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The Best Surf Spots in Santa Cruz

The Best Surf Spots in Santa Cruz

Don your wetsuit, pack your surfboard, and gather the crew. It's time you headed to Santa Cruz to experience the best surfing spots.


4 min read

September 06, 2021

Santa Cruz in many ways is a surfer’s dream destination: endless miles of beaches, gentle waves and crashing swells, and a (mostly) welcoming surf culture that’ll make you feel right at home. What more can you ask for in a surf town? Grab your board and hit the road, we’re taking you on a tour of the best surf spots in Santa Cruz. If you’re a genuine surfer and respect culture and etiquette, you’ll love surfing alongside the locals at Santa Cruz’s best surf spots.

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These Are The Best Places To Surf in Santa Cruz

It's time to take things up a notch and head to Santa Cruz for an amazing surf sesh. It's time to hit the waves!


Address: 109 Beach Street, Santa Cruz

Cowell Beach is the place to go if you’re a novice surfer, or are on a Santa Cruz family vacation where the whole gang wants to take surfing lessons. Regarded as the Santa Cruz beginner surf spot, Cowell’s is known for long and gentle waves that are easy to catch. Longboarders and stand-up paddle boarders will also love the gentle waves at Cowell’s. However, because of it’s great reputation as one of the best places to surf in Santa Cruz, Cowell’s does get crowded on weekends and holidays—plan ahead accordingly.

Capitola Jetty

Address: San Jose Avenue and Esplanade Capitola, Santa Cruz

Another awesome spot to learn how to surf is the Capitola Jetty. Just to the left of the small rock jetty is where the wave here usually breaks, and when the swell is up, a nice mellow left moves swiftly in front of the jetty and the right can go on forever. All in all, Capitola is probably the best surf spot in Santa Cruz for a stress free, family-friendly environment where you can practice as a beginner surfer. Plus, there are many restaurants and shops nearby to check out, so there’s something to enjoy for every interest.

Pack your surfboards, don your wetsuit, and gather your crew. It's time to head to the beach and get your surf on.

 Four Mile

Address: 1310 Coast Road, Highway 1, Santa Cruz

Very accurately named for its locale, Four Mile beach is just four miles north of town. Surrounded by bluffs and cliffs all around, this surfing hotspot in Santa Cruz is well protected from the harsh summer winds Northern California beaches are known for. This makes Four Mile one of the best Santa Cruz beginner surf spots, with swells that range from mediocre to awesome. Don’t cross this spot off your list just yet if you’re a pro surfer, you’ll find the high crashing northwest 10-foot-and-above swells here as well.

Pleasure Point

Address: East Cliff Drive and 36th Avenue, Santa Cruz

Another well known surf spot with a good variety of waves for every level is Pleasure Point. Belonging on every surfer’s bucket list, this is one of the best surf spots in Santa Cruz, but pro surfers still flock here throughout the entire year. Due to its reputation for serving surf perfection, Pleasure Point attracts crowds; However, if you practice common courtesy and respect basic surf etiquette, you should be all right surfing at Pleasure Point regardless of your skill level. You’ll come across great varieties of longboard waves as well.

Surf's up, y'all! When is your favorite time to hit the fantastic Santa Cruz waves? We're down to surf all day, everyday. Hopefully you're on board!

 Steamer Lane

Address: West Cliff, Santa Cruz

Steamer Lane is what comes to mind when many people think of surfing in Santa Cruz. A classic surf spot in every sense, Steamer Lane offers intense, picturesque waves you have to see to believe. If you’re a novice surfer, you’re better off hitching your board in the sand and watching the pros do what they do best.

If you're an adept surfer ready to brave the waters, be mindful that Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz can become particularly perilous when the swell rises. This renowned surfing destination features four distinct reef breaks in one location—The Point, Middle Peak, The Slot, and Indicators—making it arguably the best surf spot in Santa Cruz. No matter when you visit, you'll find surfers tackling the waves, tourists admiring the action from the shore, and even a surfing museum housed in the nearby lighthouse that adds to the allure of this iconic spot.

Natural Bridges

Address: 2531 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz

Offering you both great surfing and extremely scenic views, Natural Bridges is one of the best surf spots in Santa Cruz that not many know about. Just south of the rock arches of Natural Bridges, the conditions are very similar to that of Steamer Lane, except without the crowds and occasional judgmental locals. The only problem is that Natural Bridges is more of a hit or miss spot than the other more consistent beaches on the list. However, even if you go and the waves aren’t at their best, you’ll still enjoy the beautiful locale, and paddling out and chilling in the kelp.

Ah, with terrain so gorgeous and waves so intense, honestly why wouldn't you want to ride the majestic Santa Cruz waves?

Manresa State Beach

Address: 1445 San Andres Road, Watsonville

If you don’t mind a quick drive outside of the city of Santa Cruz, you’ll love checking out the waves at Manresa State Beach about 20 minutes away. Manresa offers a combination of peaks, valleys and sandbars, and a lot of the time the waves here are gnarly, breaking left and right and all over the place. While Manresa most definitely is one of the best surf spots in Santa Cruz, if you’re not too experienced on the board, you should be extra careful of the rip currents.

30th and East Cliff

Address: East Cliff Drive and 30th Avenue, Santa Cruz

Last but not least, we have another spot avid surfers shouldn’t miss out on when visiting Santa Cruz—30th and East Cliff. Strictly reserved for the experienced surfers, 30th is where the Pleasure Point elite go to surf. The aggressive swells at the best places to surf in Santa Cruz allow for great aerial tricks and rides, and a bit of good old-fashioned showing off (hell, if we were as good at something, we’d be showing off plenty as well). Many people—toursis and beginner surfers alike—line up on the sands to watch the pro Santa Cruz surfers do their thing at the best surf spots in Santa Cruz. If you end up needing to plant your board in the sand and just spectating from the sidelines, don’t feel too bad—you certainly won’t be alone.

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