California : Safety by City
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Surround yourself with the sea and redwood forests in the unique northern California destination of Eureka, California.
While the city is home to less than 30,000 people, it’s still the biggest city you’ll find between Portland and San Francisco.
This city is also a stop on the popular Pacific Coast Highway (PCH).
In the city, you’ll find Victorian-era homes with all the finest touches.
It feels like a trip back in time, which is why it’s named Old Town.
You can take tours, do some shopping, or enjoy lunch on the patio while soaking in the sights.
Cross over the bridge past two islands to hit Samoa Beach.
This is a simple beach area with few amenities and the perfect spot for a long walk on the beach.
Later, take a walk among the tallest trees known to man.
Eureka is a real goldmine of possibilities, even if the gold strike has run dry.
*One note: If you are searching for information on Eureka and come across Eureka Springs, this is not near Eureka, California.
Eureka Springs is a city in Arkansas.
Warnings & Dangers in Eureka
OVERALL RISK: LOW
Eureka can get a bad rap. The city has struggled with drug and homeless issues for years while touting the great tourist attractions here. Travel reviews range from being too scared to tour because of the homeless to the "best trip of my life." There's a low risk overall but we have some finer points of concern to work through.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
It would almost be a sin to not have a car here to ride the Pacific Coast Highway with the wind in your hair. However, if that's just not an option, there's low risk with public transportation. Humbolt Transit Authority runs buses through the county and in Eureka. They also offer rideshares via public transportation (better known as carpooling) if you want to explore that option.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
There was just one pickpocket in 2020, so there's low risk. The people here are more likely to just outright ask you for money than try to take it.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
The biggest concerns here are tsunamis, earthquakes, and wildfires. All that gives it a medium risk, but I do want to clarify that on a normal day or month, there's nothing to worry about other than rain or snow. The potential for big events gives it a higher risk.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
There's a one in 420 risks of being robbed here, so we'll give that a low risk. Again, people are more likely to ask for money and might get a little aggressive when doing so, so be prepared for that.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
There's a low risk of terrorism in Eureka. It's hundreds of miles from any big city.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
The scams in Eureka are mostly targeted at residents, so there's a low risk for tourists. You should be aware of the potential for a rental scam. Confirm with any landlord that they have a license to lease in Eureka and never wire money ahead of time as a deposit. Always use a credit card.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
There's nothing in the crime numbers that makes it more worrisome for a woman. We'll call it a low risk, but I have to emphasize the importance of either staying with a guide or locking the car doors when driving around to see the architecture. Neighborhoods here can be hit or miss, and you need to go with your gut if you feel like you've wandered into a bad area.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The tap water meets or exceeds all requirements. There's a low risk.
Safest Places to Visit in Eureka
Old Town and The Waterfront are one area, and it’s ripe with things to do.
This historic downtown corridor offers a little something for everyone.
This is a town with a hippie vibe, so don’t expect red carpets and fancy spas.
Soak in history while enjoying a cup of coffee and walking in the footsteps of gold miners searching for the big strike and lumberjacks fueling the timber industry from eras gone by.
Look for the Tiny Doors art installations as you wander.
You can take historic tours of the Victorian homes and even do a ghost tour to hear of long-gone residents who still make some noise.
Head over the bridge for a meal on Wooley Island or go all the way to the coast.
Visit Samoa Beach or head south to the Samoa Dunes where you can ATV over miles of sand.
Look for the shipwreck of the USS Milwaukee at low tide near New Navy Base Road.
There’s also a beach in this area called Stinky Beach, but that seems more like a place to avoid, right?
Humboldt Bay is a National Wildlife Refuge, make sure you get the Wildlife Watchable list of all the animals you can spot here.
Grab your hiking boots and head 40 miles north to Redwood National Park.
People come here for the massive trees, but get sucked in by the variety of wildlife as well.
Tidepooling is a popular activity here, as well as guided kayak tours.
The park covers deep forests, plains, and rocky coastal areas.
Back in town, visit the oldest California zoo, Sequoia Park Zoo.
Places to Avoid in Eureka
Crime maps show the downtown area has the highest crime rate, which is normal for just about any city.
The farther south you go, the better the crime rate gets.
If you are looking for a sunny seaside vacation, this isn’t your spot.
Eureka is overcast and gray much of the year and the temperatures don’t fluctuate a lot.
The warmest you’ll get is in the 60s and the lows hover in the 40s and 50s.
You need to look at the reality of Eureka.
It has a storied history.
Miners came looking for gold, got it, and left.
Then the timber industry came in and breathed a new life into the city.
Now the lumber business is struggling.
This is a city that picks itself up with its hiking boots year after year.
There are homeless people all over town and the city is dealing with a drug problem, which could impact you anywhere people gather in Eureka.
Don’t go wandering around at night, even in the downtown area.
This isn’t a city for nightlife.
Enjoy what Eureka does offer in its history, architecture, outdoor options, and seaside life.
Just don’t get intimidated by homeless people.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Eureka
- To get into any of the state or national parks, you’ll need a pass. Buy those ahead of time online so you don’t have to pull out your wallet when you arrive.
- For hunting or fishing in the wilderness, you’ll need a permit or license from the California Department of Wildlife. That’s another thing you can get online ahead of time.
- When visiting the beach, stay off the rocks and jetties. They can be slicker than you’d think and the last thing you want is a broken ankle on vacation.
- The water in all the lakes and sea here is cold. Wear a wet suit if you can, but always keep a life vest on. Cold paralysis sets in quickly and that life vest will keep you afloat.
- Beachcombing is popular in this area, but you need to know the laws. You can collect one gallon of seashells per day. You can take driftwood each day as long as it’s not more than 50 pounds.
- Eureka is a remote area, and you need to keep up with road conditions if you are going to be driving. You can always check conditions through CalTrans. There are real-time maps and live cameras of hundreds of locations.
- On top of the fog, Eureka can get smoke from wildfires in the state. You can keep up with the firefighting efforts through InciWeb. That has updated fire information with notes from the firelines.
- We talked about the homeless people in Eureka. You will see a lot of them, but don’t be tempted to hand out money. There are several homeless organizations you can donate to instead.
- There is an extraordinarily complicated map for parking in downtown Eureka on the police department’s website. When you are parking, be sure to review the signs nearby to see if you are in a timed zone or have to pay a parking meter. You can also buy a parking meter Smart Card at City Hall to avoid having to stand around the meter paying.
- Before eating any shellfish or seafood in Eureka, call the California Department of Public Health Shellfish Information Line at (800)553-4133 or look at their website. There have been shellfish toxin warnings for the waters near Eureka.
So... How Safe Is Eureka Really?
Let me just say before diving into the numbers, the reaction to Eureka on social media and travel forums is going to confuse you.
You will either think you are headed to seaside heaven or a homeless-ridden hell.
Here are some comments:
“We would have walked around but felt there were way too many homeless people wandering around, did not feel comfortable.”
“Eureka is a perfect little town that reminds me of a Hallmark movie or a fairy tale.
I went before Thanksgiving and I just had to go back to see Christmas.
I was not disappointed.
It was magical.”
“I don’t feel safe walking in the neighborhoods around this area at night.
Many displaced people are randomly yelling and fighting.”
“This is a very interesting place.
Anywhere with a second-hand book shop can not be bad.
Come for a day.
You will enjoy it.
Yes, there are homeless people.
This is America.
See past that.
They aren’t going to harm you.”
By the numbers, Eureka has crime rates that shatter the national average based on the math you use to figure out crime rates.
However, in a city with a small population (26,512), any crime numbers can be easily skewed.
There just isn’t enough of a sample to get a reality check of crime.
For example, violent crime is at 686 per 100,000 in Eureka.
The national average is 399 per 100,000.
That means Eureka is coming close to being twice the national average.
However, doing another math (numbers of crime/population = crime chance) you get 1 in 145 of being a victim of violent crime.
Is that ideal?
But that’s not a reason to avoid Eureka.
You have to accept Eureka for what it is.
A historic town with overcast skies.
A seaside beauty with an underbelly.
A hippie culture that thrives and struggles.
A place where marijuana farms grow and “Timber” is heard more than “Eureka” as the logging industry fights to stay alive.
How Does Eureka Compare?
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All Visa requirements get handled at the airport or port of entry. You don't need additional identification to get into Eureka.
You'll use the U.S. Dollar here, but don't go waving it around in public. Keep as many purchases as possible to credit cards. Not having cash will also resist any temptation to give money to a homeless person.
The weather is pretty consistent year-round. It's rarely going to go above 64°(F). Nights are always going to dip into the 50s or 40s. You need rain jackets, hoodies, jeans, and rugged outdoor clothing here. The city gets 54 inches of rain a year. It hasn't snowed since 2003, so you don't need to worry about that.
You've got one airport and it isn't a big one. The California Redwood Coast-Humboldt County Airport is 20 miles north. Getting to either Portland International or San Francisco International is going to take upwards of 5 to 7 hours. Though I will say it's a beautiful drive if you opt to take the Pacific Coast Highway to a big airport.
Small airports can deal with big problems and they're the first to get travel delays. Be sure to book your trip with travel insurance.
Eureka Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
|Temperature / Month