All Photos by Garrick Ramirez
Leave the gym card at home! With roughly 300 days of sunshine a year and a dizzying array of outdoor activities, Santa Cruz County is a virtual outdoor gym. With an active, outdoor-oriented populace, it’s little wonder Santa Cruz is the birthplace of the popular CrossFit workout. We’ve already told you where find the best treats on the Boardwalk and tap local brew, now let us share how we stay fit and work on our other six-pack.
Go Running on the Beach
With nearly 30 miles of sandy shore, it’s easy to find your perfect beach in Santa Cruz County. For runners, a string of beaches along the northeast stretch of the Monterey Bay offers miles of uninterrupted—and for barefoot runners, rock and shell-free—sand. Consider the broad, interlinked shores of Seacliff, Rio del Mar, Manresa, and Sunset State Beaches. Be sure to check tide charts to time your run at a low or receding tide to allow for plenty of wet, compact sand. If you prefer pavement, head to West Cliff Drive which features a wide, multi-use trail that meanders along miles of dazzling seashore.
Paddleboard the Monterey Bay
For a low-impact, full body exercise, give stand up paddle boarding a try. In addition to combining strength, balance, and endurance, it’s also incredibly relaxing! You’ll leave your daily stresses at the shore as you paddle out onto the soothing Monterey Bay, passing the occasional otter, dolphin, or seal. “Stand up paddle boarding is a great way to work your core,” says Matt Arthur, co-owner of Capitola Beach Company which offers rentals and classes. “Balancing atop the board and using strong effective strokes provides a full-body workout in a beautiful and relaxed setting.” For beginners, we recommend the gentle waters surrounding Capitola Beach, the Santa Cruz Harbor, and the Santa Cruz Wharf. Paddle over to our listings of the many local shops that can get you geared up and on the water like the SUP Shack, Capitola Surf & Paddle, Covewater, and others.
Bike the Coast and Redwoods
Biking our scenic shores might forever ruin you for that stationary bike at your gym. Invigorating sea air, miles of level waterfront paths, and complimentary rental bikes from hotels such as Pacific Blue Inn, Hotel Paradox, and West Cliff Inn make it an easy and rewarding exercise. At the Dream Inn, guests can choose from a fleet of dreamy blue cruisers and peddle out to West Cliff Drive which stretches right outside their lobby entrance. The more adventurous can zip through redwood forests on two wheels by connecting with The Ride Guides and Shuttle Smith Adventures will introduce you to the region’s many thrilling mountain bike trails. Too pooped from your seaside run to tackle cycling? Cruise the cruz with Current eBikes or Segway Santa Cruz Tours instead! (hey, we’ve all been there!)
Hit the Trails
Boost your Fitbit steps and your calves with a heart-pumping hike through Santa Cruz County’s wildly diverse and scenic landscape. For a breezy seaside stroll, seek out the Old Cove Landing loop trail in Wilder Ranch State Park. For a strenuous redwoods hike, try the 10-mile Berry Creek Loop which climbs 2150 feet within Big Basin Redwoods State Park, or the 11.4 mile roundtrip trek to the Sand Point overlook in The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park which features sweeping, panoramic views of Santa Cruz County. Along the way, you’ll fill your Instagram with striking imagery of breaching whales, cascading waterfalls, and mountaintop vistas.
Scale a Scenic Flight of Stairs
Nothing provides a cardio workout and good leg toning like a an old-fashioned staircase. Backed by sheer coastal bluffs, many Santa Cruz County beaches feature impressive stairways that can provide a quick, ad hoc workout. So pop in the earbuds and check out our recent story on how to keep in step with scenic Santa Cruz stairways.
Get Fit at your Hotel
Regardless of where you lay your head, chances are you’re speed-walking distance to an inspiring trail, beach, or park. Yet, with more and more properties offering in-house wellness programs, you don’t have to leave your hotel to stay in shape. Santa Cruz’s newest property features a 24/7 gym overlooking a stylish, mid-Century modern pool with touches of turquoise to sooth the soul. Hotel Paradox offers guests poolside barre classes which combine elements of yoga and pilates via stretching and strength-building exercises. At the Dream Inn, you’ll wake to sunrise salutations every Saturday morning with yoga on their breathtaking, waterfront pool deck. Chaminade Resort & Spa features over three miles of hiking trails, a state-of-the-art gym, and a Zen-influenced day spa. And you won’t miss your Zumba class at Seascape Beach Resort thanks to a complimentary sports club that offers fitness classes including yoga, barre, pilates, spinning, cardio dance, and boot camp.
Don’t throw in the gym towel just yet! There are even more ways to stay active in Santa Cruz County, from kayaking the Monterey Bay to ziplining through a redwood forest canopy. Dash over to our site to see a complete list of outdoor activities.