Things To Do
Santa Cruz offers some of California's finest beaches, ideal for surfing, strolling, sunbathing and sandcastles, along with a historic beach boardwalk, vintage roller coaster, sea lions lounging on a lengthy wharf with beautiful views all around, scenic drives and a host of other fun things to do all year long – many of which are within walking distance or a short drive away from Beach Haven at Seabright. Here are a few highlights to help plan your trip while enjoying your stay at the beach vacation rental home.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Voted the Best Seaside Park in the World the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has everything a kid of six or sixty could possibly want to spend an entire day, complete with amusement park rides, the famous Big Dipper Roller Coaster and many other great rides for all ages, mini golf, food, shopping and arcade. There's also free classic movies on Wednesday nights from June 21 - August 16, and free concerts on Fridays from June 16 - September 1 on the beach bandstand. In the winter you can go ice skating by the beach in a covered rink at the Boardwalk, complete with holiday lights and decorations, from November 11 - January 7.
Santa Cruz Wharf. This 100 year old wharf is the longest coastal timber pile wharf in the country, stretching out a half mile into the Monterey Bay with a ton of shops. seafood restaurants and barking sea lions. Get your fish & chips, clam chowder and fridge magnets here. Check out the free annual Woodies on the Wharf event June 23-25 featuring more than 200 of these iconic pre-1952 wood-bodied automobiles, from 10am - 4pm.
Kayaking and Paddle Boarding. Rent wetsuits, kayaks and standup paddle boards from the Santa Cruz Wharf and be one with otters, sea lions, pelicans, dolphins, whales, seals and other marine animals in Monterey Bay. Set out yourself or take a Venture Quest guided tour. Beginners welcome.
Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor. Visitors to the Santa Cruz Harbor will find over 1,000 moored vessels available for commercial, recreational, or research opportunities. A boat dock and several launching facilities are also available to day visitors looking to rent kayaks, paddle boards or boats from nearby businesses. Private charters and group tours are available for Monterey Bay fishing, whale watching, sunsets and other fun excursions. Watch the sailboat races here at sunset every Wednesday night from March 15-November 1, and the amazing family friendly Lighted Boat Parade of decorated boats on December 2.
Seabright State Beach. Located between the Boardwalk and Yacht Harbor, and just over a block away from Beach Haven at Seabright vacation rental home, this state-owned sandy Seabright Beach allows leashed dogs and bonfires – they aren’t allowed at Main Beach. (S'mores anyone?) This is a popular location to view not-so-legal fireworks on the 4th of July, and spectacular sunsets every other day. Located nearly within walking distance at low tide is Twin Lakes Beach (also dog-friendly). You can easily spend the entire day at Seabright Beach, and rinse off afterwards with our hot and cold outdoor shower when returning home to Beach Haven.
Ocean View Park. A great place to bring the kids with a nice playground, eight extra long super fun slides, half court basketball, picnic tables, restrooms, the occasional homeless person and an adjacent off-leash dog park with views of the Boardwalk’s roller coaster and log rides, and Monterey Bay. Just a short drive away (with free residential parking) or about a seven minute walk from Beach Haven at Seabright. 102 Ocean View Avenue.
Surfing. If you're an experienced surfer and a regular visitor to the area, you probably already have your favorite Santa Cruz surf spots, like Steamer Lane, Pleasure Point, Highway 1 and East Cliff. Newbies should start out at Cowell's Beach (you can rent surf boards, stand up paddle boards, and wet suits at Cowell's Beach Surf Shop) or Capitola Jetty at the Esplanade. Take a surf lesson from Surf School Santa Cruz, Cowell's Surf Shop, Club Ed Surf School or Capitola Beach Company and you'll be shredding gnarly waves in no time. Visit the Surfline live HD cam and surf report before heading out. Or maybe you just like to watch. Steamer Lane on West Cliff Drive right by the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum is a great place for spectators to take in all the action. Check out the annual USA Surfing Prime competition that takes place here every year around mid-January, when the waves are especially impressive.
Santa Cruz Longboard Surf Contest. The longest-running longboard surf contest on the West Coast with 200 contestants taking part at Steamer Lane and Cowells over Memorial Day weekend. This free spectator event comes with music, refreshments, T-shirts and raffle drawings.
Sunset Cruises. Treat yourself to a chill sunset cruise on the Monterey Bay on one of the O'Neill Yacht Charters (catamaran) or Chardonnay Sailing Charters (sailboat) complete with snacks, boozy and non-alcohol beverages, and killer sunsets – weather permitting. (Cloudy weather? You're still on a boat!) Private and public charters are available.
The Crow's Nest. If you like sunsets and boozy beverages but don't like boats then you should have a drink and an appetizer or two at the Santa Cruz institution that is The Crow's Nest. Get there early for outside seating and enjoy the panoramic views of Santa Cruz Harbor, lighthouse and wharf. The Crow's Nest also hosts its renowned family-friendly Thursday Night Beach Parties in the summer (June -August) right on the beach from 5:30 to sunset with reasonably priced drinks and barbecue, ocean/beach views and live music from local bands. Admission is free but parking is limited.
Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary. If you love nature and outdoor activities this protected sanctuary along Monterey Bay is the place to go for whale watching, paddle boarding, kayaking, tide pooling, fishing, or diving among the kelp.
Monterey Car Week and Concours d'Elegance. This annual event for classic car enthusiasts taking place in Monterey, Carmel, Pebble Beach and renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is not to be missed if you're a gear head. Stay the entire Monterey Car Week at Beach Haven and enjoy all of the festivities from August 11-20. Maybe even bid on a classic car or two at one of the many auctions before attending the main event, the world famous Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance where the best collector cars in the world compete for best of show. In contrast, there's also the Concours d"Lemons in Seaside on August 19 to help the rest of us feel better about our own cars.
Museum of Natural History. The museum is located a block away from Seabright Beach and highlights the region’s diverse plant, animal, and human communities with exhibits focused on the natural and cultural history of the region. You can't miss it – it's the one with the whale in front.
Downtown Santa Cruz. A tree-lined bustling city center, pedestrian and dog-friendly, peppered with boutique shops like Bunnys on Pacific Avenue, and Old School Shoes for retro sneakers and other shoes, art galleries, street performers, movie theater, a concert venue and great restaurants. Stop by the original Pizza-My-Heart for a slice or ten. Check out the annual Santa Cruz Holiday Parade on December 2 from 10am - Noon, rain or shine, complete with floats, marching bands, classic cars, fire trucks, synchronized librarians, horses, guys with shovels, and Santa – good fun for the whole family.
Monterey Bay Aquarium. You may decide not to venture out too far or too often from your cozy vacation rental house, but the Monterey Bay Aquarium is worth the drive, especially with its new Viva Baja exhibit. Plus all the sharks, and otters and rays (oh my).
Wine Tasting. The Santa Cruz Mountains is one of the oldest wine-growing regions in America with over 70 boutique wineries, many of which family-owned. Visit Bonny Doon Vineyard in Davenport and sample some tasty Rhone reds, and Pelican Ranch boutique winery in Capitola.
Beer Guzzling. If you're in the mood for something hoppier, go to New Bohemia Brewing Co., an industrial-chic craft brewery and taproom for European-style lagers and creative ales, plus cheese & charcuterie snacks. Located on 41st Ave. There's also the Pour Taproom on Cooper Street in the heart of downtown Santa Cruz – a lively serve-it-yourself, pay-by-the-ounce taproom with beer, wine & snacks in a modern setting with 70 types of beer, wine and cider. And there's Seabright Brewery just two blocks away from your cozy vacation rental house, with its dog-friendly outdoor patio, rotating handcrafted beer selection, casual dining and 5 large screen TVs for the sports.
Go on a Santa Cruz Brew Cruz. Jump aboard "Betty Jane" (a renovated 1989 Thomas International school bus) or "Slowboy" (a 1964 split window Volkswagen bus) and tour three fine craft breweries in the Santa Cruz area for four hours. Lots of sampling and no driving! Join-in, private and charter bus Brew Cruz tour options are available.
Santa Cruz Surfing Museum. Located inside the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse the museum celebrates over 100 years of surfing history and culture.
Seymour Marine Discovery Center. This community-supported marine science education center of the University of California, Santa Cruz, is a good rainy day excursion and a great way to learn about marine science and conservation. The Marine Discover Center offers hands-on exhibits and touch pools (you can touch sea stars, sea urchins, hermit crabs, sea anemones, a friendly swell shark and more), an aquarium with rockfish, eels, decorator crabs and jellies, life-size elephant seal replicas, a gray whale skeleton and an 87-foot blue whale skeleton (one of the largest in the world). Tours are available daily along with seaside crafts for the little ones. Open Tuesday through Sunday.
Yoga. The dedicated and experienced teachers at Pleasure Point Yoga offer yoga classes seven days a week, whether you're new to yoga or have been practicing for years. They also teach sessions every other Saturday at Sunny Cove Beach. Pacific Edge’s Yoga studio also provides a selection of diverse classes each week to keep you stretched out & relaxed along with a climbing gym.
Capitola Village. Spend an afternoon at the charming Capitola Village with over 70 shops and restaurants just four miles south of Santa Cruz. Come to the Sunday Art & Music at the Beach series in the summer at the Esplanade and take in local art and live music. There's also the Capitola Art and Wine Festival in September. Come watch the Capitola Tree Lighting Ceremony and Surfing Santa arrive by canoe to deliver toys at the beach in November.
Spring Break. Skip Florida. Santa Cruz is the place to go for you and your kids for spring break to chill out and relax, which usually runs between April 1-16 for most of us. Santa Cruz was named among the 11 most popular spring break destinations in California by HomeToGo, and coming in as the most affordable location. Forget the books and hit the beach and the Boardwalk! Stay a little longer and spend the Easter weekend holiday here in Seabright at the beach too.
Mavericks Surf Challenge. The Titans of Mavericks surf competition taking place since 1999 in Half Moon Bay has been on a hiatus since the organizers filed for bankruptcy in 2017. However, the competition is returning January - February 2018 since the invitational surf contest was acquired by The World Surf League, and renamed the Mavericks Challenge as part of it's 2018 Big Wave Surfing Tour. Both men and women compete in this premiere, high adrenaline, big wave surfing event with massive waves reaching up to 60 feet. You can no longer view the Mavericks Challenge at the event site because it has become too dangerous to spectators due to the unpredictable nature of the giant waves. There are a number of local bars, restaurants and businesses streaming the event live where you can view the action.
During the rest of the winter season, you can check out some pretty large and impressive swells from a safe distance onshore from Pillar Point Harbor; best usually anywhere from November 1 - March 31.
Holiday Getaways. Santa Cruz is the perfect getaway for the holidays. What better way to celebrate the holiday season from Thanksgiving through New Years, including Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, than on the coast? Also a great place to spend Mother's Day and Father's Day weekends – treat them to a weekend at the beach! And don't forget about Memorial Day, Labor Day, Presidents Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Columbus Day and, of course, the 4th of July Independence Day – watch the amazing fireworks show on Seabright Beach!
Romantic Getaway. Spend Valentine's Day or a quiet weekend away with your special someone at the beach, take a couple of roadies with you and watch the sunset, walk to La Posta for a romantic candlelight dinner, have a soak in the private hot tub, play some Barry White on the Sonos and...curl up together on one of the comfy couches or large California King bed and Netflix and chill?
UCSC Graduation. The commencement ceremonies for the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) typically take place in mid-June over a Friday-Sunday weekend. You'll need a place to stay, preferably nearby, for the graduation festivities. Book your accommodations early because everything fills up quickly. Go Banana Slugs!
Family Reunions. Santa Cruz is an ideal spot for family reunions and other get-togethers, especially Seabright Beach where you can get your toes in the sand, go body surfing with Grandma, take in the ocean breeze, play games, and have a bonfire and s'mores at sunset while listening to Uncle Pat strum the guitar and sing folk tunes...again. Walk everywhere to great bars and restaurants nearby and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Big Dipper.
Bachelorette Parties. Celebrate your last few days of singledom with your bridal party at Seabright Beach and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, wine tasting at one of the local wineries, on the water with a Chardonnay sunset sailing cruise, cocktails at The Crows Nest, and pint size Bloody Marys at The Harbor Cafe for the morning after, and more. What happens in Santa Cruz, stays in Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz Beach Train. Take a ride on a Roaring Camp Railroads classic steam train departing the Santa Cruz Mountains and traveling through the Redwoods State Park, down the scenic San Lorenzo River Gorge, across a 1909 steel truss bridge and through a 1875 tunnel before arriving at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Reverse round trips are also available. The train departs weekends during Spring and Fall, and daily in the Summer. You can also spend a day out with the kiddos and Thomas the Tank Engine with a tour through the Big Trees, including train ride, photos, tattoos you won't regret later, face painting, bouncy houses and more. Tour runs July 28 - 30 and August 4 - 6.
There's also Thomas and Percy's Halloween Party in October. Dress up for Halloween and celebrate this family event with a 25-minute train ride departing from Felton, face painting, temporary tattoos, story telling, cookie decorating, photos with Sir Topham Hatt. Trains depart hourly from 10:30am-2:30pm on October 14,15, 22, 28, 29. It is recommended that guests arrive at the event at least one hour before their scheduled departure.
In November and December you can celebrate the holiday season on the rails with a festive train ride on the Polar Express Train, Holiday Lights Train or Chanukah Train. All trains depart from the Boardwalk.
Get Married. Santa Cruz is a wonderful place to get married with its many wedding venues, reception locations and lodging rental options available for the wedding party, family and guests visiting. You might even consider having your wedding ceremony on the beach. Santa Cruz is also a great place to have a relaxing honeymoon by the ocean. You might want to attend the annual Bridal Expo at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk's Cocoanut Grove in January for inspiration and all the information you'll need to plan the perfect wedding. Or you can forgo all the formalities and stress and just elope in Santa Cruz instead with Blue Sky Elopements.
Play Around. Specifically, play a round of golf. There are a number of great golf courses in Santa Cruz if you can pull yourself away from your relaxing vacation rental home and nearby beach. Be the ball. Golf can be relaxing, right? There's always the 18-hole Buccaneer Bay Mini Golf option located inside Neptune's Kingdom on the Beach Boardwalk.
Get The Spare. If golf isn't your bag maybe bowling is more up your alley. Located right across the Boardwalk Arcade is Boardwalk Bowl. Just remember: This is bowling. There are rules.
Go Take a Hike. There are a number of fantastic hiking trails in Santa Cruz County and if you want to go see some big red trees jump in the car and go to Big Basin Redwoods State Park in the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains, or Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in Felton.
Go For a Run. Train hard or don't for the annual Santa Cruz Half Marathon in April. 10K and 5K options available. There's also the Surfer's Path Marathon in February, and Capitola Half Marathon in May along the beautiful California coastline.
Get On Your Bike And Ride. Or walk, run or drive along West Cliff Drive – just two blocks from your Beach Haven rental home – from the Wharf to Natural Bridges and back (four+ miles round trip) next to the ocean with amazing views. Rated #1 of 80 things to do in Santa Cruz by TripAdvisor. Watch the surfers, dolphins and people passing by. Take the dog. Especially great at sunrise and sunset. Or you can go on a private guided Rose Petal Bicycle Tour offering different bike routes tailored to your specific interests, fitness level and riding ability to experience the Santa Cruz lifestyle. Each ride will last approximately three hours covering popular surf spots, harbors, beaches, local museums, the Boardwalk, state parks – whatever you choose – with a stop for drinks and snacks. Food and bikes not included.
Natural Bridges State Park. This beach, known for its natural bridge, is an excellent place for viewing shore birds, monarch butterflies (winter and spring), migrating whales, seals, otters and tidepools with sea stars, shore crabs, and sea anemones. Bring a picnic lunch (tables, barbecues, water faucets and restroom facilities are available) but there is no camping on the beach at night, which closes at sunset. Natural Bridges is a family friendly beach but if you venture too far you'll run into the 2222 nude beach and be over dressed.
Mystery Spot. What is the Mystery Spot? Its a "gravity defying" tourist trap located in the redwoods forests just outside of Santa Cruz, but a really fun one if you're into that sort of thing, optical illusions, short tours and have a sense of humor. Get the Mystery Spot bumper sticker to cover up your Raiders/Chargers/Rams one.
Whale Watching Tour. Climb aboard a charter boat and head out to the Monterey Bay to see some whales, dolphins & porpoises. Look for Humpback Whales from April through November, and Gray Whales from December through April, along with some sea lions, seals, otters and maybe a shark or two. Check out Santa Cruz Whale Watching Tours by Stagnaro Charters.
Santa Cruz County Fair. The five day county fair takes place every year in September at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds in Watsonville, with all the animals, barbecue, live entertainment, carnival rides and games you'd expect. Fun for the whole family.
Scott's Valley Art, Wine and Beer Festival. This annual weekend-long kid and dog friendly event (18 years and counting) should not be missed – especially now that they've added the Cops 'N Rodders Car Show to the mix. The Festival takes place August 19-20 but check the art festival website for more information and actual 2018 dates. Read more on our Blog.
Hop N' Barley Beer Festival. Another fun family and dog friendly annual one day event taking place mid-July in Scott's Valley with over 50 local and regional craft beers and a dozen ciders for the tasting, live music, food and games. Visit the beer festival website for more information, tickets and event date for 2018.
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