There’s a reason people call Santa Cruz “surf city”—Santa Cruz’s waves accommodate all levels of surfers, whether they are charging big wave spots or just want to get their feet wet.
It’s a surfer’s dream.
While there are numerous beaches that are great for visitors and beginning surfers, there are also dangerous and local spots that surfers should be aware of before they hit the water.
#1 Capitola Beach
Capitola Beach is the most protected of all the inlets that stretch west between Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay. It’s the most beginner-friendly of the whole lot, with the possible exception of Cowell’s Beach. The take-offs are stretched down the whole beachfront, and the waves are mellow as a marshmallow. The ride is on a fat and cruisy longboard wave that runs in front of the cliffs. Not many hazards apart from other learners paddling out. It’s family-friendly and the waves are mellow so it offers a stress-free and beautiful environment for picking up surf skills, the area also has tons of safe and family-friendly restaurants and shops so it makes a great side destination for a family vacation. Look up capitolasuites.com for the perfect place to stay while visiting Capitola.
#2 The Hook
The Hook is a much-loved right-hand point break that comes off the southerly rocks of Cliff Beach. There’s usually a crowd here to hoover up the W swells that wrap into the bay and create long, fun and often glassy rights that are perfect for the loggers. The main problem is the kelp blooms, which will often drift in off the out-at-sea forests.
#3 Pleasure Point
Pleasure Point is the first of the real star spots when it comes to Santa Cruz surfing. Perfectly situated to grab any W and NW swells that come in from September to March, and with the added blessing of the NW offshore winds in the fall, it’s got some added consistency. Don’t be surprised to find 200+ surfers scattered in the water between the main point at 30th Street and the end of The Cove beach. Between them are around three or four main breaking points, which can link up beautifully if there’s enough power.
#4 Cowells Beach
The most versatile and accessible break in the city, it bridges the gap between the main wharf and the legendary peaks of Steamers. The wave is well-protected from NW-W swell channels. Long boarders and beginners love this spot. Cowell’s is the best learner location in Santa Cruz. Nothing can beat it if you haven’t surfed before.
#5 Steamers Lane
It hardly gets more epic than Steamers Lane. This one’s a true surfer spot and we absolutely love it. This spot is for more experienced surfers so it’s not recommended for beginners. But it is a great place to watch surfers in Santa Cruz and really see how it’s done. Grab a coffee nearby and take it over to the cliffs by the lighthouse. Watch closely as they dart through and glide over wave after wave. The site is mesmerizing. The other great thing about this spot is that it offers spectacular sunset views and it is near Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Amusement Park.
#6 Natural Bridges
Down West Cliff Drive, you’ll find Natural Bridges, probably one of the most beautiful beaches in Santa Cruz to surf or watch. The conditions are usually great and the views are breathtaking. Another reason Santa Cruz is one of the best places to travel in fall is the monarch butterfly migration. In October, the butterflies settle in at Natural Bridges and you’re able to see hundreds of monarchs float gracefully through the trees.