Strands of kelp on the beach.
The beach along West Cliff Drive.
Henry Cowell Redwood State Park.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk .
Victorian barn at Wilder Ranch.
Surfing the Lane off West Cliff Drive.
Abbott Lighthouse on West Cliff Drive.
Quiet beaches in the winter months.
The jetty at the Santa Cruz Harbor.
Santa Cruz Outdoor Activities.
Things to do When you Stay at the Adobe.
Take a Walk on West Cliff Drive. If you have just one day in Santa Cruz and you want to experience the Pacific Ocean and clear your head without getting sandy or wet this is the place for you. West Cliff starts on the hill just above the Santa Cruz Wharf and runs for 2 miles along the ocean to Natural Bridges State Park. This urban promenade is the most scenic and accessible coastline walk in the city. The paved path along West Cliff passes the Chuck Abbott lighthouse, Steamer Lane surf break, and miles of the best bluffs and beaches Santa Cruz can offer. There is also great people watching along this popular route. Whether you are walking, jogging, cycling, skating or just daydreaming, West Cliff Drive is not to be missed.
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. If you've never stood below a 250 foot high redwood tree it's time you gave it a try. This fabulous grove of old-growth Coast Redwoods was saved by tourism in the late 1800's. It was simply more profitable to charge admission to see these giants than to cut them down. Today, the grove of ancient trees is a towering cathedral showing off nature's tallest creations. The one-mile loop through the grove is perhaps the most magical and inspiring short walk on the central coast. A must see. 101 North Big Trees Park Rd. (off highway 9) Felton. 831-335-7077
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is the last seaside amusement park on the west coast of North America. For over a century the Boardwalk and former casino has been drawing crowds . The half-mile long amusement park features 35 rides including the 1924 Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster and the 1911 Looff carousel, both on the National Register of Historic Places. The former casino is now an arcade with 300 coin-operated games and laser tag. Marini's Candy Company just outside the Casino Arcade has been making saltwater taffy in that location for over half a century. If you're fortunate you can see the taffy-pulling machine at work. In the early 1900's the Boardwalk featured a giant indoor saltwater swimming pool called The Plunge. Today the old Plunge building is Neptune's Kingdom, an indoor arcade with 18 hole miniature golf, fosse ball, pool tables, air-hockey, and pinball games. Free admission and a beautiful beach side setting make the Boardwalk the 10 th most visited attraction in the U.S. Open daily Memorial Day – Labor Day and on fair weather weekends in spring and fall. Neptune's Kingdom and Arcade open year round. 400 Beach St. 831-423-5590
Santa Cruz Wharf. Drive or walk out on the Santa Cruz Wharf for great views of West Cliff Drive and the Boardwalk. The Wharf is home to restaurants and shops that cater mostly to tourists. Locals tend to eat at Riva, a relaxed restaurant and bar with view tables featuring California cuisine and seafood. They also have great frozen gelato for dessert. Be advised, Riva's doesn't accept credit cards. At the end of the wharf you'll find two holes in the decking where you can look below to the pilings. If you're lucky, you'll see slumbering sea lions. These popular and noisy mammals flock to the wharf to feed and catch up on their rest.
Pasatiempo Golf Course. A Beautiful historic course designed by Alister MacKenzie. This challenging course is ranked one of the 100 top golf courses in the country. It's also only an hour from Pebble Beach. Just 3 miles from the Adobe off Hiway 17. 831-459-9155
Bamboo Giant Nursery. This 31 acre nursery specializes in common and exotic species of bamboo. Visitors walk along pathways and read signs describing the displays. Open Monday – Friday 9-5 and Saturday and Sunday 10-5. Take Hiway 1 south from Santa Cruz past Aptos and exit at Freedom Blvd. Turn left over the freeway to 5601 Freedom Blvd. Bamboo Giant is on the right side of the road. (831) 687-0100.
Ano Nuevo State Reserve is 23 miles north of Santa Cruz on Hiway 1 and is the world's largest breeding colony of northern elephant seals. The male seals are a spectacle, weighing as much as 4,000 lbs. These unusual animals can be viewed year round with guided walk reservations required during breeding season (December to March). Open 8am to sunset daily. This is a remote part of the central coast so bring a picnic lunch with you or drive 11 miles north after your tour to the tiny town of Pescadero for a visit to Duarte's Tavern. Duarte's (recipient of a James Beard award) serves their house special cream of artichoke soup and other fine foods daily. Ano Nuevo State Reserve: Reservations: (800) 444-4445 General info: (650) 879-0227.
Gidzich Ranch Apples, Pies, and Berries. Twenty minutes south of Santa Cruz is the agricultural city of Watsonville. This region is known for its fine apples (Martinelli's Sparkling Cider is made here) and bush berries. Gidzich Ranch is a 4th generation family farm with U-pick orchards of berries (May – August) and apples (September – October). All year round they sell 12 varieties of apples and apple pies. The family presses apple juice every Saturday for sale during the week. The fresh-pressed juice is heavenly. 55 Peckham Rd. in Watsonville. (831) 722-1056.
Seymour Marine Discovery Center at Long Marine Lab. This working marine laboratory is a division of U.C. Santa Cruz and features touch-tank exhibits, displays, and aquariums. You can look in on marine mammal research at an overlook above the dolphin and sea lion tanks. Guided tours at 1,2 & 3p.m. Discovery center and gift shop open Tuesday – Saturday: 10-5 and Sunday: 12–5. Don't miss the 87 foot long blue whale skeleton, the largest on display anywhere. Head north on Mission St. and go left on Swift Street. Right on Delaware to the end. The lab entrance is at the end of Delaware St. A nice detour when you're on Swift St. is to turn left into the Swift Street Commons, and old Brussels sprout packing plant that is now the home to Kelly's French Bakery, SFB Silks, wine tasting, organic beer tasting and a nice little courtyard with jazz on the weekends. Next door is the beautiful murals on the Bonny Doon Winery building. Can you find the escapee? 100 Shaffer Rd. (831) 459-3800.
Sea Kayaking. Year round ocean kayak rentals and tours are available in Santa Cruz. Both rentals and tours include all necessary equipment and instruction. Kayak off the Santa Cruz Wharf or out of the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor. Two and three hour tours available. Yacht Harbor: Kayak Connection (831) 479-1121. Municipal Wharf: Venture Quest (831) 427-2267.
Bicycling. One of the best bike rides in Santa Cruz is West Cliff Drive. Fortunately, a few blocks from West Cliff sits Electric Sierra Cycles, a little shop that rents all kinds of bikes and electric scooters. You can find them at 302 Pacific Avenue near the beach and Wharf. Rent a bike and cruise the two miles down West Cliff drive to Natural Bridges State park or the Seymour Marine Discovery Center. (831) 425-1593.
At the Wharf: Stagnaro's (831) 427-2334. Shamrock Charter (831) 476-2648.
At the Yacht Harbor: Chardonnay II (831) 423-1213. Santa Cruz Sportfishing (831) 426-4690.
Moss Landing Harbor: Sanctuary Cruises (831)643-0128. Park Place Excursions (831) 479-0273.
Surfing Lessons. Santa Cruz is called “Surf City.” If you want to try the local sport you don't have to fend for yourself. We have two surf schools that operate all summer and on fair-weathered weekends. Club Ed specializes in group and private lessons on Cowell's beach, next to the Santa Cruz Wharf. Richard Schmidt runs popular 5 day summer camps and private lessons the rest of the year. Both schools will outfit you with wetsuit and board and take through the process step-by-step so you can ride some waves before you head back home. Club Ed Surf School (831) 287-7873. Richard Schmidt Surf School (831) 423-0928.
Monarch Butterflies. October – February thousands of beautiful Monarch butterflies winter at Natural bridges State Park in a grove of eucalyptus trees just off the beach. Their migration back to jungles in South America begins in February. Some years the trees are dripping with tens of thousands of the orange and black butterflies. To reach Natural Bridges State Park, travel to the north end of West Cliff Drive. For an adventure, rent a bike at Electric Sierra Cycles by the Wharf and ride along west Cliff two miles to Natural Bridges. Natural Bridges State Park 2531 West Cliff Dr. (831) 423-4609
Capitola Village is four miles south of Santa Cruz. Built right on a sandy beach, this is the oldest planned vacation community on the Pacific coast. It was designed as a tent village getaway in 1870. Since that time it has grown into a charming and picturesque town that attracts visitors year round. The village is small and can be walked in less than an hour. In the winter months this town can be almost deserted and the sheer beauty of the quiet village on the sand can be very captivating. In the summer, you won't be alone and the allure is not as great. In the village you will find shops, galleries, clubs and restaurants that primarily cater to tourists. In the summer there are free concerts on the beach, an annual art and wine festival and a begonia festival. The best dining can be found at The Paradise Beach Café, right on the sandy beach and at Caruso's, an authentic Tuscan café. If you do head to Capitola stop in at Gayles Bakery, a treat for the palette and the eyes at 504 Bay Avenue. Take Hiway 1 south from Santa Cruz to the Bay Avenue/Porter Street exit. Right at the stop light onto Bay Avenue. At the second stop sign turn right and in a few blocks you'll reach the Village. Parking can be tricky in the summer. (831) 475-6522.