With kid-friendly attractions such as the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Roaring Camp Railroads plus miles of sandy beaches, it’s little wonder Santa Cruz County is favorite destination for families. And while all hotels welcome kiddos, some go the extra mile to delight the smallest members of your party. We’re talking big perks for little people. Offering everything from giant bouncy platforms to s’mores parties on the beach, here are the top kid-friendly hotels in Santa Cruz County.
While Beach Street Inn offers families a variety of convenient room options—multiple bedroom suites, murphy beds with chalkboard exteriors—it’s what lies outside the front door that will thrill little ones. The 48-room inn is situated at the heart of Santa Cruz’s beachfront action, a few steps from Main Beach and the Santa Cruz Wharf. Better yet, the rides, arcades and irresistible sweets of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk are less than a 5-minute stroll away. If that’s too far to walk for a treat, the inn sits directly above The Picnic Basket which scoops up ice cream from the Penny Ice Creamery alongside its menu of healthy takes on kid-friendly classics such as hot dogs and grilled cheese sammies. Plus, little ones can pop into the lobby office for fresh bags of popcorn and cups of hot cocoa and marshmallows. Afterward, work off that sugar rush at the spiffy new pool deck with a warming fire pit.
This all-suite, beachfront resort perched on scenic coastal bluffs is a hit with all ages, but a few amenities will especially appeal to families. In addition to condo-like suites with full kitchens and outdoor BBQ grills, the resort features three swimming pools, and a short path down to the beach. When parents need some downtime, they can enroll kiddos at Camp Seascape which offers engaging activities including swimming, arts & crafts, and onsite nature hikes. The resort’s signature restaurant Sanderlings has kids covered with mac n’ cheese and chicken tenders, yet it’s the evening s’mores bonfires that will melt their hearts. For an additional fee, Seascape staff will set up a private beach bonfire for your family complete with all the fixings, beach chairs, and blankets.
If you handed your kids a notebook, and asked them to design their perfect overnight experience, they’d likely sketch something akin to the KOA. Situated near Manresa State Beach, this amenity-packed, outdoor resort transcends the usual campground with an option to bed down in comfy cabins and retro-sleek Airsteams. Plus, in addition to the hotel-style amenities such as a swimming pool and hot tub, the KOA features a theme-park’s worth of attractions for kids including a massive jumping platform, palm-tree shaped climbing wall, a mini train, and a buzzing arcade. When—and if—your kids tire of zapping zombies, they can run free at an outdoor playground, toss horseshoes, or practice their free throws at the basketball courts. The fun doesn’t stop once the sun goes down thanks to evening activities such as outdoor movies and s’mores and story-filled programming at the Campfire Theater.
With colorful retro vibes, the Dream Inn exudes timeless beachfront fun. It sits steps from the Boardwalk and Wharf, yet on warm days, the expansive pool deck overlooking Cowell Beach is the place to be. Kiddos can splash about the year-round heated swimming pool, while parents take five on shaded loungers or cabana beds. When little tummies rumble, the Shorebreak Drink + Dine poolside bar dishes up kid faves such as crispy chicken tenders and a Coney Island hot dog. And, their cooler filled with Marianne’s chocolate-dipped ice cream bars and sandwiches isn’t just limited to kids! Best of all, those views don’t end at the pool. Every room features a commanding, front-row view of Monterey Bay.
At this beachfront resort, families can spread out in a roomy vacation rental steps from the sand. Choose from a wide range of accommodations, from architecturally striking modern homes to beach cottage-like condos. The shared living spaces and full kitchens are a boon for vacationing families, and an onsite store stocks groceries and beach essentials in case you forget the sand shovel at home. Yet, Pajaro’s biggest draw is the wide, gorgeous stretch of sand located right out your front door. And, immediately adjacent, Sunset State Beach offers a summer Junior Rangers Program where kids can earn badges after completing a fun booklet of insightful, nature-based activities on the beach. When the sun dips, snag one of the fire pits dotted along the shore for beach bonfire—pick up s’mores fixings at Pajaro’s store—or feel free to bring your own Smokey Joe-style grill from home.
While kids will dig the five spots listed above, the fun doesn’t end when you check out. Pop on our site for scores of other family-friendly activities in Santa Cruz County.
Updated August 2020