Travel Blog

Classically Santa Cruz: 10+ Things You Can Do on Your Next Trip to Santa Cruz County

The gorgeous Monterey Bay, refreshing redwood forests, miles of hiking trails, and many of your favorite eateries and shops are waiting to say, “Welcome to Santa Cruz!” With that, like so many places, there have been some changes, added restrictions, and guidelines that travelers must be aware of. Read What You Need to Know to Visit Santa Cruz for a safety guidelines and restrictions including face masks, physical distancing, and best practices. And to protect yourself and others, please take the Safety Pledge before your visit.

So, what does your next trip to Santa Cruz County look like? Let’s dive into 10+ classically Santa Cruz things that you can still do on your next visit!

Photo by @hello.sarahanne

#1: THE BEACH

The beaches in Santa Cruz County are now open. With 29 miles of coastline, folks can find a spot to enjoy the Monterey Bay responsibly and safely. Please remember to keep social distance, wear a mask in public areas and when physical distancing cannot be kept, pack your trash, and be respectful of others enjoying the beauty of Santa Cruz County. Safety must remain the top priority for the Santa Cruz County community and its visitors. Please pass on a beach day if the beach looks too crowded to keep physical distancing. Stay safe and please enjoy the beauty of the Santa Cruz County coast responsibly.

#2: REDWOOD RESTORE

Explore miles upon miles of redwood forests at Nisene Marks, Henry Cowell, Big Basin, and Wilder Ranch. Masks must be worn while paying the $10 parking fee, in public areas, and when social distancing cannot be kept on the trail. Click here to learn more about California State Parks and COVID.

#3: SURF’S UP

Whether you’re a seasoned (salty) surfer or a hang ten newbie, get out in the Monterey Bay and take to the waves. Surf lessons are available or you can opt for surfboard, stand-up paddle board, or boogie board rentals. And if you’d rather watch from the shore, that’s okay too.

Photo by @lindsayortezphotography

#4: SANTA CRUZ EATS

Ocean view dining, string lit patios, carryout, and delivery are available throughout the county. The City of Santa Cruz has even given restaurants permission to expand their outdoor seating to help with safe reopening efforts. See our list of restaurants that are open for business and safely serving locals and visitors.

Photo by @whitingsfoods

#5: BOARDWALK TREAT

Yes, your favorite Boardwalk treat is possible this summer! We’re still eagerly awaiting our first Giant Dipper ride of the season, but the Boardwalk’s Neptune’s Kingdom, Mini Golf, select Boardwalk games, Boardwalk Bowl and a variety of food concessions and retail locations are open for business. So, as you wait for those rides to open, enjoy a classic dipped cone, corn dog, or some Dippin’ Dots by the bay! The Boardwalk has a dedicated page for operation updates, so please take a look.

Photo by @seanmiser

#6: WATERFRONT WALKS

From East Cliff to West Cliff, a walk on the coastal paths will forever be a must-do on your trip to Santa Cruz County! Don’t miss out on the gorgeous sunsets, sparkling waves, surf watching and stunning vistas of the Monterey Bay. Need more inspiration? Check out our picks for the Top 5 Waterfront Walks in Santa Cruz County.

Photo by @farmer_rose

#7: WATER ACTIVITIES

Need to rent some equipment to get in the Bay? Kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, surf boards, and lessons are all becoming available. At the Santa Cruz Harbor, check in with SUP Shack which is open for rentals and purchases. In the Capitola Village, Capitola Beach Company is renting equipment daily and offering surf and SUP lessons. If you’re looking to sit back and relax as you tour the Monterey Bay, hop aboard Chardonnay Sailing Charters. Check our website for other water activity rentals, lessons, and experiences and be sure to check in with individual businesses for hours, operating status, and to make your reservations.

#8: RIDE THE TRAIN AT ROARING CAMP

Trains at Roaring Camp Railroads are now leaving the station! Take a classic ride through California’s towering redwood trees, or come July 7th, take an open-air excursion along a scenic river gorge through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park to the beach of Santa Cruz. Please read the Roaring Camp website for complete information on safety protocols and procedures such as face covering requirements, social distancing, advanced reservations, and much more.

#9: PEER AT THE PIER

The Santa Cruz Wharf, Capitola Wharf, and pier at Seacliff State Beach are open and have stunning views of the Monterey Bay. Whether you’re casting a line (no fishing permit required when fishing off a pier), dining over the water, or watching the seal lions’ aquatic acrobatics, a little time over the ocean will be a peaceful escape. Get more info on the piers of Santa Cruz County.

Photo by @etna_backtobasics

#10: SHOP – SANTA CRUZ STYLE

Who doesn’t love getting a little something special from Santa Cruz? Whether it’s surf apparel at O’Neill Surf Shop, some special treasures from the Craft Gallery or Annieglass, stylish succulents from Dig Gardens, or everyone’s favorite apple juice from Martinelli’s Company Store, many shops in the county are open. Please note, masks and social distancing are required in all businesses. Also be aware of individual businesses’ safety guidelines.

Photo of Chaminade Resort & Spa

#11: RESORT REFRESH

Sometimes feeling the total relaxation of Santa Cruz County can be experienced solely from the comfort of your hotel, resort, vacation rental, or B&B. From the newly renovated Chaminade Resort & Spa to Seascape Beach Resort perched over the Monterey Bay, explore the many lodging options around the county.

#12: DRINK LOCAL

Breweries, wineries and many eateries serving local beverages and spirits are reopening, almost daily. Enjoy a crisp cold organic beer at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing and local wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains.

#13: SCENIC DRIVE

Sometimes the best way to see the expansive, diverse beauty of Santa Cruz County is by taking a scenic drive. Take Highway 1 North and see the rugged coast of Davenport or head into the redwood forest in the San Lorenzo Valley on Highway 9. If you’re looking to hop out of the car to stretch your legs or grab a bite – check out four of our favorite Explore + Eat Day Trips.

We hope you enjoy this list of classically Santa Cruz things to do! We ask that anyone visiting Santa Cruz County respect our local health ordinances, pack your trash, and help keep our community safe and beautiful!

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