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Rest Easy in Santa Cruz County
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Rest Easy in Santa Cruz County

Santa Cruz County boasts 29 miles of coastline, acres of redwoods, myriad trails for avid hikers and cyclists, and kid-approved activities.

Margaret Flores

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5 min read

February 24, 2022

With its laid-back California atmosphere, historic boardwalk, and vast stretches of beautiful coastline, Santa Cruz County provides endless opportunities to plan day trips and getaways. Quell your lingering wanderlust by embarking on a fun weekend adventure to Santa Cruz with your favorite travel buddies. You don’t need to worry about crafting the perfect itinerary either, we’ve already done that for you. All that’s left to do is hit the road towards Santa Cruz County and you’ll have a memorable experience to look back on forever.

Fun Things to Do in Santa Cruz County

Situated at the northern end of the Monterey Bay, Santa Cruz County boasts 29 miles of coastline, acres of redwoods, myriad trails for avid hikers and cyclists, and kid-approved activities for the whole family.

Santa Cruz County is a mecca for surfers and sun-worshippers, but also has something for every visitor.

1. Hit the Santa Cruz Beaches

Many visitors first hit the beaches of Santa Cruz County, as the region is known for its pleasant climate, coastal scenery, and world-class surf. Capitola Beach is a smaller, more intimate option for beachgoers simply looking to lounge on the sand, while Lighthouse Field State Beach and Natural Bridges State Beach both offer options for those seeking to not only soak up the sun, but also to surf the waves, see wildlife and ocean life, and explore waterfront trails.  

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is where you'll enjoy warm sand, cool surf, hot rides, and free entertainment.

2. Check out the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

The iconic and beloved Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is another fun option for visitors who want to experience relaxation along with some thrills. With roller coasters towering above a mile-long stretch of sand, the amusement park (open only on weekends) is admission-free and offers a variety of games and rides for all ages.

3. Take the Little Ones to Santa Cruz’s Child-Friendly Spots

Family entertainment can also be found at Santa Cruz’s The Mystery Spot, where visitors can experience gravity-defying acts. Little ones will also have a blast aboard trains weaving through redwood trees at Felton’s Roaring Camp; riders can travel up to the Bear Mountain Summit on steam trains, or head down to Santa Cruz Beach in Pullman cars.

Santa Cruz County is home to majestic redwood forests, giving you a reason to go outside, play, hike, and bike.

4. Discover the Most Beautiful Santa Cruz County Parks

Nature lovers, meanwhile, should look no further than Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, which is also in Felton. Home to a 40-acre grove of ancient redwoods (the oldest of which is 277-feet high, 16-feet wide, and approximately 1,500 years old!), this 4,650-plus acre park provides visitors with opportunities for hiking, biking, horseback riding, swimming, and camping.  

5. Drive to the Charming Small Town of Watsonville

Not to be overlooked, the small town of Watsonville also features numerous recreational activities such as hiking, boating, birdwatching, and beach access. And each August, the agricultural hub hosts the Watsonville Strawberry Festival, where visitors and natives alike can enjoy live entertainment, play games, make crafts, and of course, savor all things strawberry.

Between the beach, the redwoods, and the scenic towns offering a variety of shops and restaurants, Santa Cruz County provides something for everyone.

Santa Cruz County is laced with trails that lead alongside bay waters, through idyllic farmland, and into atmospheric redwood groves.

6. Cycle Along the Best Santa Cruz Bike Trails

While surfing may have first put Santa Cruz County on the map, its biking trails are no less exciting, especially when it comes to mountain biking. Whether you’re new to the sport or you grew up shredding tracks, there’s a Santa Cruz bike trail you’ll love.

Beginners will enjoy the Emma McCrary Trail in Pogonip Park or the Old Cove Landing Trail in Wilder Ranch State Park with endless ocean views. Those looking for more of a challenge should check out the Soquel Demonstration Forest Flow Trail in Nisene Marks State Park or the four-mile Wilder Ridge Loop dotted with wildflowers.

7. Attend the Santa Cruz County Fair

If you happen to be heading to Santa Cruz in September, then you absolutely must attend the annual Santa Cruz County Fair. Days full of carnival rides, racing pigs, wild turkey stampedes, endless festival food options, and exhibition halls showcasing local talent usher in the fall season at the Santa Cruz County Fair and give you a memorable experience to cherish. 

There are plenty of nearby attractions to keep you busy and entertained for quite a while in Downtown Santa Cruz.

8. Explore the Santa Cruz Downtown

Heading to Downtown Santa Cruz is the best way to delve into the spirit and culture of the county. Known for its pleasant climate, beautiful coastal scenery, world-class surf, and entertainment options, the downtown area of Santa Cruz is an ideal destination for a one-day adventure. Stop by Mission Santa Cruz, check out the super cool museums in the area, and grab a bite at one of the delicious dining spots nearby. Many adventures await you in Santa Cruz County’s Downtown. 

9. Trek the Best Santa Cruz Hiking Trails

Hiking in Santa Cruz County is an experience you don’t want to miss. With a wide range of environments—leading to plunging waterfalls, redwood groves, and stunning ocean vistas—the Santa Cruz hiking trails are as magnificent as they come.

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is located less than 10 miles from downtown and features family-friendly hikes through ancient redwood groves. More redwood Santa Cruz hiking trails can be explored at Big Basin Redwoods State Park, which is California's oldest state park. For dramatic ocean vistas, check out the trails in Wilder Ranch State Park. And for a more difficult overnight adventure, plan to trek the 30-mile Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail linking Big Basin and Castle Rock State Parks. This hiking trail in Santa Cruz provides you with a direct connection between the mountains and the ocean.

Steamer Lane is one of the most iconic surf spots in California and the epicenter of the Santa Cruz surf scene since the 1930s.

10. See what all the Santa Cruz Surfing Hype is About

It’s hard to think about Santa Cruz without immediately remembering its surf history. In many ways, Santa Cruz County is a surfer’s dream destination. With endless miles of beautiful beaches, gentle waves and crashing swells, and a welcoming surf culture (for the most part), how can it not be?

If you’re just starting out in the world of surfing, Cowell’s and Capitola Jetty are the top surf spots in Santa Cruz County. If you’re more experienced, Steamer Lane and Pleasure Point should be your first choices. Experienced and confident in your surfing skills? Try to tackle the aggressive swells at 30th and East Cliff.

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