Santa Cruz

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The 11 best things to do in Santa Cruz

Flanked by coastal redwoods and Monterey Bay, Santa Cruz blends Southern California’s beach town vibes with Northern California’s rugged good looks. With 300 annual days of sunshine, you’ll find most residents outdoors on bikes, trails, or surfboards. It’s here that surfing was introduced to the mainland in the 1880s, and today, surf culture informs nearly every aspect of daily life. The official dress code is flip-flops and hoodies, yet it’s not all beach bums sleeping in their VW vans. A new wave of young business owners are lending the once sleepy town a jolt of fresh energy with stylish boutiques, craft brews, and modern eateries. Done something on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDoList and tag @TimeOutEverywhere. Find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world.

The best hotels in Santa Cruz

As if its enviable setting between the Monterey Bay and redwood-blanketed Santa Cruz Mountains wasn’t enough, the small city of Santa Cruz also boasts 300 days of sunshine and 29 miles of sandy shore. Check into any local hotel and you’ll likely be lured outdoors with sparkling pools, shiny beach cruisers and directions to the nearest beach. Santa Cruz is also the birthplace of mainland surfing—thanks to three vacationing Hawaiian princes who taught locals how to catch waves with repurposed redwood planks—and the town’s thriving surf scene is often captured in hotel design and offerings. Whether you’re looking to put your toes to the nose or just bury them in the sand, the following spots will immerse you in Santa Cruz’s sunny, outdoor culture and give you a base for exploring the city’s best things to do.