All Photos by Garrick Ramirez
Tucked into grass-shrouded sand dunes on the southern shores of Santa Cruz County, Pajaro Dunes Resort enjoys an especially scenic slice of the Monterey Bay. With an architecturally striking mix of vacation rentals that blend into peaceful seaside surroundings, there’s much to love about this leisurely beach community. Here are five of our favorites:
#1: The Beach
Everything at Pajaro Dunes revolves around its beautiful sandy shores. With a wide stretch of pristine sand backed by wind-rippled dunes and tufts of green seagrass, this beach is a stunner. During the summer, when a sandbar obstructs the Pajaro River, you can walk from Moss Landing to New Brighton State Beach. Along the way, watch for ivory-white sand dollars which dot the beach by the dozens.
#2: Wildlife Sanctuary
Given its setting between the wild Watsonville Slough and marine sanctuary of the Monterey Bay, it’s no wonder Pajaro Dunes teems with wildlife. You’ll spy graceful herons and egrets standing sentry at a large inland lagoon, sanderlings darting back and forth with the crashing surf, and squadrons of beautiful brown pelicans soaring overhead. Gaze out into the bay and you’re likely to see dolphins, seals, sea lions, and, when the season is right, misty plumes of passing whales.
#3: Beachfront Living
A variety of waterfront rental properties—from single family homes to townhomes to condos—offer complete immersion in the splendor of the Monterey Bay. Take your pick of unique properties that range from modest to magnificent, including a cool pagoda-like home and a luxurious house on stilts. Note that minimum night stays may apply, and can vary according to holidays and properties.
#4: Beach Bonfires!
Nothing caps the perfect beach day like a toasty evening bonfire, and Pajaro Dunes is one of a few local settings with fire rings on the beach. The coveted spots are available on a first come, first serve basis, and you can bet they start getting claimed first thing in the morning. Get your supplies from an on-site convenience store which stocks essentials like firewood, s’mores fixings, wine, beer, and soft drinks.
#5: Rec & Sports
Didn’t meet your Fitbit numbers frolicking on the beach? You can take advantage of Pajaro’s tennis courts, horseshoe pits, pickleball courts, and sand volleyball pits. There’s also a trail that spans the scenic property, passing through cypress trees and skirting the lagoon as it leads you through this stunning beachfront locale.