Located south of San Francisco and just north of Monterrey is Santa Cruz. The beach and ocean are a big part of the Santa Cruz lifestyle and the area is well known for sailing, swimming, surfing, and paddling.
Santa Cruz was once the location of an American Indian settlement, and one of the earliest settlements of the Spanish during the exploration of Alta California. During the late 19th century, Santa Cruz gained popularity because of its beaches and coastal redwood forests.
Things to do in Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz Boardwalk
If this is your first visit to Santa Cruz, the Beach Boardwalk is where you want to be. The boardwalk is home to the Giant Dipper, one of the oldest roller coasters in the U.S. It also boasts disappointed Carousel, and the Sky Glider, where passengers can soak up the panoramic vistas of the coastline, the ocean, and the park. More about the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.
West Cliff Drive
West Cliff Drive is a scenic 2.75-mile paved walking and biking path that stretches from Natural Bridges State Beach to the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf. The most scenic coastline walk in the city passes a lighthouse, the famous Steamer Lane surf break, the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, and numerous sandy beaches and coves in the are
Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf
The Municipal Wharf is one of the area’s most popular attractions, the sea lions. No matter what time of year, the sea lions can be seen here lounging on the rafters beneath the warm, hanging out on the platforms alongside it, and splashing about in the ocean, with their playful antics.
Santa Cruz Beaches
Main Beach & Cowell Beach are north and south of the Municipal Wharf and the most popular places to soak up some California sun. Santa Cruz main beach backs up to the boardwalk and is the larger of the two. Cowell Beach was a great place to learn to surf and is generally less crowded than the main beach. Both beaches have plenty of nearby free parking.
Santa Cruz County Mystery Spot
Mystery Spot has been enchanting and mystifying visitors since 1940. Located in the Redwoods, three miles from downtown Santa Cruz, is where the laws of gravity don’t seem to apply. You’ll see things like water that appears to be flowing upward and balls that roll uphill. Santa Cruz Mystery Spot 465 Mystery Spot Road Santa Cruz, CA 95065.
Natural Bridges State Beach
Nestled in stunning Santa Cruz, California, this 65-acre California state park was named for the naturally occurring mudstone bridges that line the Pacific Ocean. Wave erosion carved these mudstone bridges after a combination of silt, clay, and diatoms were solidified into a mixture of stone that created three arches on the beach. More about Natural Bridges State Beach.
Nearby Santa Cruz Attractions
New Brighton State Beach
New Brighton State Beach is a 93-acre park that includes close to one mile of shoreline, a group picnic area, a campground on the bluffs overlooking the beach with campsites and parking spots for day use. The visitor center at New Brighton Beach contains exhibits exploring the history of migrations into the Pacific Northwest by the various peoples who have made their home. More about New Brighton State Beach.
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Escape the crowds at Sequoia National Park and Redwood National Park and enjoy the lush greenery and open trails of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. Bring your family and spend the night as you camp under the stars at this famous California state park. You can even bring your RV in and spend several days there.
Roaring Camp Railroad
Roaring Camps Railway is a beautiful day trip the whole family will enjoy from grandparents to little ones. If you are in the Santa Cruz Area, put this special train on your to-do list. The Roaring Camp’s steam engine collection is among the oldest and most accurately preserved regularly scheduled passenger service trains in America. Roaring Camp Railroads 5401 Graham Hill Road, Felton, CA 95018.
Big Basin Redwood State Park
The park offers a unique experience with every changing season, from poppies and wild orchids in the foggy spring to intense green canopies in the winter that provides a shady retreat from the warmer inland temperatures during the summer—more about Big Basin Redwood State Park.
Santa Cruz Events
Santa Cruz Clam Chowder Cookoff
Santa Cruz offers an extensive calendar of events with plenty of notice so that everyone can participate. One of the most popular is the Annual Clam Chowder Cook-Off, which takes place in February on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
Woodies on the Wharf
A hit with car enthusiasts is the Annual Woodies on the Wharf. This gathering at the Wharf is the perfect setting for a celebration of the surf spirit and classic surf wagons. Around 200 pre-1950s, “Woodies” line the pier. Music, T-shirts, memorabilia, and prize drawings will add to the fun.
The atmosphere in Santa Cruz, California, is peaceful, free-spirited, and relaxed. You can easily spend a day exploring this classic California beach town. There is so much to see and do you might want to stay for a day or two.