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Santa Cruz (California)

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For our bohemian friends passing through (keep Santa Cruz Weird!), sleeping on city beaches cannot be recommended. Try the more chill beaches along the cliffs northwest of town, or along the sandy banks of the San Lorenzo, upriver in the gorge, along Highway 9.   
For our bohemian friends passing through (keep Santa Cruz Weird!), sleeping on city beaches cannot be recommended. Try the more chill beaches along the cliffs northwest of town, or along the sandy banks of the San Lorenzo, upriver in the gorge, along Highway 9.   
* '''New Brighton State Park''', [']. Camping, south of Capitola (the town directly south of Santa Cruz), with some cheaper, primitive sites available.
* '''New Brighton State Park''', []. Just south of Santa Cruz in Capitola. campsites sit on a bluff overlooking the ocean. Very popular site and reservations are recommended far in advance.
* '''Butano State Park''', []. Just north of Santa Cruz, Butano is a nice park among giant old growth and second growth redwood trees. Close to HWY 1, this spot is an ideal location for travelers plying the San Francisco to Monterrey route. Not recommended for large RVs and trailers over 24'.
* '''Butano State Park''', []. Just north of Santa Cruz, Butano is a nice park among giant old growth and second growth redwood trees. Close to HWY 1, this spot is an ideal location for travelers plying the San Francisco to Monterrey route. Not recommended for large RVs and trailers over 24'.
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* '''Manresa Uplands State Beach (Formally called Sand Dollar)''', []. Walk-in camp sites along a bluff overlooking the ocean. Closed winters.
* '''Manresa Uplands State Beach (Formally called Sand Dollar)''', []. Walk-in camp sites along a bluff overlooking the ocean. Closed winters.
* '''Sunset State Beach []. South of Santa Cruz near Watsonville. Campsites on a bluff overlooking the ocean. Reservations recommended far in advance.
* '''Castle Rock State Park''', []. Backpacking sites only about three miles from the parking lot.  
* '''Castle Rock State Park''', []. Backpacking sites only about three miles from the parking lot.  

Revision as of 01:20, 16 November 2011

Santa Cruz [12] is a small coastal city (population about 55,000) in Santa Cruz County, on the north end of Monterey Bay in California, about forty miles south of San Jose. While it gained some tech jobs during the boom, it is still best known as a countercultural hub, with fun weekend tourist attractions like the Beach Amusement Park and Boardwalk and the Mystery Spot, and its prestigious University of California campus. The relaxed bohemian beach lifestyle, well known to the area, is supplemented by a vibrant university culture. The University of California Santa Cruz is regarded as one of the premier centres of higher learning in the nation. It is especially well known for its strong emphasis on the arts and humanities, which blends well with the bohemian feel and youthful vibe to the wider community. The sunny climate in Santa Cruz and the surrounding area is often described by meterorologists as "idyllic."

Get in

Highway 17 south from San Jose is the most direct route when driving from the more populated parts of the Bay Area. It is a winding road over the mountains, shared during the week with heavy gravel trucks, so heed the speed limits; accidents are common, but the road is much safer since the addition of concrete barriers some years ago. Beware of possible fog, as well as "hurried" drivers.

To merge from Highway 17 to Highway 1, in Santa Cruz, to continue south you must merge three times on the dreaded "fish hook". This causes the beginning of the dreaded commute from "over the hill" to the coast for many. Traffic usually lasts from 1500 until 1800, Monday through Friday, from just south of 41st Ave. on Highway 1, spilling back onto Highway 17 going south.

A much more beautiful, but slower, approach to Santa Cruz is on Highway 1, either from the north, San Francisco and Pacifica (about 65 miles), or from the south, Monterey and Big Sur (about 35 miles). During stormy seasons, check for rare, but often long-term road closures, especially at Devil's Slide (although this will soon not be as much of an issue due to a new tunnel being built to bypass the problematic coastal section).

To take public transportation there is a commuter shuttle, the Highway 17 Express (Santa Cruz route 17; VTA route 970), that runs from the Caltrain station in San Jose 7 days a week, which is scheduled to transfer with certain Amtrak trains. There are also multiple lines that go south to Watsonville 7 days a week. Greyhound also runs buses to the city. All these lines go to, or near to, the Santa Cruz Metro Center, which is in the downtown area.

The nearest major airport is in San Jose (SJC), but San Francisco (SFO) and even Oakland (OAK) aren't much farther away, and sometimes have cheaper flights. The small regional airport in Monterey (MRY) has flights to major hubs (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento), but in most cases San Jose is the best choice because of the greater choice of airlines and destinations. Scheduled airport shuttles provide service every few hours to San Jose, and less often to San Francisco. Caltrain also provides a route to the San Francisco airport, through a transfer with BART in Milbrae. For private aircraft, there'a a 2,000 ft. runway about 10 miles northwest of downtown, near Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.

Get around

The main downtown strip is pedestrian friendly, and it's only a 20 minute stroll from there to the beach. Walking to the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) from downtown, is little more difficult, with bad or non-existent sidewalks and a very steep climb up to the campus.

While driving is certainly an option (there is enough parking in most places), Santa Cruz Metro [13] also provides bus service.

Especially during the summer, Santa Cruz is a wonderful town for bicycling. Cycling is often faster than cars in the summer, not to mention much more enjoyable. In and around town and up and down Highway 1 is easy, but roads in the Santa Cruz Mountains are steep and winding and will be challenging for many cyclists. Be careful. Collisions between bicycles and cars are often reported in the paper. Sadly a number pedestrian and car collisions have also happened in the downtown area.

The beaches of Santa Cruz are considered some of the most pristine areas of natural beauty in the entire Western Hempishere. A variety of conditions prevail, depending on which beach is visted, as some are more suited for swimming, while others are a surfers' paradise. The naturally beautiful beaches and the year-round summer like climate play a central role in local culture. Most visitors leave Santa Cruz utterly amazed by this small city's beauty and ambiance.


Natural Bridges State Beach.
  • Downtown Santa Cruz, [14]. Lots to see and do here all day and night. Quite a bit of "SantaCruz" character mixed with some great restaurants and lots of cool shops. Mostly it's a great people watching center. The nightlife is also worth sticking around for.
  • The Beach Boardwalk, [15]. A historical amusement park that has been around since the 1900s, the Beach Boardwalk features one of the oldest wooden rollercoasters still in use in the US as well as numerous modern attractions. Entrance is free, rides cost between $2-4 each (but less than $1 on selected summer evenings!). Day, month, and yearly passes available.
  • Mystery Spot, [16]. Take Branciforte Drive to the famous ('As Seen on TV') tourist trap, complete with anti-gravity cabin and amazing hillside of illusion.
  • Natural Bridges State Beach, [17]. Open daily, sunrise to sunset. State beach park with nature trails. Yearly monarch butterfly migration. Entrance free. Fee for parking.
  • Surf Museum, [18]. Located in the lighthouse at Lighthouse Point, West Cliff Drive. Memorabilia from the origins of surfing in California (a statue (often mistaken for?) Hawaiian Duke is a few yards from the museum) to the present day. Th-M, Noon-4PM
  • University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC), [19]. Up on the hill at the north end of town. This UC campus has a smaller student population (except for the brand new campus in Merced), with about 15,000 students. The main part of campus is spread over half of 2001 acres (8.1 square kilometers), mostly covered with redwood forests with the occasional stunning view of the bay. There is an UCSC Arboretum[20] specializing in native plants and plants from Australia. Mountain bike and hiking trails criss-cross the upper part of campus, connecting Wilder Ranch State Park[21] to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park[22] (get a trail map and a parking permit from the kiosk as you enter campus). The Bay Tree Bookstore[23] sells clothes with the UCSC mascot -- the banana slug . Keep your eyes open for the mountain lions rarely seen on campus when in undeveloped parts of campus.
  • Delaveaga Frisbee Golf Course, [24].A link to the course location The link has the details of the course. It is very challenging. Saturdays are busy, especially in the morning. The course is awesome and even if you don't play the hikes in the area are spectacular. Beware of the Poison Oak.
  • Big Basin Redwoods State Park, [25]. The oldest state park in California. If features stately redwood groves and the Skyline-to-Sea Trail. Hike from Big Basin Park headquarters to Waddell Creek State Beach.
  • Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, [26]. Just north of Santa Cruz in the mountains, it has a great nature center and little trail with old growth redwoods. Right next door is Roaring Camp Railroads[27] where you can ride either the beach train to the Boardwalk or the steam train to Bear Mountain.
  • Seymour Marine Discovery Center, [28]. Has exhibits focusing on ocean conservation and marine science, big tanks full of native species, a guided tour with a dolphin overlook area, and amazing views of Monterey Bay at sunset.
  • Año Nuevo State Park, [29]. A park 25 miles north on Hwy 1 with one of the largest populations of Elephant Seals, guided tours are available during the winter(which is breeding season). Animals are there year round.
  • Kiva Retreat House, [1]. "Kiva was created as a gathering place for people to come and reclaim their natural self. It was modeled after the Japanese Bath House and our vision of a place where people would come to cleanse and rejuvenate their minds and bodies..." A clothing optional co-ed family spa near downtown Santa Cruz with hot tubs, sauna, etc.


  • Relax and enjoy the scenery...
  • Surf. You can visit spitcast [30] to get the latest surf forecast.
  • Walk/Hike
  • Kayaking
  • Disc golf is free and fun at Delavega golf course
  • Stand Up Paddleboarding. Classes and rentals at Covewater Paddle Shop [31]
  • Mountain Biking
  • Road Biking - Road cyclists in central Santa Cruz can easily escape the big city by going out Empire Grade, taking Branciforte to either Glen Canyon or Granite Creek, or even going out Hwy 1. A little to the east, two not so steep roads are Old San Jose Road (bit trafficky / better for descending, reachable from Branciforte via Laurel Glen) or Eureka Canyon (from Corralitos). Some good connectors are Bear Creek, Smith Grade, Ice Cream Grade, Hwy 35, or even Mt. Hermon (from Granite Creek to Felton Empire). The worst traffic will be on Graham Hill or most of Hwy 9. To avoid Hwy 9 you'll need to do some climbing, but if that's you're thing then try Empire Grade, Mountain Charlie, Zayante, Felton Empire, the wonderful Jamison Creek up from Big Basin Park, or the ridiculous Alba Road. Roads in Santa Cruz can be steep, and expect most to have some extended pitches of over 10%.


Want something different than the usual tourist attractions? Santa Cruz County is home to many wonderfully talented artists, musicians, and writers. Check out some of the locals' favorite art, music, and literary events:

The Open Studios Art Tour is a program of the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County which was created in 1985 to give the public with an opportunity to collect art and to meet and learn from local Santa Cruz County artists. Approximately 275 artists open their studios (which are usually located in their homes) to the public. The tour runs for three consecutive weekends each fall. Visit the website [32] for the current schedule.

The Santa Cruz County Book Fair is family event held each spring. Meet local authors and find some great reads. Visit the website [33] for the fair's schedule.

Don't miss the annual Santa Cruz Blues Festival [34].

Santa Cruz boasts a lively Salsa dancing scene, with Salsa By The Sea a key attraction. Every Sunday year round (weather permitting), locals come to the Boardwalk to dance in the open air by the beach. Hours vary by the time of the year, but sometime in the afternoon, and always free. Other regular events are at the Vets Hall every Tuesday and the Palomar every Friday.


Santa Cruz is a beach town, with a beach to match almost any interest. Main Beach and Cowell Beach attract large crowds to the boardwalk area on sunny summer weekends. Flocks of novice surfers balance on their boards in the quiet waters just north of the municipal wharf, in front of the big hotel that locals still call the Dream Inn [35]. Volleyball nets are strung just south of the wharf. The boardwalk amusement area is adjacent to main beach. Heading north, Steamers Lane isn't a beach, but the famous surf break in front of the lighthouse. In the summer, its sometimes hard to see what the fuss is about, but the winter can bring big waves and spectators line the rail watching the surfers and the sea lions.

North of the lighthouse are a series of little pocket beaches, some that disappear entirely in the winter. The first one, It's Beach, and across the street at Lighthouse Field (see are two of the few places in town that dogs can be run off leash (before 10AM and after 4PM only) you will often dozens of dogs are chasing sticks, balls, and each other. Mitchell's Cove, just north, also allows dogs. Natural Bridges State Beach, whose famous monarch butterflies are discussed above, is a popular windsurfing beach. The name is misleading: one of the two stone bridges collapsed a few years ago. Just south of Natural Bridges is the tiny clothing-optional 2222 Beach.

Heading further north along the coast, you leave the city limits and pass through agricultural fields for 11 miles before reaching the small town of Davenport, which has a couple of restaurants, a B&B, and a huge cement plant that dominates the skyline. Each turnout along the road marks a beach, many of which are prime surf spots. Wilder Ranch State Park can be reached by a new bike path from just north of Natural Bridges. Its several nice beaches include Three Mile Beach and Four Mile Beach, named after their distances from town. The one known as Red, White, and Blue Beach, a private nude beach - is now CLOSED for good by the owner, Laguna Creek Beach (with parking on the east of highway 1), Panther and Hole-in-the-Wall Beach (connected by a passage that closes at high tide), Bonny Doon Beach (another famous clothing optional spot), and Davenport Beach. For those who want to tour the beaches, Highway 1 has wide shoulders that are generally safe for cycling.

It should be noted that the beaches North of the Boardwalk, especially those on the open ocean instead of the bay, can have huge waves and strong currents, so care should be taken in the water, even by strong swimmers.

There are lots of beaches south of Main Beach as well, but you'll need another guide for them.


Santa Cruz is also surrounded by a great number of open space parks. There are two types of parks to choose from. There are inland wooded parks, (like Henry Cowell State Park) with redwood groves, and swimming in the river and open space preserves built on the coastal hills.

Wilder Ranch is a state park sitting in the hills adjacent to the coast (just west of town on Hwy 1). It has expansive views of the Monterey Bay as well as sweeping views of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The ranch also includes many old historic building, staffed with docents to demonstrate the workings of the historic ranch.

Henry Cowell State Park is located along highway 9 just north of town. This is a heavily wooded park containing many historic redwood trees. The San Lorenzo River flows through the park forming a canyon that makes you feel you are somewhere far away. Make sure to visit Big Rock Hole; a quaint swimming hole with room to splash around and even a rope swing!

The Pogonip is located within the city boundaries adjacent to the university and accessible from Spring Street and from Highway 9 (via Golf Club). The Pogonip is an old country club which has reverted back to a fairly natural state. It sits on the side of a hill and has great views as well as great natural items. Numerous springs fill the creeks, as well as a special fish pond along the Spring Box Trail.


Shopping on Pacific Avenue includes surf shops, bookstores (especially the local landmark Bookshop Santa Cruz and the excellent used book and record store Logos), clothing, and gifts.


Some favorite bookstores, ahem Book Cafes that help make Santa Cruz what it is, are worthy of a 'book crawl' quite distinct from your pub crawl:

  • Book Shop Santa Cruz, 1520 Pacific Ave, +1 831 423-0900, [36]. 10AM-10PM daily.
  • The Literary Guillotine, 204 Locust Street, +1 831 457-1195, [37]. Open M-Sa 10AM-6PM. Two blocks from Pacific Avenue lies this little bookstore with the charming name. Has fresh burritos to the one side and Gigo hairdresser to the other. The intellectual stop on the book crawl; the Guillotine sells scholarly books and sometimes acts as an informal secondary bookstore for UCSC.
  • Logos, 1117 Pacific Ave, +1 831 427-5100, fax +1 831 427-5107, [38]. Huge inventory of new and used books, tapes, CDs.
  • Gateways Books and Gifts, 1126 Soquel Ave, (Between Ocean and Seabright on Soquel near the Rio theatre), +1 831 429-9600, [39]. A whole world of inspiration. One of the worlds best metaphysical bookstores including support goods for all the worlds traditions. Yoga mats to incense and candles.

Clothing Stores


  • Asian Rose Cafe, 514 Front St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, (831) 423-7906. Vegan Californian/Sri Lankan food. $1-5 depending on the number of items; much friendlier and laid-back Santa Cruzian scene. In the evening, this same restaurant goes by the name Malabar.
  • Malabar, 514 Front St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, (831) 423-7906. Excellent curried mangos and Kofta Joe. The service can be surly, but don't worry about it. Eat and be happy. Sunday night dinner is a fixed menu consisting of naan, salad, various curries and rice (in small amounts) and a dessert; however, the price is determined by what you think it is worth. Only have $5? It's okay. Feel like it's worth $20, that works too.
  • Chaminade Resort & Spa, One Chaminade Lane, 800-283-6569, [2]. Two amazing restaurants featuring menus using only the freshest produce from local farms. If you're in town on a Sunday, Chaminade's Sunset Restaurant has an award-winning Sunday morning Champagne brunch. Happy hour is every Tuesday-Thursday, 4:00-6:00pm.
  • Charlie Hong Kong, 1141 Soquel Ave. An oddly small colorful building which contains a restaurant of decent inauthentic Thai/Vietnamese fusion. There is half-outdoor seating complete with heat lamps, foliage, and colorful decorative lighting. Very vegan/vegetarian friendly. $4-6 for standard entree.[40]
  • Costa Brava, 1222 Pacific and 505 Seabright. Mexican and South American flavors. Reasonable prices for a nice atmosphere and good service.
  • Crow's Nest, 2218 East Cliff Dr, 831 476-4560. Steak and seafood restaurant. Ocean view and full bar that's a favorite of locals. In the top three annually for "best happy hour" award from the local weekly paper.
  • El Palomar, 1336 Pacific Ave, 831 425-7575, [41]. Open every day for lunch and dinner. Reservations are taken only for large parties on weeknights, and the wait can be very long on weekends. Great Mexican food in dramatic dining room, but not cheap. Brighter cantina in back is a good lunch spot that becomes a bar at night, serves some of the best tacos in town for $2.50 a pop and has specials on Tuesday nights. Lots of seafood specialties. Homemade tortillas are excellent, as are the margaritas. Strolling guitar players some evenings. Kid friendly. Typical entrees $10-$16.
  • Felton Chinese Food [42], 6112 Highway 9, (831) 335-3430. Authentic Chinese cuisine. Menu includes all your favorite classics, daily specials, take-out, lunch specials, vegetarian entrees, as well as new and unique "local" creations. Open 7 days a week, 11AM to 9PM.
  • Jalapeños Taqueria, 206 Laurel St "and" 1201 Soquel Ave, 831 457-0159. Mexican fast food. Seating is very cramped at Laurel St. location, so don't plan on being able to eat there with all your family and friends. $2-$10
  • Joe's Pizza & Subs, 841 N Branciforte Ave, 831 426-5955. A dizzying array of affordable sandwiches, as well as New York-style pizza, calzone, soups, salads, and random Middle-Eastern foods. Especially good is the club sandwich, falfel wrap, lentil soup, onion rings, spinach calzone, and meatballs. $5-$8.
  • Kianti's, 1100 Pacific Ave, 831 469-4400. This is a great downtown Italian spot. The food is quite good, and it's a very entertaining place to eat. On weekend evenings, you may even get a fully choreographed performance by the entire staff. $8-$10.
  • Mobo Sushi Innovative sushi and jazz club. Check local listings for music.
  • Oswalds, Corner of Front and Soquel, downtown. Classy Californian cuisine using organic and fresh ingredients. $8-25. Reservations recommended on the weekend.
  • Pink Godzilla Sushi, 830 41st Ave (831-464-2586) The local's favorite and always busy, this small (but excellent) sushi house is on 41st and Portola just up from "The Hook" surfing area. Very reasonable prices, a friendly staff and great location make this a wonderful little haunt.
  • Pizza My Heart, Tasty cheap pizza by the slice or the pie, salads. $2-$5. Great Santa Cruz souvenier: slice of pizza and Pizza My Heart t-shirt for $5!! Pacific Ave. and downtown Capitola
  • Royal Taj, 270 Soquel Ave., (831)427-2400 Terrific authentic Indian food at reasonable prices makes this restaurant highly-recommended. Dining in there can be entertaining or irritating depending on your "standards." They will refill your water cup after practically every sip that you take from it, no joke. You can order for pick-up but lunch is all you can eat for about $9 if you stay
  • Saturn Café, corner Pacific and Laurel (the round building). A Santa Cruz institution. A veggie/hippy cuisine in a zany atmosphere. Much to the dismay of many a Santa Cruzian, Saturn Cafe's prices have become a little higher than the average hippy can afford. Burgers and sandwiches will run you around $8. The food is quite excellent, but the service tends to be quite slow.[43]
  • Seabreeze Cafe, 542 Seabright Ave, 831 427-9713, [44]. Still often called "Linda's" even though the personable owner sold this cafe to the her business partner Tex Hintze quite a few years ago. Often a wait on weekends but you can start your mug of coffee while you wait. Cinnamon Rolls on the weekend are a must! Best breakfast in town! Vegan-friendly, kid friendly.
  • Seabright Brewery, 519 Seabright Ave, 831 426-BREW, [45]. 11:30AM - 11:30PM daily (kitchen closes at 10PM). Updated pub grub, and fresh beer made on the premises. Salmon fish and chips, with beer battered salmon fried in Japanese bread crumbs and served with sesame-wasabi tartar sauce and teriyaki garlic chili sauce is almost too rich to eat. Lots of vegetarian food. Big patio overlooks a busy road, but is a pleasant place to head after a day at the beach. Beer and pizza specials on some weekdays. $8-$12 sandwiches and entrees.
  • Shogun, 1123 Pacific Ave, 831 469-4477. Excellent sushi restaurant in a convenient downtown location. The exceptionally fresh ingredients and talented sushi staff make this some of the best sushi available in Santa Cruz County. They offer all the traditional suhis, as well as lots of variations, some of which are veggie/vegan friendly. Of particular interest is the "korokke," a potato croquette served with tonkatsu sauce, which you won't find in many local Japanese restaurants. Sushi plates are $3-$9. Serves lunch and dinner through the week, dinner Saturdays, closed Sundays.
  • Silver Spur Restaurant, 2650 Soquel Dr, 831 475-2725. It's letting the secret out of the bag to tell you that Linda of Seabreeze Cafe fame bought this larger venue to sling her famous fabulous food. Vegan-friendly, kid-friendly.
  • Tacos Moreno, 1053 Water Street. Award-winning tacos, burritos and quesadillas. Family-owned. 10AM to 9PM. $2-5. Limited dining and parking space. A local favorite and worth a visit.
  • Taqueria Vallarta, 608 Soquel Ave. There are many taquerias in town, but this one attracts Mexican-American families, college students, and visitors from up and down the coast who come just for the huge traditional style meals. $1-$6.
  • Taqueria Santa Cruz, Two locations: 2215 Mission St. & 1002 Soquel Ave. A great taqueria with unquestionably some of the most authentic Mexican food you will find in Santa Cruz. The 49er Burrito on their menu ($6.50) is a super burrito with red sauce and cheese poured on top (like an enchillada) and is one of their specialties
  • Thai House, 353 Soquel Ave, 831 458-3546. Arguably the best Thai food experience in Santa Cruz. The food is quite good, the ambiance interesting and relaxing, and the staff always friendly. Kids will stay entertained by the two large aquariums. $6-$15.
  • Top-A-Lot Yogurt, 738 Water St, 831 426-1375. Self-serve frozen yogurt shop. The flavors are changed daily and rather than paying for a size, you pay 42 cents an ounce for all the ice cream and toppings you want. Pick from pumpkin or jasmine yogurt to cheesecake and cookie dough toppings. If you do not like the taste of frozen yogurt, this is a good place. It tastes just like soft serve ice cream. Average cup is $3-5.
  • Tortilla Flats, 4616 Soquel Dr., Soquel, CA 95073, 831 476-1754 [46]. Best Mexican Food and margaritas in town--moles to die for. weekly tapas special (monday and tuesday) and special events menus. $6-$15.
  • Vasili's, 1501 Mission St., 831 458-9808. People travel from a fair distance to sample the authentic and very tasty Greek food. $6-$15.
  • Walnut Avenue Cafe, 106 Walnut Ave., 831 457-2307. American breakfast and lunch. Fresh ingredients, friendly service, and a complete lack of trendiness. A favorite of Santa Cruz locals -- long waits on the weekends.
  • Zachary's, 819 Pacific Ave., 831 427-0646. Fantastic breakfasts featuring homemade bread French toasts, fruit salads, home fries, and more. Finishing Mike's Mess is a worthwhile challenge. Expect a line Saturday and Sunday. $1-$10
  • Zoccoli's Deli, 1534 Pacific Ave., 831 423-1711. Amazing sandwich place. It's where all the locals go. The Castroville Italian sandwich and the tiramisu are to die for.
  • Gabriella Cafe,910 Cedar St., (831) 457-1677" Amazing local, organic food and great wine list. Open W-Su for lunch:1130AM-230PM & Dinner 530PM-900PM $20-$50 [47]
  • My Thai Beach (thai food Capitola restaurant), 207 Esplanade (in the Capitola Village), (831) 464-3800, [3]. 11:30AM-10PM. Thai food restaurant serving delicious thai food on the beach.
  • Red Restaurant and Lounge, 200 Locust (Corner of Cedar and Locust), 831.425.1913, [4]. 3pm-2am. Features a plush lounge and an elegant dining room. Menu consists of happy hour bites (3pm-7pm) appetizers, sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, salads, and nightly dinner specials. Organic local produce from the downtown farmer's market provides fresh, healthy, and delicious food. Chef Bobby Madrid. Exquisite cocktails featuring an array of house-infused liquors - you don't want to be in Santa Cruz without experiencing the Red. $6-$30.


For its size, Santa Cruz has a large number of drinking establishments from Irish pubs to nightclubs. Many of the bars are located along Pacific Avenue. A serious pub crawl can be done starting at either the Asti (listing below) and ending about 7 blocks away at the Rush Inn or the other way around.

  • Verve Lounge Aptos, 7941 Soquel Dr Aptos, CA 95003, 831-662-2247, [5]. Popular neighborhood hot spot, for the young at heart, now Santa Cruz and Monterey's best Nite Club and a great venue spot with performers such as Sugar Ray, Brooke White Parachute, and Angel Taylor.

  • Zelda's on the Beach, 203 Esplanade, 831.475.4900, [6]. 7am-2am. Located on the beach with spectacular views of the Monterey Bay and Capitola wharf. Thursdays are Lobster Night. Fridays are Prime Rib Night. Live Music every Friday and Saturday nights. Patio dining, bar, restaurant, full espresso bar. Free WiFi. $$.

Pub crawl

  • 99 Bottles, 110 Walnut Ave., 831 459-9999, [48]. Get a free membership card and get a stamp for trying all 99 different beers and win a T-shirt. Good California pub food (fried calamari sandwiches, burgers, salads, etc). Good student hangout.
  • The Asti, 715 Pacific Ave., 831 423-7337. End your pub crawl here and have a photo of your bare butt added to the lovely collage on the wall. Lots of cheap beer and college students.
  • Aqua Bleu, 1108 Pacific Avenue, 831 423-6999. The swankiest bar/restaurant in town.
  • Blue Lagoon, 923 Pacific Ave, 831 423-7117, [49]. Also known as "the meat market." Has $2 drinks on Tuesdays, attracting a huge crowd of cheap drinkers. Thursday is 80s night drawing a large college crowd. Monday is Goth/Industrial night.
  • Clouds, 110 Church Street, 831 429-2000, [50]. A swanky bar downtown, well known for its martinis.
  • Poet and Patriot, 320 Cedar St, (One block off Pacific Ave) [51]. Music sessions and darts games.
  • Red Room, 1003 Cedar St., 831 426-2994. The downstairs dive to the upstairs bar, The Red, the Red Room is a hip little local joint in downtown Santa Cruz. Strong pours and a relaxed crowd, often University of California Santa Cruz students.
  • Rosie McCann's Irish Pub, 1220 Pacific Ave., 831 425-9673, [52]. Upstairs pub with all the trimmings -- lamb stew, Irish dance and music, cider and many beers on tap.
  • The Rush Inn, 113 Knight St., 831 425-9673. Friendly little place, bartenders were voted Most Friendly Bartenders 2003 in the Santa Cruz Metro weekly paper.

Coffee and Tea

  • Caffè Bene, 1101 Cedar St, 831 425-0441. Free WiFi, Excellent coffee, good pastries. Predominantly local clientele.
  • Caffè Pergolesi, 418 Cedar St, 831 426-1775, [53]. Free WiFi access. To be cool, arrive by motorcycle or Vespa.

  • Lulu Carpenter's, 1545 Pacific Ave, 831 429-9804. Free WiFi access point, small patio garden in back. Perhaps the best (vanilla) soy latte in the world. Open until midnight every night. Cute baristas, but watch out for the crazy owner.
  • Lulu's at the Octagon, 118 Cooper St, 831 429-5858. Free WiFi, in a historic octagonal brick building in front of the Museum of Art and History. Serves lots of varieties of connoisseur coffee made in a Clover vacuum press.
  • Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company, 1330 Pacific Ave, 831 459-0100, [54].
  • Seattle's Best Coffee, gourmet coffee and iced drinks, on the second floor of Borders Books in downtown Santa Cruz.
  • Starbucks, Pacific Ave.
  • Coffeetopia, 1723 Mission St, 831 425-6583 and 3701 Portola Dr, 831 477-1940. Free WiFi plus computers available. Great espresso. [55].
  • Peet's Coffee & Tea, 1409 Pacific Ave, 831 457-8170. Best soy latte. [56].
  • The Ugly Mug, 4640 Soquel Drive, 831 477-1341. Free Wi-Fi. The Mug is a FULL service coffeehouse in Soquel California. Is a third place for our customers - a place where they can socialize, study, and conduct business meetings in a warm friendly atmosphere. All local all organic. [57].
  • Verve Coffee Roasters, 816 41st Ave, 831 475-7776, [7]. Free Wi-Fi. They roast to order so you can sample far-out blends from all around the world and not have to buy the 12 oz bag just to get a taste.


  • The Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave, 831 423-1336, [58]. Large venue with bar/restaurant in the front and music venue in the back. Pool tables. Happy hour. Check local weekly papers for line-up.
  • The Kuumbwa Jazz Center, 320-02 Cedar Street, 831 427-2227, [59]. “Kuumbwa” (pronounced koo-um-ba, silent “w”), a Swahili word meaning “act of spontaneous creation.” Kuumbwa Jazz is an internationally recognized nonprofit jazz venue. Is one of the longest weekly nonprofit jazz presenters on the West Coast, established in 1975. When we aren’t presenting our own weekly jazz series, the venue is available for outside promoters to bring in acts such as bluegrass, folk, Celtic and world music. The venue is also available for special occasions such as receptions, private parties, and community events.


Santa Cruz offers everything from cheap drive-up motels along Ocean Street to cute B&Bs to one somewhat shabby high-rise hotel on the beach.

  • Adobe on Green Street Bed and Breakfast, 103 Green Street, +1 831 469-9866, [60]. Historic adobe lodging three blocks from downtown Santa Cruz, in the Mission Hill Historic District.
  • Bay Front Inn, 325 Pacific Ave., +1 831 423-8564, [61]. Centrally located. Walking distance to the Beach Boardwalk, wharf, and downtown Santa Cruz. Free high-speed Internet access.
  • Best Western All Suite Inn, 500 Ocean Street, +1 831 458-9898, Fax: +1 831 429-1903, [62].
  • Best Western Inn, 126 Plymouth Street, +1 831 425-4717, Fax: +1 831 425-0643, [63].
  • Best Western Torch Lite Inn, 500 Riverside Avenue, +1 831 426-7575, Fax: +1 831 460-1470, [64].
  • Chaminade Resort & Spa, 1 Chaminade Lane, +1 800 283-6569, [65]. 156 rooms & suites on a scenic mountain ridge, overlooking the Monterey Bay and the Santa Cruz Mountains. Offers two award-winning restaurants, a newly renovated spa, fitness center, heated outdoor swimming pool, two outdoor Jacuzzis, four lighted tennis courts, geocaching and three miles of hiking trails.
  • Coastview Inn - Santa Cruz, 301 Beach Street, Santa Cruz (CA 95060), 831-426-0420, [8]. Santa Cruz Hotel Motel Property - Coastview Inn near Beach Boardwalk
  • Comfort Inn Santa Cruz, 314 Riverside Avenue, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, 831-457-8000, [9].
  • Hinds Victorian Guest House, 529 Chestnut Street, +1 831 423-0423, [66]. Weekly European style lodging in a downtown 1888 Victorian mansion with private and shared baths. Full kitchen and laundry.
  • Inn at Pasatiempo, 555 Highway 17, +1 831 423-5000 [67].
  • Santa Cruz Dream Inn, 175 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, 831.426.4330, [10]. Santa Cruz's only beachfront hotel adjacent to the beach/Boardwalk and Wharf. Every room has a private ocean-front balcony.
  • Santa Cruz Hostel (Hostelling International), 321 Main Street (on Beach Hill), +1 831 423-8304, [11]. Two blocks from the beach, housed in some of the city's oldest and most famous dwellings (the Carmelita Cottages). Three night maximum stay.

It is illegal to sleep in your car in the city of Santa Cruz so do not get caught napping in the neighborhoods.


For our bohemian friends passing through (keep Santa Cruz Weird!), sleeping on city beaches cannot be recommended. Try the more chill beaches along the cliffs northwest of town, or along the sandy banks of the San Lorenzo, upriver in the gorge, along Highway 9.

  • New Brighton State Park, [68]. Just south of Santa Cruz in Capitola. campsites sit on a bluff overlooking the ocean. Very popular site and reservations are recommended far in advance.
  • Butano State Park, [69]. Just north of Santa Cruz, Butano is a nice park among giant old growth and second growth redwood trees. Close to HWY 1, this spot is an ideal location for travelers plying the San Francisco to Monterrey route. Not recommended for large RVs and trailers over 24'.
  • Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, [70]. Just north of Santa Cruz on HWY 9, Henry Cowell is located in giant redwoods trees. Nice enough to be a destination in and of itself but also a nice central spot to use as a base of operations for exploring Santa Cruz and surroundings.
  • Big Basin Redwoods State Park, [71]. California's first state park, Big Basin has the biggest trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains (that are easy to get to).
  • Portola Redwoods State Park, [72]. Long winding one lane mountain roads keep most people away from this park. Their loss can be your gain. Some of the biggest trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains can be found in this park in the Peters Creek area. This park is nearly always empty. Not recommended for vehicles longer than 21'.
  • Seacliff State Beach, [73]. South of Santa Cruz in Aptos, this camp site offers beach side RV camping year round. Tent camping not recommended.
  • Manresa Uplands State Beach (Formally called Sand Dollar), [74]. Walk-in camp sites along a bluff overlooking the ocean. Closed winters.
  • Sunset State Beach [75]. South of Santa Cruz near Watsonville. Campsites on a bluff overlooking the ocean. Reservations recommended far in advance.
  • Castle Rock State Park, [76]. Backpacking sites only about three miles from the parking lot.
  • The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, [77]. Backpacking sites only about 9 miles form the visitors center and 3 miles from Olive Springs Road.

Get out

Nearby cities:

Nearby towns:

For a longer trip,

  • Drive up to the mountains of Santa Cruz.
  • Drive down South along the coast of Monterey Bay to the city of Monterey.
  • Head up the coast towards San Francisco via Half Moon Bay

Routes through Santa Cruz
San FranciscoHalf Moon Bay  N noframe S  CapitolaMonterey

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