Top 5 Ways to Enjoy Summer in Santa Cruz County 

The picturesque coastal county of Santa Cruz is an irresistible summer destination where sun-kissed beaches meet breathtaking natural beauty and endless outdoor events. As the days grow longer and the temperatures rise, Santa Cruz County comes alive with a myriad of activities and attractions for every traveler and local’s desires. Whether you’re a beach lover, an adventure seeker, a nature enthusiast, or a foodie in search of culinary delights, Santa Cruz has something special in store for you this summer. So, pack your sunscreen, bring along your adventurous spirit, and get ready to dive into the wonders of Santa Cruz County!

01 | Outdoor Summer Events 

All summer long, Santa Cruz County has endless events to choose from whether you’re looking for live concerts, outdoor plays, or music festivals, there is something for everyone trying to experience the best Summer in Santa Cruz County has to offer. Choose from great events like the Nashville Nights Concert Series at the Chaminade, where visitors get serenaded overlooking sweeping views of Santa Cruz County. Every Friday night during the summer, you can celebrate with the best block party in town at Midtown Fridays where local businesses, pop-ups, and live music combine for epic celebrations all summer long! For beach and music lovers, listen to music right next to the beach every Wednesday night in Capitola with the Summer Twilight Concerts. Read here for more summer music events.

The summer also means the start of a new season of live theatre performances with Santa Cruz Shakespeare. This year’s theme is Generations, with performances of Hamlet and As You Like It, just to name a few! Another iconic summer event visitors and locals alike won’t want to miss this summer is the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. Summer also means the return of seasonal outdoor farmer’s markets like the Felton and Scotts Valley Farmer’s Markets. These seasonal markets highlight the best of Santa Cruz’s agricultural scene with fresh stone fruit and other local-grown delights. Summertime is packed to the brim with great events to experience, so don’t sleep on planning your perfect summer in Santa Cruz County!

02 | Enjoy the Beach 

The stunning coastline that stretches along the glittering Pacific Ocean offers endless beaches for everyone to find their own slice of heaven. Regardless of which beach you choose, expect to soak up the sun, play on the pristine sandy beaches, swim in the ocean, and play some beach volleyball. At Seabright State Beach, beachgoers can even have bonfires in designated fire pits which makes the perfect atmosphere for a picnic beach party. The expansive south beaches, including Pajaro Dunes, Sunset, and Manresa State Beaches, offer huge stretches of gorgeous coastline perfect for a family picnic, seashell searching, and sandy fun! You can also extend your coastal adventure by taking a stroll along the Santa Cruz Wharf, the longest wooden pier on the West Coast. Lined with shops, restaurants, and stunning ocean views, the wharf offers a delightful blend of dining and entertainment options. Enjoy a freshly caught seafood meal, browse the charming boutiques, watch the sea lions play, or simply soak up the panoramic vistas of the Monterey Bay.

03 | Hike in the Redwood Forests 

Escape the summer heat and immerse yourself in the serene beauty of one of Santa Cruz County’s many redwood forest state parks. The expansive canopy of the forests in the Santa Cruz Mountains holds in moisture and offers a cool place to enjoy the great outdoors without overheating. Many of the local redwood forests also have great rivers with perfect swimming holes, like Cable Car Beach in Henry Cowell or Barbara Day Park in Boulder Creek. Choose from the mountainous Castle Rock State Park where afternoon fog adds an enchanting and mystical atmosphere to the gorgeous forests or the expansive forest of Nisene Marks (as seen in the photo above) where fern canyons meet endless trails. The most popular redwood park, the iconic Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, is just a short drive from downtown Santa Cruz. This enthralling forest boasts towering redwood trees, peaceful hiking trails, and the soothing sounds of the San Lorenzo River. Embark on a scenic hike, have a picnic amidst nature, or even sunbathe on the shores of a meandering river. 

04 | Hit the Waves and Surf Santa Cruz 

Santa Cruz County is renowned for its world-class surfing spots, and there’s no better time to catch a wave than during the summer months. Head to Pleasure Point, located along East Cliff Drive, and join the surfers as they ride the swells. Another epic surf spot, Steamers Lane beneath West Cliff Drive and the Lighthouse is the perfect spot to hit the waves and experience the best surfing in Santa Cruz County. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner looking to take a lesson, the consistent waves and vibrant surf culture make this spot a must-visit for water enthusiasts.

If you want to get out onto the water but don’t know if surfing is for you, there are tons of great other water activities to explore! You can rent stand-up paddle boards at the harbor or kayaks to enjoy the ocean. If you’re looking for a more leisurely experience, check out the Chardonnay or O’Neill Yacht Charters to escape the heat and experience Santa Cruz from the water!

05 | Visit the Beach Boardwalk 

A visit to Santa Cruz wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the iconic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. This historic amusement park offers a delightful mix of thrilling rides, classic arcade games, and mouth-watering treats. Take a spin on the Giant Dipper roller coaster or indulge in a delicious funnel cake while enjoying the lively atmosphere of this seaside gem. During the summer, the Beach Boardwalk has free live music on the Colonnade every Thursday and free movies on the beach! Whether you’re seeking exhilarating thrills, leisurely beachside relaxation, or simply a dose of old-fashioned fun, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk offers an enchanting experience that captures the essence of a quintessential summer getaway.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Giant Dipper at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk with a line-up of great summer activities and deals relating to the centennial birthday celebration. Don’t miss out on Dipper Days, which happen every Wednesday from May 29th through August 7th, when visitors can ride the Giant Dipper for the retro price of $1 a ride. Visit on August 17th, National Roller Coaster Day, and if you’re one of the first 100 riders, you will receive a Boardwalk Souvenir Cup! 

Santa Cruz County is a summer paradise with something for everyone. From its beautiful beaches and majestic redwoods to its vibrant cultural scene and delicious local food, it’s a place that invites exploration and relaxation. So pack your sunscreen, grab your sense of adventure, and get ready to make unforgettable summer memories in Santa Cruz County.