Visitors to Santa Cruz tend to head straight towards the Boardwalk. As much fun as it is, Santa Cruz’s natural destinations offer so much more than their man-made ones. Next time you visit, spend a day exploring the land and sea around Santa Cruz, California.
Start your day with a satisfying breakfast at Linda’s Seabreeze Cafe. Whether it is their giant pancakes or savory scrambles you’ll get your day started right.
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Guide to all My Favorite Things to do in Santa Cruz, California
Jump In the Pacific Ocean
The ocean in Santa Cruz offers a variety of adventures for just about anyone. If you’re looking for a unique view and perspective, I recommend taking a kayak or stand-up paddleboard tour. You can either rent your own and explore the bay or join in on a tour group. Venture Quest, right over by the boardwalk, offers kayak tours on the bay, including whale watching tours in the spring. If you’d like to try a stand-up paddle board takes a look at Kayak Connections.
Or if you’d rather ride the waves than watch them, Santa Cruz has one of the best beaches to learn how to surf. Head up to Cowell’s Beach, just north of the boardwalk. You can rent boards from Cowell’s Beach Surf Shop or take a lesson at Richard Schmidt Surf School.
If you’d like to enjoy the ocean without jumping in, head over to Natural Bridges Beach. This stake park has amazing views of the ocean, a relaxing feel, and some amazing tide pools to explore.
Relax with a Bite at Betty’s Burgers
Santa Cruz is filled with delicious options and depending on where you end up you’ll find different spots to try. Around the boardwalk, stop by the Picnic Basket for a fresh sandwich or salad that you can enjoy with a view or take out onto the sand to enjoy. Downtown you’ll find Betty’s Burgers, something a little hardier. A tasty diner with some spunk. Enjoy their burgers or the fried chicken sandwich.
If you made it to Natural Bridges Beach, stop by Gary’s Old Fashioned Snappy Dogs for a treat on your way back towards town. It’s rare to find a five-star rating on yelp, especially at as affordable of a place, but you’ll understand why once you pop in.
Take a Hike or a Zipline
California is home to forests of amazing giant trees. One type is the coastal redwood. While the ones around Santa Cruz are not the biggest, they are still completely jaw-dropping.
Head about 20 minutes, through beautiful scenery, to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. Driving through the redwoods is beautiful but it isn’t until you are walking through them that you can truly appreciate their size, beauty and grandeur.
The park has a variety of hikes, but the most common is the loop trail. Under 2 miles and completely flat. You get to walk around and even under these gigantic trees. We went when the sun had gotten closer to setting and the beautiful rays too our breath away.
If you need some more adventures you can even zip line through the forest. It’s one of a handful of spots in Northern California you can take this adventure. Check out Redwoods Canopy Tours if you’re interested in giving it a try.
Dinner in Capitola
For dinner, head back towards the beach and make your way to Capitola. The town offers cute shops and restaurants to spend your evening in. If you’re looking to splurge a on dinner check out Shadowbrook, a delectable and unique restaurant that even has its own sliding elevator to head down to the restaurant. For a more casual evening head to Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticceria. You’ll find gourmet sandwiches, salads, pot pies and more. Plus it’s got some of the best desserts around you can find.
Rest Up For Your Evening
After a day exploring all that Santa Cruz’s nature has to offer you’ll probably be a bit exhausted. At the same time, I hope after you rest up you’ll be energized from the experience. There are few places in the world where you can spend your morning at the ocean and your afternoon in a forest. What other adventures have you wanted to explore in Santa Cruz?
From Ocean to Forest: A Day in Santa Cruz, California [Click to Tweet]
There are few places in the world where you can spend your morning at the ocean and your afternoon in a forest [Click to Tweet]
What & Where:
Linda’s Seabreeze Cafe
Cowell’s Beach Surf Shop
Richard Schmidt Surf School
Natural Bridges Beach
Gary’s Old Fashioned Snappy Dogs
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Redwoods Canopy Tours
Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticceria
Megan MacNee is the founder of Traveling Nine to Fiver. From nine to five she works in the political world in California, but on evening and weekends spends time exploring the West Coast and more. All while encouraging others to join in on the adventures.