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!
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 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.
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.
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!
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!