Santa Cruz is one of the most beautiful counties in the U.S. and boasts a long wharf with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. Many people come to explore its beaches and find remote spots to lounge each season. If you’re planning a California beach vacation, visit these hidden beaches in Santa Cruz to enjoy a relaxing time while participating in a variety of activities.
A beautiful quiet spot to take a walk or just relax on the sand! This wide sandy beach is a place you’ll find elephant seals lounging by the water. It has many shallow areas where kids can play when you’re looking for family-friendly hidden beaches in Northern California.
Waddell Beach is also a spot where the locals come to kitesurf, making it easy to see colorful kites in the air. It also ideal for surfers to catch waves without too many crowds present. You can walk on the shore and find plenty of rocks to collect, including many full sand dollars. This beach sits directly across from Big Basin Redwoods State Park so if you want to spend some time observing nature, walk through the woods in a lush area.
Shark Fin Cove
As one of the most photographed beaches in Santa Cruz, Shark Fin Cove is recognizable for a rock that sits in the middle of the water and looks like a shark fin. A sea cave frames the rock and creates a picturesque setting.
Shark Fin Cove is one of the best secret beaches in Santa Cruz because it doesn’t get overrun by many people. Situated near the hidden California beach town of Davenport, the area is excellent to visit for those planning a California beach trip without crowds.
Locals also come to explore the old mining tunnel here, which is dark and quiet. As most secluded beaches in Santa Cruz, getting to Shark Fin Cove requires some extra effort. If you want to access the beach, prepare for a moderate, but steep hike.
Maybe this is the reason why it remains quiet, however after some photos of this unique location went viral, from time to time it gets crowded, usually only during summer weekends, but if you come during the week in winter or fall, you can probably have the whole place for yourself.
Bonny Doon Beach
Just about 0.5 miles away from Shark Fin Cove, there is another example for the secluded beaches in Santa Cruz. Bonny Doon is a great place to come in the evening to enjoy a bonfire and explore some of the caves present. The high cliff walls offer privacy and contribute to the natural beauty of the location.
One of the highlights on the beach is Liddell Creek, which flows through the rocks and near the back of the beach. Many double-track farm trails are present on the bluffs where visitors can hike.
The rip currents make swimming challenging and are only recommended for advanced swimmers. Although, as one of the most hidden beaches in Santa Cruz, this is a good spot for adults who like to sunbathe au natural since the far-right area of the cove is clothing optional.
Located north of Santa Cruz, Panther Beach is a hidden gem. This place stands out for its eroding cliffs, where you can explore private rocky coves without running into many crowds.
People often visit this spot to take a photo at the Hole in the Wall Beach, which features an opening on the cliff where you can walk during low tide. If you go through the arch, there is a beautiful long sandy area to hang out or play beach games.
In the spring, you’ll find a colorful array of purple thistle and white mustard flowers near the trails. At night, you can relax on the sand and enjoy a bonfire with only a few college students present.
This south-facing beach is a great place to visit in the summer, where bonfires are present. The breathtaking location features large swells, crashing waves, and a refreshing ocean mist creating a romantic ambience. In the sand, you’ll find a lot of shells and sculpted glass to take home.
Here you aren’t bound to run into many tourists, there’s more than enough space to enjoy privacy. Moreover, Seabright is one of those hidden beaches in Santa Cruz that is dog-friendly and allows you to bring Man’s Best Friend along. Many people have their pets on leashes or off leashes.
A cliff is present just above the beach where you can take in the panoramic views and you’ll also get a chance to visit the on-site lighthouse. It’s within walking distance of the boardwalk.
Twin Lakes Beach
Just a short walk away from Seabright Beach lies Twin Lakes Beach that is an even more secluded family-friendly place where you can to swim and enjoy picnics and BBQs. It stretches over a mile long and is dog-friendly so you can bring your pets.
Many people also come with their binoculars and cameras to enjoy birdwatching. At night, you can relax on the sand and enjoy a bonfire while hearing the waves crash on the shore.
The scenic views of the nearby Walton Lighthouse and Schwan Lagoon that is just behind the beach make this a perfect place to unwind. Children and adults also come to enjoy stand-up paddleboarding, surfing, and boogie boarding.
At an elevation of 33 feet, Pleasure Point sits near colorful surf shops and charming cottages, making it one of the most picturesque beaches in Santa Cruz. Here, you can enjoy surfing with other beachgoers and catching plenty of waves near the cliffs.
East Cliff Drive is one of the main draws of this beach and is a waterfront promenade. Here, you’ll find people skateboarding, riding beach cruisers, and walking with their pets while taking in the gorgeous views of the water. The quiet beach coves are also a great place to top when you want to spend time in some of the secluded parts of Pleasure Point.
Sunset State Beach
When you want to spend some quiet time on the beach, Sunset State Beach is one of the most hidden beaches in Santa Cruz to have an escape. With miles of sand, big waves and the possibility of spotting whales, this is a perfect place the whole family can enjoy.
It features picnic benches and covered picnic areas where you can cook on barbecue near the water. Many different trails are available where you can reconnect with nature. Should you wish to stay a longer time here to get the most out of this secret Santa Cruz beach, there are 85 campsites here including tent-only and trailer spots.
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