Discover Northern California's Communities
Santa Cruz California

Santa Cruz: Where the Waves Dance and the Sunsets Sing!

Santa Cruz California, boasts a rich and storied history that mirrors the dynamic growth of the Golden State itself. Long before European exploration, this region was home to the Awaswas-speaking Uypi tribe, who thrived along the bountiful Monterey Bay coast.

In 1769, Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portolá arrived, marking the beginning of European influence. Santa Cruz became part of the vast Rancho San Vicente land grant, administered by the Castro family during the Mexican era

The American era brought significant change, with the town officially founded in 1866. Santa Cruz's strategic location along the coast made it a vital trade and transportation hub, especially during the Gold Rush era.

As the 20th century dawned, Santa Cruz embraced its identity as a seaside resort town. The iconic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk opened in 1907, attracting tourists and sparking a new era of leisure and entertainment.

This historical backdrop makes Santa Cruz undeniably epitomize the quintessential California beach town. It has been the backdrop for numerous films, including the iconic 'The Lost Boys.' But what sets it apart is its history – it was the original 'Surf City,' where Hawaiian royalty first introduced mainlanders to the thrill of riding the waves back in 1885.

According to Surfing Safari, "... in 1885, three brothers and members of the Hawaiian royal family (nephews of the then Queen of Hawai‘i) surfed on redwood boards in Santa Cruz while attending St. Matthew’s Military School in San Mateo. They are the first recorded surfers on California’s shore."

Santa Cruz: The Classic Beach Town

So, what makes Santa Cruz a classic beach town? It's got all the essentials: breathtaking beaches for everything from leisurely strolls to exhilarating body-boarding, excellent surfing spots for all skill levels, a bustling municipal wharf where you can dine on fresh seafood, shop for souvenirs, or even try your hand at fishing.

And who could forget the nostalgic charm of saltwater taffy being pulled in the window of a candy shop, a cherished childhood memory for many. Plus, it boasts one of the best features - the Beach Boardwalk. With its amusement park rides, games, and delicious treats, it feels like running away to join the circus!

Santa Cruz carries a carnival atmosphere, a throwback to the days when nearly every Northern California coastal town had its own beach town and amusement park. Santa Cruz, happily, is one of the last of its kind.

Santa Cruz: Beyond the Beach

But it's not all about the beach and the boardwalk. Explore beyond, and you'll discover an inviting downtown area with tree-lined streets, boutiques, coffee houses, and vibrant outdoor bistros where sidewalk performers add to the charm.

Santa Cruz also has a bohemian side with nontraditional lifestyles and a strong conservation ethic. It's a place where being "green" isn't just trendy; it's a way of life. This unique city boasts rich history, beautiful neighborhoods, fine dining, well-preserved Victorians, theaters, galleries, and even the Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park, where the Holy Cross Church stands as an active parish.

And let's not forget the crown jewel - the University of California campus, perched on 2001 acres of rolling, forested hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Monterey Bay, offering one of the most breathtaking views on the coast

Santa Cruz California is Truly Unique!

When you visit Santa Cruz, start with the excitement of the Boardwalk, but don't stop there. Wander the streets of downtown, revel in independent theaters, art galleries, and unique shops. Explore the lush parks and greenbelts – there are 32 open spaces dedicated to outdoor beauty and activities, including Ocean View Park, which offers stunning vistas of the boardwalk and Monterey Bay.

Santa Cruz comes alive with cultural events and festivals throughout the year, from the Fungus Fair to the Film Festival to Woodies on the Wharf. You'll have a lot of fun, and you might even learn something new!

So, whether you come for the beachside excitement or delve into the heart of the city, Santa Cruz promises an unforgettable adventure that goes beyond the waves and the boardwalk. Get to know the real Santa Cruz, and you'll discover why it's truly one of a kind.

To discover more, follow some of these links:

  • Things To Do
    Discover some of my favorite things to do in Santa Cruz: the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, Monarch Butterflies - just to name a few!
  • SC County
    It's one of the few places along the Northern California coast where you can begin your hike in the redwoods and end it on the beach!

Recently a reader contacted us to ask this question: "Do you know of any zip lines in Northern California? I'd really like to try and can't afford to go to Costa Rica or someplace like that." Click here to find out more.

To ask your own questions, visit our Frequently Asked Questions.

Check out what some of our readers have to say, too:

Please continue your exploration of what Northern California has to offer by using the Nav Bars in the left and right columns or by using the links at the bottom of the page.

Like what you're finding here at Discovering Northern California? Then please share with the Social Network of your choice.

And thanks for coming!

Catch me at Trafeze
Catch the wave... #Trafeze

Related Articles
Santa Cruz County

City of Santa Cruz
Things To Do in Santa Cruz