This Californian city attracts visitors looking for sun and sand, and has one of the strongest surfing cultures in the country.
For many, Santa Cruz embodies the laid-back spirit of coastal California. The city has strong surfing and skateboarding cultures, beautiful beaches and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
There are many options for outdoor recreation in and around Santa Cruz. Rent a kayak and paddle out to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Try to spot sea lions, seals and even whales (during winter and spring) as you paddle along. Hiking enthusiasts will also enjoy the numerous scenic trails at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and Wilder Ranch State Park.
No trip to Santa Cruz would be complete without delving into the city’s surfing heritage. Catch a wave at one of the well-known surfing breaks or rent a car and cruise along the scenic West Cliff Drive to the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum. This museum is located in the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse and overlooks the famous Steamer Lane surf break.
Downtown Santa Cruz is known for its eclectic shops, cafés and restaurants and is a short stroll from the beach. Families will love the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. This amusement park opened in 1907 and is full of old-world charm. Take a spin on one of its historic rides, such as the wooden Giant Dipper Roller Coaster.
Foodies should check out the Santa Cruz Wharf, home to many seafood restaurants and shops. Wine aficionados will love the Santa Cruz Mountains, where many local wineries have tasting rooms.
You can cover much of Santa Cruz’s main downtown and city attractions on foot, by bike or with the Santa Cruz Metro bus services. If you want to venture farther afield, it’s best to rent a car as the roads near the Santa Cruz Mountains can get very steep.