The boardwalk has been around for over 100 years when it was first started as a west coast rival to New York’s Coney Island.
You will find everything from roller coaster and carousel rides to arcade games and mini-golf. The Santa Cruz Wharf is a great place to enjoy the beach and ocean views.
It’s the site of live music events and you can head to the wharf for fishing boat rentals.
The beach is a popular place for surfing, sailing and kayaking. Santa Cruz Beach and boardwalk are just part of what makes Santa Cruz an excellent family vacation destination.
Another popular feature of the beach is the tidal pools and the natural bridge. These are great spots to get good views of marine wildlife like seals, otters, whales, crabs, sea stars, sea urchins and barnacles.
The park has a nice self-guided walking trail, Monarch Trail, which has an observation platform for the viewing the monarch butterflies. Check out the great blue herons and ducks at the Secret Lagoon.
If you are vacationing with kids, the tide pools and beach-side trees and rocks make Natural Bridges State Beach a great place to explore and have some cheap fun.
An interesting Seacliff State Beach attraction is an old World War I era oil tanker which is grounded in the water off the beach. The ship is the S.S Palo Alto which has been connected to the beach by a long pier and was quite popular as a fishing pier.
It has now deteriorated to the point where it is closed to fishing but it still is an interesting sight at the beach. Seacliff State Beach has RV camping available, and a visitor’s center that offers interpretive exhibits.
Sunset Beach is a very long stretch of sand that makes sit very popular as a walking beach. These are quiet laid back beaches that are frequented by the locals. You’ll find many very nice bed & breakfasts along the beaches and a good array of fine restaurants.
Besides swimming these beaches are popular for surf fishing and clamming. The waves here make excellent surfing and also provide beach combers with lots of shells to collect. Nearby Elkhorn Slough Bird Sanctuary makes a nice spot where you can take a bird and wildlife viewing tour.
So the beach is usually a little windy making it not the best spot for beginning surfers. But more experienced surfers and boogie boarders find this to be an excellent place to enjoy their sport. The beach ahs also got some great tide pool areas which are always fun to explore.
The surrounding mountains are home to the famous giant redwoods and here you can find trail camping as well as lots of trails for backpacking, hiking and biking. For Santa Cruz vacation ideas, a trip to Waddell State Beach and the redwoods of California is a can’t-miss choice. There is no shortage of vacation activities here.
Here's a list of some Santa Cruz area beaches where skinny-dipping is usually tolerated on some level. *Bonny Doon Beach (long-time & popular nude beach), *2222 Beach (very small beach with a local fan base), *Laguna Creek Beach, *Panther Beach, *Hole in the Wall Beach, *Four Mile Beach, *Scott Creek Beach, *Davenport Beach, *Its Beach (inside Santa Cruz city limits), *Cowell State Beach, *La Selva Beach, *Manresa State Beach, *San Lorenzo River and *Rio del Mar Beach.