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Travel Tips

Best Times to Visit

Fall (September through November) is a good time to beat the crowds, and it can be an especially beautiful time to see Santa Cruz. The area often sees some of its sunniest days during what we call our "Secret Summer," which generally lasts from September through October.


Food & Wine


Santa Cruz offers a wide variety of cuisines for every palate and is well known for it's vegetarian and vegan offerings. Seafood is another specialty, with many restaurants offering fresh, locally caught specials each day.

Santa Cruz is also home to a bevy of flourishing and unique wineries - many of which are family-owned and operated and offer a unique view of the wine-making process.




Though not mandatory by any means, tipping servers (waiters, waitresses, and bartenders) is widely practiced in the U.S. Servers rely on tips to meet a livable wage and unless you order and pay at the counter, tipping is – for the most part - expected. Some restaurants often include a 15% to 18% service charge for parties of six or more, which takes the place of a tip. As a general rule, it is common to tip 18% to 20% if the service is exceptional. Should a server remind you that "the tip is not included", it may be because he or she recognizes you as a visitor to the U.S., and may be trying to be helpful.


Viewing our local Wildlife


Santa Cruz County is home to some of the most incredible marine wildlife you will ever see. It is part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and thus is protected by U.S. Federal law. Whale watching is best done by taking a Whale Watching tour. The tour operators are experienced and knowledgeble - not only do you get the ultimate viewing experience, but you are respecting the animals as well.

Viewing the Monarch Butterflies during their migration is another experience you won't soon forget.


Beach and Ocean Safety


Santa Cruz is home to some of the most amazing beaches and coastal areas in California. To find out the best beaches to fit your style-from family-friendly crescents to surfers' hot spot-check click here or pay a visit to our Visitors Center conveniently located near our downtown area.

Lifeguards do patrol some beaches; look for trademark viewing towers and note any cautionary signs or flags.


Using the Telephone


When calling from one area code to another, dial 1, followed by the area code and the seven-digit telephone number.


Smoking is prohibited in most public places in Santa Cruz County, including the Santa Cruz Wharf, all beaches, parks and Pacific Avenue (downtown).