- Family Time
- Photo Ops
Tap into the laid-back, surfy vibe of the Westside of Santa Cruz. It’s a great place to chill out.
For a city that bills itself as “Surf City” and is a World Surfing Reserve, it makes sense to start your trip with a visit to the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum. You don’t have to be a surfer to enjoy its fascinating story about surfing history. Fittingly, the museum overlooks a famous surf break called Steamer Lane. On a good day, some of the best surfers around, including professionals, can put on an entertaining performance.
From Steamer Lane, it’s a 2-mile stroll along the very scenic West Cliff Drive to Natural Bridges State Beach. The beach has tide pools and lots of marine wildlife in addition to its photogenic namesake stone arches. In the winter, its Monarch Grove is a crucial stop for migrating Monarch butterflies.
There’s also Wilder Ranch State Park about 3 miles up the coast from Natural Bridges for travelers seeking some exercise and more beautiful views. It’s known for its hiking and mountain biking trails, and you can also tour ranching and farming buildings from the 1800s.
If you’re not a surfer but would like to give it a try, you can expand this trip by taking a surf lesson at nearby Cowell Beach. You can also extend your trip further north to Año Nuevo park and the Costanoa resort.
Spend the day Saturday visiting the Surfing Museum, strolling West Cliff Drive, and lounging at Natural Bridges. On Sunday, Wilder Ranch is on your way home if you’re heading north via the scenic route on Highway 1.
Things to Do
When to Go
The weather is warmer and drier in the summer and fall. Santa Cruz is blessed with waves year-round, but they’re bigger and more spectacular in the fall and winter. Monarch butterflies start arriving in mid-October and leave by mid-February at the latest.
The Surfing Museum is free, but donations are appreciated. Both Natural Bridges and Wilder Ranch charge $10 for parking.