6 beautiful and unique beaches in Santa Cruz

Published Date: January 5, 2023

Like something out of a postcard, Santa Cruz is a quintessential California beach town. With a vibrant surf culture, wide stretches of pristine coastline and an endless array of recreational opportunities, Santa Cruz is a must-visit. Not sure where to start? Pack your beach bag and come along to these six beautiful beaches in and around Santa Cruz. 

1. Main Beach

As the name implies, Main Beach is in the heart of all the action: the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Arguably the city’s most popular destination, the boardwalk boasts an historic carousel, wooden roller coaster, classic arcade and thrill rides. The beach itself is bustling with activity, with people of all ages swimming, playing beach volleyball, sunbathing and picnicking. It’s a great spot for families, as the waves are generally calm and predictable, and there are public restrooms and the beach is staffed with lifeguards in the busy summer months. 

2. Natural Bridges State Beach 

Looking for fewer crowds and more natural beauty? Drive a few miles up the coastline to Natural Bridges State Beach. Named for the stunning natural rock bridge just a short distance offshore, this beach is best at low tide, when tide pools are ripe for exploring. Just keep an eye on the tide because you won’t want to get trapped as parts of the beach become inaccessible as the water rises. This beautiful spot is a great place to whale watch and witness the monarch butterfly migration every fall and winter. 

3. Capitola Beach 

Capitola Beach, at the north end of Monterey Bay, is best known for the brightly colored, terraced buildings lining the beach. (They make a perfect backdrop for photos.) Waves are usually gentle here, thanks to its position in a small cove. There’s plenty of sand for building castles and sunbathing, but if you decide you want to explore, you can head to the fishing pier or check out the restaurants and shops within walking distance. 

4. Four Mile Beach 

Named because it’s just four miles from Santa Cruz, Four Mile Beach is simply gorgeous. The beach features rugged cliffs, wave-formed rocky sculptures and dramatic crashing waves. It’s located within Wilder Ranch State Park, so there’s plenty to explore, including streams, redwood forests and pasturelands.

5. Pleasure Point Beach

Unless you’re visiting at low tide, there’s not much sand to speak of at Pleasure Point Beach. However, there’s a great reason to visit: It’s the perfect vantage point to watch surfers at the Hook, one of Santa Cruz’s most famous surf spots. Bring a picnic or snack and watch the locals show off their skills.  

6. Seacliff State Beach

Located in nearby Aptos, Seacliff State Beach is popular with runners and beachcombers, as it connects to neighboring New Brighton State Beach and Sunset Beach to form a 12-mile stretch. While this beach features sweeping ocean views, plenty of sand and a fishing pier, it has one attraction that’s truly unique: A sinking ship. Right off the end of the pier you’ll find the SS Palo Alto. Originally built for World War I but never used, it was decommissioned and turned into an entertainment complex. When the Depression hit, it was abandoned and today is a habitat for coastal birds and marine life.  

Find your favorite Santa Cruz beach

Every Santa Cruz local has their favorite local beach. Which one will be yours? When you become a co-owner of a Pacaso second home in Santa Cruz, you’ll have ample time to explore every stretch of coastline and pick your favorite.

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Jen Lyons

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