was not available, so median home value is listed.)

18. Santa Barbara, California

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 104

Metro Population: 443,738

Median Home Price: $464,954

Average Annual Salary: $54,890

You may like the climate of Southern California, but the crowds in Los Angeles may not be for you. Santa Barbara is just a little way up the coast from LA, offering plenty of seaside options to live and relax without the same crowds. With the Los Padres National Forest located directly north, the Santa Barbara area remains relatively small, making getting around easier if you also work nearby. Many do, as Santa Barbara residents spend an average of 19.8 minutes on their morning commute.

17. Virginia Beach, Virginia

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 99

Metro Population: 1,722,001

Median Home Price: $225,025

Average Annual Salary: $48,450

If seaside life in the mid-Atlantic is more your speed, Virginia Beach may be the right place for you. The area has a healthy tourism industry, with plenty of resorts and public beaches, but many full-time residents are attracted to the area for the ample job opportunities. The metro area is home to the regional headquarters of Dollar Tree and Norfolk Southern, but NASA’s Langley Research Center and Langley Air Force Base are also located in the Hampton Roads region.

16. Los Angeles

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 97

Metro Population: 18,629,045

Median Home Price: $525,762

Average Annual Salary: $55,599

Los Angeles attracts many people for reasons other than access to the beach, but the proximity to the coast and warm, sunny weather year-round doesn’t count against it. Some parts of Los Angeles do touch the Pacific Ocean, though other cities in the metro area are better known for their relation to the sea — Santa Monica, Malibu, Long Beach and Redondo Beach are just a few. While parts of inner Los Angeles are known for their stifling temperatures in summer, the areas along the beach benefit from the cooler breeze coming off the ocean.

15. Savannah, Georgia

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 89

Metro Population: 381,623

Median Home Price: $203,442

Average Annual Salary: $44,480

Life in the Savannah metro area gives you access to a historic city located on the Savannah River, with the added benefit of being in reach of islands just a short drive (or boat ride) away. The most popular public beaches in the Savannah metro area are on Tybee Island, and other nearby destinations include the Wassaw National Wildlife Refuge and Ossabaw Wildlife Management Area on Ossabaw Island. Plus, Hilton Head Island is roughly a 45-minute drive over the border into South Carolina.

14. Salisbury, Maryland

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 90

Metro Population: 399,013

Median Home Price: $238,342

Average Annual Salary: $43,170

While the city of Salisbury is in the middle of Maryland’s eastern peninsula, the metropolitan statistical area, as determined by the U.S. Census Bureau, includes popular beach destinations like Ocean City, Maryland; Rehoboth Beach, Delaware; and Bethany Beach, Delaware. These spots are popular during the warm months of the year, particularly among residents of other areas of the mid-Atlantic who visit for a few days and rent a beach house. For those looking to stay year-round, Salisbury University, Peninsula Regional Medical Center and Perdue Farms are major employers in the metro area.

13. Daytona Beach, Florida

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 74

Metro Population: 634,773

Median Home Price: $201,817

Average Annual Salary: $39,790

Daytona Beach isn’t just a popular destination for NASCAR fans. It’s also home to many retirees, which contributes to the metro area’s median age of 47.3 years. Daytona Beach is a pricey place to live, however, with residents spending more than 27% of the median annual household income on housing costs. Still, buying a home in Daytona Beach may be easier than in other parts of the U.S. The median home price of $201,817 is below the national median price of $232,933, according to Zillow information.

12. Port St. Lucie, Florida

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 73

Metro Population: 463,172

Median Home Price: $221,758

Average Annual Salary: $44,070

Also on the eastern coast of Florida, Port St. Lucie attracts tourists to its beaches — and many of them appear to be more than happy to stay. This relatively small metro area of just 463,172 people grew by 9.1% between 2014 and 2018 due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A growing population due to net migration is common in beach cities throughout the U.S. The average annual salary for residents is $44,070, below the national average of $51,960.

11. Honolulu

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 71

Metro Population: 987,638

Median Home Price: $581,658

Average Annual Salary: $54,870

Any mention of Hawaii will have most people thinking about the beach. Honolulu ties with Los Angeles and Colorado Springs, Colorado, as the No. 1 most desirable place to live in the U.S. for 2020-2021, based on a SurveyMonkey survey of 3,000 U.S. residents who were asked where they would like to live, given the choice. Hawaii’s tropical islands are widely regarded as vacation destinations, so it’s no wonder that the tourism industry employs many Honolulu residents, as do the health care and defense industries.

10. Fort Myers, Florida

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 58

Metro Population: 718,679

Median Home Price: $226,825

Average Annual Salary: $43,000

Fort Myers is located just inland from the coast along the Caloosahatchee River, but a 40-minute drive within the metro area will deliver you to the resort town of Fort Myers Beach, located on Estero Island. Within the metro area you’ll also find Cape Coral, a city best known for its canals throughout residential neighborhoods. Fort Myers is second on the list only to Myrtle Beach in the speed at which the population is growing, as the Florida metro area grew by 11.61% between 2014 and 2018 due to net migration.

9. San Diego

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 45

Metro Population: 3,302,833

Median Home Price: $564,092

Average Annual Salary: $58,090

It’s hard to find someone who lives in San Diego and doesn’t love the beach. That’s why companies in a range of industries benefit from this Southern California metro area’s proximity to the beach, attracting skilled employees who like the idea of year-round warm weather and plenty of sand. While tourism is a major industry in the area, so are technology, military, health care and research. The average annual salary for the area, at $58,090, is also well above the national average of $51,960.

8. Jacksonville, Florida

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 43

Metro Population: 1,475,386

Median Home Price: $200,000

Average Annual Salary: $46,920

Jacksonville doesn’t just have ocean access. The metro area is also home to the point where the St. Johns River, which runs 310 miles south and is the longest river in Florida, meets the Atlantic, with plenty of smaller rivers and creeks stemming from the larger water source. Jacksonville is also more affordable than many other seaside Florida metro areas, as residents spend 23.94% of the median household income on the cost of living.

7. Charleston, South Carolina

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 42

Metro Population: 759,247

Median Home Price: $253,325

Average Annual Salary: $46,200

Charleston is most recognized for its historic cobblestone streets and colorful downtown, but the metro area is also home to islands filled with beach houses and resorts, including Kiawah Island, Folly Island and Sullivan’s Island. The Charleston charm and warm weather leave many feeling like Chucktown would be an ideal place to live — and data backs that up. Between 2014 and 2018, Charleston’s net migration increased the metro area’s population by 6.39%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

6. Pensacola, Florida

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 37

Metro Population: 481,964

Median Home Price: $186,467

Average Annual Salary: $42,490

Located in the Florida Panhandle, Pensacola attracts tourists and new residents alike with its white-sand beaches. Like some other coastal metros, Pensacola is home to many military members and defense companies with ties to the Naval Air Station Pensacola. While Pensacola may not draw the same influx of new residents as other parts of Florida, it continues to grow significantly. The Pensacola area grew by 4.26% between 2014 and 2018 due to net migration.

5. Tampa, Florida

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 36

Metro Population: 3,030,047

Median Home Price: $214,258

Average Annual Salary: $47,750

The Tampa metro area includes popular vacation destinations in cities along Tampa Bay, namely Tampa, Clearwater and St. Petersburg. While the tourism industry is certainly a huge source of employment, the University of South Florida, MacDill Air Force Base and Publix Super Markets are also major employers in the metro area. Tampa’s high school students rank 18th among those in the 150 metro areas on the list for college readiness, based on data from the U.S. News Best High Schools ranking.

4. Melbourne, Florida

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 28

Metro Population: 576,808

Median Home Price: $207,417

Average Annual Salary: $48,940

Along with year-round warm weather and ample public beaches, the Melbourne metro area is home to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center. If you’re interested in playing a bigger role than just watching rockets launch into space, plenty of aerospace employers as well as other large companies in the health care and manufacturing fields are located in this Florida metro area along the Atlantic coast. Residents in Melbourne spend 24.13% of the area’s median household income on housing costs.

3. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 26

Metro Population: 447,775

Median Home Price: $184,675

Average Annual Salary: $36,950

Near where the South Carolina coast meets North Carolina, Myrtle Beach serves as a popular beach destination with more of a small-town atmosphere, as just 447,775 residents call the metro area home. That vibe may not last long, however. Myrtle Beach grew by 14.27% between 2014 and 2018 due to net migration, making it the fastest-growing metro area by population out of the 150 metros in the Best Places to Live ranking.

2. Sarasota, Florida

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 16

Metro Population: 785,997

Median Home Price: $227,754

Average Annual Salary: $44,230

Ranking No. 1 on the Best Places to Retire list, Sarasota comes in at No. 16 in the overall Best Places to Live ranking. With a median age of more than 52 years, Sarasota is home to many retirees. Many local homeowners enjoy abundant waterfront access with homes that line the Sarasota Bay, while many more can visit the beaches stretching along Siesta Key and Longboat Key — two narrow islands between the mainland and the Gulf of Mexico.

1. Naples, Florida

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 14

Metro Population: 363,922

Median Home Price: $326,900

Average Annual Salary: $46,290

It may seem hard to decide which coastal Florida metro area is the best place to make your beachy hometown, but Naples ranks highest among the Best Places to Live in 2020-2021 for its rapid population growth, and for the fact that it’s ranked the ninth-most desirable place to live out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. Additionally, Naples ranks the highest out of the 150 metro areas on the list for well-being among current residents, based on the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index, which surveys people about their overall happiness, community pride and other factors.

The best places to live by the beach in the U.S. are:

— Naples, Florida.

— Sarasota, Florida.

— Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

— Melbourne, Florida.

— Tampa, Florida.

— Pensacola, Florida.

— Charleston, South Carolina.

— Jacksonville, Florida.

— San Diego.

— Fort Myers, Florida.

— Honolulu.

— Port St. Lucie, Florida.

— Daytona Beach, Florida.

— Salisbury, Maryland.

— Savannah, Georgia.

— Los Angeles.

— Virginia Beach, Virginia.

— Santa Barbara, California.

— Corpus Christi, Texas.

— Miami.

More from U.S. News

The 25 Best Affordable Places to Live in the U.S. in 2020-2021

The 25 Fastest-Growing Places in the U.S.

The 25 Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2020-2021

The Best Places to Live By the Beach in the U.S. originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 01/14/21: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

Related Categories:

Latest News

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up