Located on the north end of Monterey Bay in California, is the quintessential beach town Santa Cruz! A surfer’s paradise, the town presents an interesting potpourri of stunning beaches, sublime redwoods and the finest wineries. The star attraction at Santa Cruz is the seaside amusement park, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk which attracts nearly 3 million visitors every year!
Santa Cruz History
Gaspar de Portola, a Spanish explorer stumbled upon this area on his way to Monterey in 1769. He named the river San Lorenzo after Saint Lawrence and the hills above the river ‘Santa Cruz ‘ meaning ‘holy cross’. In 1796, Captain Pere d’Albeni established the town of Villa Branciforte in honor of the Viceroy of New Spain. Later on these two towns merged together to form what is known as Santa Cruz today.
Things to do
First place to head to in Santa Cruz is the charming Downtown area. There is never a dull moment with the colorful shops, wonderful restaurants, great coffee shops and some pulsating street performances. This is also a great place to just chill out and watch people .When relaxing tires you out, move on to the mystery spot , a fun tourist ‘trap’ replete with an anti gravity cabin and a stupefying hillside illusion! The next stopover should be the Beach Boardwalk which promises to be fun unlimited with archways, recreational rides , restaurants and the historical Looff Carousel and Giant Dipper. If amusement parks don’t amuse you much, you can check out Surf Museum to familiarize yourself with the history of surfing or pay a visit to Seymour Marine Discovery Center to gain insight into the fascinating world of marine life.
Walking and biking are the best ways to get around in Santa Cruz with pedestrian-friendly streets aiding strolls and bikes making it easier to navigate through the heavy traffic. Of course, since it is a coastal city , a drive is the best way to take in the picturesque surroundings. Cruise along the Pacific Coast Highway which is an absolutely breathtaking stretch of shore and stop at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park along the way. The park offers magnificent views of the ocean, lush woods, a resplendent 80 foot waterfall that drops down from granite cliffs and a massive underwater reserve that can be explored via scuba diving!
This beach town has an astounding number of beaches to suit every purpose. The Cowell beach and the main beach attract huge crowds owing to their proximity to the Boardwalk. It’s beach and Mitchell’s Cove are the two beaches where dogs are allowed. The Natural Bridges State beach is well known for windsurfing as well as the annual migration of the exquisite monarch butterflies. Steamers Lane ,north of the main beach is a renowned surf break.
Santa Cruz is an ideal hiking destination enveloped by open spaces. A number of inland parks also make for interesting visits. Wilder ranch offers panoramic views of the Santa Cruz mountains and Monterey Bay. Henry Cowell State Park and Pogonip are great getaways with abundant natural beauty. The University of California has a resplendent campus at Santa Cruz adorned with dense redwood forests. Mountain lions are a rare sight in some of the undeveloped campus parts!
Santa Cruz has a lively art, music and literary scene. There’s an annual Blues festival, a book fair every spring where you can meet local authors, Open Studios Art Tour and Salsa by the sea! You can run out of time but not out of things to do at Santa Cruz!
Related websites and additional information:
Santa Cruz County Conference and Visitors Council
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk