Santa Cruz, located 75 miles south of San Francisco, is an ideal spot for a holiday. An abundance of gorgeous hotels in Santa Cruz, along with its beautiful weather, stunning coastline, towering redwood forests, and more make it a year-round travel destination.
A burgeoning beach resort town, there are certainly no shortage of beaches to explore while vacationing here. But, which beach should you go to you on your trip?
If you want some serious beauty – and elephant seals – your best bet is Año Nuevo State Park. Here, you will find a spectacular rugged coastline and dunes. For picnics or surfing, check out Moran Lake Park. It’s a 9.2-acre park with beach access. If you’re after a gorgeous beach view, visit Pleasure Point Park; it’s known for the scenery it provides.
There’s nothing more freeing than running into the water (or just laying out) sans clothing. For those who want to take it all off, head to half-mile long Scott Creek or up to Boony Doon Beach. This spot is in a cove that shelters naked bodies from the wind.
More Than Just the Beach
If you want to get out and hike, Wilder Ranch’s Wilder Beach is the place to go. A part of a nature preserve in a historical park, there are many trails that take hikers around the coast. Natural Bridges Beach is another beach with some seriously photogenic attributes, namely its natural bridge and Monarch Butterflies which migrate every fall.
For the Family
Next to California’s oldest amusement park, the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, is Main Beach. It’s a great family spot with beach volleyball, nighttime concerts, and the amusement park to enjoy. Another family friendly beach is Palm State Beach. Bring some food and have a picnic or barbecue, plus its got on-site restrooms and outdoor showers to clean up so you don’t get your hotel room messy.
The most popular spot to engage in a game of beach volleyball is at Santa Cruz Harbor Beach. Grab a ball and head there, then pop to one of the nearby restaurants for some boat-watching. If you want to hang ten, head over to Manresa State Beach. This beach is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds; it’s also got hiking trails that wind you to the bluffs and killer views, as well as fishing spots. For those who prefer other water activities, like stand-up paddle boarding or kayaking, check out New Brighton Beach or Santa Cruz Harbor.
While staring off in the horizon on most beaches can treat you to peaks of wildlife, Pajaro Dunes is the place to go for more action. People have seen everything from dolphins to otters and even whales off of this quiet beach. For a real treat, take a walk along West Cliff Drive. It’s a three-mile walking/biking path that not only treats you to wildlife, but also incredible views of the Pacific.
Editor’s Note: This post is a part of the #CityLove Hipmunk campaign.