Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

Central Coast

Just north the Santa Cruz seaside suburb of Aptos, this State park offers ipcnic spots and the opportunity to hike, jog, or bike on 30 miles of trails in rugged semi-wilderness. The terrain rises from sea level to coastal mountains exceeding 2,600 feet.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Central Coast attractions

1. Seacliff State Beach

1.19 MILES

Seacliff State Beach harbors a ‘cement boat,’ a quixotic freighter built of concrete that floated OK, but ended up here as a coastal fishing pier. During…

2. New Brighton State Beach

1.65 MILES

Heading east of Santa Cruz to Capitola, New Brighton State Beach is a quieter place for a swim, paddle boarding or camping on a forested bluff.

3. Moran Lake County Park

4.51 MILES

With a good surf break and bathrooms, this pretty all-around sandy spot is further east of 26th Ave off E Cliff Dr.

4. Manresa State Beach


Near Watsonville, the La Selva Beach exit off Hwy 1 leads here to this sparsely populated beach.

5. Twin Lakes State Beach

5.33 MILES

Big beach with bonfire pits and a lagoon, good for kids and often fairly empty. It’s off E Cliff Dr.

6. Mystery Spot

5.66 MILES

A kitschy, old-fashioned tourist trap, Santa Cruz's Mystery Spot has scarcely changed since it opened in 1940. On a steeply sloping hillside, compasses…

7. Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History


The collections at this pint-sized museum include stuffed-animal mounts, Native Californian cultural artifacts and a touch-friendly tide pool that shows…

8. Main Beach

6.33 MILES

The scene in Santa Cruz, with a huge sandy stretch, volleyball courts and swarms of people. Park on E Cliff Dr and walk across the Lost Boys trestle to…