Santa Cruz Beaches

Looking for Wild Cats at Panther Beach

Panther Beach

A panther is hidden in the golden cliffs at a beach about ten miles north of Santa Cruz.

Perhaps you need a wild imagination (or perhaps the aid of psychedelics), but all I could see after blurring my vision, crossing my eyes, and staring intently at a mix of mudstone and sandstone, was red, yellow, and gray rock marred by graffiti and decorated with a mix of coastal buckwheat, sage, and yarrow.

If you want to try your luck at spotting the elusive wildcat in the cliffs, drive north along Highway 1, just past Laguna Beach and fields of brussels sprouts on your left and run-down shacks inhabited by weary, weathered farm workers on your right, to an unmarked dirt lot on the ocean side of the highway.

Pull off and drive slowly over the deep ruts and piles of shattered window glass — heed this warning and don’t leave any valuables in your car. Park anywhere along the edge of the lot and walk down to the railroad tracks where you’ll see a Coast Dairies State Park sign marking the trailhead to Panther Beach.

The trail down is narrow and overgrown with purple thistle and yellow and white mustard flowers in the spring. It’s also steep enough in some places that the cautious will want to have both hands free or risk a bruised tailbone.

Despite this beach’s less than desirable access point, countless college students (and let’s be fair, probably some non-students as well) flock to this stretch of sand and lug cases of beer, boxes of firewood, beach chairs, bags of fast food, and entire watermelons down the slippery sandstone hillside. Then they leave it all there, including half the watermelon. [Read more…]

Geology and Geocaching at Shark Fin Cove

Shark Fin Cove

Photo Credit: Steve Dunleavy

A massive rock stands guard over a small cove full of geologic wonders just up the coast from Santa Cruz, only 0.7 miles south of the town of Davenport.

The main geologic feature, visible from Highway 1, has inspired two interchangeable names: Shark Fin Cove and Shark Tooth Beach. This beach is most certainly a cove, however, and it’s fun to imagine the size of shark lurking beneath a fin of that size, so we’re using the former here.

[Read more…]

Davenport Landing Beach: For Surfers and Swingers

Davenport Landing Beach Swing

Are you into wild and rugged NorCal beaches but not so into roughing it down a sketchy cliffside?

Looking for a spot you can tow a full ice chest or access via wheelchair, that doesn’t require you to just “hold it” until you get back to civilization?

Davenport Landing Beach has all that, and  a swing set, which makes you wonder: Why don’t all beaches have swing sets?

[Read more…]

Guide to the Best Santa Cruz Beaches

Natural Bridges, Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz County is home to some of the best beaches on the West Coast.

Surfing?  Absolutely.

Tide pooling?  Check.

Miles of uninterrupted sand, and beautiful sunset views?  mmm hmmm.

Beach volleyball, Sand Castle Contests, Beach Concerts?  Got those too.

Nude Beaches?  Uh…

Guide to the Best Santa Cruz Beaches:

Santa Cruz beaches have something for everyone. Some are favorites with tourists due to proximity to hotels and shopping while others tend to be local favorites. Below you will find all the best Santa Cruz beaches. We’ve given you two options for navigating this post:

View on a Map

Santa Cruz Beaches Map

[Read more…]

Classic Beach Hangout: Seabright Beach

Seabright Beach

Seabright is the valedictorian of Santa Cruz beaches.

You know that kid who is just good at everything? Star of the basketball team and academic success, who aces the SAT, and somehow manages to look cool doing it?

Yup, that’s Seabright.

Seabright delivers on everything important in a beach. While it may not have the flashy attractions of the boardwalk or the unique wildlife of natural bridges, Seabright might just be the best classic beach hangout in town.

[Read more…]

Beaches and Bridges and Butterflies, Oh My!

Natural Bridges State Beach

Natural Bridges State Beach (Photo credit: karma17)

Looking for a great spot to watch the sunset, play in the waves, or see some local wildlife?

Natural Bridges State Beach is one of the best spots in Santa Cruz for doing all three.

As you watch the sun dip beneath the water, you might just spot a whale or a group of sea otters playing in the kelp.  If you are visiting during the day, head over to the tide pools or the eucalyptus grove full of monarch butterflies.

During the fall and winter months, you can see the thousands of migrating monarch butterflies that make Natural Bridges a famous destination for wildlife enthusiasts.

[Read more…]