Santa Cruz travel guide

Surf City

Santa Cruz Tourism | Santa Cruz Guide

You're Going to Love Santa Cruz

It's easy to fall head over heels in love with Santa Cruz. This resort may only be home to 55,000 people, but its combination of sunshine, pristine beaches, wild surf and cultural attractions means that it punches well above its weight in the ranks of US tourist destinations.

Santa Cruz is a city designed for relaxation. You can stretch out on beautiful beaches at Natural Bridges State Park, rent sailing boats to tour secluded coves, kayak along the coast or visit natural attractions like Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

But if it's more excitement you're after, Santa Cruz delivers. The city is one of the world's greatest surfing destinations, with huge waves at places like Steamers Lane. There's plenty of cultural excitement too, thanks to the city's International Blues Festival and summer beach concerts.

All of this makes Santa Cruz perfect for families, singles, couples and groups of friends. You can party, relax, sunbathe and surf - all just a few miles from San Francisco and easily accessible by plane from anywhere in the USA.

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Santa Cruz

What to do in Santa Cruz

When to Visit Santa Cruz

Estimated hotel price

Santa Cruz in {1}

1 night at 3-star hotel
Prices are not fixed and may vary with time

There's hardly a bad time to visit Santa Cruz, but locals tend to recommend traveling in late summer or early fall. A vacation around September and October would be ideal, with warm water and weather, a low chance of fog (which can sometimes enclose the major beaches) and a packed schedule of events. However, June's a good time to go as well, as the beach concert program kicks off.

Average temperatures
Celsius (°C)
When the weather is nice in Santa Cruz

How to Get to Santa Cruz

Airports near Santa Cruz

SJC San Jose
OAK Oakland

Airlines serving Santa Cruz

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Where to Stay in Santa Cruz

Visitors to Santa Cruz have a wide range of accommodation options. There are luxury mountain resorts like Chaminade Resort & Spa, family hotels near the boardwalk like Coastview Inn, budget hostels like the Santa Cruz Hostel and cozy B&Bs like the Bay Front Inn. You can even pitch a tent at locations like Butano State Park, which is a great way to enjoy the scenery and climate of the bay.

Popular Neighborhoods in Santa Cruz

Where to stay in popular areas of Santa Cruz

Most booked hotels in Santa Cruz

How to Get Around Santa Cruz

The Cost of Living in Santa Cruz

Shopping Streets

The main shopping street in Santa Cruz is Pacific Avenue, home to a number of bookstores, artisanal jewelry makers like Bead It!, apparel boutiques like Forever 21, Cognito Clothing and Jade, along with small art galleries, antique vendors and much more. If you want to head to a traditional mall, the Capitola Mall is a good alternative, with household names like Sear's, Macy's and Target.

Groceries and Other

Many people choose to stay in self-catering homes in Santa Cruz and finding groceries is simple. The city center has branches of Trader Joe's and Whole Foods while suburbs include a Safeway. There are also smaller independent grocery stores like New Leaf Community Markets and Shopper's Corner, which provide a more homely grocery shopping experience. Prices in Santa Cruz are similar to cities like San Francisco. In other words, quite high. Expect to pay $3.60 for a gallon of milk and over $2.50 for a pound of apples.

Cheap meal
Cheap meal
C$ 13.47
A pair of jeans
A pair of jeans
C$ 62.83
Single public transport ticket
Single public transport ticket
C$ 2.57
C$ 5.06

Where to Eat in Santa Cruz

You'll never run out of high-quality places to eat in Santa Cruz. It's one of the city's greatest strengths. There are superb Mexican restaurants like el Palomar (check out the cantina at the back which serves cheap, delicious tacos). Joe's Pizza & Subs is the place to go for a quick sandwich or slice of pizza, Oswald's serves vegan and organic cuisine, Royal Taj is a highly-rated local Indian restaurant, while the fish and chips at Seabright Brewery are sublime. Expect to pay $12-15 for a mid-range meal and more than $25 at high-end places.