The Best Liveaboard Marinas In California in 2024

If you are one of the lucky sailors or boaters who have the opportunity to live aboard their boat, the world is your oyster. Not many people can afford to live on their boats these days. Whether it’s due to cost or because they are professionally tied to a specific location, it can be not easy to live and work full time from a marina.

If you find the right balance on water and have the necessary marine skills and financials to live aboard a vessel, you’re in luck. Now the only question left is: Where do you want to live? Somewhere sunny and safe with a high quality of living.

Living aboard a boat in California is a prime destination for an increasing number of mariners and sunseekers. Great weather, high-quality marinas, and a relaxed yet active lifestyle means California could be the right place for you too. Here are some of the best marinas in California.

Why Would You Want To Live Aboard Your Boat In California?

california yacht marina

California is one of the best US states in which you can live. There are several reasons for this. Certainly, good weather plays an important role if you plan to live aboard your boat. When you live on your boat, the areas above the deck make up a large portion of your space.

And if you are forced to live below deck due to continuous rain, you lose half of your home. This is not a problem in California. California is a very liberal state.

Weed is legal, the population is very young and diverse, and the economy is booming. Whether all of these things can be considered good or bad is subjective. California also has some incredible sports opportunities to offer. Especially when it comes to biking, hiking, and watersports.

The Best Liveaboard Marinas In California

California is a vast state. With a very, very long coastline. That means there are a lot of marinas all over the state. It can be challenging to figure out which one is best for you. If you use the above list of criteria to find what you are looking for in a marina, the next step is to select the marina itself.

This list of marinas covers the top three cities for boating in California. Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco:

Los Angeles

  • California Yacht Marina
  • Marina Del Ray Marina
  • Marina Harbor Anchorage
  • Portofino Marina
  • Rainbow Harbor and Marina
  • Port Royal Marina
  • Cabrillo Way Marina

San Diego

  • Safe Harbor Marina
  • Intrepid Landing
  • Sun Harbor Marina Point Loma
  • Shelter Island Marina
  • SeaWorld Marina
  • Marina Village
  • Marina Cortez
  • Point Loma Marina
  • Harbor Island West Marina

San Francisco

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

Living On A Boat In California

sunset at a california liveaboard marina

California is great. There is so much to do. Usually, you can say that about most places. Of course, there is a lot to do everywhere. However, in California, it goes a step further. This is even more evident in Los Angeles.

When you live in a place with large youth culture, you have the advantage that there is always something new to do. Rock climbing, tennis, gyms, swimming pools, skate parks, hiking, bars, restaurants, and sporting events.

Everything you can imagine. It’s good for you, but it’s also suitable for your visitors. If you are looking for a fantastic place to take your grandchildren, California could be your place.

California, especially in cities like Los Angeles, is very liberal. In the truest sense of the word. Whether it is right for you depends a lot on your personality.

The weather can be considered good or bad. Some people like rain, others don’t. Temperature can also be regarded as good or bad, depending on what climate you are comfortable in. Since California is a pretty hot state, there is air conditioning everywhere.

So escaping the heat is not that difficult. You should consider installing some sort of climate control on your boat. A tiny USB fan may not be enough in the summer months. But you can always cool off in the water.

Once you’ve decided if California is the right state for you, consider where exactly you want to live. Staying at liveaboard marinas in San Diego is very different from living in San Francisco. There is a lot to consider from one city to another, not to mention the individual marinas.

Renting a berth at a marina is often as big a commitment as renting an apartment. Therefore, choosing the right product is an important decision. Of course, you can rent by the week without a contract, but you lose the rental rights, and it is more expensive. Most marinas offer better rates for long-term contracts. Security is better for both.

How to Choose a Good Marina?

For one person, a good marina may be one that costs as little as possible. For another person, it may be a marina that offers a wide range of services. Next, you need to consider whether you want to live in Los Angeles or a quieter place like San Diego.

Or maybe you want to live in a slightly more upscale city like San Francisco because of your job. Here are some of the key points to consider when choosing your marina:

1. Location

The location of the marina is also essential. Proximity to the city center can affect whether the location is right for you. For example, if it’s too far from a mall or grocery store, you’ll have to resort to Uber, cabs, or public transportation to get your groceries. You can also do your grocery or boating gift shopping online.

Some marinas even have a small grocery store within sight. If you want to work but not from your boat, you will need to live within a reasonable distance of work. Transit times can be much longer in Los Angeles than in San Diego.

2. Amenities

Amenities are important. Perhaps more than most other things. If you are going to live on your boat, you have very little space. For example, if you live in an apartment, you may have a washer and dryer. This is not possible on a boat. Unless, of course, you live on a yacht.

If your marina does not have washers and dryers, you will have to haul your laundry around town. If you don’t have a car, this will be a nightmare.

3. Electricity and water hookups

Not all California marinas have electricity and water hookups. You will need both if you plan to stay there for many weeks or months. If electricity and water are not included in the lease, you will need to find out about their additional cost.

Electricity costs, in particular, can add up over a year. Solar is a great alternative and can help you find your way to energy freedom when “using” all that free California sunshine.

4. WiFi Connection

A reliable internet connection is essential, regardless of whether you rely on it for work or not. Without it, you might become bored. There’s not much to do on a boat. You can’t keep many things, such as books to read, there is no place to move around and do things, and you are pretty limited.

So what can you do? Sunbathing, fishing, playing games, or watching television. You can drink coffee to make your mornings and days more enjoyable and keep you caffeinated.

The chances of you having cable are slim, and you’ll have to rely on WiFi a lot more than you do now. If you can’t watch shows, movies, and sports online, you can’t watch them at all.

Some marinas offer WiFi, while others allow wired installations. If not, you should use your phone’s hotspot. If that’s the case, how good is the cell service at your marina? You can find out in person or through an easy-to-find cellular coverage website on Google.

5. Health and Fitness Facilities

Because travel options are limited, you may lose your initial fitness level. If the marina has a gym, put it on your list. A gym is important for staying fit and healthy. Without exercise, you may run into problems. If your marina does not have a gym, you will need to purchase a membership elsewhere.

This can significantly increase your cost of living. But the cost is not a problem with affordable and portable fitness equipment.

There is also the convenience factor to consider. If you have to drive to and from the gym, it may cost you even more money. Or it will cost you even more time. There are a limited number of hours in the day, so going to the gym can take an hour if it’s on-site or three if you have to travel.

6. Safety

A marina where you feel safe is very important. Boats are not inherently secure; many boats’ locks are not ideal. Imagine being locked out of your boat at sea. That’s a death sentence. How safe is the marina? Does it have high fences? Lots of surveillance cameras?

All of these things affect your peace of mind. Also, a strong appearance makes the marina seem like a nuisance. If it looks impossible to steal your boat, no one will try. Remember that all of your belongings are on your boat. If you live on your boat, you may not have many items to begin with (limited space).

7. Cost

Cost is important. The first factor that affects the price is your budget: how much can you afford to pay per month for your dockside mooring? If you have to stick to a strict budget, your options are severely limited. If you’re lucky enough that price isn’t that important, you have many more options.

Cost is almost entirely tied to location. Much more so than it is linked to your amenities. Finding a port with everything you need and then finding a job is probably the best way to go. If you can work from your boat, it’s much more manageable.

Many marinas charge based on the size of the ship, not just the berth. If this is the case, you need to consider the size 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.


There you have it! The best liveaboard marinas in California. The state offers many unique places to live aboard a boat, whether for a week or the long term.

While California is one of the more expensive locations in the US, you will get what you pay for. Besides large and well-equipped marinas with decades of experience, you will also get access to world-class living, top-tier restaurants, sports, and many leisure activities. And let’s not forget about the California sun!

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Featured image credit: Cabrillo Marina