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Santa Cruz Travel Guide.

Why Go To Santa Cruz

This county in northern California is filled with an eclectic bunch of University of California, Santa Cruz students, Silicon Valley tycoons, surfing enthusiasts and left-leaning residents. Its landscape is just as varied, with Pacific Ocean waves crashing against rugged cliffs, redwood trees rising sky-high in nearby forests and the Santa Cruz Mountains looming above it all.

The area retains some of its offbeat charms like Mystery Spot and its old-timey attractions like the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, but the county’s steady development of new local shops and restaurants speaks to its relevance today. Nowadays, Santa Cruz has enough things to do and places to eat to fill an entire vacation, but its location – just 75 miles south of San Francisco and 35 miles southwest of San Jose – makes it a great spot for a day trip, too.

Santa Cruz Travel Tips

Best Months to Visit

The best time to visit Santa Cruz is from September through November when the summer tourists have returned home, leaving a bit more room on the beaches, walking paths and other attractions. December, January and February see a slight dip in temperatures, which nonetheless are warm enough for the monarch butterflies who overwinter at Natural Bridges State Beach. The months between April and May are characterized by mounting temperatures and special events that meet their nexus in June, July and August.

How to Save Money in Santa Cruz

Catch a nature show You can certainly pay to see marine animals up close at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center, but if you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll spot plenty of animals around Santa Cruz without having to fork over a dime. Sea lions are known to frequent the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf and more than 220 species of birds call the Wetlands of Watsonville home.

Enjoy free tunes Complimentary summertime concerts are held on Wednesdays in Esplanade Park and on Fridays at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.Soak up the rays Santa Cruz boasts 29 miles of coastline. Capitola, Rio del Mar, Twin Lakes, Seabright and Main beaches are among the shorelines that are free to access.

What to Eat

The cuisine in Santa Cruz is as varied as the county’s geography. Just as there are oceans, forests and mountains, Santa Cruz boasts wineries, breweries and whisky bars, and restaurants serving cuisine that ranges from Mexican to Mediterranean. To get your caffeine fix, head to Verve Coffee Roasters, a highly acclaimed coffee bar and roaster with other locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Tokyo. Linda’s Seabreeze Cafe is good spot for breakfast – try the cinnamon rolls – but remember to bring cash, as it does not accept cards.

La Posta is a neighborhood Italian eatery with delicious pizza, and Laili serves up Mediterranean-Afghan cuisine. For beer, try the New Bohemia or “NuBo,” a brewery opened by University of California, Santa Cruz alums. Or, for a more comprehensive overview of the Santa Cruz brewery scene, hop on board a Brew Cruz bus for a guided tour of the county’s best breweries and bars. When you’re ready to satisfy your sweet tooth, try the local ice cream. The Penny Ice Creamery, which makes its ice cream in small batches from scratch, is a favorite among visitors and residents. If you want a side of stunning coastal views with your dark chocolate sorbet cone, head to the creamery’s Pleasure Point location.