We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

to stay or not to stay?

Allendale, Michigan
Level Contributor
13 posts
48 reviews
Save Topic
to stay or not to stay?

My husband and I will be in California for our 10 honeymoon. The first half of our trip we are traveling from Sacramento to San Fran then diem the coast via hwy 1 before heading to Yosemite for the second half of or trip. We plan to stop at Big Basin and Wilder Ranch state parks and check out natural bridges as well. Our thought was to then spend the night in Santa Cruz, check out the boardwalk and downtown. Then the next day in Carmel ending in big surprise in the evening. However I have seen many posts saying that Santa Cruz is run down and that people are disappointed in their stay. Would it be better to just swing by the boardwalk after the parks and continue to Carmel/Monterey and not do an overnight in Santa Cruz? Help please!

Allendale, Michigan
Level Contributor
13 posts
48 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: to stay or not to stay?

Oops I meant to say 10 day honeymoon! And I meant Big Sur in the evening! That's what I get for posting from my phone... Darn autocorrect!

San Jose, California
Destination Expert
for California
Level Contributor
15,414 posts
106 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: to stay or not to stay?

I think that, like everything else, it is about expectations. Santa Cruz is not upscale or polished, so anyone expecting it to be will be disappointed. There are nice places in Santa Cruz, absolutely, but it is not a place where everyone who does not fit the "seaside resort mold" is swept away and hidden in some behind-the-scenes neighboring town. It is a real town and very diverse. There are homeless people, there are bad neighborhoods, there are run down motels - and there are great hotels, beautiful beaches, interesting architecture, a great surf culture, the university, good restaurants... I find Santa Cruz to be infinitely more interesting than a lot of places. In the end though, it depends on what your interests are and what you are looking for on your honeymoon.

Regarding Big Sur in the evening - I know this wasn't part of your question, but what are you planning to do in Big Sur in the evening? It really is a daytime destination without much going on after dark at all. Are you guys staying over in Big Sur?

Anaheim, California
Level Contributor
25,711 posts
13 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: to stay or not to stay?

I am a big fan of Santa Cruz, in fact, prefer it to San Francisco.

As stated, very diverse, but has some great things other than the Beach Boardwalk.

http://www.santacruzca.org

Some of my favorites, Lighthouse Point, The Mystery Spot and Rolling Camp Railroads.

San Jose, California
Level Contributor
1,260 posts
12 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: to stay or not to stay?

First are you planning to go to Big Basin and Wilder, and Natural Bridges on the same day that you drive down from SF? If so, you may want to re-think that. Big Basin is almost an all-day activity in itself. It's fairly difficult to get to, the road in and out is very narrow, single lane in some places, very twisty and kind of a tiring drive, not to mention the hiking you will do when you get there. Big basin, is great, but you need to understand what you are getting into.

You may want to consider Henry Cowell instead of BB, much easier drive, same giant redwoods.

I'd skip Wilder in favor of Natural Bridges.

The area right around the Boardwalk is run-down, and probably the worst part of Santa Cruz. If that's all you see of the town, it would give you the wrong impression. There are other great areas of town, but that isn't one of them. I'm not a big fan of the Boardwalk, it's way down on my list of stuff to see there. I love Santa Cruz.

Edited: 15 April 2014, 19:27
Allendale, Michigan
Level Contributor
13 posts
48 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: to stay or not to stay?

We are interested in the outdoors and natural beauty of California, we're also just excited to explore a state we've never been to. We are staying over in Big Sur that night and spending most of the next day exploring that area before heading toward Yosemite for the second leg of our trip.

Allendale, Michigan
Level Contributor
13 posts
48 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: to stay or not to stay?

The original plan had been to do big basin for half a day, stay overnight in Santa Cruz. The next morning stop at Wilder ranch and natural bridges before heading towards Monterey.

We know we cannot see and do everything at our stops along the trip, but we decided that we would rather visit several places than spend all week in one location.

But now we're rethinking the overnight in Santa Cruz. But before we change our itinerary, what are your favorite things to do in Santa Cruz?

Anaheim, California
Level Contributor
25,711 posts
13 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: to stay or not to stay?

I mentioned some earlier, and left a link to the Santa Cruz Tourism Board, which has a list of 100's of things to see and do.

I am a Roller Coaster fan, so to me, it is the SCBB and the Giant Dipper, but since you are focused on Natural Beauty, I mentioned Lighthouse Point, a great surfing beach, Roaring Camp Railroads, which take you through the forests, and The Mystery Spot, which is in a very natural area with lots of trees. The tour itself is a bit cheesy, but I like it and the price isn't that much.

I also like visiting nearby Castroville, the Artichoke Capital of the world, and stopping at the Farmer's Stands to get something to eat.

Then I have done things like going to the local COSTCO to buy gas, dining, etc.

http://www.roaringcamp.com/beachtrain

http://www.mysteryspot.com/

Edited: 15 April 2014, 20:11
San Francisco Bay
Level Contributor
3,092 posts
16 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: to stay or not to stay?

The best thing about Santa Cruz is....THE PACIFIC OCEAN! Santa Cruz is at the top of a sheltered bay, looking south. It gets great weather most of the year. It has wide beaches of all kinds from north to south, all accessible by car and foot (including the Boardwalk Beach, Seabright Beach, Twin Lakes Beach). It has wonderful big waves, and is the surfing capital of Northern California.

Some other things I like to visit are: The Surfing Museum (Lighthouse Point), where you can look down on some of the gnarliest surfers of Santa Cruz riding practically into cliffs.

A stroll on the Boardwalk, a real old-fashioned wooden boardwalk with a wooden roller coaster, and all the booths, interesting food, and people watching included.

Then stroll up to the Municipal Wharf, to the end, where sea lions park themselves under the wharf, and sometimes on a dock which they take over.

Perhaps a trip on a yacht like the Chardonnay, which has sunset cruises in spring/summer/early fall, out of the Santa Cruz Harbor.

A drive up to the beautiful U.C. Santa Cruz campus, a City on a Hill, part redwood forest, part wild grassland, with buildings tucked into the trees, and a glorious view over the ocean. Watch out for Banana Slugs, the University mascot (they're yellow and slimey, and live in the damp redwood forest)

Lunch away from downtown, perhaps at Aldo's, which is a cafe on the Yacht Harbor, overlooking the mouth of the harbor where boats, kayaks and paddleboarders (sometimes otters) cruise in and out.

That's MY Santa Cruz.

Santa Clara...
Level Contributor
19,646 posts
26 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: to stay or not to stay?

What you like to to may not be what others like. On a nonmobile browser, look at the top questions on the right and there should be a travelers article. I couldn't care less for the Boardwalk and the tourist trap Mystery Spot while some people come only for those. I like Natural Bridges, hiking in the redwoods, watching the surfers.

Make sure you look into Eklhorn Slough further south for wildlife viewing and kayaking.

Edited: 15 April 2014, 20:14
Corona del Mar, CA
Destination Expert
for San Diego, Orange County, California
Level Contributor
52,625 posts
422 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: to stay or not to stay?

I think you would enjoy Santa Cruz, the original Surf City USA.