Destination guide

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.

Things to do

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.

Activities

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.

Weather

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.

Natural features

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.

How to get there

How to get to and around Santa Cruz

The nearest airport is in Watsonville, CA (WVI-Watsonville Municipal), located 13.4 mi (21.6 km) from the city center. If you're unable to find a flight that fits your schedule, you might consider flying into San Jose, CA (RHV-Reid Hillview), which is 27.6 mi (44.5 km) away.

Where to stay around Santa Cruz?

Our 2019 property listings offer a large selection of 651 vacation rentals near Santa Cruz. From 422 Houses to 68 Cabins, find a unique house rental for you to enjoy a memorable stay with your family and friends. The best places to stay near Santa Cruz for a holiday or a weekend are on HomeAway.

What is the best area to stay when traveling to Santa Cruz?

Whether you're traveling with family or friends, here are the areas with the largest selection of vacation rentals for a holiday trip or just for a weekend in Santa Cruz:

  • Eastside Santa Cruz: 230 vacation rentals
  • Seabright: 169 vacation rentals
  • Opal Cliffs: 313 vacation rentals
  • Beach and Boardwalk District: 93 vacation rentals
  • Beach Hill / Beach Flats: 84 vacation rentals

For other neighborhoods, please use our search bar to access the selection of vacation rentals available.

What are the popular points of interest near where I can stay when traveling to Santa Cruz?

HomeAway offers a large selection of vacation rentals near lovely places in Santa Cruz. From HomeAway travelers, the most popular points of interest to stay for a holiday trip or just for a weekend are:

  • Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: 494 vacation rentals
  • Pasatiempo Golf Course: 818 vacation rentals
  • Santa Cruz Harbor: 838 vacation rentals
  • Santa Cruz Wharf: 831 vacation rentals
  • University of California Santa Cruz: 809 vacation rentals

But there are many other points of interest around Santa Cruz listed on HomeAway where you can find your place to stay. Please use our search bar to access the selection of vacation rentals available near the point of interest of your choice.

Can I rent Houses in Santa Cruz?

Yes, of course. HomeAway has 422 Houses in Santa Cruz. Our other popular types of vacation rentals in Santa Cruz include:

  • Cabins: 68 rentals available
  • Cottages: 68 rentals available
  • Bungalows: 68 rentals available

But you can also enjoy a great stay in one of our other vacation rentals including Condos/Apartments and more.

Can I find a vacation rental with pool in Santa Cruz?

Yes, you can select your preferred vacation rental with pool among our 55 vacation rentals with pool available in Santa Cruz. Please use our search bar to access the selection of vacation rentals available.

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