Activities in and around Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz is ideally situated along the Central Coast of California. The university
is only a few miles from the Monterey Bay and Pacific Ocean. San Jose and Silicon Valley
are "just over the hill", about an hour away. San Francisco is just under two hours north;
and only a little further if you drive up the scenic Highway 1, California's famous costal
In Santa Cruz:
- The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
- The Beach Boardwalk is situated on the north shore of the Monterey Bay. It is
California's oldest amusement park and a State Historic Landmark. Two of its rides
are landmarks in their own right: the 1911 Loff Carousel and the 1924 Giant Dipper
roller coaster, one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in the USA that is still
in operation. Admission is free, you pay only for the rides.
- If you've never been surfing, this could be your summer to
learn! Santa Cruz
has several beaches that are excellent for beginners, as well as big swells for the
established surfers. Those looking for a bigger challenge can drive just an hour
up the coast to the world famous Mavericks
surf spot in Half Moon Bay. If your passion is wind surfing, UCSC School of
Engineering Professor Alex Pang has compiled information about
the local wind surfing
- Ocean Kayaking
- Those who want to get out on the water, but aren't interested in surfing,
can visit the Kayak Connection in the
Santa Cruz Harbor. They rent open and closed top kayaks and are able to schedule group
kayaking tours of the Santa Cruz beachfront.
- Santa Cruz county is home to many beautiful beaches. For a full list and
information see the
County Beach List. At
many of the beaches in and around Santa Cruz, you can find surfing, para surfing,
wind surfing, ocean kayaking, and barbeque pits. You can also explore the
Natural Bridges State
Park, with its tidal pools and rocky shore. Of course, there are
to explore the
setting of Santa Cruz beaches...
- Hiking and State Parks
- UCSC is bordered by two state parks with excellent hiking and biking trails:
Henery Cowell Redwoods
State Park and Wilder
ranch State Park. A little further afield, nestled in the Santa Cruz mountains,
is Big Basin Redwoods State
Park, California's oldest state park, with ancient redwoods and hiking trails that
go all the way to the ocean. Just minutes north of the Big Basin beach is
Año Neuvo State
Reserve where you can take guided tours of sand dunes that are home to the northern
- Downtown Santa Cruz
- If you're feeling more metropolitan, visit Downtown Santa Cruz — home to
art galleries, unique dining establishments, local shops, and a great night life.
In Monterey (90 minutes south):
- Monterey Bay Aquarium
- Today's Monterey Bay Aquarium is the culmination of efforts going back to the
turn of the century. The current site was purchased in 1978 a group of marine
biologists (including David Packard's daughter and granddaughter) who formed the
Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation. The aquarium opened to the public in 1984 and
is marking its 20th anniversary with new exhibits and special events all year
- Cannery Row
- Home to a world renouned aquarium, art galleries, dining, shopping and ocean
vistas, Monterey's historic Cannery Row is a great place to visit while you're in
the area. The street was made famous by John Steinbeck's book based on life in the
- 17 Mile Drive and
Pebble Beach Golf Course
- If you are an avid golfer, or simply love the natural beauty of coastlines,
don't miss the 17 Mile Drive, home of the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course. You can
easily spend the afternoon exploring this area of the California Coast.
- Just south of Monterey is the town of Carmel, a coastal town reminiscient
of European retreats. It features more of California's beautiful coast line,
shopping, and dining.
- Big Sur and Highway 1
- The Big Sur coastline south of Monterey is amoung the most photographed
coasts in the world. Highway 1 winds along the cliffs here from Carmel
all the way down to Morro Bay (a journey of several spectacular hours by car).
The stretch of highway between Carmel and the town of Big Sur is home to the
Big Sur International Marathon. If you start feeling
hungry, be sure to visit the Rocky Point Restaurant
where you can walk on the paths worn into the cliffs by past visitors.
In San Jose and Silicon Valley (60 minutes north):
- San Jose Tech Museum and IMAX Theater
- San Jose's Tech Museum pays hommage to the driving force behind Silicon Valley:
Innovation. During this year, the gallary is free on the second sunday of every month
(August 8). New this year is a genetics exhibit that explores the technology and
social changes brought about by this field.
- Winchester Mystery House
- Construction began on this unique house in 1884, funded and designed by Sarah
Winchester (widow of the Winchester Rifle Company's founder). Construction did not end
until Sarah's death almost fourty years later. A Victorian mansion with over 150 rooms,
it also has some of the strangest design features ever included in a house, including
doors to nothing, and stairs to the ceiling.
- Intel Museum
- Explore the history of transistors, memory, and microprocessors at the Intel
Museum in Santa Clara. Admission is free!
- Stanford University and
- Many people believe that without Stanford University, Silicon Valley would not
be where it is today (literally). Visit the campus and downtown Palo Alto. You can
also take a tour of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (registration is required
- Great America
- If you enjoy roller coasters, you'll love Paramount's Great America. The park
has eight different coasters, ranging from the wooden Grizzly, to the suspended coaster
Top Gun. The park also has water rides (including a new Australian themed ride), and
more traditional amusement park rides.
- NASA's Ames Research Center
- NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field is home to the largest wind tunnel
in the world, as well as projects related to air transportation, astrobiology,
information technology, the Earth Observing System, nanotechnology, and
supercomputing, just to name a few. This year, the NASA Ames Visitor Center is
moving to a new location; it will reopen in July, and tours will be available
(registration is required in advance).
In San Francisco (90 minutes north):
San Francisco has so many attractions they can (and do) fill entire travel guides.
Some of the sites you may want to visit include: