The gorgeous Monterey Bay, refreshing redwood forests, miles of hiking trails, and many of your favorite eateries and shops are waiting to say, “Welcome!” With that, like so many places, there have been some changes, added restrictions, and guidelines that everyone 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 you get out in Santa Cruz County.
So, what does a visit to Santa Cruz County look like? Or as a local, what are some fun things you can do this summer? Let’s dive into 10+ classically Santa Cruz things that you can still do this summer:
#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, 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. Please note that due to the CZU August Lightning Complex Fires, Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Fall Creek, and Rancho Del Oso are currently closed due to fire damages.
#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.
#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.
#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 a variety of food concessions and retail locations are now 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.
#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.
#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 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.
#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.
#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 – even for the locals! 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 open if they serve food and have an outdoor patio to serve. Enjoy a crisp cold organic beer at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing with their new food menu items and sip 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!
Updated September 2020