The very laid back beach city of Santa Cruz is located about 75 miles from San Francisco and is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area. It’s got great beaches, an amusement park, a vibrant downtown and friendly people!
Seabright Beach located just off of East Cliff Drive is part of the Twin Lakes State Beach and is your perfect beach stereotype! There are brightly colored beach umbrellas as far as the eye can see. Families can set up camp in the morning and stay all day picnicking, boogie boarding, swimming and more! I’ve been lucky enough to see dolphins, seals and even an otter from my beach chair!! The beach is open until 10 pm and bonfires are permitted. During summer days there are lifeguards and there are restrooms as well.
Parking is very limited and dogs are allowed on the beaches which I’m not crazy about. However it’s definitely less crowded than the beach on the other side of San Lorenzo point which is also the location of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
If you don’t feel like picnicking or eating at the Boardwalk there are some decent restaurants located at the Santa Cruz Harbor. It’s located on the far end of Seabright beach. All you have to do is walk to the Seabright lighthouse and take a left. We ate at Aldo’s which has a perfect view of the boats coming in and out of the harbor, decent food and great service! Oh and we saw a seal swimming around in the harbor as well!
If you are familiar with the 1980s movie The Lost Boys you might be interested to know that most of it was filmed in and around Santa Cruz and especially the Boardwalk area! The Boardwalk is open from around 11 am to 11 pm but hours vary so you’ll want to check before going. There are some winter hours, but they are quite limited. My older son and his friends have summer passes and are happy to go alone.
Above Seabright Beach on East Cliff Drive is the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History! It was the first public museum in Santa Cruz and is over 100 years old. How cool is that?! Its open everyday except Monday and while I haven’t had a chance to peek inside yet, it’s definitely high on my list of things to do next time I visit the area.
Pacific Avenue is the main street in downtown Santa Cruz and it has a lot of great shops to poke around in! There are also some neat candy stores, cafes and a few restaurants worth checking out! We went while the older kids were at the boardwalk and were free to wander and shop without complaint! Here are a few of my old and new favorite places to stop and do a little shopping.
Wallflower a tiny little clothing accessory boutique is on Locust Avenue just off of Pacific. The prices are right and the sales staff is very friendly. I ended up with a new scarf and some really fun handmade necklaces! One of them is a tiny little harmonica that really plays!
Flip Flop just as you would imagine from the name this place has just about every brand and style of flip flop sandal you can imagine for men, women and children!
Sock Shop and Shoe Company this shop has every single sock you can ever imagine and then some. There are even superhero socks with capes! My boys like this shop a lot and we always pick up at least a few pairs each.
Stripe for both women and men are clothing/home shops located just off of Pacific on Walnut Street. They are two doors away from each other and both are decorated beautifully and creatively. I usually find a something fun to bring home. Last time I ended up bring home some borosilicate juice glasses with little stars etched into them and a tiny wooden spoon!
Verve coffee is a trendy small coffee chain with three locations in the Bay Area and one in downtown Los Angeles. The decor is very industrial and current with especially interesting light fixtures! While the coffee was good, It was the cookies they were selling that I loved! They’re made by a woman named Mary from Aptos. They’re the size of a small plate and they taste divine! I tried two Marshmallow and Carmel Pretzel. She makes 12 dozen a week and double that in the summer! They also sell a variety of other baked good and Elliot especially liked the vegan chocolate donut.
Each time we visit downtown Santa Cruz we have to eat at El Palomar Mexican Restaurant! It’s right on Pacific Avenue in the Palomar Inn. They have the most amazing tortilla chips I’ve ever eaten. The tortilla soup and sopes are also delicious!
Tramonti Pizza on Seabright Avenue is another favorite Santa Cruz spot. It’s a friendly neighborhood kind of place and the food is very authentic
A few things to consider before heading to the beach in the Bay Area. The weather along the coast in Northern California can be unpredictable and it is often fogged and in and chilly while the inland areas are sunny and hot, so it’s always a good idea to check the coastal weather before heading over! If you do find that it’s sunny and warm on the coast, then be prepared for some traffic heading over!