Santa Cruz, CA
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About Santa Cruz, CA
Originally a surf town, Santa Cruz is a brilliant Californian destination for families, groups or couples looking for nature-focused fun and an easygoing vibe. Accommodation options are wide-ranging, with everything from simple B&Bs to impressive seafront hotels. Many of the best places to stay in Santa Cruz are intimate inns with lots of character, but one of our favourite hotels is a bigger, retro-cool spot right on the beach.
Hit the many beaches for days of sunbathing, building sand castles and catching the waves. Steamer Lane and Pleasure Point are popular, but depending on your surfing prowess, you’ll find some swells better suited than others — speak to the team at your hotel for the best seasonal recommendations! Look out for annual surfing contests, too, which promise a great atmosphere and a joyful buzz. Hop aboard a boat to spot whales out at sea, try kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding, or kit up and join the locals fishing off century-old Santa Cruz Wharf — an impressive 823 metres long. There’s stacks of family-friendly fun to be had at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk too, complete with arcade games and a wooden roller coaster. Venture into the Santa Cruz Mountains to explore the Big Basin Redwoods State Park, and to visit the region’s fabulous wineries. If you're keen to experience a nearby city, San Jose is perfect for a day trip.
Back in the city, you’ll find quirky boutiques and vintage shops aplenty, a wide selection of lively eateries showcasing fresh Californian produce, and an eclectic array of annual events. Both a bohemian surf spot and a youthful university town, Santa Cruz brims with things for sandy-toed travellers to see and do. Book a room at one of the best places to stay in Santa Cruz and sink into the mellow charms of this blissful seaside town.
The Best Places to Stay in Santa Cruz
For a charming inn
- West Cliff Inn is a brilliant pick for a beach holiday. Set on a cliff just across from Cowell Beach, the property includes nine rooms clad in blue, green and white tones. A chic townhouse with lots of character, in a great beginners' surfing location.
- The Inn at Depot Hill was a working train depot until the 1950s, and has been transformed into a luxurious inn with 12 spacious guestrooms styled after different travel destinations. Some rooms feature four-poster beds, richly patterned curtains and roaring fires. An opulent B&B experience just ten minutes from Capitola Beach and Wharf.
- Babbling Brook Inn is a lovely 13-room B&B in beautifully manicured gardens. Rooms are characterful and comfortable, offering big beds and verdant views from private terraces. Highlights include homemade cookies and the evening wine and nibbles. A lovely choice for couples or families, who can easily be accommodated. Laid-back and intimate.
- Rio Vista Suites is a boutique, adults-only inn close to the San Lorenzo River. Stay here for smart contemporary decor and all the mod-cons in a Victorian-style townhouse within easy reach of the sights. Tranquil and private, rooms are great for couples looking to explore Santa Cruz or to hit the beach!
- Dream Inn is a bright, contemporary beachfront pick, perfect for families! Expect floor-to-ceiling windows and balconies with striking sea views, funky retro interiors with a nod to the Californian surf tradition, and a lively eatery. Kids will love the pool and the beach access — plus extra beds can be added to the rooms.
FOR AN APARTMENT OR VILLA
- If you'd prefer a self-catering option, we suggest that you visit our online partner Booking.com.
- Fly to San Jose International Airport and catch the regular shuttle service to Santa Cruz, which takes around 45 minutes, or hop into a taxi. Most hotels will be happy to arrange an airport pickup in advance. Visitors can also travel to San Francisco International Airport — the journey to Santa Cruz should take less than two hours.
- Alternatively, contact our online partner Rentalcars if you would like to hire a car. California is brilliant for a road trip!
- Santa Cruz is at its busiest during the summer months, when the sunshine and warm weather draw visitors to the area's fantastic beaches. Time your trip for the spring (April and May) for fewer crowds and slightly cooler weather!
STILL NOT SURE?
- Explore our list of all the best places to stay in Monterey.
- Alternatively, expand your search to see our pick of the best places to stay in California, or our recommendations for California's best beach hotels.
- Or contact one of our friendly Gurus for advice.
Best Hotels in Santa Cruz, CA
Rio Vista Suites Santa Cruz, CA (California) 12 rooms from £101Local exploring - This wonderful area has so much to do whatever your interest; spend days at the beach, hike, spot whales, kayak, golf or shopGreat walks - Take a leisurely stroll along Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Santa Cruz WharfAdult OnlyKayaking - Available locally.
a Boutique inn situated in a California Victorian building, close to the beach and Santa Cruz's Lorenzo river. As well as a shared living room with a fireplace, 12 suites are modern in style with leather furniture and flat-screen TVs. There is no restaurant but rooms have a microwave and fridge. See More
Babbling Brook Inn Santa Cruz, CA (California) 13 rooms from £125Sights nearby - Natural Bridges State Beach for some shore bird spotting and seals.Fishing - Sport fishing is avaliable.Views - Great views from hotelFull of character
Intimate B&B in a beautifully manicured garden a short drive from Santa Cruz. Light rooms with greener-that-green views, private bathrooms, fireplaces and private terrace. Enjoy the daily breakfast as well as a wide range of restaurants in town. Great spot for the family to explore the outdoors. See More
West Cliff Inn Santa Cruz, CA 9 rooms from £157Surfing - Surfers hunting the biggest waves head to Steamer Lane, for beginners Cowell’s Beach is the place to go.Great walks - Take a delightful food tour of Santa Cruz and explore the wide variety of eateries.Barefoot Luxury - For total relaxation.Seaside - Ideal for a seaside holiday.
A chic Victorian B&B perched on a cliff across from Cowell's Beach, Santa Cruz. Breezy and comfortable rooms with plush feather mattress toppers, spa baths and gorgeous sea views. Decor is beach themed with blues, greens and whites emulating the open view from the bay windows. See More
Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz, CA (California) 170 rooms from £160Local exploring - The location suits a multitude of guests; enjoy beach days, shop, hike in National Parks or visit historic monuments and museumsBusiness meetings - Perfect for an unconventional business event or conference due to the poolside event space with deck, cabanas and firepitsBeach Life - Santa Cruz's fantastic Seabright State Beach is a 30 minute walk or 7 minute driveSights nearby - Mission Santa Cruz dates from 1889 and there is an interesting museum on-site
170-room hotel located in downtown Santa Cruz. Managing to be both a leisure and business hotel, the property's stand-out features are the 2 outdoor swimming pools with covered cabanas. Rooms are spacious and contemporary with amenities for work or play. There is a restaurant, bar, gym and library. See More
Inn at Depot Hill Santa Cruz, CA 12 rooms from £187Fishing - Charter a fishing boat at Capitola Boat & Bait or The Chartle Charters.Great walks - Beautiful walks at Antonelli Brother Begonia Gardens.Kayaking - Explore the coast with Kayak Connection.Lively - Hip and happening.
This historic Inn, a working train depot well into the 1950’s, is just 10 minutes’ walk from Capitola Beach and Wharf. Each luxurious room follows the style of a famous travel destination. Plush Italian linens, feather fourposter beds, high ceilings, roaring fires- the perfect touch of opulence. See More
Dream Inn Santa Cruz, CA 165 rooms from £187Families - With rollaway beds offered at just $30 plus the beachside location is a sure fire hit with kidsSurfing - Set right on Cowell Beach - a favourite with surfersSwimming Pool - Outdoor poolSeaside - Ideal for a seaside holiday.
A modern hotel offering a spectacular location right on Cowell Beach. Light and spacious rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows and balconies to enjoy the sea views from, surf-centric artworks, and retro furniture. A laid back restaurant specialises in seafood. A great choice for a beach break. See More