It’s redwoods at one door and the sea at the other. It’s cheerful bistros, cozy accommodations and family owned wineries. It’s a thriving art and music scene a heartbeat from miles of beaches and parkland abundant with wildlife. Located just 65 miles south of San Francisco and 30 miles south of San Jose, this is Santa Cruz County — where the sun shines 300 days a year!
The City of Santa Cruz is a popular weekend getaway for San Franciscan’s and bay area residents. The drive to Santa Cruz is beautiful, passing through vast redwood forests, or driving the scenic coast routes. The interesting history of the Santa Cruz area is full of exciting stories about the early lumbering days when the loggers man-handled the monstrous redwood logs and shipped the lumber to San Francisco by sailing ships.
Today Santa Cruise is a good sized city, sporting colleges, fun amusement parks and numerous world class surfing beaches. You’ll notice a free spirited Bohemian atmosphere, somewhat of a hangover from the 60’s hippy movement, but all in all a great place to visit.
There is almost 30 miles of lovely beaches in Santa Cruz with a ton of activities for families and individuals looking for a good time in the sun. Volleyball is very popular in Santa Cruz as well as hiking the coastal hills. Santa Cruz has a special feeling that visitors experience, something that makes them return again and again.
Santa Cruz is just north of Monterey and Carmel, so many people driving from San Francisco continue south to visit them. You can take the coast route from San Francisco and stop at Half Moon Bay on the way, or take route 17 over the pass. Both routes are beautiful and have many scenic places to photograph.
Whether you want to spend time browsing unique stores and museums; hiking and biking a multitude of trails; or sampling our world-class surfing, sailing and whale watching on the beautiful Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, chances are, you’ll wish you had more time.
Santa Cruz Boardwalk Amusement Park Photo by Bob Mc Millen, Travelwizard.com
Santa Cruz Boardwalk Amusement Park Photo by Bob Mc Millen, Travelwizard.com
Lodging ranges from beachside family hotels to quaint B&Bs in romantic settings. Bring along a hearty appetite and savor fresh seafood from local waters; authentic Mexican cuisine; and fresh-baked pies made with area produce.
See for yourself the natural beauty of our piece of the Central Coast. Santa Cruz County — Our Beaches Are Just The Beginning!
In Santa Cruz County you’ll encounter an abundance of activities, adventures and getaways suited for just about everyone. Whether you want to spend your days hiking one of hundreds of mountain trails, or taking to the Pacific and exploring the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, you’ll find there’s never quite enough time to do it all.
Capitola Beach,Â The Esplanade, Capitola
Located in Capitola Village along the famous Esplanade, lined with shops and restaurants. Walk along the beach to the Capitola Wharf. Open sunrise to sunset.
Davenport Beach:Â Davenport Landing, Davenport
The original site of Davenport, once a thriving whaling town. Strictly a day-use beach, it is generally less crowded than many of the north coast beaches and is a favorite for windsurfers. This beach is easily accessible. Open sunrise to sunset.
East Cliff Coastal Access Points
12th Ave. to 41st Ave., Live Oak
The County has 13 coastal access points throughout the East Cliff area for ease in reaching beaches. Open daily, sunrise to sunset.
Main Beach/Cowell Beach:Â Beach St., Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz invites sun worshippers to play volleyball or stroll along the sandy beach. Open sunrise to sunset.
Manresa Uplands State Beach:Â 205 Manresa Uplands Rd., La Selva Beach
Enjoy the surf, sand and sun. Fire rings on the beach. Picnic tables available. Day-use fee. Tent camping only; no RVs permitted. Reservations required in the summer. Open sunrise to sunset.
Moran Lake Park:Â East Cliff Dr. and Lake Ave., Live Oak
Park with coastal access and family picnic area. Open sunrise to sunset.
Natural Bridges State Beach:Â 2531 West Cliff Dr., Santa Cruz
Monarch butterflies. The beach has tidepools and a natural arch which gives the park its name. Open daily 8am to sunset.
New Brighton State Beach:Â 1500 State Park Dr., Capitola
Towering cypress and pine provide a sense of isolation and privacy between campsites. Surf fishing, dump station, camping, no RV hookups. Reservations required. Day-use fee. Open sunrise to 10 PM.
Palm State Beach:Â West end of Beach Road, Santa Cruz
A sub-unit of Sunset State Beach. Monterey Bay is over the sand dunes from the parking lot. Open 8am-10pm
Pleasure Point Beach: East Cliff Dr. and Pleasure Point Dr., Santa Cruz
This coastal access point is a popular Santa Cruz surf spot. Open daily sunrise to sunset.
Red, White and Blue Beach:Â 5021 Coast Rd., Santa Cruz
Clothing-optional beach featuring day-use facilities and overnight camping. Open 10am-6pm summer, closed Nov.-Jan.
Rio Del Mar Beach:Â Rio Del Mar Blvd., Aptos
A wide strip of clean sand and a jetty. Nearby shopping and restaurants. Dogs allowed on leashes. Lifeguards in the summer. Open sunrise to 10 pm.
Santa Cruz Harbor Beach:Â 5th Ave. at East Cliff Dr., Santa Cruz
Adjacent to Santa Cruz Harbor. Restaurants and shops. Full-service marina. Charter boats. Catamaran beach storage May-October. Beach volleyball. Harbor office open daily 8:30am-5pm.
Seabright/Castle Beach:Â East Cliff Dr. at Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz
A long sandy beach between the Boardwalk and the Santa Cruz Harbor. Fire rings available. Dogs permitted on leashes. No alcohol. Open daily sunrise to sunset.
Seacliff State Beach:Â 201 State Park Dr., Aptos
View the “Palo Alto” at this sunny beach. Visitor center tells the story of cement-ship-turned-fishing-pier. RV hookups. Reservations required. Day-use fee. Open daily sunrise to sunset.
Sunset State Beach:Â 201 Sunset Beach Rd., Watsonville
A secluded stretch of coastal surrounded by farms. Camping reservations required in the summer. Day-use fee. No RV hookups. Open sunrise to 10pm.
Twin Lakes State Beach:Â East Cliff Dr. at 7th Ave., Santa Cruz
One of the area’s warmest beaches, due to its location at the entrance of Schwann Lagoon. Fire-rings, outdoor showers and restrooms are available. Open daily sunrise to 10pm.
Waddell State Beach:Â Hwy. 1, Davenport
Windy beaches preclude sunbathing much of the year, but attract hang gliders, windsurfers and tidepool explorers. Day-use fee. Open sunrise to sunset.
West end of Beach Road:Â Santa Cruz
A sub-unit of Sunset State Beach. Monterey Bay is over the sand dunes from the parking lot. Open 8am -10pm.
Parks & Reserves in Santa Cruz County: Giant redwoods. Creekside trails. Rolling meadows and cascading waterfalls. Santa Cruz County has more state parks than any other county in California. From the redwood forests of Big Basin to the coastal bluffs of Wilder Ranch, from the marshes and shore birds of Elkhorn Slough to the 87-acre lake of Loch Lomond–there’s plenty of room to hike, pitch a tent, or just go exploring!
Land Sports in Santa Cruz County: Santa Cruz County is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise. Bike up the Pacific Coast Highway, go rollerblading along West Cliff Drive, or play a round of golf as you look out over the Pacific Ocean. We also have one of America’s largest indoor climbing gyms at Pacific Edge and NASCAR stock-car racing at the Watsonville Speedway. Go have some fun!
Santa Cruz County Wineries: The Santa Cruz Mountains, with their combination of California sun, coastal fogs and mountain terrain have been a premium wine-growing region since the late 1800’s. Small, family-owned wineries are abundant here, producing a variety of fine handcrafted (and award-winning!) wines. Many offer free wine tastings and have beautiful views – a perfect spot for a picnic. For more information on the history of Santa Cruz Mountains winegrowers or annual wine-tasting events, you can visit the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association.