Things to do in Santa Cruz
A classic central California beach town
The counterculture slogan of “Keep Santa Cruz Weird” still holds sway in this central California beach town, where hippy artists mingle with university types and true West Coast surfers. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk draws visitors with seaside games and rides, while West Cliff Drive walking and bike path curves along a classic California coastline with coves and cypress trees. Don't let the chill demeanor fool you—in Santa Cruz, you can spend the day on the beach and later slip into something stylish for nightlife, art galleries, and fine dining.
Top 2 attractions in Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Roaring Camp Railroads
Explore Santa Cruz by interest
Top activities in Santa Cruz
Beginner Surf Lesson in Santa Cruz
Private transfer from SFO to Santa Cruz
Mermaid Experience & Photoshoot
Private transfer from Santa Cruz to SFO
Capitola Watercolor Journaling Experience
Santa Cruz, California Scavenger Hunt
Capitola Private 2-Hour Walking Tour
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All about Santa Cruz
When to visit
The best time to visit Santa Cruz is from late Sep. through Oct. Most tourists disperse in late summer and early fall, leaving more breathing room on beaches, hiking trails, and the pedestrian-friendly downtown, which can get packed on sunny days. If you can brave the crowds, summer offers first-rate beach weather and festivals dedicated to surfing, music, harvests, and Shakespeare.
The boardwalk, main beach, and downtown along Pacific Avenue are within walking distance of one another. It takes 15–20 minutes to walk from downtown to the boardwalk and the start of West Cliff Drive. Santa Cruz Metro runs bus routes from the metro center around town and out to San Jose. Getting to Natural Bridges State Park, the university campus, or Capitola is much easier by car, though ride or bike shares are also options.
While most day-trippers stay within the boardwalk-beach-downtown nexus, consider exploring farther afield. Hardcore surfers favor Four Mile and Three Mile beaches off Highway 1 north of Natural Bridges, while Pleasure Point, Capitola, and New Brighton are great for lazy beach days south of town. The University of California, Santa Cruz campus is set in a beautiful redwood forest and has an arboretum and botanical garden worth visiting.