These are the best places to buy a vacation home in California – beyond Lake Tahoe

The best places to buy a vacation home in the Sunshine State – whether you want to stay there yourself or make a bit of rental income

Dana Point Harbor, California
(Image credit: MIHAI ANDRITOIU / Alamy Stock Photo)

If you're looking for the best places to buy a vacation home in California, your only real problem is the massive choice of stunning locations. 

In fact, it can seem like an overwhelming selection of places. But where will offer the best value for money and good rental income potential? Here are the locations real estate experts name as their favorites – beyond the lovely Lake Tahoe, which we've already covered separately as an excellent place to buy a second home. 

1. The best place to buy a vacation home in California: Dana Point/Newport Beach

Dana Point Harbor, California

(Image credit: MIHAI ANDRITOIU / Alamy Stock Photo)

The stretch of coastline between Dana Point and Newport Beach is an all-round perfect place to buy a vacation home in California – and is currently in very high demand with both US and international vacationers. 

'I think that Dana Point, Laguna Beach and Newport Coast/Newport Beach are ideal for a second home/vacation rental,' says Suzi Dailey, Luxury Coastal Realtor with Realty ONE International. 

'In this area they typically require a minimum 30-day rental, but the demand is so high that in our area we do not have enough nice inventory to offer people who come here from all over the world. People come here from the east coast, Arizona, Washington, Europe and Dubai to vacation. It is a very high demand area for high quality vacation rentals.'

Less obvious than the famous Los Angeles beaches like Manhattan Beach, this coastal area is still very expensive, with the median home at Dana sitting at $949,000. However, a two-bedroom holiday villa in the area will easily fetch over $4,000 a week in rental income.

2. The runner-up: Twentynine Palms/Joshua Tree 

Joshua Tree, Joshua Tree National Park, Twentynine Palms, California, USA

(Image credit: The Yarvin Nature Collection / Alamy Stock Photo)

For something a bit different, and a little more affordable – but still stunning – the Joshua Tree National Park area can't be surpassed. It's perfect for those who like that off-the-beaten track feel – and hiking. 

Matt Bigach, a real estate expert and co-founder at Nexus HomeBuyers, said: 'Joshua National Park is one of the major attractions of California and TwentyNine Palms runs as one of the entry points to it. It also has some other popular places like Indian Cave Road, and Barker Dam for anyone to visit. It is expected to earn you over $1,500 per month for rental income.' 

Simon Ru, CEO of UpNest, who has over 8 years of experience in the real estate industry, including helping sell thousands of homes, also recommends Joshua Tree as an unexpected pick. 'Homes average only $325,000,' he explains. 'With a gorgeous National Park, Joshua Tree attracts millions of visitors every year.'

3. Wine country heaven: Napa Valley

Rows of fall colored grapes with house. Vineyards of Napa Valley, California

(Image credit: Dennis Frates / Alamy Stock Photo)

Finally, we couldn't ignore California's famous Napa Valley wine country – a stunning area that still has huge appeal for wine connoisseurs, or just vacation makers who want something different from the beach that is mellower than the California wilderness areas. 

Simon Ru gives Napa his stamp of approval: 'If I were buying a vacation home in California right now, I'd look toward somewhere like Napa, where the average home price is around $800,000. The rental market there is fantastic and it's a great location for wine (obviously) and is a bit different than traditional California getaways.'  

Anna K. Cottrell is now a freelance writer, having previously been a Content Editor for Future's homes titles. She writes about interior design, property, and gardening. On H&G, she specialized in writing about property – buying, selling, renting – sustainability and eco issues.