Known for its moderate climate, natural beauty, and vibrant social scene, Santa Cruz is a preferred destination for travellers globally. From mesmerizing beaches to mysterious spots, Santa Cruz, California offers a range of experiences. Here are five must-visit locations to include in your itinerary when visiting this stunning coastal city.
1. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
There’s no better way to begin your Santa Cruz adventure than at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. This legendary oceanfront amusement park has been a California staple since 1907 and continues to captivate visitors with its timeless charm. Get your adrenaline pumping with the Giant Dipper, a classic wooden roller coaster with breathtaking ocean views. The Boardwalk also offers more relaxed options like the Looff Carousel, which still has the traditional brass ring game. In addition to rides, the boardwalk features multiple food outlets, shops, and regular outdoor concerts and movie nights for the ultimate seaside fun.
2. Santa Cruz Wharf
One of the longest piers on the West Coast, the Santa Cruz Wharf is more than just a fishing pier—it’s a vibrant hub of activity. This 100+ year-old wharf boasts a selection of seafood restaurants that serve up some of the freshest catches around. Watch sea lions play beneath the pier, rent a kayak for an up-close encounter, or simply enjoy the stunning views of Monterey Bay. The Wharf is also a great place to shop for souvenirs, browse local art, and soak up the California sun.
3. Natural Bridges State Beach
For a taste of Santa Cruz’s natural beauty, head to Natural Bridges State Beach. This coastal gem is famous for its naturally formed rock bridge that juts out into the sea—a must-see for any visitor. The beach is a preferred spot for picnic lovers, bird watchers and photographers year round. But the real magic happens each winter when thousands of Monarch butterflies flock to the park’s eucalyptus grove during their migratory cycle. In addition to its stunning landscapes, Natural Bridges State Beach offers educational exhibits and activities, making it a perfect destination for families.
4. The Mystery Spot
The Mystery Spot, a gravitational anomaly located in the redwood forests just outside Santa Cruz, is one of the city’s quirkiest attractions. This gravitational anomaly zone presents phenomena that appear to defy gravity, confounding the senses and sparking curiosity. Observe water seemingly flow uphill, feel yourself stand at impossible angles, and witness other mind-bending visual illusions. Visiting The Mystery Spot is an interactive, fun, and unique way to challenge your perceptions and learn about gravity and magnetism.
5. UC Santa Cruz Arboretum & Botanic Garden
Rounding out our list is the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum & Botanic Garden, an oasis of plant life from around the world. Spanning over 135 acres, the gardens are a must for botanical enthusiasts or anyone seeking a peaceful retreat. They house an array of rare and endangered plant species from Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, along with a significant collection of plants native to California. Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the garden paths, take a guided tour, or participate in one of the frequent educational workshops. It’s an idyllic place to reconnect with nature and appreciate the planet’s biodiversity.
Santa Cruz, California, has something to offer every traveler—from beach lovers and thrill-seekers to nature enthusiasts and science buffs. These five must-see locations showcase the very best of this delightful coastal city, promising an unforgettable California adventure.