San Francisco Bridge Birdseye

7 Awesome Things To Do In Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz is one of our favourite places in California, and coincidentally the first place we stopped on our US road trip.

It’s a surfing town with a relaxed feel and a bohemian vibe, a cool town centre and lots of beach and hiking opportunities nearby. 

This town ticks all our boxes, as we love the beach and love to hike!

7 Awesome Things To Do In Santa Cruz

1. The Boardwalk

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has been in operation since 1907, and is one of the many great things to see in this small beachside town.  It’s home to two historic landmarks, the 1924 Giant Dipper, and the 1911 Looff Carousel.  The Giant Dipper, a wooden rail coaster, travels at 47 MPH over half a mile of track, and the Looff Carousel, the boardwalks oldest ride has 73 hand carved wooden horses and two Roman chariots.  

Santa Cruz Boardwalk
Santa Cruz Boardwalk

2. The Warf

Stretched out along half a mile, the Santa Cruz Wharf is the longest wharf on the coast of the US. It is home to restaurants, shopping, water sports, fishing hire, and an array of animals like sea lions and birds, and if you’re there in the right season dolphins, whales and otters. 

Sea Lion on Santa Cruz Warf
Sea Lion on Santa Cruz Warf

3. Beaches

Santa Cruz boasts beaches for all.  In warmer weather people flock from all around to sunbath at Main Beach (adjacent to the boardwalk), and Cowell beach on either side of the wharf.  For surfers there are plenty of spots nearby depending on your level of expertise. 

Check out this great article on some of the best beaches in Santa Cruz for surfing.

Santa Cruz Beaches
Santa Cruz Beaches

4. Surf Museum

Enjoy an interesting collection of photographs and surf boards at the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum. Located at picturesque Lighthouse Point overlooking Steamer Lane, one of Santa Cruz’s well known surfing hotspots. The museum has over 100 years in surfing history, for the whole family to enjoy!

Surf Museum
Surf Museum

5. Mystery Spot

The Mystery Spot is a popular tourist attraction that opened in 1940.  Located just outside Santa Cruz, this spot has amazed people from all over the world as they appear to defy gravity thanks to some interesting illusions.   

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6. Natural Bridges and Monarch Grove

Natural Bridges State Park has lots to offer.  Apart from the beautiful scenery, you can enjoy the rock pools at low tide that reveal all the little wonders of the ocean, migrating whales, birds, seals and possibly otters.

The area is also home to Monarch Grove, which becomes home for migrating butterflies.  They usually begin arriving in October, and leave in February.

Monarch Butterflies

7. Hikes

Santa Cruz and surrounds boast many State Parks and hikes for everyone.  One of the most popular is the Skyline-to-Sea-Trail at the Big Basin Redwood State Park.  With huge old redwoods, waterfalls and views of the Pacific, this trail has something for everyone.  The Redwood Loop Trail is only 0.6 miles (almost 1km) and is wheelchair and pram accessible.  If you have half a day or even a full day, there are more difficult hikes that are not for the faint hearted at 12.5 miles (20km) and 1000ft elevation. 

Check out the parks website here for more detailed information on the hikes and their level of difficulty


Heading to any of the National Parks on the West Coast?  Check out out post on our National Parks Road Trip!

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