Discover Santa Cruz
If you’ve ever been to Santa Cruz, you know this neighborhood is its own microcosm of funky cool. From craft distilleries to oceanside walks, to mountain biking in the redwoods, there’s no shortage of things to do on this side of town.
In the Community
If you’re expected to do any type of mountain biking or strolling along the seaside, you’re going to want to fuel up. Thankfully, the Westside has tons of incredible culinary options, each with a curated menu and local flare of its own. Our advice? Start on Swift Street and eat your way towards the ocean.
Humble Sea Brewing is a local favorite, famous for its Foggy (not hazy) IPAs, in honor of the clouded Santa Cruz coastline. Grab a brew and consider joining their Kooks Club, which will give you access to members’ only releases, discounts on merch, early access perks, and a sick Kooks Club party cooler that can carry 45 cans. Haven’t moved to Santa Cruz yet (there will be a quiz at the end of this article)? Sign up for their monthly beer subscription!
Further down Swift Street, you’ll find options like West End Tap and Kitchen, Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, and Venus Spirits Tasting Room. Venus is a small-batch distillery that produces its own whiskey, gin, vodka, and rum, which are all used in inventive cocktails that keep locals coming back for more. Paired with killer fare, this is a must-visit before continuing on to West Cliff walking path.
Besides seeking thrills at the Boardwalk, there are plenty of other family-friendly activities on the Westside. Natural Bridges State Beach is a great place to start. Take the kids to the Monarch Butterfly Natural Preserve in the months of October – January to watch thousands of migrating butterflies nestle into a protected eucalyptus grove. After marveling at the butterflies, walk over the Natural Bridges Marine Reserve to explore tidepools filled to the brim with sea life. Before leaving the park, make sure you take some time to stroll the beach itself. This is where the park’s namesake (spoiler alert), the “natural bridge,” can be seen. And it is pretty mesmerizing to watch the water surge through the rock outcropping, especially at sunset.
Other Westside wonders for the whole fam include the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum at Steamer Lane, Neary Lagoon Park, and the Seymour Marine Discovery Center. All of these stops are plenty fun as an adult as well, and each flows back to the unifying theme found in most Santa Cruz local businesses: the ocean.
For activities that are more fun and less, well, workout-y, you’ll need to make a pit stop at the Westside pump track. Newly refreshed and fully paved in summer 2021, kids of all ages (yes, even fully grown kids) will have a blast cycling, rollerblading, and skateboarding over the obstacles.
Of course, no Santa Cruz Westside guide would be complete without mentioning the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The nostalgia of this outdoor amusement park runs deep. When it reopened after 2020 closures, all the locals collectively scrambled in line for the Giant Dipper, watched a sunset from the Sky Glider, and restored equilibrium with every bite of funnel cake. Needless to say, it’s an integral part of Santa Cruz history and present-day culture.
Now that you’ve had your fill of Santa Cruz’s finest foods, it’s time to work it off. If you’ve taken our advice and visited Swift Street (great choice), walking along the Rail Trail or the aforementioned West Cliff walking path will not disappoint. With the Pacific Ocean on one side and multi-million dollar homes on the other, you can’t go wrong with the view from West Cliff Drive.
For something a little more strenuous, venture over to the University of Santa Cruz (go Banana Slugs!). With trails that weave between the redwood trees, you’ll forget all about the ocean views from earlier. If you want the best of both worlds, head north to Pogonip Point. This protected open space connects UCSC with Henry Cowell State Park. What’s unique about the 11.5-mile trail system is the huge ocean views from every hillcrest.