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Are you torn between a vacation on a sunny beach and camping out with nature trails for hiking? You can have both with a Santa Cruz getaway. Santa Cruz County has some of California’s most beautiful state parks. The scenery is amazing, and you’ll get the opportunity to observe the wildlife up close. With 29 miles of fun-filled beaches, you’re sure to find the ones you’re looking for.
Santa Cruz Beaches
With its mile-long shoreline, Twin Lakes State Beach is great for swimming and picnicking. Next to the harbor and Schwan’s Lake, popular with bird watchers. If you like beachside camping, check out Sunset State Beach with its tall pines and huge sand dunes. Tent and RV camping are both allowed. For the best fishing, head for Seacliff State Beach. The fishing pier at Seacliff connects to a half-sunk freighter. It features an interesting Interpretive Center and RV camping. If you want a good family beach you’ll love Natural Bridges State Beach with its natural arch and tide pooling. It’s also where you can see the overwintering Monarch butterflies from October to January.
Santa Cruz Nature Trails
Wilder Ranch State Park has a very family-friendly coastal trail. Hike easily with kids for 2.6 miles. The trail is well-maintained and safe. Take a cool hike through dense woods surrounded by steep coastal mountains at Maple Falls in Nisene Marks State Park. An old logging site, this trail is a little more difficult but suitable for older children.
Other Things to do in Santa Cruz
Don’t miss the old scenic logging railway at the Santa Cruz Roaring Camp Railroads. Take the family for an entertaining ride on a century-old steam locomotive into redwood country to the summit of Bear Mountain. The conductors share interesting stories along the way about the area’s history. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has dozens of fun things to do for everyone. It buzzes with the most activity in the summer, but you’ll find plenty going on in the off-season too. The Boardwalk Amusement Park features a variety of rides and games.
You’ll get the best views of the California coast at the Santa Cruz Wharf located near the boardwalk and Steamer Lane. The longest wooden pier in the United States, it extends for a full half mile into Monterey Bay. Famous for its barking lions, the wharf features plenty of seafood eateries, gift shops, history and nature displays, and even special seasonal events. When in Santa Cruz, you’re sure to hear talk of a place called the Mystery Spot. Don’t miss this weird and unusual place discovered in 1939 by local surveyors. The Mystery Spot is a gravitational anomaly that will stun your perception of gravity and the laws of physics.
Where to Stay
The entire Santa Cruz area is a camper’s paradise, but if luxury and comfort are more your thing, there’s that too. One great choice is the Hyatt Place Santa Cruz. It’s located by the seaside area near Pacific Garden Mall. A 10-minute walk from the Santa Cruz center, the hotel has spacious and comfortable rooms with loads of amenities. Click here for more information about this great hotel. You’ll find other great hotels near Natural Bridges State Beach all with superb ratings.
Where to Eat
The Santa Cruz food scene is varied and delightful. The Firefish Grill on the wharf specializes in fresh seafood dishes. Get creative burgers and boozy milkshakes at Betty’s Eat Inn Downtown on Pacific Avenue. Dine on American fare and seafood right on the beach at the Crow’s Nest. Grab some delicious sweets to take back to your hotel from The Buttery on Soquel Avenue.
Plan your next vacation in sunny Santa Cruz and get the best of both beaches and nature trails.