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Santa Cruz coastline
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Statue of a surfer at the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum
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View of the Santa Cruz Wharf
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Harbor at the Santa Cruz Wharf
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Aerial of West Cliff Drive
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Long stretch of cliffs along the shore of Santa Cruz
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Natural Bridges State Beach
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Picturesque Cowell Beach
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Outside the Santa Cruz Wharf
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  • States:
    California

It’s early October in Santa Cruz, a gentle breeze is blowing, the sky is a delicate shade of blue and the sun feels lovely on the back of my neck.

I look for the first time at the coastline of Santa Cruz, and the view is breathtaking. The sea is almost cobalt in contrast to the sky. Although the ocean is fairly calm right now, the waves are gently crashing on the rocks below.

Beautiful Natural Bridges State Beach on the Coastline

Straight in front of me is a natural bridge with at least 100 birds perched on top in search of their next meal. To my right is a soft, sandy beach and to my left, I can see a long stretch of cliffs and shores that run for 46 km along the Santa Cruz coastline. I’m told that each beach is unique and holds a treasure of its own, and I understand immediately why people come here from all over the world.

Learning About the Santa Cruz Surfing Culture

I continue along Santa Cruz’s famous West Cliff Drive to the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, which is inside a lighthouse. Although the museum is small, it holds wonderful artifacts, such as vintage redwood surfboards and original wetsuits designed by surf industry pioneer Jack O’Neill. Outside the lighthouse, to my left, is Steamer Lane, one of the most famous places to surf in the entire USA.

I wander over near the edge of the cliff, and catch my first glimpse of one of Santa Cruz’s main attractions – surfers! There must be 40 people of all ages, on their boards, waiting to catch that perfect wave. As if on cue, the wind picks up, the swells increase, and suddenly the surfers are up, riding the waves toward the beach.

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Wildlife and Amusements Surround the Santa Cruz Wharf

I stop in next at the Santa Cruz Wharf, with its restaurants, shops, a marine exhibit and places to fish. Groups of sea lions call to me from under the wharf and I’m told I might also spot whales and sea otters in the distance. On one side of the wharf is the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the oldest seaside amusement park on the West Coast, and on the other is Cowell Beach, where some people are sunbathing while others get suited up for a surf lesson.

Seafront Activities in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is the quintessential California beach town and every day along the seafront, people are running, biking and walking dogs. I see two new mothers with strollers stop every few minutes to do yoga stretches and squats. Children on skateboards and scooters whizz by, and a young man sits on a bench strumming his guitar. With average temperatures of between 16 and 24 degrees C and more than 300 days of sunshine a year, I think every day must look like this in Santa Cruz.

As the afternoon comes to an end, I grab a beer at a beach café, watch a group of teenagers playing volleyball and contemplate what I should do tomorrow: hike, bike, get a surf lesson, sunbathe or go to the Santa Cruz Mountains for a canopy tour in the redwood trees?  I decide to just relax and enjoy the moment. Tomorrow will be another perfect day in Santa Cruz no matter what I decide to do.

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