715 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, CA
Conveniently located downtown, this dive bar has a reputation as the punk's hangout. In reality, anyone is welcome as long as they can stomach the cigarette smoke and loud street people who wander in from Pacific. Pool sharks swim around the rec room as cheap stiff drinks, with names like TKO, are served up by friendly bartenders.
11 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, CA
The last bar at the southern end of downtown features two pool tables and a back patio with afternoon barbecues. One of downtown's most popular dives, The Avenue attracts locals and students who would rather watch the game and share a few pitchers of Bud after work instead of discussing politics over a martini.
The Rush Inn
113 Knight St., Santa Cruz, CA
This bar is a bit out of the way, tucked behind the clock tower off Pacific. Simply put, it is a gamer's delight, with pinball and video game machines lining the walls. Since it's off the beaten path, the drinks are not as overpriced as other bars downtown, and they even put on good punk shows occasionally.
Ye Olde Watering Hole
2405 Mission St. Santa Cruz, CA
This dive bar has a grungy sense of class that makes it a gloriously homey place to get a drink. The pool table, TV sets, and genre-straddling jukebox are the stars here, and the cheap whiskey does improve the entertainment. Things have been known to get out of hand if someone, usually a student, makes a wrong move, but overall this place exhibits the comfort of a working man's living room.
507 Water St, Santa Cruz, CA
Callahan's is the place to be around Market Street after going for a long motorcycle ride down Highway 9 back into Santa Cruz. Free pool and great happy hour prices also make it a nice break from the craziness of downtown on a Friday or Saturday night. It's just far enough off Pacific to avoid all the crowds, and just close enough to walk back and catch a late bus home if the Hog's still in the garage.
712 Ocean St, Santa Cruz, CA
The tiny central Santa Cruz bar earns its name from its close proximity to the Courthouse, but it's doubtful you'll see any lawmen there having drinks. Tailored to a younger crowd of boisterous partiers, the Jury Room is also home to the local punk rock scene. If you're into cheap beer and loud music, it's well worth a visit.
3623 Portola Drive, Santa Cruz, CA
Pleasure Point is the neighborhood that sets the tone for this neighborhood bar. That explains the wall-mounted surfboards, and should serve as a warning that the good-looking crowd is here to par-tay. A makeover a few years back replaced the ratty carpets with hardwood floors and added a couple of pool tables; thankfully, the famous fish tanks are still here.