17 Best Beaches in Santa Cruz, CA

You’ve come to the perfect site if you’re considering Santa Cruz for your future trip and want to know whether the city and county offer outstanding beaches.

You won’t find palm trees and cottages at Santa Cruz, but there are impressive rock formations, hidden tidal pools, boardwalks, cliffs, golden beaches, abundant animals, and grand vistas of the Californian horizon.

The greatest beaches in Santa Cruz, California, are listed here to save you the time it could take you to decide.

  1. Santa Cruz Main Beach

Santa Cruz Main Beach, sometimes referred to as Boardwalk Beach because of the famous boardwalk that runs the length of its coastline, is home to many of the top things to do in Santa Cruz.

Why We Recommend This Beach

What better place to begin our list than one of the best surfing locations on earth?

Due to its incredible surf, wildlife, tidal pools, amusement park, arcade games, and several other must-see attractions, Santa Cruz Main Beach draws tourists from all walks of life.

Expert Tip

If you park near the beach, you’ll have to pay to enter, but if you don’t mind walking a mile, you won’t have to worry about paying.

  1. Mitchell’s Cove Beach

Mitchell’s Cove Beach is tucked away among the hills at West Cliff Drive.

Why We Recommend This Beach

You chose to bring your animal companion along since you couldn’t leave them at home alone while you were on vacation in Santa Cruz.

Many pet owners go to Mitchell’s Cove for tranquility and certain dog entertainment.

Expert Tip

To be sure you can get to Mitchell’s Cove, check the tide charts before you go!

For a picnic and to appreciate the dry portions of the beach, it is recommended to go during low tide.

Only from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM must dogs be leashed.

  1. Capitola Beach

At the northernmost point of Monterey Bay, along the renowned Esplanade, is Capitola Beach.

Why We Recommend This Beach

Art lovers like the peace and vibrant hues of Capitola Beach, which makes it the ideal beach getaway for finding inspiration and getting over a creative block.

You may go kite flying, fishing, skimboarding, creating sandcastles, and more on this beach.

When you visit the surrounding village, there is a tonne to learn!

Expert Tip

Behind the beach is a nice lagoon where local birds dwell and fly past.

It would help if you looked into it as well.

Capitola Beach is the most kid-friendly beach if you bring the small ones.

The waves here are gentler than at the other great beaches, and lifeguards are on duty to keep an eye on visitors.

  1. Bonny Doon Beach

Bonny Doon is situated in a secluded natural cove surrounded by towering rock formations and beach cliffs.

Why We Recommend This Beach

The picturesque clothing-optional section of Bonny Doon Beach is located at its remote north end, perfect if you want to sunbathe in your birthday suit.

If you want to show off your beachwear, go south and take the same gorgeous beach from a different perspective.

Expert Tip

Pack lightly and take care not to trip as you make your way down the surf.

  1. Harbor Beach

A beach that residents use for its breathtaking views is located just between Twin Lakes and Santa Cruz Harbor.

Why We Recommend This Beach

Harbor Beach is filled with activity and excitement for beach bums, with volleyball courts, kayak rentals, sailboats, stores, and restaurants scattered around.

An antique lighthouse from 1964 is located opposite the entrance.

Expert Tip

Try the catamaran rides along the beach for unmatched views of the Californian landscape.

When you’ve got enough water, go shopping and eat some local cuisine in the town.

  1. Seacliff State Beach

One of Santa Cruz County’s most beautiful beaches, the idyllic Seacliff State Beach, is located near the less well-known town of Aptos.

Why We Recommend This Beach

Seacliff is, without a doubt, one of Santa Cruz’s top beaches, known for its breathtaking ocean views, RV spaces, shipwrecks, seals, dolphins, and whales.

Expert Tip

There is a lot to see at their little gift store, which they call the Seacliff ParkStore.

It has an oceanic motif and honors the sunken ship’s history and the marine life found in the seas off the shore.

  1. Seabright State Beach

Seabright State Beach, regarded as one of Santa Cruz’s busiest beaches, runs for about half a mile between Boardwalk Beach and Harbor Beach.

Why We Recommend This Beach

Numerous visitors go to Seabright Beach on weekends and throughout the summer because of the beach’s very smooth white sand, grass-covered dunes, and stunning vistas.

It is Santa Cruz’s ideal beach for swimming due to its gentle, moderate surf.

Fire rings bring squads and families together after dusk for a traditional evening around the campfire.

Expert Tip

A hidden cave may be seen at low tide along a sandstone arch extending through the San Lorenzo River and the beach.

  1. Waddell Beach

The northwesterly breezes are the main attraction at Waddell Beach, making it a haven for kiters and surfers.

Why We Recommend This Beach

Waddell Beach’s 1.5-mile length is a slice of perfection.

Fortunately, despite its mountainous backdrop and luxuriant vegetation, Waddell Beach seldom gets crowded.

Take advantage of this by exploring the paths, riding the waves, casting a line, and looking for the local wildlife.

Expert Tip

Great white sharks dine at Ao Nuevo, just up the road.

If you’re interested, you may see these sharks; they are attracted to the region by — get ready for it — colonies of breeding elephant seals.

  1. Natural Bridges State Beach

The famous natural arch in the enormous rock that is part of the beach’s shore break gave Natural Bridges State Beach its name.

Why We Recommend This Beach

Because of its more than 1,000 miles of coastline, California is known for having a wide variety of beautiful beaches.

There aren’t many Santa Cruz beaches with lagoons, flowery grasslands, monarch butterfly preserves, or colorful low-tide surprises.

All these and much more are available at Natural Bridges State Beach.

Expert Tip

The Natural Bridges State Beach is a whole other world at low tide.

Take a stroll down the beach to observe hundreds of colorful aquatic animals emerge from the ocean.

  1. Cowell’s Beach

Cowell’s Beach is only a short walk from Santa Cruz’s Main Beach and is situated west of the Municipal Wharf pier in the city’s heart.

Why We Recommend This Beach

People go to the more intimate Cowell’s Beach when Santa Cruz Main Beach becomes too busy.

The beach is framed by the Dream Inn, a lovely hotel and resort.

The beach draws novice surfers because of its gentler waves, and sea lions come in the morning and afternoon to take naps under cover of the pier.

Expert Tip

It could be challenging to find nearby parking, particularly in the summer.

If you can’t locate a place, try the parking lots along Main Beach.

  1. Lighthouse Field State Beach

Another beach near West Cliff Drive is Lighthouse Field State Beach, which houses California’s first surfing museum.

Why We Recommend This Beach

Lighthouse Beach is as pristine as they come, teeming with migrating birds, sea lions, butterflies, and hiking paths.

The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, located in the namesake lighthouse in California, is particularly well-known for being located on this beach.

Expert Tip

Some pathways lead to cliffs with stunning ocean views.

Go to Steamer Lane Supply for refreshments and snacks if you’re hungry.

  1. Twin Lakes State Beach

Twin Lakes provides a mile-long coastline near the port in the center of town and yet another beach on the lovely Monterey Bay.

Why We Recommend This Beach

Families like the fine sand at Twin Lakes State Beach for building sandcastles, flying kites and having picnics.

Schwan Lake, a freshwater lagoon close to the park on 9th Avenue, is a popular site for birdwatchers to spend hours viewing uncommon or migrating feathered companions.

Expert Tip

If you’re an adventurous beachgoer, you’ll find that the beach exposes several fascinating things when the tide goes out.

The stroll down the shore will be rather lengthy.

  1. Panther Beach

A secluded California beach hidden by golden cliffs 10 miles north of Santa Cruz is available for your exclusive use.

Why We Recommend This Beach

Panther Beach’s white sand and crystal-clear water are still because of the surrounding sandstone cliffs.

However, there is a drawback to this solitude.

Access to the beach requires a challenging climb along a steep, unmaintained route.

However, you’ll be rewarded at the bottom with one of the most private beaches close to Santa Cruz and eye-catching rock formations.

Expert Tip

Another beach that doesn’t need clothes is Panther Beach, which is shielded from view by natural rock formations.

However, the waves and currents may get too powerful for swimming, so stay close to the coast.

  1. Pleasure Point Beach

Between Pleasure Point Beach County Park and 41st Avenue County Park is Pleasure Point Beach, another well-known surf location.

Why We Recommend This Beach

Pleasure Point Park attracts many surfers because of its limitless waves, particularly at high tide.

On the other side, sunbathers and picnickers may stroll along the beach or take in the view from the top of the cliffs.

Expert Tip

Come early to get a free place and see the Pleasure Point dawn as an added treat since parking is limited.

  1. New Brighton Beach

California’s New Brighton Beach, which bears the name of a well-known seaside town in England, has been drawing tourists since the 1870s.

Why We Recommend This Beach

For beachgoers who like the great outdoors, camping areas, hiking routes, and animals may be found on New Brighton’s plant-covered cliffs.

Pets, campfires, and fishing are all permitted. You may enhance your trip during the summer by participating in a junior ranger or campfire program.

Expert Tip

Suppose you’re interested in the natural and cultural history of the Pacific Rim. In that case, New Brighton is one of the few Santa Cruz, California beaches with a visitor center with exhibits.

  1. Coast Dairies State Park

To prevent it from turning into a luxury house development, the park is presently held by the California State Parks and Recreation Department. The Coast Dairies Ranch Company once owned it.

Why We Recommend This Beach

A succession of uninhabited, undeveloped beaches may be found in Coast Dairies State Park and the Pacific Ocean’s rocky shoreline.

The whole region presently has seven miles of shoreline connecting five beaches overseen as part of Wilder Ranch State Park (one of which is Panther Beach).

Expert Tip

The 7,000 acres of coastal area in the state park provide a wealth of opportunities for exploration apart from the typical surfing and wading close to the beach.

When the tide is low, explore the tidal pools or trek the bluffs through marshes and dunes.

The surrounding rock formations offer fantastic picture opportunities.

  1. Davenport Beach

A little beach village on the Pacific coast is located about nine miles north of Santa Cruz.

This beach in Santa Cruz, California, could rank among the greatest for adventurous introverts on a tight budget.

Why We Recommend This Beach

With its intriguing history, Davenport Beach is full of surprises.

Adventurers may explore the tunnels, caverns, walking pathways, trails, and ruins, while beach bums can remain on the sand and enjoy the sun and powerful surf.

Expert Tip

The beach’s northern end has tunnels, deep rock arches, and ruins worth exploring.

In contrast, the southern portion contains cliffs, the well-known Shark Tooth Rock, eroded tunnels, a tidal pool, and a Davenport Crack structure.

Choose your Reaction!