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About Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz is central California's easy-going surf capital. A neon-bright amusement park sits right on the beach, while the vibrant downtown area brims with gourmet ice cream bars and vintage stores. On either side of the Main Beach, stretches of golden Pacific coast meet towering redwood forests for a great big slice of the wild western USA.
The Santa Cruz hostel scene includes a classic 18th-century seaside house, or a modern hostel with an indoor swimming pool. If you're looking to meet other travellers, join hostel-led group activities and relax with beers on an outdoor terrace. Some Santa Cruz hostels in town have free breakfast and most have guest kitchens so you can make your own food. You'll also have the choice of a dorm or private room, and many hostels in Santa Cruz also offer free Wi-Fi access.
The downtown Santa Cruz neighbourhood traces the San Lorenzo River towards the sea. Here, Pacific Avenue is the place for vintage clothes shops and artisan coffee. Continue towards the beach for the famous Santa Cruz Boardwalk, a classic amusement park that's been entertaining visitors for over 100 years with its rides, indulgent food stalls and nostalgic vibe. Municipal Wharf is lined with seafood restaurants and has views back to the town and beaches. Truly epic West Coast wilderness is found along the coastal walking and biking trail in Natural Bridges State Beach's rocky coves.
Santa Cruz has plenty of beach-based activities. New surfers might head to the gentle breakers of Cowell Beach, while kayakers can launch straight off Municipal Wharf in town. Adventurous travellers can go on a 3-day hiking trail in Big Basin Redwoods State Park (40 minutes' drive away), or visit just to marvel at these ancient, giant trees. In town, check out the Museum of Art & History, particularly on the first Friday of every month for live music among the exhibitions. For a swim away from the surfer crowds, the 2-hour hike to Garden of Eden offers a secluded natural pool surrounded by woodland.
To get here, fly to San Francisco International Airport and catch the Santa Cruz Airport Flyer shuttle bus down the coast. You can also travel by Greyhound – the station is on Pacific Avenue, and runs connections to San Francisco (3 hours), Santa Barbara (6 hours) and Los Angeles (9 hours). To get around town use the local bus service, which runs from Metro Center (also on Pacific Avenue), and in summer catch the Santa Cruz Trolley shuttle between downtown and the beach.