To learn more about the beautiful beaches in Santa Cruz County please
visit the Santa Cruz County Conference & Visitors Council's website.
Santa Cruz County beaches offer the perfect setting for seaside fun.
Whether you enjoy surfing, playing beach volleyball, or hiking along the
coastal bluffs, our beaches offer something for everyone. Looking for a
dog-friendly beach, a place to picnic with the kids, or the perfect
place for a romantic sunset stroll? From dramatic windswept cliffs to
the charming ambiance of a picturesque seaside town, you're sure to find
a beach in Santa Cruz County that is unforgettable. Check out our
complete list of Santa Cruz County beaches below, or see a list of the
best beaches for your favorite activity!
Manresa State Beach
Manresa State Beach features a beautiful expanse of sea and sand, with
surf fishing, surfing, and recreation.
Location – Directions
From Highway 1, south of Aptos, San Andreas Road heads southwest and
continues for several miles to Manresa, the first beach access upon
reaching the coast.
The weather can be changeable; layered clothing is recommended.Natural
Palm State Beach
Palm State Beach is a popular day use area located in Southern Santa
Cruz County. The wide beach is perfect for a long walk or a day in the
sun. Fishing and swimming are popular activities at Palm Beach. Picnic
tables are available in the day use area. Dogs are allowed on the beach,
Layered clothing recommended due to changing weather conditions and
strong offshore breezes.
Food, lodging and supplies are available nearby
Dogs are allowed on the beach, on leash.
Sunset State Beach
The beach features pine trees, mountainous sand dunes, and ocean side
picnic spots. Bordered by large agricultural fields west of the city of
Watsonville, the beach is a year-round destination for thousands of
Location – Directions
The beach is 16 miles south of Santa Cruz via Highway One and San
Zmudowski State Beach
The beach is a popular fishing area, featuring perch, kingfish, sole,
flounder, halibut, bocaccio (tomcod), jacksmelt, lingcod, cabezon,
salmon, steelhead and occasional rockfish.
The beach features the Pajaro River estuary, where a natural preserve
has been set aside.
The sandy beach is also popular with bird watchers and equestrians.
Horses are only allowed near the waterline. Swimming and water sports
are hazardous because of strong rip-currents.
The beach is located 20 miles northwest of Monterey off Highway 1. Take
Struve Road and turn to Giberson Road.
Zmudowski State Beach The beach is a popular fishing area, featuring
perch, kingfish, sole, flounder, halibut, bocaccio (tomcod), jacksmelt,
lingcod, cabezon, salmon, steelhead and occasional rockfish.
Natural Bridges State Beach
This beach, with its famous natural bridge, is an excellent vantage
point for viewing shore birds, migrating whales, and seals and otters
playing offshore. Further along the beach, tidepools offer a glimpse of
life beneath the sea. Low tides reveal sea stars, crabs, sea anemones,
and other colorful ocean life. The park also includes a large area of
coastal scrub meadows, with bright native wildflowers in the spring.
Moore Creek flows down to the ocean through these meadows, forming a
wetlands in the sand.
Location – Directions
Take Swift Avenue west from Highway 1, or follow West Cliff Drive north
along the in-town bluffs until it ends at Natural Bridges.
Facilities – Activities
A picnic area is located off the main parking lot in a eucalyptus and
pine trees grove. Tables, barbecues, water faucets and restroom
facilities are available. There is a day-use fee per car to park in the
state beach area.
The visitor center highlights local natural history, and the bookstore
has a selection of butterfly shirts, postcards and books for all ages.
Next to the park's Visitor Center is a demonstration milkweed patch
where visitors may view Monarch eggs, caterpillars and chrysalides. For
about half a year, milkweed is the Monarch's home, super market and
Monarch Butterfly Natural Preserve
The park's Monarch Grove provides a temporary home for up to 100,000
Monarchs each winter. From roughly mid-October through mid-February, the
Monarchs form a city in the trees.” The areas mild ocean air and
eucalyptus grove provide a safe roost until spring. In the spring and
summer, the butterflies live in the valley regions west of the Rocky
Mountains where milkweed, the only plant a Monarch caterpillar eats, is
plentiful. Monarch migration is variable, and numbers vary each year.
Before you visit, you may want to call the park for current information
on the population.
The Monarch Grove has been declared a Natural Preserve, thus protecting
the Monarchs and their winter habitat from human encroachment or harm.
This is the only State Monarch Preserve in California. Access to the
preserve area is limited to a handicap accessible boardwalk and
Monarchs begin arriving in October and most are gone by the first week
of March. The grove contains eucalyptus trees which are located in a
canyon, providing the Monarch needed shelter from the wind. These winter
flowering trees are also a convenient food source for the butterfly. On
chilly days when the temperature drops below 60 degrees, the butterflies
cluster together in the eucalyptus trees for warmth.
The park maintains a demonstration milkweed patch where visitors may
view Monarch eggs, caterpillars and chrysalides. For about half a year,
milkweed is the Monarch's home, super market and maternity ward. The
Monarch larva eats only the milkweed plant. Tours
Docent-led butterfly, tidepool and nature trail tours are available.
Large groups should reserve beach use and tours by phone at least 2
weeks in advance. Special event reservations should be made at least 1
month in advance.
Visitors can view the over-wintering Monarchs by walking down the park's
wheelchair and stroller-accessible boardwalk to an observation deck in
the eucalyptus grove.
Please, do not touch or throw objects at the fragile butterflies.
For everyone's enjoyment, no smoking, dogs, bicycles, skates, or
skateboards on the boardwalk.
Quiet please. Monarchs and other visitors are relaxing.
New Brighton State Beach
The beach features picnic areas, swimming, fishing and a nearby forest
of Monterey pine and Coastal Live Oak. The camping area is on a bluff
overlooking northern Monterey Bay.Location – Directions
The beach is in the town of Capitola, just south of Santa Cruz. The
beach can be reached by taking the New Brighton/Park Avenue exit off
Seacliff State Beach
This beach is known for its fishing pier and concrete freighter, The
Palo Alto. Unfortunately, the ship is unsafe and closed to the public.
Only the pier is open for fishing. The beach is also a popular swimming
spot. There is a long stretch of sand backed by bluffs. There is a
covered picnic facility. The park also has an interpretive center.
Location – Directions
Take the State Park Drive exit from Highway One in the neighborhood of
Why is there a ship at the end of the pier?
Was it built there — or did it sink there?
In 1910 a Norwegian civil engineer named Fougner thought of using
concrete to build ships. It wasn't until 1917, when wartime steel
shortages required the use of cement for construction that Fougner's
idea was used. Three concrete ships were built. Two, the Peralta and the
Palo Alto, were built at the U.S. Naval Shipyard in Oakland, California
while the third, the Faith, was built in a shipyard in Redwood City,
California. The Peralta and the Palo Alto were built for wartime use as
tankers, however World War One ended before ship construction was
finished — so they were never used.
The Palo Alto remained docked in Oakland until 1929, when the Cal-Nevada
Company bought the ship with the idea of making her into an amusement
and fishing ship. Her maiden voyage was made under tow to Seacliff State
Beach. Once positioned at the beach, the sea cocks were opened and the
Palo Alto settled to the ocean bottom. By the summer of 1930 a pier had
been built leading to the ship, the ship was remodeled. A dance floor on
the main deck was added, also a cafe in the superstructure was built, as
was a fifty-four foot heated swimming pool, and a series of carnival
type concessions were placed on the afterdeck. The Cal-Nevada Company
went broke after two seasons — then the Palo Alto was stripped, leaving
the ship and the pier to be used only for fishing. Twin Lakes SB State
Beach The beach has a mile of sandy shoreline, popular for swimming and
picnicking. The park's adjacent Schwan's lake is a good location for
Location – Directions
The small craft harbor in downtown Santa Cruz is approximately in the
middle of Twin Lakes State Beach, which extends for a distance parallel
to East Cliff Drive and Portola Drive.