Ideally sited at the north end of Monterey Bay, Santa Cruz (SC) has marched to its own beat since long before the beat generation. In the 1970s a local newspaper published a do-it-yourself artificial-insemination guide for the large local lesbian community (first buy a turkey-baster…) and for many years the mayor was neither Democrat nor Republican (unthinkable!), but rather a ‘socialist-feminist.’ It’s still cool to be a hippie, even if you scratch some and find a slumming Silicon Valley millionaire underneath.
Local ethos aside, it is one of the most enjoyable towns on the coast, with a delightful and vibrant downtown that has staged a remarkable comeback from the devastation of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. On the waterfront there’s the vintage boardwalk and beaches, while in the hills above town, the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) is surrounded by redwood groves.
Plunge the rich local brew of surfers, students, punks, characters and more and you may just need to add another day or two to your visit. If nothing else, Santa Cruz is a must-stop before or after the joys of Hwy 1 to the north and Monterey, Big Sur and the rest to the south.