Things to do in Santa Cruz, California

Our most recommended things to do in Santa Cruz, California

San Francisco: Monterey and Carmel Tour

1. San Francisco: Monterey and Carmel Tour

Begin your tour by traveling south on the famous Pacific Coast Highway, California Highway 1. Head to Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea. At your first rest stop in Davenport, you will have a chance to take a selfie with the whole Pacific as your backdrop.  At Monterey, you will have 2 hours on your own to explore. You can visit the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, rent a kayak or paddleboard, hike along the coast, or take a bike to roam. You can also stroll among the quaint boutiques and art shops along the historic Cannery Row. Grab a seafood lunch at Old Fisherman’s Wharf.  Enjoy another eyeful of Pacific beauty along the scenic 17-Mile Drive through Del Monte Forest and take photographs of the hardy Lone Cyprus Tree. This famous road winds its way by magnificent homes and the spectacular coastline, between the greens and tees of world famous golf courses, and among the last remaining forest of a rare species of the Monterey Cypress.  Your scenic drive finishes at Pebble Beach Village. Upon arrival in the enchanted town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, you can explore the boutique shops on Ocean Avenue and be dazzled by the white sandy beach. If there is time, you can visit the historic Carmel Mission. Then, it will be time to head back to San Francisco. 

Pacific Coast Highway: Self-Guided Audio Driving Tour

2. Pacific Coast Highway: Self-Guided Audio Driving Tour

Drive along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway and experience the beauty of the California coast. Take advantage of the flexibility to set your own pace between stops during the self-guided app-based audio tour. See Monterey, the famous beach town known for its prestigious aquarium, and the popular golf courses of Pebble Beach. Stop off at picturesque Carmel-by-the-Sea, an artsy enclave where Clint Eastwood was once mayor. Hear the sound of barking sea lions at Point Lobos State Park, whose rocky headlands are interspersed with jewel-like coves. Big Sur is one of the not-to-be-missed highlights along the scenic road, where you can enjoy gorgeous views, waterfalls, and bridges. Near San Simeon, the home of Hearst Castle, pull off at Piedras Blancas Beach, where enormous elephant seals can be spotted in the winter months. Before cutting inland to San Luis Obispo, stop to admire Morro Bay Rock and hunt for anemones in the tidal pools. Explore Santa Barbara’s quintessential downtown and then continue down to Ventura and Malibu. If you started the drive in San Francisco, end your tour in Los Angeles at the famous Santa Monica Pier. The audio tour is curated by local guides and creative writers and is narrated by professional voice artists.

Santa Cruz: Sidecar Wine Tour with Guide and Wine Tasting

3. Santa Cruz: Sidecar Wine Tour with Guide and Wine Tasting

Take on the open road in a tandem sidecar on this guided wine tour of Santa Cruz. See beautiful California scenery, taste local wines, and learn about the city's fascinating history from your guide. Meet your guide and begin your guided ride throughout the Santa Cruz area. As you ride in style in a tandem sidecar, feel the wind rush through your hair and marvel at the beautiful scenery. Hear about your surroundings from your sidecar driver. Throughout your tour, enjoy stops at local wineries, where you can see the making of wine up close. Enjoy a tasting at each tasting room, and decide for yourself which local wine is your favorite. Finish your tour with a visit to one scenic destination. Depending on your tour, visit locations such as Alfaro, Storrs, La Vida Bella, Lester Family Vineyards, Nicholson & Cantine WinePub.

Santa Cruz: Private Custom Wine Tour with Hotel Pickup

4. Santa Cruz: Private Custom Wine Tour with Hotel Pickup

Personalize your private half-day tour of Santa Cruz Wine Country by choosing from over 50 wineries not typically open to the public. Learn about the wine-making process from your guide and benefit from hotel pickup. Meet your guide in the lobby of your hotel and decide on a tour itinerary, taking inspiration from the following examples: Start north of Santa Cruz at the gorgeous Beauregard Vineyards, nestled up in the redwoods. Marvel at views of the ocean as you head into the mountains. Stop to taste jam, pick berries, or visit coastal farms depending on the season. Next, visit Hallcrest Vineyards and enjoy a relaxing setting while trying your hand at wine-making. Consider ordering Srumpy's apple cider, a favorite among locals. In alternative, take a different driving route through the redwoods to either Byington or Big Basin. At Byington, admire the impressive estate premises and tour the barrel aging room. At Big Basin, relax on top of the mountain while discovering some of the more unique wines in the county. Choose from many other exclusive wineries like MJA, Storrs, or Stockwell Cellars on the west side of Santa Cruz. Throughout the day, purchase wines and tastings at the production facilities you visit. End your private tour experience with drop-off at your hotel.

Santa Cruz:City Scavenger Hunt Tour with Remote Guide

5. Santa Cruz:City Scavenger Hunt Tour with Remote Guide

Discover the coastal town of Santa Cruz in your car as you follow this digital quest. Choose to play as a single team or against others. Receive clues on your phone as you discover hidden gems such as Curated By the Sea, an art gallery that displays the work of local and regional artists. Begin your challenge by receiving clues as you make your way to different checkpoints. Ask the locals for help as you try to solve the clues. Send photos to the scavenger hunt provider as proof that you have completed the challenge. Explore Go Ask Alice, a shop that is well-known for its organic herbal teas, and wellness products. Advance to the next challenge as you go to the art gallery, Curated By the Sea, which hosts themed shows. Head on to Santa Cruz Bookshop and Rip Curl.

California: Downloadable Audio Guide for Highway 1 and More

6. California: Downloadable Audio Guide for Highway 1 and More

Complete your road trip around California with an audio guide featuring 169 locations and 3 hours of audio in 1 app. Listen to the recordings as you take in views at Yosemite, Mt. Whitney, and Zabriskie Point, experience the unique cultures of Silicon Valley, Santa Monica, and Hollywood, and drive down Highway 1. Feel at ease taking in the views while the app uses GPS to find your location and suggest stops. From famous landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge to lesser-known gems like Moss Landing, appreciate the wealth of beauty and history in California with detailed audio descriptions.   Stop and start your journey as often as you please, there’s no constraints once you download the app and activate your audio guide. If there’s a specific site you’d like to visit, manually choose audio guides from the built-in map or from a list.

Santa Cruz: Private Brewery Tour

7. Santa Cruz: Private Brewery Tour

Take a trip around the Santa Cruz Mountains and Redwoods to visit 3 breweries. Learn about the beer-making process with your private guide and have the chance to try the beers (at your own expense). Get picked up and decide with your guide the itinerary of your private tour. Then, drive through winding mountain roads your guide knows by heart to reach your first brewery. Find out how beer is made and choose to try a beer before heading to the next 2 breweries. Between stops, enjoy a scenic ride through forests and mountain landscapes. At each brewery, learn more about the beer-making process and the different types produced in the Santa Cruz area. After your beer-filled afternoon, return to Santa Cruz as an expert in local brews.

Monterey: 24-Hour or 48-hour Motorcycle Rental

8. Monterey: 24-Hour or 48-hour Motorcycle Rental

Rent a motorcycle to explore California’s Big Sur in an unforgettable way. Begin your adventure in the Monterey area after your motorcycle delivery to your local hotel.  Head out on your adventure to explore Cali’s diverse landscapes, whether you choose 24-hour or 48-hour hire. Ride a 2019 Kawasaki Ninja 400abs, selected for its ease of operation by novices and more experienced riders alike. Appreciate the Pacific Coast as you hit the road, or head inland to explore the canyons and mountainous terrain. Enjoy the freedom to choose what you see. Even meet fellow motorcyclists on the way.

Frequently asked questions about Santa Cruz, California

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Other Sightseeing Options in Santa Cruz, California

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What people are saying about Santa Cruz, California

Overall rating

4.5 / 5

based on 41 reviews

Excellent tour, covered all the major spots along California coast from Santa Cruz to Monterey to Carmel by the sea with important stops along the coast with appropriate time to take photos. Our your guide Doug and river Jason were pretty amazing and Doug has a thorough knowledge and passion and he was did an excellent job explaining all the important history on the tour. 17 Mile drive and pebble Beach were pretty amazing and beautiful. In Carmel, if you do not plan to shop, consider walking to the beach, it's a 0.5 mile walk slightly tedious walk (considering all the elevations) from the bus stop but it's worth it. In Monterey, aquarium will always be sold out when you arrive unless you dont book it prior, so 2 he is a little long, but considering it in life's lunch stop too, it totally makes sense. Apart from cannery row, consider taking a walk across lovers point trail in Pacific Grove which is just next to cannery row, it's pretty scenic.

We were pleasantly surprised with how nice everything was for the price. Quality coach bus, well planned tour, knowledgeable driver, beautiful sites. It was absolutely the highlight of our visit to the Bay area. Patrick the driver was amazing!

Loved this tour! We learned so much about the area from Alex. He’s a charismatic guide with a sense of humor. We had beautiful views along the coast. Highly recommend!

Excellent tour. Great photo opportunities during the ride. Plenty of time at each stop. The tour guide was very nice and a lot of fun

I have learned a lot about San fransisco and the other towns around. Very interesting.