There are few beach towns as iconic as Santa Cruz. With it’s misty redwoods forests, it’s world famous beaches and surf breaks, and it’s laid-back, hippy vibe, Santa Cruz is the ideal Northern California coastal destination.
Surfers, hikers, and all-around nature lovers flock here in droves to take advantage of all this coastal playground has to offer. Get off the beaten path and get outside, but be sure to spend a little time getting to know the quirky and artsy side of this college town as well.
Remember to check the tides while you are in town—these can drastically impact surfing areas and beach access.
Santa Cruz is just a short drive over a windy, mountain pass from the Bay Area, making it a busy and hectic rush hour commute as well as weekend escape. Time your drive over Highway 17 to avoid the most popular times you would expect to see people on the road, but know there will likely be traffic regardless.
The drive is worth it, however. Enjoy the lush pass as you make your way closer to the coast.
Take advantage of a full day in town by seeing everything from the sand to the city. Surf or walk along the beach in the morning before taking a short hike as brilliantly colored butterflies flit around you. Check out the downtown area and visit a few fun restaurants and bars in the evening before tucking in to your beachside campground.
Savor the rest of your time by checking out a legendary surfing area that offers challenging waves and a great viewing point. Check out some winding trails up in the hills above town or along a dramatic cliff side.