Wildlife Watching in Santa Cruz County

With an impressive variety of wildlife watching experiences for visitors to enjoy, Santa Cruz County has become a destination for nature lovers.

Look For

Gray and humpback whales as they migrate through the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, travelling 12,000 miles round-trip from the arctic to warmer waters in Mexico to mate and nurse their young.

The touch tanks at the Seymour Marine Discover Center at Long Marine Lab, where sea stars, sea urchins, hermit crabs, and sea anemones bring the Monterey Bay alive.

An amazing diversity of birds in Pajaro Valley’s rivers and sloughs, which provide a rich habitat. Opt for a free guided tour of the wetlands, or head north and track hummingbirds and quail at the UCSC Arboretum.

Did You Know?

The new Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center near the Santa Cruz Wharf brings the sea life of the Monterey Bay to land, combining technology with interactive displays.

North of town, Año Nuevo State Reserve is the largest mainland breeding colony in North America of the northern elephant seal.  In winter, visitors can view these lumbering mammals up close on a docent-led tour from December through March.

That over 200 species of permanent and migratory birds thrive in Watsonville’s 800 acres of wetlands. Free tours of the wetlands are hosted every Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

Venturing out by boat affords some of the best views of sea life. Join a sailing charter on a luxury yacht from the Santa Cruz Harbor, or rent a boat at the harbor and the Santa Cruz and Capitola wharfs.

  • Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
  • Seymour Marine Discover Center at Long Marine Lab
  • UCSC Arboretum
  • Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center
  • Santa Cruz Wharf
  • Año Nuevo State Reserve
  • Wetlands of Watsonville
  • Santa Cruz Harbor
  • Capitola Wharf