This guide is part of Explore Santa Cruz 2020.
150 Aviation Way, Watsonville, 831-763-2244, specializedheli.com
Helicopter tours and aerobatic airplane rides, plus training.
Natural Bridges State Park
2531 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, 831-423-4609, parks.ca.gov/naturalbridges
Natural Bridges is a Santa Cruz treasure. With fascinating tide pools and the monarch butterflies hanging from the eucalyptus trees in the fall, the locale never ceases to inspire generations of beachgoers. Bask in the beauty here.
The Esplanade, Capitola Village
It typically gets voted best beach in California. And with its close proximity to the Capitola Wharf, plus a slew of great restaurants and bars around, it’s pretty much one big slice of paradise. To avoid the crowds, the beach on the other side of the wharf is usually less crowded. With free shuttle service to your car, you can’t beat it.
East Cliff Drive at Seabright Avenue
The castle may have fallen over, but that hasn’t affected Castle Beach’s great sandy stretch. Located between the Boardwalk and the harbor, it’s a great place to let the saltwater air flow through your hair and the ocean lap over your feet.
East Cliff Drive, Live Oak
It’s one of the nicest beaches in the county, with great views and easy access. A secluded treasure.
Manresa State Beach and Sunset State Beach
La Selva Beach and Watsonville, 831-761-1795, 831-763-7062
Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins that regularly surf the waves, and the priceless sand dollars that wash up on shore.
New Brighton State Beach
1500 Park Ave., Capitola, 831-464-6329
A great campground nestled in coastal cypress and pines makes this a beach-camper’s paradise. The campground is always full in the summer, so making reservations is a must. A good spot for long summer walks, especially during low tide.
North Coast Beaches
Just a few miles north of the Santa Cruz city limits are some of the most beautiful miles of coastline in the world. Most beaches can be accessed by dirt trails or small roads.
Highway 1, about 1 mile south of Davenport
Known for its beautiful rock formations and shiny, clean sand, Panther Beach is a memorable adventure. A take-your-breath-away beach.
Pleasure Point Beach
East Cliff Drive and Pleasure Point Drive, Santa Cruz
A little to the left of the late Jack O’Neill’s green cliff house is a nice protected beach that makes for a sunny spot after the morning fog has burned off. Perfect pleasure.
Rio Del Mar Beach
Rio Del Mar Boulevard, Aptos
The surf is milder than Manresa, but that doesn’t preclude the nasty riptides that have towed numerous unsuspecting swimmers into the deep. Great place to tan.
Santa Cruz Main Beach
Beach Street, Santa Cruz
Boasting volleyball nets, hundreds (sometimes thousands) of sunbathers and lolling surf, Main Beach, directly in front of the Boardwalk, is pretty much how it used to be 80 years ago.
Seacliff State Beach
State Park Drive, Aptos, 831-685-6500
Surf perch and halibut have been caught off the side of the area’s well-known cement ship, but this destination stands out for its striking views.
Twin Lakes State Beach
East Cliff Drive at 7th Avenue, Santa Cruz, 831-427-4868
This beach caters to families, kite flyers, picnickers and the like, and it is said to be one of the warmest beaches in the county. It’s also a great place at night around a bonfire.
Waddell State Beach
Highway 1, about 5 miles north of Davenport, 831-427-2288
Rich beachcombing and tidepooling beach, though it tends to get too windy for lying in the sun. Every sort of sport except skiing seems to be practiced here, including hang gliding, windsurfing and kitesurfing.
1001 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-427-2580, bicycletrip.com
Choose from cruisers, comfort, mountain, road and kids’ bikes, with helmet, handlebar bag and lock. Delivery and pickup within 12 miles.
131 Front St., Suite D, Santa Cruz, 831-621-2309, currentebikes.com
At this full-service bike store, you can rent an eBike before buying. Once you make the purchase, you’ll enjoy free tune-ups for the life of your eBike.
1420 Mission St., Santa Cruz, 831-316-7671, cycleworks.bike
Your new friends at Cycle Works have everything you need for your biking adventure. Whether you’re cruising along West Cliff or up for some mountain biking thrills, Cycle Works can help it happen with fairly priced rentals or a wide selection of bikes for purchase.
Depot Park Bike Park
119 Center St., Santa Cruz, 831-420-5270
BMX riders unite. The park boasts a bowed 8-foot-high wall ride and jumps, plus street obstacles and zero inline skaters.
Shuttle Smith Adventures
8035 Soquel Drive, Aptos, 831-234-3383
Mountain bikers can catch a shuttle to the top of Nisene Marks State Park to bike around the Soquel Demonstration State Forest trails. If your exercise plan involves lifting a beer to your mouth, take advantage of their party bus services for safe transit between destinations of your choice.
Capitola Boat and Bait
1400-A Capitola Wharf Road, 831-462-2208
Be the captain of your boat when you rent a 16-foot skiff and eight-horsepower motor.
Chardonnay Sailing Charters
790 Mariner Park Way, Dock FF, Santa Cruz, 423-1213, chardonnay.com
Multiple sails a day on the iconic, locally designed Santa Cruz 70, with specialty charters including winemaker, brewmaster, pizza and more.
Lighthall Yacht Charters
790 Mariner Park Way, Santa Cruz, 831-429-1970, lighthallcharters.com
Up to six passengers can enjoy a voyage on one of the luxurious 34-47-foot yachts for an affordable price. Yachts may be booked for private charters, lessons, events, or spreading the remains of a loved one at sea.
O’Neill Yacht Charters
275 Lake Ave., L Dock, Santa Cruz, 831-818-3645, oneillyachtcharters.com
Offering a variety of public daytime and sunset sails, as well as private charters for special occasions on the new custom-built 65′ Team O’Neill catamaran. O’Neill is tops when it comes to experiencing the beauty of the bay firsthand.
Pacific Yachting Sailing School & Charter Boating
790 Mariner Park Way, Santa Cruz, 831-423-7245, pacificsail.com
Pacific Yachting incorporates team building and more on its excursions, with 18 sailboats from 22-43 feet.
Santa Cruz Boat Rentals
15 Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, 831-423-1739
Some of the best variety is found here, with 24 wooden skiffs, 17 feet long with six-horsepower motors.
Stagnaro Fishing Trips
1718 Brommer St., Santa Cruz, 831-427-2334, stagnaros.com
One of the original local Italian fishing families, Stagnaro offers fishing trips, whale watching and cruises.
Seascape Golf Course
610 Clubhouse Drive, Aptos, 831-688-3214, seascapegc.com
You can have both 18- and 9-hole courses on more than 6,000 yards, situated between cypress trees. SGC also has an on-site Nike Golf learning center. Price range: $23-72 depending on day and time.
DeLaveaga Golf Course
401 Upper Park Road, Santa Cruz, 831-423-7214, delaveagagolf.com
This gorgeous course surrounded by trees offers an 18- or 9-hole course and driving range plus cart rentals. The driving range has 40 stalls, so you are almost guaranteed a spot. Course prices range from $34-60.
Pasatiempo Golf Course
20 Clubhouse Road, Santa Cruz, 831-459-9155, pasatiempo.com
A semi-private golf club which makes certain tee times available to the public. It offers a driving range, golf carts, golf instruction and club rentals. The course has a mandatory dress code, so be sure to dress appropriately. Prices range from $150-175, depending on the day.
Adventure Sports Unlimited
303 Potrero St., Unit 15, Santa Cruz, 458-3648, asudoit.com
Certified dive instructors teach scuba and lead dive trips. Kayak rental and instruction.
Aqua Safaris SCUBA Center
6896 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-479-4386, aquasafaris.com
Classes from beginner to instructor level, plus rentals and retail gear.
413 Lake Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-479-1121; 2370 Hwy. 1, Moss Landing, kayakconnection.com
A one-stop-shop for all things paddle related, Kayak Connection offers sea kayaking, stand-up paddling rentals, tours, and instruction in Santa Cruz and Moss Landing.
Venture Quest Kayaking
2 Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, 831-425-8445, kayaksantacruz.com
Bring your kayak or rent one here and explore the bay. Tours available.
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
1021 Salinas Hwy., Monterey, 831-242-8201, mazdaraceway.com
This world-renowned raceway hosts exciting auto and motorcycle competitions.
Castle Rock State Park
In the Santa Cruz Mountains, along Skyline Boulevard. A premier bouldering destination.
Pacific Edge Rock Climbing Gym
104 Bronson St., #12, Santa Cruz, 831-454-9254, pacificedgeclimbinggym.com
An impressive variety of indoor climbing. Bouldering, face climbs from 5.2 to 5.13, a roof, weight room, even a crack climb.
6896 Soquel Ave., 831-479-4386, aquasafaris.com
Explore the world’s oceans with Aqua Safaris.
303 Potrero St., Unit 15, 831-458-3648, asudoit.com
Divers of all skill levels can explore Monterey Bay’s reefs with complete training beforehand.
1233 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-332-7422, berdels.com
Berdels offers everything the skating heart could desire from men’s apparel to all skate needs—get your pizza-printed skate socks here.
222 Mt. Hermon Road, Scotts Valley, 831-440-1088
Local shop specializing in skate and surf brands in Scotts Valley
508 Woodland Way, Santa Cruz
Built in 1967, Derby has a long concrete skate run that ends in a big bowl.
Bill’s Wheels Skateshop
1240 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. 831-469-0904, billswheels.com
Since 1977, this shop has featured a wide variety of boards and accessories.
Ken Wormhoudt Skate Park
225 San Lorenzo Blvd. at Riverside Ave., Santa Cruz
This huge park boasts a full pipe, two bowls with pool coping and tile, a practice bowl and street course with steps, hubba ledges, wall ridges, metal rails, and great artwork.
Scotts Valley Skate Park
361 Kings Village Drive, Scotts Valley, 831-426-8424
Here you’ll find lines, rails, and large and small bowls for all skill levels to enjoy.
Santa Cruz Boardroom
825 41st Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-464-2500, santacruzboardroom.com
Great quality boards and gear, plus tons of community involvement.
Skydive Surf City
160 Aviation Way, Watsonville, 831-435-5169, santacruz-skydiving.com
Expertly trained jumpers give you an insane adrenaline rush six days a week.
Skydive Monterey Bay
721 Neeson Road, Marina, 831-384-3483, skydivemontereybay.com
Jump out of a perfectly good airplane in the world’s highest tandem skydive for once-in-a-lifetime views of the Monterey Bay and beyond.
Stand-up Paddle Boarding
Covewater Paddle Surf
726 Water St., Santa Cruz, 831-600-7230, covewater.com
Covewater is Northern California’s only dedicated stand-up paddle board (SUP) shop, providing stand-up paddle boards, equipment, rentals, and classes.
Stand-Up Paddle Board Co.
Santa Cruz Harbor, 831-818-7225
Unique services offered. Located in the harbor.
SUP Shack Santa Cruz
2214 East Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, 831-464-7467, supshacksantacruz.com
Beginners and pros alike enjoy the year-round rentals and classes offered through this stand-up paddle boarding company, located in the Santa Cruz harbor.
Surf spots South County
When the swell is up, this spot is the place to be. A nice left careens in front of the jetty, and a turn to the right can go on forever, assuming your skag doesn’t hit the kelp-infested water.
Named for the copious amounts of kelp in the lineup that “hooks” around skags and booties, this nice little point break has a loyal following.
Manresa is a mélange of peaks, valleys and sandbars, but often the place is epic, breaking left and right and all over. Expect a long, grueling paddle during the wintertime to the outside.
Like its moniker, this place is pleasure for just about everyone. As a result, it’s generally crowded with everyone from groms to experts, longboarders to ultra-thin glassed rippers.
Surf spots Santa Cruz
The bunny slope of surfing gets its fair share of beginners, but it also has nice, sloping waves that go on forever. Easy access and easy attitudes make Cowell stand out.
One of the best classic breaks in the world, Steamer Lane more than lives up to its reputation. With four reef breaks rolled into one spot—The Point, Middle Peak, The Slot, and Indicators—the Lane has it all.
The best tube rides available if the conditions are just right. It’s a speedy right that peaks over an outer reef and peels toward the beach.
Surf spots North County
A great reef break that is usually uncrowded (until now), especially during the weekdays. Three Mile, as with most North Coast spots south of Davenport, includes a long walk through brussels sprouts fields.
From long paddles and strong currents to sharky waters and unpredictable peaks, Scott’s isn’t for the faint of heart or arms. But when it goes off, it’s heaven on water.
Similar conditions for Waddell Creek as for Scott’s, except during the summer and early fall, when Waddell is one of the world’s premier wind- and kite-surfing spots.
Offers many surf clinics, plus mountain biking, backpacking and rock-climbing.
Club Ed Surf School and Rentals, Inc.
Great for locals and visitors. Located at Cowell Beach between the Wharf and the Dream Inn.
Cowell’s Surf Shop
30 Front St., Santa Cruz, 831-427-2355
Surf lessons, rentals and close to the best beginner break in the area.
Freeline Surf Shop
821 41st Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-476-2950, freelinesurf.com
Surfboard rentals and more—everything from foam or soft-top boards, and fins, flippers, wetsuits and even stand-up paddle boards.
O’Neill Surf Shop
400 Beach St., Santa Cruz, 831-459-9230; 110 Cooper St. # D, Santa Cruz, 831-469-4377; 1115 41st Ave., Capitola, 831-475-4151, oneill.com
You can nab surfboards, rent wetsuits and find brand-new gear.
Richard Schmidt Surf School
236 San Jose Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-423-0928, richardschmidt.com
Richard Schmidt won Best Surf School in our readers’ poll. Note the individual and group surf lessons, plus summer camps.
Surf School Santa Cruz
3548 Portola Drive, Santa Cruz; 345 Swift St., Santa Cruz, 831-428-3647, surfschoolsantacruz.com
Bud Freitas grew up surfing all over Santa Cruz County and has more than 20 years of water experience to channel into his surfing lessons. Board and wetsuit are provided.
BE Sanding Ding Repair
1336 Brommer St., Ste. A2, Santa Cruz, 831-325-5487, besanding.com
This local expert ding repair company services surfboards, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards.
Mount Hermon Adventures
17 Conference Drive, Mount Hermon, 831-430-4357, mounthermonadventures.com
A typical tour is a two-hour foray into the forest, which includes six ziplines and two sky bridges that sit 150 feet in the air.