7 Beautiful (and Affordable) Things To Do In Santa Cruz

If outdoor activity is atop your list of must-haves on a vacation destination, Santa Cruz has got you covered. There are endless things to do in Santa Cruz, from surfing, zip-lining, hiking, canopy tours, or perusing the sights from a legendary boardwalk, this coastal community has enough adventures in the California sun to keep you entertained indefinitely. 

Below are just a few things to do in Santa Cruz!

Half Moon Bay

Price:  Free

Why You’ll Love It:  If laid back eclectic towns grab your attention, you will revel in this artsy hamlet along the coast. There are plenty of uncluttered beaches to choose from and great restaurants and shops to peruse, all exuding a feeling of unhurried pleasure.

Address:  303 Water Street, Suite 100, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

What’s the Word:  A recent review on Yelp said, “HMB is a coastal town that is laid-back, quirky, and full of beaches. It seems ideal for surfers, bikers, and golfers, but they have lots of excellent restaurants for foodies too.”

Santa Cruz Getaway Score:  9.4/10

Blue skies and blue ocean with jagged rocks in the foreground. This is Half Moon Bay, on of the things to do in Santa Cruz.

Ano Nuevo State Park

Price:  $9 – $10

Why You’ll Love It:  With access to surf beaches, calving elephant seals, and a terrific Marine Education Center, Ano Nuevo provides an extensive wilderness experience. You don’t want to miss a hike to see hundreds of elephant seals with pups, along with sea lions, otters, and the endangered California Red-Legged Frog! 

Address: 1 New Years Creek Road, Pescadero, CA 94060

What’s the Word: A recent review on Trip Advisor states, “I was all by myself on the most gorgeous beach. There were hundreds of seagulls and pelicans. The beach was large and offered vistas of rolling waves, cliff formations, and the inland mountains. Absolutely a must if you are near this place. Certain times of the year this is the place to watch the large sea cows.”

Santa Cruz Getaway Score:  9.4/10

Beach Boardwalk

Price:  $50

Why You’ll Love It: What could be more fun than combining an amusement park with the beach? From roller coaster rides to arcades, laser tag to shopping, there’s an amazing number of activities. And when you tire of the non-stop adrenaline rush, retire to the sand for some surf and sun. 

Address: 400 Beach Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

What’s the Word:  A recent review on Trip Advisor says, “We did a repeat visit to Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. It’s a fun amusement park. The historic roller coasters are so fun to ride. The carousel is super fun too.”

Santa Cruz Getaway Score:  9.8/10

A rollar coaster in the background with people swinging on an amusement ride in the foreground. Clear blue skies. This is the Beach Boardwalk, on of the things to do in Santa Cruz.

Natural Bridges State Beach

Price:  $10

Why You’ll Love It:  You can’t beat a beautiful beach with tidal pools, whale watching and a scenic rock arch.  Well, maybe you can if you add in a monarch preserve in giant eucalyptus trees!  This beach is also less popular, giving you plenty of space to soak up Nature’s bounty.

Address: 2320 W. Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

What’s the Word:  A recent review on Google states, “Beautiful formation of the rock…so photogenic…the walk along the Coastline to the lighthouse is very scenic.  A good 4-mile easy walk round-trip. Absolutely gorgeous coastline!”

Getaway Score:  9.5/10

More From Getaway Couple

Santa Cruz Surfing Museum

Price:  Free, donations accepted

Why You’ll Love It:  Located in a lighthouse, the Surfing Museum is totally gnarly, dude!  It celebrates the surfing culture with all kinds of artifacts, including photographs, and a great selection of surfboards.  You’ll be sure to hang 10 after learning about over 100 years of surf history here.

Address: 701 W. Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

What’s the Word:  A recent review on Trip Advisor touts, “Located at famous Steamers Lane surf spot. Watch the surfers from the viewing platform above. Walk along West Cliff Drive. What a scene, surf culture at its finest.”

Getaway Score:  9.8/10

Lighthouse Point

Price:  Free

Why You’ll Love It:  Located overlooking the Steamer Lane Surf Point, the lighthouse marks the center of the Santa Cruz surfing community. From this vantage point, it’s mesmerizing to watch waves break, carrying daring borders toward land.

Address: 701 W. Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

What’s the Word:  A recent review on Google says, “A nice short drive out of Santa Cruz will get you to lighthouse point where you can enjoy the views of the sea and watch the surfers. The little tourist trap shop is curated well, and has some interesting memorabilia on display.”

Getaway Score:  9.5/10

A white building and a lighthouse with clear blue skies in the background and green bushes in the foreground. This is Lighthouse Point, one of the things to do in Santa Cruz.

The Mystery Spot

Price:  $8

Why You’ll Love It: If gravitational anomalies really grab you, The Mystery Spot will definitely attract your attention. Located in the redwood forests just outside Santa Cruz, the curious have been coming here for years to try and solve this physics quandary.

Address: 465 Mystery Spot Road, Santa Cruz, CA  95065

What’s the Word:  A recent review on Google states, “Had an awesome tour guide assigned to our group it’s a quite different experience one time visit. There’s also a nice small hiking trail right across the Mystery Spot you can hike for fun visited in 2014.”

Getaway Score:  9.8/10

Final Thoughts

And that’s it! Those are the 7 beautiful and affordable things to do in Santa Cruz, CA. When you’re done exploring this coastal town, you can’t miss The Most Beautiful Things To See In Big Sur or plan your entire PCH road trip! Have you been to this area? Let us know in the comments what you would add to the list!

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