It’s California’s capital of chill

When a lot of people think of California, there’s a good chance that they will most likely want to visit the bigger cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco or San Diego. But little do visitors know that some of the best kept secrets have the smallest dot on the map for the Golden State. As a matter of fact, the city of Santa Cruz is one of them. With world class beaches, redwood forests, cuisine, recreation, and wine history, there are so many reasons why visitors come back over and over again – and why they try to keep it a secret from others, too.

Cruise the Santa Cruz coastline

Nestled in between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Santa Cruz is a city that is located in the heart of central California’s coastline. It’s best known for its long wharf with plenty of restaurants and is situated near Monterey Bay. The area also has a lot of history, with many vintage rides at the boardwalk that date back to 1911. That’s right: the Giant Dipper roller coaster and the Looff Carousel are more than a century old! If that weren’t enough, there’s also plenty of vintage clothing stores, cafes, and galleries.


When it comes to recreation, Santa Cruz has it all. In fact, both locals and visitors alike would agree that the city is perhaps one of the most laid-back cities on the west coast. While there sure is a lot of hustle and bustle (along with bad traffic) in Los Angeles and plenty of busy streets in San Francisco, Santa Cruz has all the chill. After all, Santa Cruz is best known for its great climate (it’s never too hot, nor is it too cold), it’s natural environment and coastline, the laidback lifestyle. The area is so inviting that it will make you feel like you are home away from home.

Activities, the boardwalk and more

One of the best things about Santa Cruz, California is that many of the activities are free for visitors. Okay, maybe not totally free but who wouldn’t enjoy a nice scenic drive along the West Cliff? Or better yet, a nice walk during the sunset at the Santa Cruz Main Beach? The beauty of the area will really make you want to spend most of your time outdoors. There’s also, of course, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the Santa Cruz Wharf, the Natural Bridges State Beach (which is known for its bridge-shapes rock formation) and the must-see Wilder Ranch State Park.

Now, if you are only visiting the Santa Cruz area for a weekend, definitely do the West Cliff Drive and the Surfing Museum first.

If you have a little more time on your hands, check out the Dolphin and Whale Watching Cruises. Both the Main Beach and Cowell Beach have telescopes overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Sandy beaches and swimming

And while there are many beautiful beaches along the California coastline, there aren’t many that visitors can safely swim in. Luckily, Santa Cruz not only has sandy beaches but might also be the only one in the area that regularly sees visitors swimming in the ocean, too. That’s because the water can get warmer in the bay. Surfers get to catch a wave all year long, too.

With that said, definitely make Santa Cruz, California your next stop in the Golden State. With so much to see and do, you will not only end up falling in love with the city but will find yourself wanting to come back year after year, too.

A deeper dive – Related reading on the 101:

Vacation is the best time, right? Here are five things you can’t bring back home.

When traveling through the friendly skies, things come up that make our journeys less than ideal