If you’re driving the Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Cruz is a must-see for most people. Whether you plan to visit for an hour or a whole day, here’s 5 fun things to do during your visit!
- Walk or Drive West Cliff Drive Whether you walk or drive this 4-mile stretch of Santa Cruz’s dramatic coastline, there is no denying, it’s stunning. Ranked as the #1 thing to do in Santa Cruz on Trip Advisor, I admit I had high expectations. If you have the time, I recommend walking and taking it all in. This stretches from Natural Bridges State Park to the Wharf. Parking can be difficult, but we were able to find free parking along W.Cliff without too much of an issue.
- Surfing Museum This (very) small museum is free and gives history about surfing with memorabilia, photos and exhibits. Although it will only take you about a half an hour to peruse, it is located on W. Cliff Drive, making it an easy and convenient stop. Added bonus: the view point from the museum offers great views of surfers below on world famous waves. Love it!
- Head to the Beach With 29 miles of coastline, its easy to find a beach for everyone. Natural Bridges State Park ranks #1 on many people’s list, however when we were there it was very crowded. The Main Beach is bigger, however is located at the Boardwalk, so it can also get crowded and a bit chaotic! Its a bigger beach though, so we didn’t feel too cramped even with the crowds. We didn’t have time to check it out but we were recommended New Brighton State Beach for its low crowds and trails for hiking. Pleasure Point Beach and Santa Cruz Harbor Beach are also great options from what I’m told! To learn more about the beaches in Santa Cruz county, click here.
- Santa Cruz Wharf The Santa Cruz Wharf offers shopping, dining, beautiful views of the boardwalk to one side, surfers on the other and lots of sea lions! Even if you’re not a sea lion fan, they’re pretty hilarious to watch and can be found at the end of the wharf.
- Santa Cruz Boardwalk The famous boardwalk is California’s oldest surviving amusement park and probably what most people think of when planning a visit here. I have to admit, I did not love the Boardwalk. Its very crowded, pretty pricey and a little cheesy. But hey, it was founded in 1907 and has survived to this day so who am I to judge?? As the oldest boardwalk in the U.S., I think it is a must see due to the history, fun vibe and family friendly attractions. Admission to the boardwalk is free- but the food, rides and parking can add up really quickly so be sure to budget accordingly if you plan to stay all day. TIP: Parking here can be very tedious; we waited 45 minutes in line just to get into the parking lot. Save yourself the time and $15 and park along West Cliff Drive, closer to the Surfing Museum and walk down.