FAQs

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT SANTA CRUZ

1) How do I get to Santa Cruz County?

Located along the Central Coast, Santa Cruz County is approximately 70 miles/113 km south of San Francisco and 349 miles/562 km from Los Angeles. Many visitors choose to take scenic Highway 1 along the California coastline to Santa Cruz, or Highway 17 through the Santa Cruz Mountains. Visitors can also choose to fly in to San Francisco International Airport or Mineta/San Jose International Airport. Click here  for a downloadable PDF version of our Santa Cruz County map!

2) What is there to do in Santa Cruz?

Santa Cruz boasts 29 miles of beaches, a vintage seaside amusement park and more! Families and couples alike can travel here and enjoy over 14 state parks and beaches, wineries and taprooms, museums, farmer’s markets, and outdoor activities like hiking, stand up paddle boarding, surfing, canopy tours and mountain biking. Click here for a full list of some of our favorite things to do!

3) I want to plan a wedding in Santa Cruz County – and maybe get married on the beach! Where do I start?

Santa Cruz County is a spectacular California wedding destination, offering an array of beautiful settings that are sure to make your big day one to remember. Gorgeous redwood forests, warm sandy beaches, and rustic winery settings lend to amazing wedding possibilities. Find the perfect venue to suit your dream wedding and hire the top local services from the area. Start planning! Click here to request a free, informational wedding packet.

4) What are the restaurant options in the Santa Cruz area?

There are many options for dining in Santa Cruz County! Local farmer’s markets provide eateries with a wonderful farm-to-table foundation. Try a sidewalk café or bistro, casual eatery at the beach or on the wharf, or elegant setting for a romantic dinner made by some of the Bay Area’s most renowned chefs. Try artisan ice cream, made from locally-sourced ingredients. Stop by a lively brewery and sample craft beer, or spend a leisurely afternoon at a local wine tasting room.

5) What are some practical places to stay for visitors?

From a hotel on the beach, to a quaint inn or bed and breakfast, to a vacation rental for the family or a rustic campground, you can rest easy in Santa Cruz County. Hotels such as Hotel Paradox, Hyatt Place Santa Cruz and the Carousel Beach Inn are all within walking distance from must-see Santa Cruz attractions. Travel to South Santa Cruz County for hideaway resorts such as Pajaro Dunes or Seascape Beach Resort. For a full list of places to stay, click here!

6) I want to plan a family reunion in the area. How do I do this?

Visit Santa Cruz County is a great resource for finding a space for reunions. Plan your Santa Cruz retreat in the majestic redwoods or your Santa Cruz conference overlooking sunny beaches. Our meeting spaces offer visitors stunning views and exciting activities. Visit our Meetings Page for a full list of venues to hold your special event!

7) I’m traveling with my dog. What are my options?

Santa Cruz County welcomes furry visitors with open paws, and there are lots of places for your pup to relax. From budget-conscious properties like the Hilton Inn Santa Cruz and Salt Air Lodge, to elegant resorts such as Chaminade Resort & Spa and Hotel Paradox, four-legged friends are invited to adhere to local ordinances, sit and stay! Santa Cruz offers a well of things to do with your pooch: pet friendly wineries, beaches, and breweries will guarantee a dog-on good time! Click here for a full list of dog friendly activities.

8) What are some must-see attractions in Santa Cruz County?

There is an endless list of things-to-do in Santa Cruz County! For the thrill seekers and outdoor adventurers, Santa Cruz offers activities including surfing, paddle boarding, kayaking and more! Roaring Camp Railroads provides scenic rides through the redwoods. The admission-free historic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk provides for a family friendly beach setting and seaside amusement park all in one. In South County, visitors can explore Martinelli’s tasting rooms or participate in a Craft Bar at Annieglass. Take a walk on West Cliff Drive where you can see the Surfing Museum and Steamer Lane, a notable surf spot in Santa Cruz.

9) What time of year is best to see the Monarch Butterflies?

Take a peaceful self-guided walk among the eucalyptus trees for viewing or join in on a free weekend guided tour of the monarch butterfly grove by park docent naturalists. Guided tours are offered weekends from mid-October thru December at 11am and 2pm at Natural Bridges State Park.

10) Where do the locals go in Santa Cruz County?

Living like a local isn’t hard to do in Santa Cruz County! Check out these eateries that “Santa Cruzians” love to love! Stay in the loop by signing up for our Visitor E-Newsletter here to keep up with all the things happening in and around the county!

11) I’m a meeting planner. What information do you have available for me?

With a multitude of venues to choose from, Santa Cruz County provides a wide variety of settings to best fit your meeting planning goals. And where ever your meeting is taking place, you’re sure to be just minutes from amazing outdoor teambuilding opportunities or leisure activities. Visit Santa Cruz County is happy to offer support to meeting planners. We can provide local referrals, venue and service selection assistance, and informational resources for you and your attendees, such as local activity brochures, area maps, or our Official Santa Cruz County Travelers Guide.

12) Where are the best campsites in the Santa Cruz area?

Choose from an array of beautiful scenic campsites and RV parks in Santa Cruz County deep in a coastal redwood forest or coast side at a local beach.  For camping at one of our many state parks and beaches where camping is available, reserve your spot online or by phone seven days a week, from 8AM to 6PM PST except for major holidays at 800.444.PARK (7275). The Santa Cruz KOA, Harbor RV Park and more provide visitors with an inclusive coastal camping experience. For a full list of places to camp, click here!

13) I want to try surfing. What is the best way to do this?

As the home mainland surfing, Santa Cruz welcomes experts and beginners alike. Start with a lesson from Club Ed or Richard Schmidt’s Surf School. Need apparel or a wetsuit? Head to O’Neill Surf Shop and pick up your surfing essentials. And to see the locals hit the waves, check out our list of best places to watch surfers!

14) Where in Santa Cruz County can I see the Redwoods?

California’s redwood parks and attractions can be equal parts time-machine journey and family adventure! Journey to Roaring Camp Railroads, where you can travel through the Big Trees to the summit of Bear Mountain on an authentic 19th century steam train. Go zip lining through the redwoods at Mount Hermon Adventures, a course nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Take a hike on one of our State Park trails, where you can spot nature and wildlife in their natural habitat. For more information on parks in Santa Cruz, click here!

15) Where are some of the more scenic spots?

West Cliff Drive is a scenic, 3 mile walking and biking path along the Pacific Ocean in Santa Cruz. Watch surfers, observe wildlife or just admire the incredible ocean views. Head to Capitola Village, a Mediterranean-inspired seaside resort boasting colorful architecture and picturesque views. Heading north in Santa Cruz County, visitors can find the famous ‘Shark Fin Cove’, a staple landmark in Davenport.

16) Where can I go wine tasting?

The wines of the Santa Cruz Mountains rank among the best in the country! From wineries and tasting rooms to restaurants with events devoted to the craft, Santa Cruz County is a wine-lovers paradise. Watch this video to see how our local wines are made. Corralitos Wine Trail is countryside wine tasting at its finest. Tasting at friendly, family-owned wineries and vineyards is the perfect way to spend an afternoon!

17) Where can I go mountain biking?

Whether you’re brand new to the trails or you grew up shredding single-tracks, Santa Cruz County has a place for you! Take a tour with The Ride Guides, our local experts in all things mountain biking. Ride through the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, which offers 10,000 acres of redwoods and 30 miles of trails. Read more about our favorite trails and biking resources here!

18) Where are some of the best music venues and local scenes for creative types?

Check out the Tannery Arts Center, the “art mecca of Santa Cruz”. Here you can find programming, events and shows around various mediums. Plan your trip around First Friday, Santa Cruz County’s monthly art party in venues around the county! See the history, art and culture around the county at this year’s top museum exhibits.

19) What is the best nature and wildlife-based activities to do in the Santa Cruz area?

Santa Cruz County offers a plethora of opportunities to see nature and wildlife up close. Visit Elkhorn Slough, a reserve in Watsonville, to see otters, birds and more. The National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center, located directly across from the Municipal Wharf, provides families and opportunity to learn more about marine conservation in the Monterey Bay. Chart your wildlife sightings and adventures with a free wildlife watching kit – request one here!

20) What are some options for kid-friendly beaches in the Santa Cruz area?

Our 29 miles of sun-splashed, fun-filled beaches provide something for everyone. Families can find adventure at Main Beach, located directly next to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Play in the sand and on the rides all in one location. Or, head down to Capitola where kids can explore the tides and body surf the day away. Click here for a full list of beaches in Santa Cruz County!

21) Where are some of the best places to hike in Santa Cruz County?

The California redwoods are a staple in Santa Cruz County. Choose from State Parks boasting ancient trees, hundreds of acres and hiking trails! Castle Rock State Park gives stunning views of the San Lorenzo Valley. View beautiful, natural waterfalls in places such as Big Basin State Redwoods State Park or Henry Cowell State Park! See our list of best hikes for inspiration on your next hike!

22) I only have a day to spend in Santa Cruz. What should I see?

We provide day-trip itineraries for every stop in the county! Download yours here and check our ‘Upcoming Events’ page for your trip dates to see what is happening in and around Surf City. Stop by year-round at the VSCC Visitor Center for ideas, maps, and more information! More questions? Contact us here.

 

The Visit Santa Cruz County year-around visitor information center is located at:

303 Water Street, Suite 100, Santa Cruz, CA 95060.

Open M-F 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM and Weekends 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM.