10 Beach Towns That are Getting Too Expensive for Retirees (Plus Some Affordable Alternatives)

You don’t have to be a millionaire to retire in a beach town as long as you choose an affordable town.

couple having each other back while smiling at beach
Updated May 28, 2024
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Unfortunately, many popular beach towns come with hefty price tags and have become too expensive for most retirees.

But the good news is that whether you want to retire early or wait awhile, there will be a beach town that fits your retirement budget. Based on current trends, here are the beach towns to avoid — as well as some more affordable alternatives.

Editor's note: Unless otherwise stated, median home price figures are sourced from Redfin.

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Hilton Head, South Carolina

Larry Gibson/Adobe Myrtle Beach boardwalk South Carolina

But the cost of living in Hilton Head is 8% higher than the national average, according to compensation data company PayScale.

With even higher housing costs — 23% higher than average, per PayScale — it’s difficult for retirees to make their savings last in Hilton Head.

Alternative: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, provides a good alternative for retirees. Despite being a popular vacation spot, the PayScale cost of living is 8% below the national average. And with so many things to do, retirees can fill their days with fun or relaxation.

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Palm Beach, Florida

Andy/Adobe Pensacola Beach in Florida

Florida has long been a relocation favorite for retirees. With its plentiful beaches, warm weather, and numerous golf courses, it’s no surprise that over one-fifth of the population is age 65 and older.

But Palm Beach is an expensive choice, with a cost of living higher than the national average by nearly every measure.

For example, the median price of a Palm Beach home is over $1.4 million. Even if Florida won’t tax your retirement income, the average retiree will be stretched incredibly thin here.

Alternative: If you have your heart set on Florida, consider Pensacola. It offers beautiful beaches and plenty of activities for retirees. The median home sale price is around $280,000.

Boca Raton, Florida

Matthew Tighe/Adobe Deerfield Beach Florida

Boca Raton is another expensive Florida beach town. The median home price is just above $700,000, which is more than many people have saved to last their entire retirement.

Alternative: Retirees on a budget can consider Deerfield Beach, Florida, instead. The community’s median home price ($275,000) is more than 50% less than Boca Raton’s, allowing for many retirees to still enjoy nice beaches and intercoastal waterways.

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San Francisco, California

AlessandraRC/Adobe Battery Point Lighthouse in Crescent City

Housing costs in San Francisco are a whopping 190% higher than the national average, according to RentCafe. Health care is also expensive — reportedly 25% higher than the national average.

Since Medicare Parts A and B don’t cover dental care and some other major health expenses, retirees should think twice before choosing San Francisco as their retirement home.

Alternative: Crescent City is a more affordable Golden State option for retirees. Seniors can find activities to cure their need for adventure or relax along remote beaches — all while enjoying a low cost of living.

Long Beach, California

Matt Gush/Adobe historic downtown Eureka California

The median home price in Long Beach is $837,000 — nearly double the national median.

While California is known to have a high cost of living, Long Beach is one of the most expensive areas in the state. Transportation costs are also significantly greater in this beach town.

Alternative: Eureka is a California beach town with more affordable housing (with home prices below the national median), and it offers plenty of entertainment for seniors. With its Victorian-style homes and beautiful forests, it’s especially great for seniors who love nature and cultural activities.

Seattle, Washington

R. Jeff Huth/Adobe port townsend washington

With a median home price of $845,000, Seattle is not an affordable option for most retirees. Transportation and grocery expenses are also higher in the city than in the rest of the nation.

Alternative: Port Townsend, Washington, is a historic district with plenty of craft fairs, coffeehouses, and parks. While median home prices in the city ($722,000) are above the national median, utility costs reportedly fall far below the national average.

San Diego, California

belyay/Adobe Sacramento Walks, California shots

San Diego’s homes sell for 123% more than the national median, according to Payscale. High prices combined with California’s taxes on retirement income make San Diego an expensive choice for seniors.

Alternative: If you want to retire in California, consider Sacramento. While Sacramento has a high cost of living compared with many other U.S. cities, it’s more affordable than the average California town.

Isle of Palms, South Carolina

digidreamgrafix/Adobe Murrells Inlet south of Myrtle Beach

The median home price in Isle of Palms is nearly $1.2 million. This is significantly more than the average for the U.S. and for the state.

Alternative: Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, provides the affordability of Myrtle Beach but without the tourists. Retirees also have good access to health care and can enjoy wildlife and top-rated gardens.

Nantucket, Massachusetts

thomas/Adobe Sandwich Dexter Mill Cape Cod MA

This cost of living in Nantucket is higher than the national average, with housing costing significantly more. The median home price is $2.2 million.

While its proximity to Boston and relaxing beach vibes might prompt you to consider it, there are more affordable options in the state.

Alternative: Sandwich, Massachusetts, offers a historical feel and beautiful views. It’s no wonder more than 20% of its population consists of older adults. Housing costs are still fairly high in Sandwich but are much more affordable than in Nantucket.

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Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts

travelview/Adobe Vineyard Haven Massachusetts beach town

If you‘re constantly looking for ways to pay your mortgage now, it likely won‘t be any easier in Vineyard Haven.

The cost of living is 33% higher in Vineyard Haven than the national average. The median home price is nearly $1.1 million.

Alternative: If you still want to experience all the seasons, consider Old Orchard Beach, Maine. It offers home prices around the national median. The smaller city has plenty of things for retirees to enjoy other than its beaches, including fall festivals.

Bottom line

Day Of Victory Stu./Adobe senior couple walking on the beach holding hands

Despite the run-up in real estate values, you can still live the retirement dream. Knowing what you can afford is the first step to choosing a retirement home.

If you’re financially fit, you might find the aforementioned towns completely within reach. But even those with less savings can find desirable beach destinations to call home.

While you may be priced out of some popular beach towns, you can still find your retirement home near one of them if you do some research.

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Katelyn Washington

Katelyn Washington is a writer with a passion for finance and business. She put herself through business school as a single mother of three and has had pieces commissioned by national magazines. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her family and editing manuscripts for indie authors.