West Cliff Drive is a scenic, 3 mile walking and biking path along the Pacific Ocean in Santa Cruz with epic views of the Monterey Bay. Beginning at the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, West Cliff Drive takes you past the Santa Cruz Dream Inn, West Cliff Inn, Sea & Sand, and the Seaway Inn toward a residential neighborhood. It is here you will find locals mixing effortlessly with visitors strolling, biking, running, walking their dogs, and pushing babies in strollers as surfers head toward Steamer Lane for the surf break. Walk to the surfer statue – one of the best places to snap a selfie – and take in the views of the wharf, boardwalk, and mellow surfers at Cowell Beach. As you head north, you’ll pass by Cypress Trees found along West Cliff Drive, iconic to the Central Coast. At Lighthouse Point, a grassy area is the perfect setting for Frisbee, soaking up some sun, or people watching. Lighthouse Point overlooks Steamer Lane, a world-renown surf break and arguably one of the best places in the United States to surf. Join others at the guardrail as advanced surfers test their mettle against some of the best waves in the country. Stop in the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, housed inside the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse and learn about how the sport of surfing was brought to Santa Cruz by Hawaiian royalty, making Santa Cruz the mainland birthplace of California’s official sport. Check out vintage boards, prototype wetsuits, and learn about the early surfers of bygone eras who perfected their techniques on local beaches.
Moving on from the surfing museum, Its Beach is a favorite for dogs and their owners, and further down West Cliff Drive, Mitchell’s Cove is an off-leash spot where your pup can play in the surf and chase a tennis ball up and down the sand. Along West Cliff Drive, you may catch sight of whales and dolphins swimming parallel to shore. West Cliff Drive ends at Natural Bridges State Beach and Park, one of the most picturesque spots on the coast. A sandstone arch shaped by wind and waves rises from the sea. Natural Bridges was once a series of connected arches, but today only one remains. During low tide, tide pools brim with sea stars, tiny crabs and sea anemones. In wintertime, the park’s eucalyptus grove is thick with clusters of hibernating monarch butterflies. Turn around and head back, for a hike that covers almost 6 miles round-trip.