Santa Cruz Beaches: The Perfect California Beach Town

Nestled between the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Monterey Bay, Santa Cruz is a quintessential California beach town. With its laid-back vibe, world-class surf, and stunning natural beauty, it’s no wonder Santa Cruz is such a popular vacation destination.

Santa Cruz is also a great location for a California road trip, as it’s centrally located and easy to get to. Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, catch some waves, or explore the area’s redwood forests and quaint small towns, Santa Cruz has something for everyone. Santa Cruz is the perfect California beach town. And with its central location, it’s easy to add a few days in Santa Cruz to any California road trip.

The 10 best beaches in Santa Cruz

If you’re planning a visit to Santa Cruz, here are a few things to keep in mind. First, the town is pretty small, so it’s easy to get around on foot or by bike. Second, the weather is usually sunny and mild, but the fog can roll in quickly from the bay, so it’s always a good idea to have a jacket handy. Finally, Santa Cruz is known for its laid-back vibe, so don’t expect anything too fancy. Just kick back, relax, and enjoy the California coast.

No matter what your interests are, you’ll find plenty to do in Santa Cruz. So pack your bags and head to Santa Cruz for the perfect California beach vacation.

Santa Cruz is known for its beautiful beaches and perfect surfing conditions. With so many to choose from, it can be tough to decide which one to visit first. To help narrow things down, we’ve put together a list of:

1. Main Beach

Santa Cruz’s Main Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Santa Cruz, and for good reason. With its wide stretches of sand, beautiful ocean views, and convenient location near downtown Santa Cruz, Its the best place to spend a day relaxing, swimming, and picnicking.

Main Beach is the perfect place to catch some waves or relax in the sun. With a wide variety of shops and restaurants nearby, it’s also a great place to take a break from exploring Santa Cruz’s other attractions. With beginner-friendly conditions and several surf schools located nearby. And when the sun goes down, Main Beach comes alive with bonfires, making it the perfect spot to watch the sunset or stargaze. Main Beach is the perfect spot. So make sure to add it to your list of must-see Santa Cruz attractions!

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2. Cowell Beach

Santa Cruz is world-renowned for its beaches, and Cowell Beach is no exception. Located just west of the Municipal Wharf pier, Cowell Beach offers stunning views of Santa Cruz Harbor and the surrounding area.

The beach is also a popular spot for volleyball, with many sand courts available on both sides of the pier. When conditions are right, Cowell Beach is also a great spot for surfing – it’s known as a beginner’s wave.

If you’re new to surfing, there are plenty of lessons and rentals available. The perfect surf spot between Point Santa Cruz and Cowell Beach is known as Steamer Lane. And even if you’re not interested in surfing, the beach is still a great place to relax or go for a swim. Whether you’re looking to relax on the sand or catch some waves, Cowell Beach is the perfect place to do it.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Cowell Beach is in the summer. From June to August, the weather is warm and sunny, making it the perfect time to enjoy all that the beach has to offer. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, early morning or late afternoon are the best times to visit.

Nearby Hotels and Restaurants

If you’re looking for a place to stay near Cowell Beach, the Dream Inn Santa Cruz is a great option. Located right on the beach, the Dream Inn offers stunning views of Santa Cruz and the surrounding area. The inn also has its own restaurant, called Aquarius, which offers fresh, local seafood. For coffee or a quick bite, Café Cruz is located just across the street from the beach. Whether you’re looking to stay near the beach or just grab a quick snack, there are plenty of options nearby.

3. Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf

The Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf is a must-visit for any Santa Cruz vacation. Stretching out into the bay, the wharf offers stunning views of the ocean and plenty of opportunities for fishing, whale watching, and simply enjoying the fresh sea air.

Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf is a Santa Cruz landmark. The wharf was built in 1914 and is Santa Cruz’s oldest working pier. Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf is home to shops, restaurants, and a variety of businesses. Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf is also a popular tourist destination for beach lovers.

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Best Time to Visit

Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf is open year-round, making it the perfect destination for a day trip no matter what time of year it is.

Nearby Hotels and Restaurants

Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf is a popular tourist destination for its shops, restaurants, and views of the bay. Stagnaro Bros. is one of the best seafood restaurants on the pier, with fresh fish and classic dishes like fish and chips.

4. Seacliff State Beach

Seacliff State Beach is known for its unique concrete shipwreck, the SS Palo Alto. The beach is also a great place to go fishing, swimming, or just enjoy a scenic walk along the coast.

Seacliff State Beach is one of Santa Cruz’s most popular beaches, thanks to its beautiful setting and amenities. The wide beach is great for families with kids, and there are RV spots available. Dogs are welcome as long as they’re on a leash. Offshore, you can see the remains of a large, sunken ship that has become home to pelicans and other wildlife. Seals, dolphins, and whales are not uncommon sightings in the area.

Parking Fee

There is a $10 park fee per car, but you can save your money by parking outside and walking in.

Nearby Hotels and Restaurants

The Santa Cruz Dream Inn: This cozy beachfront resort is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the Santa Cruz coastline.

The Crow’s Nest: This iconic Santa Cruz restaurant and bar overlooks Seacliff State Beach and offers stunning views of the coastline.

Harbor Cafe: This café is located in Santa Cruz’s historic harbor and offers a variety of seafood and American dishes.

Cafe Mare: This café is located in Santa Cruz’s historic downtown area and offers a variety of Italian dishes.

5. Natural Bridges State Beach

Natural Bridges State Beach is home to one of Santa Cruz’s most iconic landmarks, the Natural Bridges. The bridges are a result of millions of years of erosion and make for a beautiful sight whether you’re looking at them from the beach or from above on one of Santa Cruz’s many hiking trails.

6. Twin Lakes State Beach

Twin Lakes State Beach is the perfect spot for a quiet day by the ocean. With two secluded coves, the beach feels like a hidden gem, even though it’s only a short drive from Santa Cruz’s downtown area.

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7. Lighthouse Field State Beach

Lighthouse Field State Beach is one of Santa Cruz’s busiest beaches. Located next to Santa Cruz’s famous surf spots, the beach is popular with surfers, sunbathers, and picnickers alike.

8. The Boardwalk

Santa Cruz’s legendary Boardwalk is a must-visit for any Santa Cruz vacation. With rides, games, and food stands, the Boardwalk has something for everyone. And of course, no visit to Santa Cruz would be complete without taking a ride on the Giant Dipper, one of California’s most iconic roller coasters.

9. Capitola Beach

Capitola Beach is a favorite spot for swimming, sunbathing, and simply taking in the stunning views. Located in the charming town of Capitola-By-The-Sea, the beach is also a great place to grab a bite to eat or do some shopping in-between visits to the sand and surf.

10. New Brighton State Beach

New Brighton State Beach is one of Santa Cruz’s most popular camping spots. With miles of beaches to explore, it’s the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of Santa Cruz’s downtown area and enjoy some peace and quiet.


Santa Cruz is home to some of the best beaches in California. Surfers will love catching waves at famous spots like Pleasure Point and Steamer Lane, while families can enjoy the calm waters of Cowell’s Beach. Nature lovers can explore the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf or take a hike through one of the area’s many redwood forests.

Santa Cruz redwoods In addition to its beaches, Santa Cruz is also home to a number of redwood forests. These forests are perfect for hiking, picnicking, or just enjoying the peace and quiet of nature.

With its warm water, ample waves, and beautiful setting, Santa Cruz is the perfect place to enjoy a day at the beach. Santa Cruz also has a number of smaller, more secluded beaches if you’re looking for a place to relax. Whether you’re visiting Santa Cruz for the first time or you’re a local, be sure to check out these 10 Santa Cruz beaches.