Santa Cruz, CA, USA

Santa Cruz, CA, USA

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Find the best place to stay — Santa Cruz

A surfing safari in California's oldest resort town

Santa Cruz once got into a beachy spat with a more southerly town over who could use the label "Surf City USA." And visitors may detect just a slight whiff of '60s hippie culture. In fact, a Santa Cruz vacation rental will position you well for all kinds of fun, whether it's "shooting the curl" at Steamer Lane, a sedate stroll down the half-mile wharf, hitting the amusement park rides on the Beach Boardwalk, soaking up art and history in the museums, or tackling the trails in the region's many parks.

A perfect wave of events for Santa Cruz visitors

They didn't get to keep the nickname, but surfing still rules in Santa Cruz, which has 29 miles of sun-soaked shoreline and 11 spots to get amped for the perfect wave—among them Cowells Beach for beginners. A Santa Cruz vacation rental in June is perfect for enjoying the annual Woodies on the Wharf, a parade of pre-1952 wood-sided autos, and the Capitola Rod and Custom Classic Car show. Labor Day is the time for the Capitola Begonia Festival. Special events draw crowds for the Fourth of July, Christmas, and other holidays.

In Santa Cruz, surf the surf or walk the wharf

It doesn't take a culture-vulture to dig the Surfing Museum at the Mark Abbott Lighthouse and the century of surfing history it chronicles. More studious types can explore a variety of art and history and marine museums, plus the gardens of the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum. There's shopping, galleries, and nightlife in the downtown area. Stroll along the half-mile-long wharf for a closer look at Monterey Bay's fauna and explore the Beach Boardwalk, whose extensive amusement park offers family-friendly thrill rides and games.

Oh, my, another awesomely sunny day in Santa Cruz

There's nothing gnarly about the climate in Santa Cruz. Summers are dry and predictably sunny for beachgoers for 260 days a year, with temperatures no higher than the 70s. Winters get cooler—in the 40s to 60s—with occasional rain, but not enough put a damper on surfing or hiking. Snow? Never. Oh, there's a bit of fog at night and on summer mornings. Just blame that pesky Monterey Bay. Weather is lovely year-round, but a Santa Cruz vacation rental in winter offers the best wildlife viewing.

More wildlife than you can shake a surfboard at

California gray whales put on a show on their winter migration from the Arctic to warm Baja waters, and Monterey cruise boats will take you to see them. Landlubbers head to Natural Bridges State Park to see monarch butterflies taking a breather on their winter travels. Up the coastal highway, elephant seals are busy breeding at Ano Nuevo State Park—they don't mind visitors. Hikers will see birds and other wildlife along Santa Cruz beaches and nearby parks. And a patch of giant sequoias stand at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, just north of the University of California campus.