Beautiful beaches with resident surfers, a lively vintage boardwalk, and a diverse community of eco-friendly outdoor lovers - you'll find a one-of-a-kind experience waiting when you live like a local in one of our Santa Cruz vacation rentals. Home to University of California Santa Cruz, neighbor to such towns as Felton, Aptos, and opposite the bay from Monterey and Pacific Grove and perched on the northern edge of Monterey Bay, this is a vibrant and totally unique destination along California's Central Coast.
Things to Do in Santa Cruz
Nowhere else will you find such a colorful city in such close proximity to ancient redwood forests and the shining sea!
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is one of the town’s main draws, offering family-friendly fun year-round. Open every day from Memorial Day Weekend until Labor Day Weekend, and most weekends throughout the rest of the year, this seaside institution (sitting right at the beach) was established in 1907 and still attracts many local and area visitors every year.
Its thrill rides, including the wooden Giant Dipper roller coaster, invoke excitement. Its Looff Carousel, built in 1911, is a National Landmark. Kids' rides, an indoor Neptune's Kingdom arcade with pirate-themed mini golf, and more will fill up your afternoon. After dusk, the amusement park lights glitter, hands are held, and the breeze draws sweethearts closer. Catch a free Friday-night concert from your favorite 80s or 90s band or watch a movie on the beach on Wednesday nights. It's a must-visit for families and friends seeking a classic California boardwalk experience.
A unique aspect of this area is its protected acres of ancient redwoods. Take a day trip into the Santa Cruz Mountains for Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and bike along their trails under the canopy of trees. In addition to the towering redwoods, you’ll come across Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, and madrone. Look out for the famous banana slug while you picnic on the banks of the San Lorenzo River, noted by its sycamore grove. Head back to your Santa Cruz vacation rental with a renewed sense of serenity.
Santa Cruz nightlife is varied and welcoming, with an eclectic downtown scene offering street performers, local boutiques, vintage stores, and dining on any cuisine you might desire (burgers, sushi, homestyle Italian, you name it). If you're more of a morning person, save your dining-out for brunch at any of the local eateries like Harbor Cafe, offering daily specials, indoor and outdoor seating, and a friendly atmosphere.
Kids and parents alike will learn a lot at the small but interesting Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History, which offers free days and educational programs hosted by local naturalists. Get inspired at the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum inside of the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse.
Just north of Santa Cruz along Highway 1 is Bonny Doon Vineyard, part of the area's nascent wine culture. If you wanted to venture further, continue on the scenic drive to the Pie Ranch, a friendly place to pick up local produce, feast on a farm-to-table dinner, take in a square dance, and of course eat pie.
Santa Cruz Beaches
While the sprawling beach in front of the popular Boardwalk is a lovely spot to sun all day, there is a great variety of shoreline terrain to visit. Watch surfers from a perch on Pleasure Point or slip into your wetsuit and join them. Moran Lake Park Beach is home to a tranquil lagoon. Bring your camera to Natural Bridges State Park and snap shutter-fast images of the Pacific carving out the unique rock formations that give this beach its name.
Any time you stay in our Santa Cruz vacation rentals, you're sure to find adventure waiting just beyond your door!
Photo credit: Mariusz S. Jurgielewicz via Shutterstock