Welcome to Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz has marched to its own beat since long before the Beat Generation. It’s counterculture central, a touchy-feely, new-agey city famous for its leftie-liberal politics and live-and-let-live ideology – except when it comes to dogs (rarely allowed off-leash), parking (meters run seven days a week) and Republicans (allegedly shot on sight). It’s still cool to be a hippie or a stoner here (or better yet, both),... Read More

Top experiences in Santa Cruz

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Santa Cruz activities

$27 Sightseeing Tickets & Passes

Roaring Camp Steam Train Through Santa Cruz Redwoods

Experience California’s redwoods as never before, by taking a steam train through one of the Golden State’s towering ancient forests. Be inspired by both the natural beauty of the groves and the engineering prowess of this hulking locomotive, which dates back to the 1890s. Hop aboard the train at Roaring Camp in Felton, near the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains, just 80 miles south of San Francisco. Settle into your open-air car and hang on as you chug past hundreds of old-growth redwoods with an unobstructed view. As you make your way up to the top of Bear Mountain, you’ll cruise over trestles and glide beneath the verdant canopy. Along the way, the knowledgeable train conductor will illuminate the forest with bits of history about how it was formed and facts about the local wildlife, as well as stories about the railroad and Roaring Camp. Learn about how steam locomotives similar to the one you’ll be riding are among the oldest and best preserved narrow-gauge steam engines in America, and were once used to schlep redwood logs down from the mountains. You’ll have plenty of time to admire your surroundings on the 1-hour round trip ride. At the summit, study the architecture and visit the old-fashioned general store. Capture the moment in the vintage photo booth and peek inside the charmingly woodsy sheriff’s office. Stretch your legs and take in the majestic surroundings on a nature stroll through nearby Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. Please note: Picnic tables are available at Roaring Camp for all-day rental. Inquire at the ticket office when you visit. Gates open at 9:30am, and parking closes at 5pm, unless trains are still operating. There is an $8 per vehicle parking fee.

$125 Outdoor Activities

Introduction to Wilderness Survival Clinic in Santa Cruz

Get back to nature and learn age-old survival skills during this wilderness clinic set among the redwoods of Northern California. Meet your instructor — a survivalist and naturalist — at a Boy Scout camp in Boulder Creek, located about 15 miles (24 km) north of Santa Cruz. In just 5 hours you'll practice timeless traditions, such as shelter building and fire-by-friction, drawn from indigenous skills. Participate in hands-on activities appropriate for all ages, and build self-esteem and awareness knowing you can survive in the woods or other natural setting. Learn about edible plants and try out native-style traps while you discover what it's like to live in harmony with nature. You'll leave better prepared for your next wilderness adventure.

$410 Air, Helicopter & Balloon Tours

Monterey and Santa Lucia Helicopter and Wrath Winery Tour from Watsonville

Your helicopter flight departs from Watsonville. Once you’re buckled in for the approximate 15-minute flight, lift off and head about 25 miles (40 km) inland as you travel over one the world's finest wine growing locations before landing at Wrath Winery.In the air, admire views of Monterey Bay, the fertile Salinas Valley, the Santa Lucia Mountains and one the world's finest wine regions. Hear live commentary about the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA (American Viticultural Area), a premier cool-climate district for growing grapes. You’re treated like a VIP as the helicopter lands at Wrath, where the staff greets you and acquaints you with the winery. Roam the Estate San Saba Vineyard on your own, and ask for a guided tour of the barrel room, where you’ll learn about Wrath’s site-specific varietals including pinot noir, chardonnay, syrah and sauvignon blanc.In the tasting room, sip small-production wines and discover aromatics and flavors that reflect the unique terroir. You can also learn about the certified sustainable methods used, such as indigenous yeast and minimal filtration. Admire magnificent views of the Santa Lucia Highlands and, if you’d like, head to the sunny terrace to enjoy a bottle of Wrath wine (tasting fees and any bottle purchases are at your own expense). After about an hour on the ground, re-board the helicopter for the scenic flight back to the airport. Enjoy additional sightseeing and narration from above with your newfound appreciation for this stunning wine region.

$135 Air, Helicopter & Balloon Tours

Santa Cruz Helicopter Tour from Watsonville

If you would like a fun way to see the Santa Cruz side of the Monterey Bay and have the best chance to spot a Great White shark opt for this tour. You will be taken over California's largest strawberry farms, then out to the coastline. Along the coast you will find long beaches where you have the best chance to spot Great White sharks, whales and amazing marine life.There is more! You can't visit Santa Cruz without seeing the famous Beach Boardwalk along with UCSC and Steamers Lane.

$99 Air, Helicopter & Balloon Tours

Airplane Tour over Monterey Bay from Watsonville

Board the airplane at Watsonville Airport, and slip on your headphones to hear the live onboard narration from your professional pilot, who customizes your tour and offers informative commentary throughout your 40-minute flight.Your pilot takes you along California’s central coastline. Snap photos of the expansive vista, including the mountains of the Southern Coast Ranges, and admire views of Carmel. Look for whales and other marine mammals as you soak up the spectacular landscape below, including the Bixby Creek Bridge, possibly the most photographed bridge on the entire Pacific Coast Highway.

$105 Classes & Workshops

Beginner Surf Lesson in Santa Cruz

Make your way to Cowells Beach in Santa Cruz, where you'll meet your CPR-, first aid-, and lifeguard-certified instructor who teaches the basics of surfing during a 3-hour surf clinic. Come ready to learn how to surf and explore the wonders of the ocean. Your instructor provides a safe and non-threatening environment for the beginner surfer.Once you've squeezed into a provided wetsuit to keep you warm in the Pacific Ocean, you'll get an orientation to using a surfboard. You're walked through the steps to popping up on your board on shore. Learn how to read ocean conditions and wave breaks to ensure your safety, before you practice paddling and balancing. You'll start out in shallow areas, riding the white water until you are comfortable with venturing further out, where your instructor helps you catch some waves.