The winter season marks the start of the best wildlife watching on the California coast and Santa Cruz County is no exception! Migrating whales, wintering monarchs, active elephant seals, and birding galore, make December and January the perfect time for a wildlife adventure. And to top it off, there are some amazing hotel deals that will make your winter getaway even better!
By Garrick Ramirez
Not all of Santa Cruz’s colorful characters are found at the Boardwalk. Explore Santa Cruz County shores, and you’ll delight in rocky tide pools teeming with unique sea creatures that wouldn’t be out of place in a Dr. Suess book.
By Molly Ressler
You haven’t fully experienced Santa Cruz County until you’ve hiked through a redwood forest still dripping from a hard rain. The canyons are filled with the sound of rushing water. Wrens flit between the lichen-draped brush of the understory, and the silvery warble of a Swainson’s thrush filters down from the latticework of branches spiraling hundreds of feet above your head. As a hiker, however, the most fascinating part of a rain-soaked coastal redwood forest is right beneath your feet. When the ground is well saturated, you don’t have to look hard to spot Santa Cruz’s favorite slimy gastropod, the banana slug. In fact, after a particularly hard rain, you may have to watch your step.
Marbled Murrelet and Peregrine Falcon may sound like foot-tapping bands at the weekly farmers market, but they’re actually the names of rare birds you may spot in Santa Cruz County. The region’s feathered friends extend beyond the gulls that cozy up to your bowl of clam chowder at the wharf. Situated along the Pacific Flyway — a prominent migratory path that stretches from Alaska to Patagonia — Santa Cruz plays host to hundreds of bird species. No experience necessary here. Just head to one of the spots listed below and see for yourself!
The secret’s out! Winter is the BEST time to visit Santa Cruz for some great wildlife watching! And one of our winter must-sees – the elephant seals at Año Nuevo State Park! Año Nuevo State Park is the site for one of the largest mainland breeding colonies in the world for the northern elephant seal, and lucky for us,