As one of California’s most famous seaside towns, Santa Cruz continues to entice visitors from around the world with its unique coastal charm and free-spirited culture. Located about 90 minutes south of San Francisco, Santa Cruz combines the best of California’s stunning beaches and eclectic towns into one accessible place. Whether you wish to explore the endless wonders of the city or use it as a starting point to places like Big Sur, Carmel, and beyond, you’ll find that Santa Cruz offers something exciting for everyone with its year-round energy and beauty!
Moorings and Rentals for Experienced Sailors and Newcomers
Santa Cruz Yacht Club
If you’re sailing into town, the Santa Cruz Harbor has great mooring rates for any duration of stay. If you travel during peak seasons (which is generally the summer months,) you may wish to make a reservation in advance. The Santa Cruz Yacht Club is another great place for sailors to arrive and have a drink with like-minded people.
If you’re coming into town to try your hand at sailing, then you’re also in luck! The Santa Cruz Harbor has a number of rentals available for all skill levels along with training courses for first timers. Santa Cruz has a great mix of gentle waves and rugged coastline, and it’s the perfect spot for those wishing to get into sailing and all its glory. Lighthall Yacht Charters is another place where you can rent a boat whether you’re trying it for the first time or simply wish to try a new vessel for a day.
Santa Cruz has a number of accommodations for any group size and for all tastes. Whether you wish to camp among the redwoods, stay in a private villa by the beach, or even wake up on a luxurious private yacht, there’s always something available for you! Due to the layout of Santa Cruz, there aren’t any rental homes available with private moorings. However, there are many bungalows or apartments right on the sand or within walking distance to charters and harbors. You can also rent a charming yacht to sleep in for the night. Depending on the listing, you may not be able to sail the yacht yourself, but these rentals offer a unique seaside experience that you won’t soon forget!
Other options include long-term rentals in private villas deeper in the woods or houses in pleasant coastal suburbs like on the hilly Aptos. Rent a hippy-style cabin or stay in an apartment by the bay for an incredible ocean view. You can also opt for a bungalow on the cliffside or a more private vacation getaway on pristine beaches like Pleasure Point. With options ranging from modern to charming and old-fashioned, you’re guaranteed to find something that fits your desires and budget!
How to Get Around
In Santa Cruz, the bicycle reigns supreme! You can rent or bring your own bike to easily get from the stunning coastline to nearly all worthwhile downtown sights. Electric bicycles are also becoming more common in the area, and they provide a great way to travel further along the coastal paths and hilly areas. However, if you wish to explore the best of Northern California’s nearby regions, you can easily rent a car from a number of local agencies including Hertz, Enterprise, Avis, and more.
Exploring the Beauty of Santa Cruz
One of the most noticeable manmade attractions is the Beach Boardwalk which is full of giant rides and games. The Big Dipper, which is a rickety wooden rollercoaster, can be seen from around the coast and in numerous films like The Lost Boys and more. In the nearby downtown district, you can walk down Pacific Avenue to find great Spanish architecture and an abundance of book shops, cafes, and wonderful restaurants.
The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum has a great collection for those inspired by the area’s trendsetting history. The Breakwater Lighthouse is always great for a photo, and there are numerous nearby state parks that feature towering redwoods like the Henry Cowell State Park. While sailing, you’ll likely see spouts
from the whales that regularly pass through the area. If you’re lucky, you may even see them breach! Other common sights include seals, otters, and even the occasional shark from a distance. But don’t worry, the Great Whites won’t bother you if you’re kayaking or surfing!
Where to Eat and Drink
Crow’s Nest Restaurant
You’ll never be hungry during your stay since Santa Cruz is full of great food, coffee, and local brews. The Crow’s Nest Restaurant is a fairly standard tourist eatery by the marina, but its interesting interior and fresh seafood menu make it worth visiting. Deeper downtown, the Surfrider Cafe offers great burgers and ultra-hopped California IPAs on tap. To complete the California stereotype, even vegans and vegetarians can get a great burger at places like the Saturn Cafe. Finally, no visit is complete without stopping at the Las Palmas Taco Bar for a quick and tasty snack.
With San Francisco to the north and Big Sur to the south, you can drive in any direction to reach world-class beauty! On the coastal Highway 1, you can reach SF in roughly 90 minutes while passing through interesting towns like the upscale Half Moon Bay (home of the famed Mavericks surf.) To the south, you can reach the acclaimed Monterey Bay Aquarium, the colorful town of Capitola, the stunning Point Lobos, and the magnificent and mountainous coastal stretch of Big Sur. Keep driving along Highway 1 once in Big Sur county to reach McWay Falls to see one of the world’s rarest waterfalls that streams directly into the ocean! On your way back, stop in Carmel by the Sea for a walk through European architecture, cobblestone streets, art galleries, and a stunning white-sand beach at the end of the road.
However, you never have to leave Santa Cruz to find something incredible to enjoy. The town is bursting full of energy, natural beauty, and a great mix of cultures. For your summer vacation, there’s no better place than Santa Cruz for sailing and experiencing the best of California’s wild nature!