This college town has a serious surfer scene — and is surrounded by redwoods.
The laid-back coastal city of Santa Cruz, California, along Highway 1 has a personality that’s split three ways. Enjoy carefree fun on the wooden roller coaster and historic carousel at the old-timey Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Lace up your hiking boots for treks through dense redwood groves, along coastal bluffs and in Mediterranean-influenced gardens. Or embrace your hippie-cool side with a visit to downtown’s boho boutiques, book and vinyl-record shops, live music venues and funky sidewalk cafés.
Explore Santa Cruz
- Capitola Village
- Pleasure Point
- The Boardwalk
- West Cliff Drive
Founded in 1869, Capitola is California’s oldest seaside resort town, located just south of Santa Cruz proper. Beloved for its long, sandy beaches, it also boasts European-style streets dotted with tidy boutiques, tasteful galleries, wine bars and sidewalk cafés.
Restaurants, Beaches, Architecture
Downtown Santa Cruz rocks a 70s vibe. Street performers attract onlookers, vintage shops sell festival garb and vinyl records, boho-chic boutiques peddle artisan jewelry and down-to-earth eateries serve tasty concoctions of kale and quinoa.
Shops, Nightlife , Restaurants
Pleasure Point's ocean-centric ethos shows itself in 41st Avenue’s busy surf shops and seafood stands. Coastal pleasures dominate: Surfers slice the waves at the Hook, walkers stroll the bluffs above Cliff Beach and shorelines are packed with swimmers and sunbathers.
Restaurants, Beaches, Shops
The central hub of activity in Santa Cruz, the Boardwalk neighborhood is anchored by one of the last remaining oceanfront amusement parks on the West Coast. Come here for beachy fun in a carnival atmosphere, as well as waterside restaurants and a nightlife scene.
Beaches, Amusement Park, Water Views
West Cliff Drive
Get a feel for the local version of beach life along West Cliff Drive. World-class surfers snap their leashes at Steamer Lane, the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum houses a century’s worth of wave-shredding memories and families dig their toes into the sand at Natural Bridges State Beach.
Beaches, Museums, Parks
Stay in The Center of it All
Immerse yourself in your destination at these centrally located hotels.
Cruise Santa Cruz, California, in Just Three Days
Stroll a Pier and a Boardwalk
It's easy to slip into vacation mode when you hear the clickety-clack of a wooden coaster or the Wurlitzer sounds of a carousel going round and round. Spend a day savoring the throwback pleasures of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and the Santa Cruz Wharf, the West’s longest wooden pier.
Let Mother Nature Be Your Guide
Step away from the beachfront bustle to visit some of Santa Cruz’s remarkable parks and preserves. Take a train ride or a hike through towering redwood groves, enjoy coastal views and zipping hummingbirds at botanical gardens and trek to secluded coves and beaches just north of town.
Go Surfing — and Shopping
Visit the city's world-class surfing museum and pull on a wetsuit for a lesson. Learn about ocean creatures at a working marine lab, then hang out in hippie-cool downtown, browsing boho-chic boutiques and lunching in charming sidewalk cafés.