A flat, sweeping patch of windy coastline makes Waddell Beach a perfect spot for windsurfing. Located about two miles north of Davenport on Highway 1 and bordering the Rancho del Oso entrance to Big Basin State Park, Waddell offers stunning views of the coast, where the redwood forest blends into the ocean shore. This beach is easiest to reach by car, but there are well-maintained dirt roads for biking as well.
Shark Fin Cove (Davenport)
Tucked away along Highway 1 but immediately south of Davenport is the scenic Shark Fin Cove (also known as Shark Tooth Beach). The beach gets its name from the jagged tooth-shaped rock jutting out of the water that breaks up the currents just enough to produce a refreshing swimming hole — if you’re brave enough to take a dip in the icy cold water, that is. If not, the tide pools teeming with sea life are sure to keep you entertained. Unlike Waddell Beach, Shark Tooth is enclosed and protected from the wind, making it ideal for sunbathing.
Panther Beach is located just a few miles north of Santa Cruz and marks the beginning of the beautiful coastline leading to San Francisco. You can walk along the top of the cliffs for panoramic views or climb down a steep ravine to the secluded stretch of clean sandy beach and hidden caves.
Seabright and Twin Lakes
Seabright and Twin Lakes State Beach are between the boardwalk and the harbor. The beach is surrounded by a residential area that is easy to access from downtown or by bus, and includes relatively clean bathroom facilities. Seabright’s fire pits are open until 10 p.m., making it perfect for large group bonfires. Parking is free but hard to come by on the weekends. Expect to see a lifeguard on duty and check out the lighthouse while you’re there.
For those of us without cars, Natural Bridges is the closest beach to campus and the easiest alternative to the bustling boardwalk. The route 20 bus will take you to the entrance of the state beach, which includes a picnic area shaded by eucalyptus trees. The beach is named after its famous rock bridges, which formed after centuries of erosion. The best time to visit is during low tide, when tide pools are exposed.
Pleasure Point and “The Hook” are located four miles south of the boardwalk along East Cliff Drive, marking the border between Santa Cruz and Capitola. Well-maintained beach facilities including a cement staircase make the cliffs accessible to skilled surfers. This beach is also dog-friendly, so feel free to bring Fido and a frisbee!