The Best Liveaboard Marinas In California

Best Liveaboard Marinas In California | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

June 15, 2022

If you are one of the lucky few who have the opportunity to live aboard your boat the opportunities are limitless.

Very few people in this day and age can afford to live on their boat. Be it because of the cost or because their job limits them to somewhere specific, finding a way to live and work full time from a marina can be difficult.

If you do manage to get the balance right and you have the money, a job that fits, and the seafaring knowhow to live aboard a boat then you are in luck. The world is your oyster.

So now, the only question remaining is where do you want to live? It doesn’t need to be near where you live now. It doesn’t even need to be in the same country.

Perhaps, now is the time to set sail to waters anew and see what the world has to offer. Or, perhaps you are looking for stability. A good economy, good weather, high-quality marinas, and a laid back way of life. That means California might be the place for you. Here are some of the best liveaboard marinas in California.


Table of contents

Why might someone want to live aboard their boat in California?

California is one of the best states to live in. This is for a few reasons. Primarily though, the economy and the weather. The weather especially plays a big part if you are planning on living aboard your boat. California only gets about 33 days of rain a year. Or, less than once a week. If you are living on your boat then the above deck areas account for a very large percentage of your space. If you are forced to live below deck because of constant rain, you are essentially losing half of your home. This isn’t an issue in California. California is a very liberal state. Weed is legalized, it has a very young and diverse population, and its economy is booming. Whether or not all of those things can be seen as good is purely subjective. California is also home to some incredible sporting opportunities. Especially hiking.

What are some things to consider when living aboard your boat in California?

California is great. There is so much to do. Typically, you hear that about most places. Of course, there are lots of things do everywhere. California takes that to a whole other level though. This is even more apparent in Los Angeles. The advantage of living somewhere with huge youth culture is that there are always activities popping up. When combined with the extreme wealth of the state this is kicked into overdrive. Rock climbing, tennis, gyms, swimming pools, skate parks, hiking, bars, restaurants, sporting events. Anything you can think of. This is good for not only you but your visitors. If you are looking for somewhere cool for the grandkids to visit, California may be the one for you.

California, especially cities like Los Angeles, is very liberal. In every sense of the word. Whether or not this is right for you can depend on a lot on your personality. Your political leanings should not dictate where you feel comfortable living. That being said, Los Angeles is perhaps the most leftwing city in the country. This is neither good nor bad, just something that should be noted. If you are against the recreational use of marijuana, then California isn’t the state for you. Conversely, maybe legalized cannabis products might make California the exact right state for you. That’s up to your personal preference.

The weather can be seen as either good or bad. Some people like rain, some don’t. Additionally, the temperature can be seen as a good thing or a bad thing depending on the kind of climate you feel comfortable in. Since California is a pretty hot state, there is AC everywhere. So escaping the heat isn’t all that hard. You may want to consider installing some kind of climate control on your boat. A small USB fan might not be enough in the summer months. You could always cool off in the water though.

Once you have decided whether or not California is the state for you, its time to consider where precisely you might like to live. Living in San Diego is very different than living in San Francisco. There is a lot to consider from city to city, not to mention the individual marinas. Renting a marina slip is often just as much of a commitment as renting an apartment. So making sure you pick the right one is a big decision. Sure, you can rent from a week to week base without a contract but you lose renter’s rights and it is more expensive. Most marinas will offer better rates for long term agreements. The security is better for both of you.

What are the qualities of a good marina?

Good is very subjective. For one person, a good marina might be one that costs as little as possible. For someone else, it could be a marina that has a huge array of amenities. Next, you want to consider the location. Do you want to live in Los Angeles or somewhere a little quieter like San Diego? Or perhaps you want to live somewhere a little more upmarket like San Franciso because of your job. Here are some of the most important things to consider when choosing your marina:

Good amenities:

Amenities matter. Perhaps more than most other things. If you are going to be living on your boat, you are extremely limited when it comes to space. For example, if you live in an apartment you might have a washer and dryer. This isn’t possible on a boat. Unless you are living on a yacht. If your marina doesn’t provide washers and dryers you are going to be forced to lug your dirty laundry around town with you. If you don’t have a car, this is going to be a nightmare.


The location of the marina also matters. How close you are to the city center might play a role in whether the location is right for you. For example, if you are going to be very far away from any kind of mall or grocery store you will need to rely on Uber, taxis, or public transport to do your shopping. Some marinas even have a small grocery store on sight (this is quite rare though). If you are expecting to work, but not from your boat, you need to be within reasonable proximity to your job. Transit time can take a lot longer in Los Angeles than in San Diego.


Having a marina that makes you feel safe is so important. Boats are not secure, by nature, having lots of locks on a boat is not ideal. Imagine locking yourself out of your boat at sea? That’s a death sentence. So, how secure is the marina? Does it have high fences? Lots of CCTV cameras? All of these things factor into your peace of mind. Additionally, a strong show of force makes the marina look like a hassle. If robbing your boat looks like an impossible task, no one is going to even attempt it. Remember, all of your belongings are on your boat. When you are living on your boat you may not have many belongings to start with (limited space).


Having a reliable internet connection is a necessity. Whether you rely on it for work or not. Without it, you are going to be bored. Very bored. There isn’t an awful lot to do on a boat. You cant store many things to do, like books to read, there is no room to move around and do things you are pretty limited in space. So, what can you do? Fish. Sunbathe. Or watch tv. There isn’t much chance of getting cable television, you will be relying on wifi far more than you do now. If you cant stream shows, movies, and sports over the internet then you arent going to be able to watch them at all. Some marinas provide wifi and some allow cabled installations. Otherwise, you might want to just rely on the hotspot of your phone. If that’s the case, how good is the cell service at your marina? You can check this in person or by using a cell coverage website easily found from google.


Since moving around is so limited, you may find yourself starting to lose whatever fitness level you had. If a marina provides a gym, you may want to bump that one to the top of the list. A gym membership is important for remaining fit and healthy. Without one, you may start to struggle. If your marina doesn’t include a gym, you are going to need to buy a membership somewhere else. This can increase your cost of living substantially. You also need to consider the convenience factor. If you are having to travel to and from the gym this can cost you even more money. Or take even more time. There are only so many hours in the day, going to the gym could take an hour if it is on-site or 3 if you have to travel outwards.


Price matters. The first way that price matters is, of course, your budget. How much can you truly afford to pay per month for the lease of your marina slip? If you have a strict budget that you need to stick to that is going to limit your options substantially. If you are lucky enough that the price doesn’t matter all that much then you have many more options. Price is almost entirely tied into location. Far more than it is tied into its amenities. Finding a marina that has everything you need and then finding a job after is probably the best way to go. If you can work from home (your boat) then this is a whole lot easier. A lot of marinas charge based on the size of your boat, not just per marina slip. If this is the case you need to consider the footage of your boat. If you have a smaller boat, you will have less space but can afford a better marina. The trade-off is a matter of preference.

What are the best liveaboard marinas in California?

California is a huge state. With a very, very, long coastline. This means there are endless marinas up and down the state. Which one is best for you can be tricky to pin down. If you use the list of above criteria to help you find what you are looking for in a marina, next comes picking the marina itself. This list of marinas covers the three main cities for sailing in California. Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco:

Los Angeles

  • Marina Del Ray Marina
  • Marina Harbor Anchorage
  • Portofino Marina
  • California Yacht Marina
  • Rainbow Harbor and Marina
  • Port Royal Marina A California Yacht Marina
  • Peter’s Landing Marina
  • Cabrillo Way Marina

San Diego

  • Point Loma Marina
  • Harbor Island West Marina
  • Intrepid Landing
  • Safe Harbor Cabrillo Isle
  • Sunroad Resort Marina
  • Sun Harbor Marina Point Loma
  • Shelter Island Marina
  • SeaWorld Marina
  • Marina Village
  • Marina Cortez

San Francisco

  • Treasure Island Yacht Harbor
  • Marina Bay Yacht Harbor
  • South Beach Harbor Marina
  • Schoon Maker Point Marina
  • Emery Cove Yacht Harbor
  • Ballena Isle Marina


Hopefully, you now have a pretty good idea of whether or not California is the state for you. There are so many great places to live aboard your sailboat in the United States. California is certainly up there with the best of them.

What matters most is probably price. Living in California is certainly not cheap, but you get what you pay for. Good weather, great food, decent sports teams, and endless activities. If you are unsure about moving there full time, why not spend your next vacation docked at one of the marinas there? It can give you a little sample of what your life could be like if you eventually pull the trigger on the move. If you work from home, then why not? The world is your oyster!

Best of luck finding the right marina for you and happy sailing!

The Best Liveaboard Marinas In California
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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