Travel Blog

Your Perfect Santa Cruz County Playlist!

We all have them: those quintessential summer songs that bring us back to childhood nights or lazy lounges on a warm day. While we’ll never skip those feel-good classics, we’re paying homage to both new and old tunes reminiscent of the Good Vibrations’ that Surf City provides.

From the coastal bluffs of Davenport, to the grandeur of the redwood forests, Santa Cruz County sings its song all year long. Roll down those windows and turn up that stereo, because we’re giving you the perfect playlist for your coastal adventure!

#1 Shark Fin Cove, Davenport

This hidden gem, located on the coastal bluffs of North County boasts a rock formation in the shape of a shark’s fin. These picturesque views are stunning both day and night, providing a perfect snapshot of the Milky Way galaxy in the summer season.

Our Song Picks:

  • ‘Counting Stars’ , OneRepublic
  • ‘Shark in the Water’ , VV

Both these song are exactly what you’ll want to crank up on your next drive down Highway 1. The ethereal, magic-like production in OneRepublic’s ‘Counting Stars’ and VV’s honey-soft voice and bumping bass make for the perfect way to the start your Santa Cruz County playlist. With the Instagram feature of adding songs to stories, these jams will make for your perfect coastal aesthetic.

Photo by @hightowner_rides at Sempervirens Falls

#2 Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Boulder Creek

The Santa Cruz Mountains offer some of the most beautiful, extraordinary views of ancient redwood trees native to the Santa Cruz area. As California’a oldest state park, Big Basin provides ancient Old Growth foliage and offers a unique experience for visitors.

Our Song Picks:

  • ‘Waterfalls’, TLC
  • ‘Wilder Mind’, Mumford and Sons

While TLC warns us not to chase waterfalls, we beg the question: why not? The Semperviren Falls Trail leads hikers straight to a natural running waterfall surrounded by blooming foliage. However, if you’re more for sticking to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to, Big Basin also offers a plethora of riverside trails. ‘Wilder Mind” is a feel-good jam celebrating the beauty of taking a walk on the wild side. Perfect for the outdoor adventurer, you’ll be playing your best air guitar from the Redwood Grove to Waddell Beach.

Photo by Garrick Ramirez

#3 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz

This iconic seaside walking path of Santa Cruz County offers visitors the sights, sounds and smells of beach town bliss. With over 300 days of sunshine, Santa Cruz makes for a perfect place to run, walk, bike, blade and everything in between.

On West Cliff, you can find iconic landmarks, prime surfing locations and unbeatable ocean views. Find a spot in the grass next to the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, located inside the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse for maximum sun-soakage.

Our Song Picks:

  • ‘Who Let the Dogs Out”, Baha Men
  • ‘California Dreamin’’, The Mamas and the Papas

Dreamy coastal views and rolling morning fog provide visitors with a feeling of nostalgia while gliding down West Cliff Drive. Roll down the windows and cruise with the ocean breeze and get yourself in that Golden State of mind. Catching rays at Natural Bridges State Beach or taking a gander at the surf Mecca that is Steamer Lane are just some of the options visitors have when experiencing this 3-mile stretch of perfection. Bringing a four-legged friend? Mitchell’s Cove Beach is pooch’s paradise, serving as a melting pot for all things furry. Spend the day on this dog-friendly beach playing catch, splashing in the waves and cranking this playlist. “Who Let the Dogs Out” perfectly threads the needle of fast paced dance-hall beat and just a dog-on good time.

#4 Farms & Markets, Watsonville

Head down to South County and visit one of the largest agricultural productions on the California coast: Watsonville. Visit the Agricultural History Project, where guests can learn through rich historic and interactive exhibits the operations of daily life on a real farm.

For even more hands-on experience, pick your own apples right off the trees at Gizdich Ranch. In the summer season, wander through the fields and pick your own fresh berries.

Our picks:

  • ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’, King Harvest
  • ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’,  The Beatles

The songs of south county reflect the old fashioned feel of the farms and ranches visitors can explore. King Harvest serves the witchy autumn aesthetic with “Dancing in the Moonlight”, while the Beatles describe a U-Pick farm the way we all should: Strawberry fields forever.

X-Factor: take this show on the road with the windows down as you take in the rolling fields and beautiful scenery that is Watsonville!

#5 Capitola Village, Capitola

In the heart of Santa Cruz County lies the oldest seaside resort town. Capitola mimics that of a Mediterranean beach setting – with breezy cafes, bright colored buildings and an overall relaxed atmosphere. This serves as prime real estate for a sunset stroll along Capitola Beach.

Our Picks:

  • ‘Mr. Sandman’, The Chordettes
  • ‘Volare’, Dean Martin

For this part of Santa Cruz County, we’re paying homage to the classics! “Mr. Sandman” will keep you dreaming as you lounge the day away shopping, dining and taking in the sights of Capitola-by-the-sea.  Preserve with the magic Mediterranean vibrations that this sleepy seaside town provides by listening to an old classic: ‘Volare”. This song comes stacked with the swoons and croons of vocalist Dean Martin. ‘Fly way up to the clouds’ here with an ageless tune as the sun sets, on an evening troll down the Esplanade or while you dance the night away.  We’ll be taking a page out of The King of Cool’s book and enjoy a peace of mind in dreamy Capitola Village.

Photo by Garrick Ramirez

#6 Cement Ship, Seacliff State Beach, Aptos

See the famous SS Palo Alto, a steel-reinforced concrete ship that has lived at the end of an Aptos fishing pier since 1919. Now a century old, this iconic landmark located on Seacliff State Beach has weathered over 100 years of life at sea.

Our Picks:

  • ‘Riptide’ , Vance Joy
  •  ‘Home’, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes

For your mid-county adventure, Vance Joy’s dreamy acoustics on ‘Riptide’ dare you to enjoy the waves and roll with the tides. This song makes for a perfect background on a romantic getaway! Similarly, ‘Home” invites listeners to make home in a loved one:  Moats and boats and waterfalls / alleyways and pay-phone calls / I’ve been everywhere with you. We can check ‘boats’  off that list with a day exploring the pier leading to the Cement Ship! Interested in crossing off waterfalls too? Visit the nearby Forest of Nisene Marks State Park for the ultimate Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes experience – take a trail that leads to a natural running waterfall and stunning landscape.

#7 Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz

Extending out over a half mile into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the Santa Cruz Wharf is the longest timber pile pier on the United States coast and one of the longest in the world. This sea sturdy haven invites visitors to view otters, sea lions and other marine life from three cutouts at the end of pier. Stand up paddle rentals and nautical excursions await on this wooden wonderland!

Our Picks:

  • ‘Beyond the Sea’, Bobby Darrin
  •  ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ , The Beach Boys

A classic crooner, Bobby Darrin sweetly odes to his faraway lover that stands on golden sands. Stroll the Santa Cruz Wharf with this timeless tune as you too watch ‘ships that go sailing’ by on a daily basis. Grab a window seat at one of 9 eateries and enjoy a sunset dining experience – chalked full of sailboats, surfers and picturesque views of the Monterey Bay.

Visit during the spring and summer to enjoy a classic car show on the wharf! The Beach Boys playfully tell the tale of a gal who put her pedal to the metal, winding up with no car left to cruise in. No worries here: the annual Woodies on the Wharf car exhibition happens every June, and Mustangs on the Wharf every spring. You’ll have Fun, fun ,fun enjoying live music, activities and classic surf wagons. Check Visit Santa Cruz County’s Calendar of Events so you’re up-to-date on the Santa Cruz Wharf events!

Photo by Molly Ressler

#8 Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, Felton

Venture into the Santa Cruz Mountains and enjoy all that Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park has to offer. Wind your way through Old Growth redwoods stretching 40-acres across this nature preservation. Visiting in the rainy season? Spot a Santa Cruz County native: the banana slug! This slimy native makes its entrance to the trails after a rainfall in a redwood dominated and water heavy location. Banana slugs can grow up to ten inches long, easy to spot on the forest floor.

Our Pick:

  • ‘Banana Pancakes’, Jack Johnson

While beach lover Jack Johnson hums an acoustic ode to staying in bed during a rainy day: we encourage you to hit the trails! Enjoy a stroll on a kid-friendly hike and see how many slugs you can spot. In the spirit of all things banana sluggy; get your banana pancakes (or another stellar breakfast option) from one of Santa Cruz’s local eateries: Walnut Ave Café, River Café or the Jack O’Neill Restaurant and Lounge!

#9 Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz

The admission-free, family-friendly Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a classic seaside amusement park. Overlooking Main Beach in Santa Cruz, the boardwalk was built in 1907 features two national historic landmarks: the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster and the Looff Carousel. 

Our Picks:

  • ‘All Shook Up’, Elvis Presley
  • ‘Tequila’, The Champs

For this location, we recommend throwing it back! Take a ride on the Tsunami, Fireball or Cyclone for all the spins and shakes you’re looking for. Get ‘All Shook Up’ on the thrilling Haunted Castle, or go back in time on the Cave Train Adventure. During an average summer, the Boardwalk offers ‘Retro Nights’ every Monday + Tuesday. After 5:00 pm – all rides are just $1.50! That includes the Giant Dipper and the 125 feet plunging Double Shot. Watch a classic 80’s/90’s movie on the beach for free every Wednesday night during the summertime, and dance the night away each Friday at the admission free concerts!

#10 Corralitos Wine Trail, Mid County

The Corralitos Wine Trail is a Santa Cruz County hidden gem. Tasting at friendly wineries and vineyards is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. Weekly music events occur during the summer and early fall; ideal for dancing the night away underneath fairy lights and surrounded by rolling vineyards.

Our Picks:

  •  ‘It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere’, Alan Jackson & Jimmy Buffet
  •  ‘Saturday in the Park’, Chicago

Nicholson Vineyards, a small-scale winery nestled in South County’s Corralitos, is known for their intimate wine dinners and gorgeous vine-side events. The family-owned winery uses every inch of space in their small corner of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Bargetto Winery’s Thursday Night Music in the Courtyard invites 21+ guests to sit on their creek side patio with a glass of wine and enjoy a varying lineup of artists throughout the series.

Let these wineries fill your glass and tunes fill your ears as you spend a day exploring the Corralitos Wine Trail. Both songs evoke a carefree, vivacious feeling that every vacation deserves.

Add these anthems to your next vacay playlist! Have suggestions? Let us know!

Updated June 2020

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