Santa Cruz Neighborhoods

Featured Neighborhoods in Santa Cruz

1 Seabright/Midtown

Midtown—the heart of which lies along Soquel Avenue between Ocean and Seabright—is fast becoming a mecca of hipster chic, thanks to its bike shops, home furnishing stores, cafes, restaurants and sweet live music venues. As for the laid-back Seabright neighborhood, with its clutch of bars and eateries (at Seabright and Murray, two blocks from the beach), its residents are fierce loyalists who will go mano-a-mano with anyone over neighborhood supremacy. Seabright also serves as the entryway to Seabright Beach, a long sandy beach between Santa Cruz Harbor and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and a popular spot bonfires. The area has a lively nightlife scene with bars and breweries featuring live music, open micas and karaoke. There are also several neighborhood restaurants, shops and businesses. Photo Credit: Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks

2 Downtown

Downtown Santa Cruz is packed full of restaurants, shops, bars, live music venues and has a lively street scene featuring an engaging mix of street performers. The arts are alive downtown with the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, Felix Kulpa Gallery and other arts spaces. The historic Veterans Memorial Building reopened in 2013 after extensive renovations and is now the site of community organizations, including those offering classes for veterans and their families. Popular businesses include Bookshop Santa Cruz and co-working spaces NExtSpace and Cruzioworks. The Kaiser Permanent Arena hosts games by the D-League Santa Cruz Warriors and Santa Cruz Derby Girls.

3 Live Oak/Pleasure Point

The swath of unincorporated suburbia between Santa Cruz and Capitola is known as Live Oak; near the ocean it’s called Pleasure Point; and in Santa Cruz Tribalese it’s pronounced “Eastside.” Once scorned, formerly rural Live Oak is scrapping its way up the cool scale thanks to cute, affordable neighborhoods and a sense of self taking shape at 17th and Brommer (People’s Coffee rules). Pleasure Point, though, will always outshine its inland sibling. A warren of wee beach bungalows peppered with mini-mansions, this neighborhood is steeped in surf culture (Jack O’Neill lives here) and claims one of the hands-down best shopping districts in the county. At 41st Avenue and Portola is a funky district of sushi bars, coffeehouses, surf and skate shops and thrift stores with a sweet surf town vibe that does not stop.

4 Westside

Santa Cruz's Westside is a bustling commercial district filled with restaurants, shops and assorted businesses. Mission Street, which runs through the district connects motorists to Highway One. Densely populated, traffic is an issue during commuting hours. Notable sections of the neighborhood include the mixed-use Swift Street development with craft brewery, restaurant and shops. The Westside is also the site of Natural Bridges State Park, Derby Park, Seymour Marine Discovery Center and Lighthouse Field State Park.

5 Rio Del Mar

Rio Del Mar is a neighborhood in Aptos, characterized by European-style coastal living, with guest houses, cafe and bar, restaurant and parking located right next to the beach for easy access.

6 The Boardwalk

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, east of the Santa Cruz Wharf and a short walk from downtown, is one of the most popular attractions in Santa Cruz. The historic landmark is one of only two remaining seaside amusement parks on the West Coast, with an arcade, amusement park, mini-golf course, laser tag and beach bandstand, which hosts a series of free concerts every summer. The admission-free amusement park allows beachgoers to run back and forth between the sand and the conflagration of saltwater taffy makers, ice cream purveyors and rides, enjoying the best of both worlds. The Boardwalk is open year-round, with the park rides, including the world-famous wooden roller coaster, The Giant Dipper, and 1924 Loof Carousel open during the summer months. The Boardwalk is also along the course of the Wharf to Wharf race held every summer and the departure point for the Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train in the winter.

7 Downtown Watsonville

Historic downtown Watsonville has an array of restaurants, shops and local businesses. Historical landmarks include St. Patrick's Church, the City Plaza, Lettunich Building, Mansion House and Resetar Hotel. Watsonville is home to the Cabrillo College extension, including Solari Green Technology Center, the county superior court and city government building, a growing nightlife scene and a weekly farmers market. The area was devastated by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, with many buildings being either lost to the trembler or the wrecking ball that followed it. In some ways the once bustling commercial district has not fully recovered.

8 Capitola

Perched at the juncture of Soquel Creek and Monterey Bay, Capitola-by-the-Sea, about five miles east of Santa Cruz, is a beach town with a distinctly European feel. It’s like a jumble of little jewels piled on top of one another—boutiques, restaurants, inns and a lively string of bars on the Esplanade. Capitola-by-the-Sea draws thousands of tourists every year seeking a relaxing beachside holiday. Visitors can find a wide selection of vacation rentals and guest accommodation, while the esplanade features a variety of restaurants, cafes and live music venues. Capitola hosts a number of festivals throughout the year, including the Capitola Begonia Festival in the summer, Capitola Art & Wine Festival in the early fall and the arrival of Surfing Santa at the start of the winter holiday season. Photo Credit: shutterstock / cdrin

9 Capitola Village

Capitola Village has a distinctly European beach-side community vibe, with its array of shops, restaurants, wine tasting rooms, cafes and open air patios. Restaurants on the Esplanade feature coastal views and retail shops cater to locals and the tourist trade. During the summer the Village hosts popular community events including the Begonia Festival and Art & Wine Festival.

10 Scotts Valley

The city of Scotts Valley is six miles north of downtown Santa Cruz and 16 miles south of Los Gatos off Highway 17 in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Scotts Valley is oftentimes referred to as a bedroom community to San Jose and the industries of Silicon Valley to the north. The Scotts Valley Unified School District serves more than 2500 students and has some of the top-ranked schools in Santa Cruz County. Scotts Valley is also home to numerous restaurants, businesses and shops and is the last major city in the county before crossing the Santa Clara County Line at the summit of Highway 17 in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

11 Soquel

Soquel, located between Capitola and Santa Cruz, is dotted with antique stores, restaurants and cafes and local businesses. Soquel extends upward into the Santa Cruz Mountains to the lowlands surrounding Soquel Creek (Soquel Village). Soquel is home to Bargetto Winery, Anna Jean Cummings Park, locally known as "Blue Ball Park" due to the art installation of four giant 8-foot wide balls that appear to be rolling down the coastal prairie terrace.

12 Ben Lomond

A former logging town, Ben Lomond is located 12 miles north of Santa Cruz along Highway 9 in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The unincorporated area is the site of Loch Lomond reservoir and has just over 6,000 residents.

13 Watsonville

Watsonville is in the center of the Pajaro Valley, an agricultural area of the county, which produces top crops including strawberries, raspberries and leafy greens. The city hosts the annual Strawberry Festival during the summer and a holiday festival downtown at the city plaza in the winter.

14 La Selva Beach

La Selva Beach is a small community north of Watsonville and south of Aptos off Highway 1. Called "Rob Roy" when it was founded in 1925, La Selva Beach has evolved from its resort days to a community with post office, corner store, fire department, library and shops. It is most well known as the site of Manresa State Beach.

15 Seacliff

The communities of Rio Del Mar and Seacliff are located in the unincorporated area of Aptos in the center of Santa Cruz County. Rio Del Mar is the site of Rio Del Mar State Beach, a more developed beachside area with restaurants, a bar, nearby parking and numerous vacation rentals. Seacliff is primarily a residential area, characterized by few sidewalks and dense housing. It is the entryway to Seacliff State Beach, famous for its fishing pier and cement ship, the Palo Alto, a concrete freighter built in 1917 at the U.S. Naval Shipyard in Oakland and docked at Seacliff State Beach since 1929.

16 Davenport

Situated nine miles north of Santa Cruz along Highway 1, Davenport is a small, charming community facing the sandy bluffs of the pacific coast. Consisting of just a few streets leading off the highway, Davenport has a lot to offer visitors in spite of its size. There are restaurants, cafes, art galleries, a post office and opportunities for wine tasting. Visitors can take in some history at Davenport Jail Museum or set off for a day of strawberry picking during the summer at nearby Swanton Berry Farms. Beaches in the Davenport area are generally more blustery, feature dramatic cliffs and secluded coves that usually draw smaller crowds than the beaches of Santa Cruz. Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Cdrin

17 Bonny Doon

One of the first wine-growing regions in the county, Bonny Doon is a small rural community tucked into the coastal redwoods in the northern most area of the county. The Bonny Doon area continues to produce remarkable wines and is the site of several wineries.

18 UC Santa Cruz

Located in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains on just over 2,000 acres, UC Santa Cruz is made up of 10 colleges, nestled among trees and connected by a labyrinth of trails and footbridges. The neighborhood leading up to the university is residential, with some student and faculty housing. The university hosts community events throughout the year, including Santa Cruz Shakespeare performances during the summer. Several public trails are located in the woods surrounding the university.

19 Pasatiempo

Pasatiempo is an unincorporated community northeast of Santa Cruz off HIghway 17, reknowned its top world ranked golf course, the Pasatiempo Golf Club. Pasatiempo was founded by American golfer Marion Hollins in the 1920s.