Want to have some fun without spending a lot of money? There are plenty of things to do with your family in Santa Cruz, California on a beautiful day, but one of the top destinations in California is our beaches. I list here some of my favorite family friendly beaches in and around Santa Cruz County. Enjoy a family vacation or just a day out with the kids, a stay-cation, if you are lucky enough to live nearby.
Santa Cruz Life provides us with plenty of family friendly ideas of things to do around Santa Cruz:
They also have a guide to the best beaches, as well as restaurants, events, shopping, and more, in and around Santa Cruz. In fact I was just looking for what to do for the forth of July, and came across their list of events! Check them out and keep them bookmarked, so you don’t miss any Santa Cruzin’ insider info.
Santa Cruz has mountains, valleys, rivers, and of course the ocean! There’s never a shortage of outdoor fun here.
I love hiking, but sometimes I want to do something a little more relaxing, while still getting my kids’ energy out. What’s the first thing I think of?
And rarely do you find one too crowded. They are kept very clean, mostly by the caring people that live here.. While I’m on that topic:
Pack Your Trash!
So we can all enjoy the beauty, and protect our animals and their habitats.
It’s almost summer!
But, around here the sun is out for spring time and it’s plenty warm for some beach fun already. In fact it’s often nicer in spring and fall. Summer days can be foggy in the Santa Cruz area.
Best Family Friendly Beaches
Twin Lakes Beach It’s fun to meet some mommy friends near the harbor (sometimes referred to as Harbor Beach) at the north end of Twin Lakes Beach. Park in the Harbor parking lot or nearby along the beach front. You can sit on the patio and the kids can play right next to you in the sand. When I had toddlers this was great, but now my kids just want to be in the water so I usually park around the south end of Twin Lakes Beach in the neighborhoods, near 12th or 14th Ave (on weekdays you don’t need a parking pass).
Capitola City Beach in Capitola Village is great for this, too, and often hosts fun events such as free family concerts. The left side of the beach is a perfect sheltered spot for kids to play where the waves are small. It can get crowded there, though. Especially while Junior Guards classes are in session.
Seabright Beach (aka Castle Beach) is near the Natural History Museum, with a giant Blue Whale sculpture out front that kids can climb on. My kids never tire of visiting the museum and the whale! We sometimes walk to the lighthouse on the south side of the harbor to watch the sail boats and climb on the jetties (those big cement breakers around the lighthouse). If you follow the beach all the way to the right, there is sometimes a cave to explore, depending on the sand level. Certain times of the year it is full to the top and other times it’s empty enough to walk through.
With small kids, we usually have a ton of stuff with us (buckets, shovels, towels, a cooler, sunscreen, hats, sandals I end up carrying..) I try to pack light, but somehow the essentials for a day or even just an hour at the beach are extensive. I never want to have to walk far to get to and from the car.
I love Twin Lakes Beach and Seabright Beach for this reason and because there’s plenty of room to play without feeling crowded next to other families and there are bathrooms available.
Two great Beaches you don’t want to miss are Natural Bridges and New Brighton.
Speaking of exhibits, there is a new Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center just before the wharf in Santa Cruz. It’s also hands on and very educational, but everything is simulated, no real touch tanks. I prefer the real thing. I did enjoy the gorgeous video about our Monterey Bay with amazing scenes and music. And the Wharf itself has signs posted in intervals along it which offer tons of great information about this bay, the animals that thrive here, and the local habitat. My kids are fascinated and have to stop at each one! There are many fun summer events on the Wharf, see Santa Cruz Life events or the City of Santa Cruz to find out what’s going on and when.
For more info on Natural Bridges State Park as well as the Natural History Museum, the Santa Cruz Wharf, and the Seymore Discovery Center see my post: Local Treasures! Great Fields Trips Right Here in Santa Cruz County
Sunny Cove I love to go to Sunny Cove, especially in the winter when it’s filled with driftwood the kids can build with!
People often build huge forts and teepees and have bonfires with the abundant driftwood that gets trapped in the cove during winter storms.
It’s a lovely locals beach. Used to be a dog beach, but alas, we have few if any dog beaches left. Of course you can still have them on leash at (I think) any beach. It can be quite a long walk for little legs, so we don’t trek it too often.
Extra Beach Tip for parents of small kids: Strollers are not very beach friendly and I don’t find wagons to be much better, though my husband would disagree. I often take the cheap umbrella stroller if I’m walking and ditch it at the entrance to the beach. So far, it’s always been there upon return, but wouldn’t be a big loss if not.
What’s you favorite beach and why?