10 Best Beaches in Santa Cruz

Updated On October 4, 2023
Santa Cruz

When it comes to Santa Cruz beaches, swimming in the Pacific isn’t always the primary beach activity.

Local residents and tourists visit Santa Cruz beaches to visit coastal trails and parks and participate in other family-friendly beach activities —especially surfing!

Why Surfing is So Popular at Santa Cruz Beaches

Often called the “mecca of surfing,” the town of Santa Cruz, California, attracts some of the world’s most famous surfing enthusiasts and professional surfers.

Thousands of surfers from around the globe take advantage of the challenging wave conditions that Santa Cruz area beaches are famous for.

Why do Santa Cruz beaches attract so many surfers?

Access to Year-Round Surf

California is one of the rare coastal locations in the US that offers surfers year-round access.

In addition, the temperate climate means eager surfers can ride the waves immediately.

Excellent Wave Quality

Along with the ideal temperature and a wealth of natural beauty, many of Santa Cruz’s surf-friendly beaches have varied waves.

Mixed wave quality has options for novice and skilled surfers to hone their skills for all twelve months of the year.

Strong Surf Culture

Because of the availability of varied waves and access to year-round surf, Santa Cruz is home to a large surfing community.

Local surfers have relocated to the area to take advantage of the opportunity to surf all year round. 

Other Popular Activities at Santa Cruz Beaches

  • Sunbathing
  • Swimming 
  • Beach Volleyball 
  • Hiking
  • Wildlife Viewing 

10 Best Beaches in Santa Cruz, California 

Main Beach, Santa Cruz
Main Beach, Santa Cruz

1. Main Beach, Santa Cruz, CA 

Main Beach in Santa Cruz is a world-famous beach that offers access to some of the best surfing on the planet.

Surfers flock to this location for its inviting waves and access to natural and man-made features like its iconic boardwalk that attracts thousands. 

Important Notes 

This area is known as a tourist attraction that attracts a significant number of visitors each year.

The beach also has an amusement park within walking distance of the beach. 

Contact Information 

Address: Santa Cruz, CA 95060 

Website: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g33048-d117453-Reviews-Santa_Cruz_Main_Beach-Santa_Cruz_California.html

Natural Bridges State Beach
Natural Bridges State Beach

2. Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz, CA 

Beachgoers can find Natural Bridges State Beach located inside the state park by the same name. 

California tourists and residents visit Natural Bridges State Park to take advantage of land and water-based activities that include the following. 

Important Notes

Most people visit Natural Bridges State Beach to explore its natural formations and tide pools.

They also enjoy beachcombing and marveling at the wide variety of marine life that lives in this area of the Pacific. 

Fun Activities at Natural Bridges State Beach

  • Geocaching
  • Windsurfing
  • Biking Trails
  • Hiking Trails 

Important Information

Natural Bridges State Beach is a dog-friendly beach open from 8 am to dusk.

They have parking, restrooms onsite, and accessible facilities for easy access. 

Contact Information

Address: 100 N Cabrillo Hwy, Santa Cruz – 95060

Website: http://parks.ca.gov/?page_id=541

Seabright State Beach
Seabright State Beach

3. Seabright State Beach, Santa Cruz, CA

People visit Santa Cruz’s Seabright State Beach to take advantage of calm waters that are usually safe for swimming.

They also take advantage of stand-up paddleboarding, surfing, or fishing on the onsite pier.

Important Information

Seabright State Beach features over a mile of California coastline designed with a naturally protective cover in the form of a cove.

Its natural formations make it an ideal location for swimming, paddleboarding, sunbathing, and being lulled by the sound of the calm waves. 

Contact Information

Address: East Cliff Drive at Seabright Avenue, Santa Cruz, California – 95062

Website: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g33048-d13516788-Reviews-Seabright_State_Beach-Santa_Cruz_California.html

Twin Lakes State Beach
Twin Lakes State Beach

4. Twin Lakes State Beach, Santa Cruz, CA

Located near Santa Cruz Harbor, Twin Lakes Beach offers a serene and relaxed atmosphere.

It is perfect for sunbathing, beachcombing, and beach volleyball.

The beach is also a popular spot for fishing and kayaking.

For more information about the best Santa Cruz beaches, visit the California State Parks website.

Important Information 

Locals recommend that you and your party arrive early to avoid getting lost in the crowds at Twin Lakes Beach on weekends and holidays.

Visitors love taking advantage of dipping their toes in the surf, which is calmer in the early morning hours. 

Contact Information 

Address: 111 Beach Street, Santa Cruz, California – 95060

Website: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=547

Cowell Beach
Cowell Beach

5. Cowell Beach, Santa Cruz, CA

Situated near the Santa Cruz Wharf, Cowell Beach is a favorite among surfers and beginners alike.

It offers consistent waves and is an ideal spot for learning to surf.

The beach also provides picturesque views of the coastline and the iconic Santa Cruz Wharf.

For more details, you can visit the Visit Santa Cruz County website.

Important Information 

Cowell Beach is one of the most popular surfing spots in the Santa Cruz area.

Its proximity to downtown Santa Cruz makes it an ideal getaway for city dwellers and tourists who want to bask in the California sun. 

Contact Information 

Address: Pacific Avenue and Beach Street, Santa Cruz, CA – 95060

Website: https://www.californiabeaches.com/beach/cowell-beach/

Capitola beach
Capitola beach

6. Capitola Beach, Capitola Village, CA

Located in the charming town of Capitola, this beach offers a unique coastal experience.

It features colorful beach houses and a Mediterranean-style village with shops and restaurants.

Capitola Beach is great for sunbathing, swimming, and beach climbing.

Important Notes

Capitola Beach is uniquely designed for coastal visitors who want to swim. fish, hike, kayak, sunbathe, and shop all in one area.

The array of stores and restaurants parallel to the beach is bound to have at least one favorite to delight you and your beachgoing party. 

For more information about local beaches, you can visit the Visit Santa Cruz County website.

Contact Information

Address: 131 Monterey Avenue and Esplanade Park, Capitola Village, CA

Website: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g32168-d117213-Reviews-Capitola_Beach-Capitola_California.html

Rio Del Mar State Beach
Rio Del Mar State Beach

7. Rio Del Mar State Beach, Rio Del Mar, CA

Rio Del Mar Beach is a popular spot for relaxation and beach activities with its expansive sandy shoreline and scenic views. It is ideal for walking, jogging, and picnicking.

The beach also offers easy access to nearby hiking trails and boasts beautiful sunset views.

For more details, you can visit the California State Parks website.

Important Information 

This beach is located on Monterey Bay and offers a wealth of nearby amenities that are easily accessible to beach visitors.

Rio Del Mar is an ideal location for swimming, walking on the beach, and playing family fun games like beach volleyball or checkers. 

Contact Information

Address: Rio Del Mar, California – 95003

Website: https://www.dbw.ca.gov/BoatingFacilities/Details/1284

New Brighton State Beach
New Brighton State Beach

8. New Brighton State Beach, CA

This beach is known for its sandy cove and beautiful coastal bluffs.

It is suitable for swimming, fishing, and camping.

In addition, the new Brighton State Beach provides picnic areas, hiking trails, and a welcoming visitor center with interpretive exhibits.

Important Information

If you’re visiting Santa Cruz for the first time, you can visit the California State Parks website to learn more about New Brighton State Beach before your arrival. 

Contact Information

Address: New Brighton State Beach, California 

Website: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=542

Panther Beach
Panther Beach

9. Panther Beach, Santa Cruz, CA

Panther Beach is located a short drive north of Santa Cruz and is known for its stunning natural beauty.

It features picturesque cliffs, rock formations, and turquoise waters.

Important Information 

Getting onto the beach requires a short hike down a steep trail, but the breathtaking scenery makes it worth it.

For more details, you can visit the Visit Santa Cruz County website.

Contact Information 

Address: Panther Beach, Santa Cruz, California – 95060

Website: https://www.californiabeaches.com/beach/panther-beach/

Davenport Beach
Davenport Beach

10. Davenport Beach, Davenport, CA

Situated in the small coastal California town of Davenport, Davenport Beach offers a peaceful and secluded setting for swimmers and land lovers.

It is ideal for beachcombing, exploring tide pools, and enjoying scenic walks along the shoreline. 

Contact Information

Address: 446 CA-1, Davenport, California – 95017

Website: https://www.californiabeaches.com/beach/davenport-beach/

Santa Cruz Safety Overview

READ THE FULL REPORT: Santa Cruz Safety Review

Safety Index:
Santa Cruz

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there fees required to access Santa Cruz beaches?

While some beaches in Santa Cruz offer free onsite or nearby parking options, others may charge a daily or hourly parking fee.

Consult your beach website to learn more about fees, beach rules, and regulations before venturing out to the beaches.

Can you surf at Santa Cruz beaches?


Santa Cruz is a world-famous town known for its beaches that attract surfers from around the globe.

A large surfing community and people who love year-round surfing frequent Santa Cruz beaches year-round.

Check the local beach website to learn about the surf and weather conditions beforehand.

Can I swim at Santa Cruz beaches?

While some beaches in Santa Cruz are ideal for swimming and other water-based activities, others strictly prohibit swimming for safety-related reasons.

Beaches that prohibit swimming will have signs that show swimming is not allowed, and they will also post their regulations on the web.

Are dogs allowed on Santa Cruz beaches?

Many Santa Cruz beaches will welcome your furry friends as long as they are leashed or can follow voice commands.

Beaches that allow dogs on the beach often have designated dog-friendly areas where you can soak up the sun rays with your favorite pet.

Visit their website to learn which Santa Cruz beaches allow leashed or unleashed pets!

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