Located on the beachfront of California, Santa Cruz is an incredible city and county known for its boardwalks, family-friendly attractions, and authentic sense of seaside Americana. Book a Santa Cruz vacation rental along the beach for an easygoing, peaceful stay, or venture further into the woodlands to enjoy a secluded retreat. Check out the most exciting points of interest in and around Santa Cruz.

1. Santa Cruz

Situated along the sandy shores where Northern California meets Southern California, Santa Cruz is a city that welcomes visitors and tourists year-round. Families young and old enjoy playing on the beach or taking advantage of the numerous quaint shopping and dining establishments in the area. To experience a real taste of the California lifestyle, take a stroll along the famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, which features historic carnival rides, games, and events.

2. Capitola

A few miles southeast of the city of Santa Cruz sits Capitola, a historic resort town and one of the oldest along the west coast. Enjoy walking along the sandy beaches and a well-maintained section of boardwalk here while taking in the summery look of the tightly-packed, pastel-colored buildings of the town. Don’t forget to pick up a one-of-a-kind souvenir at one of the local art galleries or handmade jewelry shops.

3. Rio Del Mar

Another resort town dating back to the 1920s, Rio Del Mar is known for its spacious and clean state beach. Enjoy the local wildlife by catching a whale-watching tour or going on a self-directed bird watching expedition. Vacation rentals in Rio Del Mar offer unparalleled access to this dog-friendly beach. Take along your surfboard or paddle board in the summer to enjoy the tides.

4. La Selva Beach

A short drive south of Santa Cruz, La Selva Beach is a secluded waterfront accessible by rustic wooden steps leading down from the slightly elevated township. Book a vacation rental within the small town of La Selva to enjoy the peace and quiet of the area, and the nearby amenities of Watsonville. Venture a short drive inland to enjoy the beautiful redwood forests of this area of California.

5. Davenport

Just North of Santa Cruz, the tiny town of Davenport is home to hospitality and exciting terrain for those who enjoy a mix of sandy beaches and hiking. Interesting rock formations including the famous “shark fin” dot the coast near Davenport. This section of beach is known by locals as “Slowcoast” because of its slowed down pace and quiet, small town atmosphere.

6. Pasatiempo

Pasatiempo, which gets its name from the Spanish for “pastime,” is known for the Pasatiempo Golf Club, one of the top three golf courses in California, an area already known for its world-class golfing. Book a tee time in advance and spend a day walking across the immaculately maintained greens that have lush trees and water features spread throughout. If golf isn’t your thing, vacation rentals in Pasatiempo are also close to numerous shopping and dining establishments.

7. Felton

Slightly inland from the coast, Felton is a town situated right in the middle of the picturesque California redwoods. Attractions in and around Felton include hiking at the base of Mount Hermon and hearing fascinating tales at the Bigfoot Discovery Museum. Spend a day here in awe of the massive scale of California’s famous redwood trees. Vacation rentals in Felton offer close proximity to nature as well as a selection of homey, family-friendly restaurants.

8. Aptos

Between Capitola and Rio Del Mar, Aptos is situated a short distance inland, allowing visitors to experience an enthralling combination of fresh ocean air and lush ancient forests. This historic village features numerous well-maintained heritage buildings that have been converted into quaint boutiques, family-run cafes and antique shops. Bring along your hiking or biking gear to take advantage of the trails in Nisene Marks State Park.

9. Moss Landing

A former wharf dating back to the 1800’s, Moss Landing is now a quiet fishing village that sits at sea level along the California coast. The town proper includes a number of small shops and open art studios, with restaurants offering deliciously prepared fresh seafood. Visitors to the area flock to Salinas River State Beach, which runs for a several-mile stretch beside the town and further south. Enjoy warm, clean sand, boating and whale watching during your stay.

10. Watsonville

Within Santa Cruz County, Watsonville is a larger urban center that offers a range of amenities from family-friendly to upscale dining, and shopping for every style and taste. Visit one of the local orchards and farms for a taste of the wonderfully fresh fruit and produce, or experience the wildlife at nearby Elkhorn Slough.

11. Monterey

Less than an hour’s drive from the city of Santa Cruz, Monterey is a coastal metropolis and a tourist hotspot. Bring the entire family along to enjoy the local aquarium, which features interactive exhibits with hundreds of species of marine animals. The city’s historic Cannery Row has been maintained and converted into a museum-like heritage area, allowing visitors to Monterey a taste of the old alongside a range of modern attractions.