Welcome to Santa Cruz

Sprawled along California’s iconic Highway 1, Santa Cruz County offers a unique combination of scenic beauty, world-class boutique wineries, a thriving arts and culture scene, an organic farming movement and miles upon miles of state parks.

Home to the legendary Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, historic Santa Cruz Wharf and distinguished UC Santa Cruz (UCSC), it’s clear that there’s more to this area than dipping your toes into the sand. But if that’s how you want to pass the day, there are few better places to do so.

With an abundance of wildlife, Santa Cruz County has become a popular destination for nature lovers. You can watch gray and humpback whales migrate through the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, be dazzled by monarch butterflies at Natural Bridges, California’s only State Park Monarch Preserve, hike under a natural redwood canopy or enjoy the playful sea lions at the end of the Wharf.

Over 70 wineries and tasting rooms dot the Santa Cruz Mountains Appellation, one of the oldest wine regions in the United States. A unique microclimate adds to the richness of the soil and many winegrowers employ organic and sustainable growing methods. In addition to wine, Santa Cruz County is famous for strawberry and apple production, predominately in Watsonville.

Living in Santa Cruz

A few blocks from the beach lays Santa Cruz’s downtown area. The pedestrian-friendly, quaint streets are a wonderful mix of beach town, college town and uptown, with vibrant shops, galleries, breweries, bistros and boutiques commingling and embracing “the Original Surf City’s” free-spirited personality.

Those who enjoy outdoor recreation will find no better place to play than Santa Cruz, one of the few areas where a trail can begin in a redwood forest and end at the beach. Surfing is the name of the game, but there’s plenty of fun to be had without a board as well. State parks (14 in total) offer hundreds of miles of hiking trails, mountain meadows and redwood groves. For avid cyclists, the 100-mile Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge is one of the most physically demanding rides in the western United States.

With a bustling wine region, there is a thriving wine culture providing fun and entertaining events throughout the year and an array of local restaurants offer wine and food pairings. For those who enjoy cooking at home, the area’s natural bounty can be found at one of the many farmers’ markets (Santa Cruz County hosts at least one nearly every day).

Educational opportunities range from public, private and charter schools to one of the state’s most notable higher institutions, University of California, Santa Cruz.

Fun Facts

  • Santa Cruz is where Hawaiian royalty first introduced surfing to the mainland.
  • The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is the West Coast’s oldest seaside amusement park.
  • The Santa Cruz Wharf, the longest wooden wharf on the coast of the U.S., celebrated its Centennial year in 2014.
  • The archives of the Grateful Dead are housed at the UC Santa Cruz’s main library, McHenry Library.
  • Santa Cruz is home to the Golden State Warriors’ NBA Development League team, the Santa Cruz Warriors, who compete in a 3,200-seat facility near downtown.

The cities, towns, and neighborhoods that make up Santa Cruz County include:

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