5 Budget-Friendly West Coast Vacation Spots

By Sheryl Nance-Nash Updated on May 7, 2019

You may not be in a position to take that bucket list trip right now, but that's not to say you have to settle for a staycation. 

If you pick your destination wisely, that's half the battle. Look for venues that are not on everyone's must-go list, but still have the qualities that matter to you. Here are a few budget-friendly ideas to get you started. 

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Farmington, New Mexico

When you think of New Mexico, Santa Fe probably comes to mind. But there’s something to be said for Farmington, with its culture, history – ancestral Puebloan dwellings and more.

Adventure lovers will get their fill of action, hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking and paddle boarding. Check out archeological rock formations and explore sites that contain many complete dinosaur skeleton excavations.

Do see the Bisti Badlands and De Na Zin Wilderness.  Set your spirit straight by doing yoga in awesome, outdoor settings. As for where to stay, no worries, there are budget options like Best Western and Comfort Inn.

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San Diego, California

You’ve done Los Angeles and San Francisco, why not add San Diego to the list? Whether you’re looking for family time, a girls' or guys getaway, there’s something to make everybody happy in San Diego, especially with 70 miles of coastline.

There’s the world class San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, and more good restaurants that you’ll be able to eat at. San Diego is also where you have the privilege of whale watching year-round.

Hang out in the historic Gaslamp District with its mix of Victorians and modern life — galleries, boutiques, hipster haunts for dancing the night away, and more. Stroll the boardwalk, explore Little Italy and other interesting neighborhoods.

Whether you want to spend little or much, there is much variety in where you can stay.

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Portland, Oregon

There’s a lot of buzz about Portland. It’s not surprising.  Portland has serious beer lovers! (Get it? Buzz?) Check it out yourself with a brewery bike tour — just make sure to wear a helmet and not get too buzzed yourself.

If beer’s not your thing, take a guided walking or biking tour of downtown. Maybe you’ve heard that Portland is a food mecca — make up your own mind. One way to do so is to sample many restaurants through a food tour.

Spend time at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. If you’re the adventurous type, there is white water rafting in the Gorge not far from Portland. Take in the city’s culture. Enjoy museums, dance performances and great live music. Portland’s lodging is easy on your wallet.

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Friday Harbor, Washington 

They say good things come in threes. How can you go wrong surrounded by Neva, Dream and Fish Hook Lakes? Fish, bike, canoe, kayak, hike —the action is on San Juan Island.

You don’t want to miss the San Juan Sculpture Park at Roche Harbor that showcases the work of more than 150 sculptors. Enjoy a romantic or family picnic in Lime Kiln State Park. Lounge on the beach or if you’re in the mood, zipline.

There are accommodations for every budget.

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Sacramento, California

Over the last few years, Sacramento has reinvented itself. Back in the day, Sacramento was mainly known simply because it was the state capital.

But times have changed and this foodie town has fun neighborhoods like Midtown where you’ll find millennials flocking to coffee shops, bars, restaurants, and shops — and you won’t find lofty prices like Los Angeles and San Francisco.

For those who want to cook up at home or your Airbnb, the Farmer’s Market was a staple long before farmer’s markets were trendy.

Art lovers will be in their element at the Crocker Museum with its vast collection of California, American, European, Asian, African, Oceanic art.

For yet one more clue that Sacramento is not a stodgy government town, step into the Dive Bar. The huge aquarium above the bar steal your attention. If you’re lucky, you might even find a mermaid or merman swimming in the tank.

So while you may have obligations like your student loans, life goes on. By all means, pay your loans and on time.  Look into refinancing and other ways to lower your monthly payments.

Handle your business, but treat yourself every now and again. 

About the Author
Sheryl Nance-Nash

Sheryl Nance-Nash is a freelance writer based in New York City. She specializes in personal finance, business, small business, and travel topics. Her articles have appeared in Money, Newsday, The New York Times, DailyFinance.com, ABCNews.com, Forbes.com, TheFiscalTimes.com, among others. When she's not writing about retirement, taxes, student loans, credit, debt, and everything under the personal finance umbrella, she writes about businesses—big and small—their victories and the challenges they face. Sheryl is married with a grown daughter. Her favorite pasttime is traveling. She loves chronicling her adventures and exploring new places and cultures. Read more by Sheryl Nance-Nash