Santa Cruz County - Indulge In 
Fun & Amazing Adventures For
Your Next Vacation...

Imagine heading to Santa Cruz County for the ideal California vacation.

Want to spend the day kayaking, sailing, hiking or just playing golf? Maybe you want to feeling the rush of sailing over the crisp waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Okay... let’s just pick some of our favorites to explore. First let’s stop at...

Santa Cruz - a classic spot to dig your toes into the warm sand and soak up the sun, the fun only begins at the beach.

Nicknamed ‘Surf City’... Santa Cruz is THE California beach town.
Surfers tote their surfboards through the local neighborhoods on their way to the beach.
Families relax on the sand. Children splash and play in the water.

Kayakers and stand up paddle boarders explore the harbor.

The county’s coastline extends south from Santa Cruz to Watsonville... and is loaded with state beaches... like...

  • Seabright 
  • Twin Lakes 
  • New Brighton 
  • Seacliff
  • Rio Del Mar 
  • Manresa
  • Manresa Uplands 
  • Sunset 
  • Palm State Beach
  • Natural Bridges

Surfing is popular at Manresa and Natural Bridges.

Swimmers love Twin Lakes beach.

Sunset and Palm State Beach have mountainous sand dunes, up to 200 feet high built up in front of a coastal bluff. 

But... there’s so much more. These two beaches provide...

  • Great BBQ pits and benches...
  • More isolated than other beaches...
  • Large, white sanded open areas  - great for volleyball, football, and more.

So... if you like beaches.  Or you love camping.   And you’re looking for new areas and fun places to add to your adventurous belt.  Well... you get the picture!

If you’re a thrill-seeker, then...

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk - Is daring you to try out - the Giant Dipper - a vintage wooden roller coaster that’s thrilled riders for over 85 years.

New rides and attractions keep things lively too... like the latest ride - the UNDERTOW!

Buckle up for some unexpected thrills on the only spinning coaster in Northern California! Its crazy turns and sudden drops... push you to the edge... and back!
On a calmer side... the Boardwalk’s oldest ride - a Looff’s Carousel -- includes seventy-three hand-carved horses... prancing proudly to the music from two beautiful antiques - perfect for the little guys and gals - as well as mom and dad.

The park’s original 342-pipe Ruth band organ - built in 1894 -- and a showy Wurlitzer 165 band organ  -- built around 1914 - are well worth the time to stop and see. The "Ruth" - as it is affectionately called - has played alongside the carousel since 1911.

But you don't have to tumble and whirl to have fun here...

Santa Cruz Wharf - offers the best seaside dining, shopping, and recreation in Santa Cruz.
Restaurants throughout the area - in particular on the Santa Cruz Wharf - offer some of the best clam chowder around.

Some of the perfect spots for menus rich in seafood and sweeping views of the Monterey Bay are...

  • Carniglia’s - Italian Seafood
  • Miamar - Fresh Seafood, Pasta & Steaks
  • Riva Fish House - Seafood and Pasta 
  • Stagnaro Bros - Caught Today - Cooked Today

Dolphin Restaurant on the Wharf in Santa Cruz is where the locals go for breakfast, lunch dinner or when they just want to do take out!

Gilbert’s Firefish Grill is the place to go... if you’re in the mood for some serious seafood cooked to perfection on a Mesquite wood-fire grill. Relax and enjoy your dinner while gazing out over the ocean - cause... every table has an ocean view!

On the Wharf... find everything from handmade arts and crafts to stuff to wear while lounging around on the beach.
See the amazing Humpback Whales and California Sea Lions in person!

Take a whale watching or fishing trip... or try your hand at sea kayaking.

Catch some of the fun FREE events that take place in Santa Cruz County every year. Like...

  • WOODIES on the WHARF - held on the 4th Saturday in June
  • ALOHA RACES and POLYNESIAN FESTIVAL - held on the 3rd Sunday in August
  • HALLOWEEN on the WHARF - always held on 31st of October

The Wharf’s fun-filled and fast-paced hangout - is THE destination for locals and visitors

The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary - one of Santa Cruz County’s most magnificent points of interest - is an underwater world rich in biological resources.

One of only  a handful of federally protected marine sanctuaries in the country... it’s the second largest in the United States.

Featuring an underwater canyon that stretches out over 60 miles from the coast and plunges to depths of over 10,000 feet - the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is more than twice the depth of Arizona’s Grand Canyon.

It covers 5,322-square miles of ocean... nearly a quarter of the California Coastline.

Divers explore the lush kelp forests and rocky reefs of the sanctuary’s underwater surroundings.

Watch the otters pluck abalone from the rocks while sea lions search for fish.

Seymour Marine Discovery Center - at Long Marine Lab the Discovery Center offers a up-close view of fascinating sea creatures.

This renowned research facility, affiliated with University of California - Santa Cruz, overlooks the bay and features aquariums and marine exhibits illustrating the work of resident scientists.

Outside, Ms. Blue, one of the world’s largest blue whale skeletons  - at 87 feet long - rests just outside Seymour Center.

And from the sun deck... view the remains of the 1904 steam schooner - La Feliz shipwreck, which crashed ashore more than 85 years ago.

The Steam schooner - La Feliz - built in Newhall, WA in 1904 wrecked in heavy seas off of what is now Natural Bridges State park - about 2 miles north of the Santa Cruz Light Station on October 1, 1924.

What other quaint little towns are there to explore in Santa Cruz County? Here’s three...

Davenport - Nine miles north of Santa Cruz, Davenport is the first town in Santa Cruz County traveling south on Highway 1 from San Francisco.

Migrating gray and humpback whales pass by every year. Also catch a glimpse of sea otters, dolphins, blue whales, porpoises, sea lions and a variety of ocean birds.

The bluffs at Davenport make a perfect vantage point for watching the migration of these majestic mammals.

Capitola - is an intimate beach village tucked away in a river valley in Santa Cruz County on the Monterey Bay.

Capitola City Beach - with its many shops and restaurants is always a favorite for locals and visitors!

Bring the whole family and enjoy lots of swimming, surfing, volleyball, kite flying and beach activities.

Aptos - Where charm and history meet redwoods and sea...

The picturesque town of Aptos is captured in its idyllic village with 19th century facades and wooden walkways.

Aptos Village Park is the site for the annual Blues Festival held every year in May.

For all you outdoor enthusiasts... Nisene Marks State Park covers 10,000 acres of forest regeneration... where second growth redwoods coexist with new foliage.

What a great place for hikers, runners and bike riders to explore.

The Old Growth Loop Trail takes hikers past The Advocate - the largest redwood tree in the park - with a circumference of 45 feet.

A local landmark, the S.S. Palo Alto -  docked at the end of the fishing pier - was an experimental concrete ship built as a tanker at the end of World War I. The "cement ship" now serves as an artificial reef for marine life.

To really indulge in all of Santa Cruz County...

...we recommend spending some time here... chatting with the locals - getting to know the area.

It’s truly the best way... don’t you agree?

There’s so much to see and do... and we’ve just scratched the surface.

So... what do you say... let’s go exploring!

Return from Santa Cruz County to San Francisco Bay Area

Return from Santa Cruz County to Home

Related Pages

Panning for gold