There's so much to see and do in Santa Cruz...you should stay a week...or two
Fun Events - Festivals and Events, Top 5 Events This Week, First Friday
Outdoor Activities - Kayak or Paddle Board Santa Cruz Harbor, Kayak Elk Horn Slough
Surfing Lessons at Cowell's Beach, Rent a Bicycle-try a tandem!, Movies on the Beach
Dining & Beverages - Dining & Events at Abbott Square, Venus Spirits, so many great Restaurants
Wedding Services - Plan a Beach Wedding, Wedding & Event Coordinator
The most obvious nearby attractions are the Main Beach, Boardwalk rides and concessions, and the Municipal Wharf, which are all a minute or two away by foot.
And there are more great beaches in the Santa Cruz area; To the west is Cowell’s Beach (adjacent to the wharf), followed by many small beaches up the coast to Half Moon Bay, and to the east are Seabright, Twin Lakes, Capitola, Sea Cliff, Rio Del Mar and Aptos State Beach.
A popular walking and biking path extends above the bay, along West Cliff Drive. From Beach Street walk west (right), passing the Municipal Wharf, Dream Inn, Steamer Lane, Lighthouse Museum, and Lighthouse Field State Park, all the way to Natural Bridges State Beach, a distance of about 4 miles from Surfside. The Lighthouse Museum features surfing artifacts. When the surf is up, you can witness the expert surfers ride the waves at Steamer Lane.
Another favorite walk takes you from the end of the Boardwalk, across the railway bridge over the San Lorenzo River, along East Cliff Drive, to Seabright and the Harbor. There are several excellent restaurants there, a lovely beach, and many beautiful sailboats. Check out the Walton Lighthouse while you're in the neighborhood.
You can easily walk to the downtown area. Walk up Cliff Street (past Third Street) to find stairs that lead down to the river and Laurel Street. Turn left: on Laurel Street and right on Front Street or Pacific Avenue (one block further on). Pacific Avenue is the main downtown area, with a variety of interesting shops and restaurants, bustling with activity. There's art and music, fun events and activities for the whole family, and lots of shopping - so be sure to check out this Downtown link.
Or, you can walk downtown along the levy above the San Lorenzo River to the end of Pacific Avenue. There's lots to see and (if you've been indulging in Marinis Candies) workout stations along the way.
There are a number of interesting places to visit from Santa Cruz...
Traveling up Highway 9 will take you through the towns of Felton, Ben Lomond, Brookdale, and Boulder Creek and you can turn north at Boulder Creek and go up to Big Basin State Park or continue to Saratoga returning by way of Los Gatos and Highway 17 to Santa Cruz.
You can travel throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains while visiting some of the local mountain wineries. The Loch Lomond Dam and Recreation Area and the Roaring Camp Railroad (on which you may ride from Felton to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk) are two interesting mountain destinations. You might also just enjoy exploring the mountains on some of the back roads.
A 5-mile drive along the east cliffs will take you to the little town of Capitola by the Sea where you can enjoy the beach, some great boutiques and lots of fun restaurants. Leave yourself some extra time since traffic can move slowly - but it's worth it.
Monterey, Pacific Grove, and Carmel
These areas are easily reached on a 45-minute drive south on Highway 1 through lettuce, artichoke, and strawberry farms. Monterey counts the unique Monterey Bay Aquarium on Cannery Row, and the Monterey Wharf, among the many interesting things to do in town. Pacific Grove features 20th century architecture and a picturesque coastline. Carmel has interesting shops, homes and the famous 17 Mile Drive, which should not be missed. If you're heading in this direction you'll want to stop by the Moss Landing Café.
A trip north on Highway 1 will take you along the coast past a number of state beaches to Half Moon Bay where you'll find a quaint Main st full of fun shops and restaurants. It's a beautiful one hour drive.
University of California Santa Cruz campus is nestled in the Redwoods. Turn right on to Bay Street from the Dream Inn, above the Wharf. It’s a straight 3-mile drive to the campus.
Driving east on Water Street to left on Market Street will take you to Branciforte Drive, where you pass the
De Laveaga Park Picnic Grounds a short distance before arriving at the Mystery Spot. There you can visit one of the illusions of nature. If you wish to continue beyond the Mystery Spot, you can travel to Laurel Glen Road and circle back on the Old San Jose Road to Soquel and back to Santa Cruz.
You can visit the huge Redwood Trees at Henry Cowell State Park by driving up highway 9 into the mountains just a few miles. Then if you wish to go on to Felton you can visit the Covered Bridge there by turning right onto Graham Hill Road. Graham Hill Road also passes the Felton Station of the Roaring Camp Railroad.
If you drive up Bay Street to the south entrance to the UC Santa Cruz campus and turn left you wi1l be on the Empire Grade which will take you north through mountains to Bonny Doon. Be sure to check out Bonny Doon Vineyards while you're in the area. From there you can travel west to Highway 1 and back to Santa Cruz passing through the town of Davenport and the Wilder Ranch State Park where hiking trails are available. At Davenport there is an old country store where you can enjoy a hearty lunch, and the Davenport Roadhouse Restaurant.