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 in 2021-2022 list, which factors in each area’s affordability, job market, morning commute and access to quality health care, among other details.

20. Corpus Christi, Texas

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 129
Metro Population: 428,548
Median Home Value: $189,464*
Average Annual Salary: $44,540

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. With the beaches and nearby islands attracting many vacationers, the tourism and hospitality industries are a major part of the local economy. But the metro area isn’t all about tourism, as the largest employer is the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, where naval pilot training and other duties take place.

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

19. Miami

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 128
Metro Population: 6,090,660
Median Home Price: $247,112
Average Annual Salary: $50,060

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.

18. Los Angeles

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 126
Metro Population: 18,657,347
Median Home Price: $527,818
Average Annual Salary: $57,373

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.

17. Santa Barbara, California

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 115
Metro Population: 444,829
Median Home Price: $464,954
Average Annual Salary: $56,540

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 20.5 minutes on their morning commute.

16. Honolulu

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 113
Metro Population: 984,821
Median Home Price: $581,658
Average Annual Salary: $57,060

Any mention of Hawaii will have most people thinking about the beach. Honolulu ties with Los Angeles, San Francisco and Colorado Springs, Colorado, as the No. 1 most desirable place to live in the U.S. for 2021-2022, based on a SurveyMonkey survey of more than 3,600 U.S. residents who were asked where they would like to live if 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.

15. Virginia Beach, Virginia

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 105
Metro Population: 1,761,729
Median Home Price: $301,245
Average Annual Salary: $49,620

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.

14. San Diego

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 97
Metro Population: 3,316,073
Median Home Price: $835,207
Average Annual Salary: $60,230

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 that took a hit in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, so are technology, military, health care and research. The average annual salary for the area, at $60,230, is also well above the national average of $53,490.

13. Salisbury, Maryland

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 95
Metro Population: 404,417
Median Home Price: $244,000
Average Annual Salary: $44,020

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.

12. Savannah, Georgia

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 84
Metro Population: 386,036
Median Home Price: $215,350
Average Annual Salary: $45,600

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.

11. Daytona Beach, Florida

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 69
Metro Population: 646,288
Median Home Price: $278,897
Average Annual Salary: $40,930

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 47.5 years. Daytona Beach is a pricey place to live, however, with residents spending 26.55% 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 $278,897 is below the national median price of $315,743, according to Zillow.

10. Port St. Lucie, Florida

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 47
Metro Population: 472,012
Median Home Price: $233,133
Average Annual Salary: $45,630

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 472,012 people grew by 9.12% between 2015 and 2019 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 $45,630, below the national average of $53,490.

9. Fort Myers, Florida

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 43
Metro Population: 737,468
Median Home Price: $277,900
Average Annual Salary: $45,300

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 third on the list following only Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Sarasota, Florida, in the speed at which the population is growing, as the Fort Myers metro area grew by 11.2% between 2015 and 2019 due to net migration.

8. Charleston, South Carolina

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 42
Metro Population: 774,508
Median Home Price: $380,374
Average Annual Salary: $47,800

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 2015 and 2019, Charleston’s net migration increased the metro area’s population by 6.24%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

7. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 35
Metro Population: 463,987
Median Home Price: $198,600
Average Annual Salary: $37,740

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 463,987 residents call the metro area home. That vibe may not last long, however. Myrtle Beach grew by 15.65% between 2015 and 2019 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.

6. Tampa, Florida

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 32
Metro Population: 3,097,859
Median Home Price: $301,963
Average Annual Salary: $49,590

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.

5. Pensacola, Florida

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 26
Metro Population: 488,246
Median Home Price: $200,800
Average Annual Salary: $43,920

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 4.19% between 2015 and 2019 due to net migration.

4. Jacksonville, Florida

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 22
Metro Population: 1,503,574
Median Home Price: $303,789
Average Annual Salary: $48,270

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 23.58% of the median household income on the cost of living.

3. Melbourne, Florida

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 18
Metro Population: 585,507
Median Home Price: $217,400
Average Annual Salary: $51,180

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 23.87% of the area’s median household income on housing costs.

2. Sarasota, Florida

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 9
Metro Population: 803,709
Median Home Price: $387,630
Average Annual Salary: $46,040

Ranking No. 1 on the Best Places to Retire list, Sarasota comes in at No. 9 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: 7
Metro Population: 371,453
Median Home Price: $345,000
Average Annual Salary: $47,980

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 2021-2022 for its rapid population growth, and for the fact that it’s ranked the seventh-most desirable place to live out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. Additionally, Naples ranks No. 13 out of the 150 metro areas on the list for well-being among current residents, based on the Sharecare Community 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.

— Melbourne, Florida.

— Jacksonville, Florida.

— Pensacola, Florida.

— Tampa, Florida.

— Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

— Charleston, South Carolina.

— Fort Myers, Florida.

— Port St. Lucie, Florida.

— Daytona Beach, Florida.

— Savannah, Georgia.

— Salisbury, Maryland.

— San Diego.

— Virginia Beach, Virginia.

— Honolulu.

— Santa Barbara, California.

— Los Angeles.

— Miami.

— Corpus Christi, Texas.

More from U.S. News

The 25 Best Affordable Places to Live in the U.S. in 2021-2022

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

The 25 Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2021-2022

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

Update 08/12/21: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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