This is what happy looks like. A salty, sandy, wet dog on the beach in Santa Cruz! Don’t leave your pooch behind on your next coastal getaway – check out this quick guide to some of the best beach spots for you AND your 4-legged friend.
LIGHTHOUSE FIELD STATE BEACH, AKA, ITS BEACH, SANTA CRUZ
Dogs are allowed on leash on the first beach north from the Lighthouse on West Cliff Drive. Convenient stair access takes you from the cliffs down to the secluded, yet roomy Its Beach.
Insider Info: This beach is pretty much dog-central and is known by many as the “dog beach” in Santa Cruz. Being on West Cliff Drive you’ve also got easy access to miles of coastal cliffs that you and your pooch will love.
MITCHELL’S COVE BEACH, SANTA CRUZ
Dogs are allowed off-leash before 10am and after 4pm at Mitchell’s Cove. The beach is located near West Cliff Drive and Almar Avenue. Stairs take you down from the cliffs to the sand.
Insider Tip: Watch the tides and surf to make sure there is adequate beach for your pooch to roam.
MANRESA STATE BEACH, WATSONVILLE
Take the San Andreas Road exit off Highway 1 and follow San Andreas Road to Manresa State Beach. (Please note: Dogs are only allowed at Manresa State Beach up the coast of the Uplands campground and must be leashed.)
Insider Info: Lots of sand and big bay views, this is a great spot for long walks and lots of surf to tromp in.
NEW BRIGHTON STATE BEACH, CAPITOLA
Dogs are allowed on leash on New Brighton State Beach. Take the Park Avenue exit off of Highway 1. Head toward the ocean. Turn left on McGregor Drive and right into the park.
Insider Info: Perfect beach for the all-day affair. Picnic, restrooms, showers and even campsites available.
PALM STATE BEACH, WATSONVILLE
Leashed dogs are allowed between the beachfront Pajaro Dunes condos and houses, but not up the coast or down the coast from residences. Go past Manresa State Beach on San Andreas Road and continue past Sunset State Beach. Turn right on Beach Road toward the ocean to find Palm State Beach.
Insider Info: Another big bay view spot. An area where lots of wildlife like to roam and swim so watch for some live entertainment from the sand.
SEABRIGHT STATE BEACH, SANTA CRUZ
Dogs are allowed on leash on the north side of the Santa Cruz Harbor at 7th Avenue. Seabright has a ton of sand so there are lots of spots for you and your crew to post up. Views of the Harbor, Walton Lighthouse, and Wharf area make this spot a local and visitor favorite.
Insider Tip: Stop at Aldo’s in the Harbor for some breakfast or brunch eats and enjoy the Harbor and ocean views on the pet-friendly patio.
SEACLIFF AND RIO DEL MAR STATE BEACHES, APTOS
Another spot perfect for the all-day beach trip. Lots of beach to roam and coastal paths available on Seacliff and Rio Del Mar State Beaches. Take the State Park Drive exit off of Highway 1 and head toward the ocean.
Insider Tip: Stop by Cafe Rio, Flats Bistro, or the Pixie Deli for some pup-friendly patio dining.
TWIN LAKES STATE BEACH, SANTA CRUZ
Dogs are allowed on a leash on the east side of the Santa Cruz Harbor. Twin Lakes State Beach offers lots of beach and is within walking distance of shops and restaurants.
Insider Tip: Take your beach day into a beach evening and use the fire pits available. We’re pretty sure your dog won’t mind a hot dog for dinner either.
SUNNY COVE BEACH, SANTA CRUZ
This local favorite is exactly what its truth-in-advertising name suggests: a gorgeous sunny cove that’s sheltered by coastal cliffs and obscured from the nearby road. You’ll catch locals frolicking amidst the surf and sunning themselves on the large sandy expanse. Extend your stay by snagging a cottage at Ocean Echo Inn which sits at the entrance to the cove.
Please note that leashes must be a maximum of 6-feet and dogs cannot be left unattended. Also, always remember to pack your trash – that includes anything your pooch leaves behind if you catch my drift…Happy trails to you and your pup!
Updated September 2021