Sandy beach
Yes
Hike-in Required
No
Surfing
Yes
Snorkeling / SCUBA
No
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

A short, scenic drive out of Watsonville leads to the pleasant and secluded Sunset State Beach. Located on Monterey Bay, Sunset beach can offer great weather any time of year and plenty of chances to view passing wildlife. This park offers a covered group picnic area as well as a few walk-in sites. Barbecue pits and restrooms are also available. An ADA path leads down to beach level where the expansive beach accommodates all comers, so crowding is rarely an issue.

Ice plants, an invasive species common along the California Coast, cling to the cliff faces, and long-billed curlews dot the shoreline as pelicans fly over the surf. It is not uncommon to see dolphins and gray whales from the beach in spring and early summer. The fog can roll in and out at any given moment, so it's a good idea to check the weather and bring something warm.

Overall, this beach is clean and well-maintained. The private Pajaro Dunes Resort separates Sunset State Beach from Palm Beach State Park, which is another good option if you are looking for a low-use beach in Santa Cruz.

Logistics + Planning

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

State Park Fee

Pros

Expansive beach. Beautiful flowers. Great scenery.

Cons

Heavy security presence. Dirty bathrooms.

Features

ADA accessible
Fishing
Picnic tables
Covered picnic areas
Surfing
Whale watching
Wildlife
Wildlife
Bird watching

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Adventures

San Francisco Peninsula + Santa Cruz, California
San Francisco Peninsula + Santa Cruz, California
Gabilan + Southern Diablo Mountains, California

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