Finding an affordable place to stay on or near a California beach isn’t easy. When you think you’ve identified the spot, it’s often pricey--or you'll find Highway 1 noise blaring right behind your room. But don’t give up, because affordable and peaceful beach retreats are out there, whether your preference is camping, hostel, or hotel. Follow along with us and make your coastal escape list.La Jolla Inn
Steep Ravine Cabins
These 10 rustic cabins are perched above the beach at the foot of Mount Tamalpais, great for travelers who want few things to get in the way of their enjoyment of jaw-dropping views. Cabins include a built-in table and benches, sleeping platforms, a counter, and a wood-burning stove. You bring your own sleeping bag, air mattress, camping stove, cooking gear, lantern, and other supplies (firewood is sold on-site). While there's no running water or electricity inside, clean bathrooms are only a short walk away. Rates are $100 per night.
Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel
If your romantic dreams include staying at a lighthouse station high above the crashing waves of the Pacific, add the Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel to your list. With both shared and private rooms at this former Coast Guard quarters and historic fog signal building, you get to choose how social you want to be. Added perks include free WiFi, free parking, on-site laundry facilities, an espresso bar, and a secluded beach for exploring. More area explorations can take you to Half Moon Bay and beyond. Rates start at $27 per night for dorm beds and $74 per night for private rooms.
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
You don’t have to spend big in Big Sur to have a good time. At Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park campground, two environmental campsites provide opportunities for old-school camping -- think: tent camping with picnic table, fire ring, and toilets available -- in the midst of the wild coastline of dramatic seaside cliffs and turquoise coves. If you don’t feel like cooking, plenty of affordable food options are nearby; try the Big Sur River Inn General Store and Big Sur Bakery. No matter the week or month you've been having, you'll slow down and enjoy the views in no time. Rates are $30 per night.
Best Western Plus Beach Resort Monterey
A short distance north of Fisherman’s Wharf and Old Monterey, the Best Western Plus Beach Resort Monterey is a great affordable option away (but within reach of) crazy Cannery Row. This spot is optimal for folks who want their own space and to enjoy the beach without too many crowds, and then to head into town to enjoy historic and modern Monterey when the mood strikes. An outdoor pool and hot tub, free WiFi, and onsite restaurant add to the benefits of a stay here. Plus, the price is right with rates starting at around $119 per night.