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, restrictions, and guidelines that everyone should be aware of. Read What You Need to Know to Visit Santa Cruz for a safety guidelines 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 are some ideas for you next visit to Santa Cruz County? Or as a local, what are some fun things you can do this season? Let’s dive into 10+ classically Santa Cruz things that you can do in Santa Cruz right now:
#1: THE BEACH
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 2020 CZU August Lightning Complex Fires, Big Basin Redwoods State Park 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 al fresco dining, string lit patios, a romantic dinner out, takeout, and delivery are available throughout the county. Whether you’re looking for a dine-in spot, a place to linger while you dine al fresco, some food on the go between exploring the area, or a tasty treat to satisfy that sweet tooth, Santa Cruz County eateries are serving up all your favorites. And for those looking for the perfect patio that’s near a day of activity and fun, check out one of our latest blogs: Patios to Play: Explore Top Spots for Outdoor Eats and Post-Meal Adventures.
#5: A DAY AT THE BEACH BOARDWALK
Your favorite day at the Boardwalk is possible this season! As of April 1, 2021, select Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk rides are now open to California residents. And yes – that does include the legendary Giant Dipper! Check the Boardwalk website for more information, safety guidelines, and to reserve your day to ride! Outdoor games, bowling, mini golf, shops, eateries, and concessions are all open as well – Neptune’s Kingdom and the Casino Arcade included! Stay up-to-date with Boardwalk operations on their dedicated web page with openings, hours, and protocol information.
#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 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 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, reservations information, 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 at Dig Gardens, fresh outfits from Shoe Fetish or Pacific Trading Co., or everyone’s favorite apple juice from Martinelli’s Company Store, Santa Cruz County shops are open for business. 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 for business. 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 April 2021