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Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Sea & Sand Inn – See Rates at TripAdvisor
"Some suites spoil with a private patio and hot tub; others with a generous separate living area."
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Bella Notte - The Inn at East Cliff – See Rates at TripAdvisor
"The Mission-style inn reflects the architectural heritage of the town’s settlers, with saffron-painted walls and red-tiled roofs."
Best Budget: Quality Inn Santa Cruz – See Rates at TripAdvisor
"Savvy travelers can cut down on costs by preparing snacks in their room rather than eating out."
Best for Families: Beach Street Inn and Suites – See Rates at TripAdvisor
"Kids will love the heated, ocean-view pool; while the hot tub gives Mom and Dad the chance to recharge their batteries."
Best Beachfront: Dream Inn – See Rates at TripAdvisor
"Rooms offer a private balcony or patio with stunning ocean views, accessed through floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors."
Best for Romance: West Cliff Inn – See Rates at TripAdvisor
"Many rooms have ocean views and some spoil with jetted spa tubs big enough for two."
Best for Business: Chaminade Resort & Spa – See Rates at TripAdvisor
"You’ll find plenty of ways to relax on-site, with a swimming pool, fitness center, and hiking trails."
"Expect reclaimed wood paneling, river rock shower floors, and a giant redwood tree trunk in the lobby."
"All of the accomodations evoke the elegance of a past era while still providing every modern comfort."
Best Overall: Sea & Sand Inn
Guests at the Sea & Sand Inn love its magnificent location above Cowell Beach, which also puts you within a 10-minute walk of Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Main Beach. Every room boasts an ocean view, in addition to a gas or electric fireplace, a 40” flat-screen TV, a mini-fridge, and free Wi-Fi. Some suites spoil with a private patio and hot tub; others with a generous separate living area.
There are floor plans for every kind of traveler, whether you need an accessible room or additional space for family and friends. In the morning, wake up to the inn’s complimentary continental breakfast. Fresh baked cookies are served every afternoon (to the delight of kids and adults alike), while a wine and cheese reception is hosted every evening.
There is no full-service restaurant at the hotel. Instead, ask the friendly staff for a recommendation and then take a stroll to one of the global or farm-to-table options located on nearby Pacific Avenue.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Bella Notte - The Inn at East Cliff
Set two blocks from Twin Lakes Beach in the peaceful Live Oak neighborhood, Bella Notte is a great alternative for those who want a quiet location in between downtown Santa Cruz and nearby Capitola. The Mission-style inn reflects the architectural heritage of the town’s Spanish settlers, with saffron-painted walls and red-tiled roofs.
There are 10 spacious rooms to choose from. Decide whether you want one King or two Queen beds, then revel in the luxury afforded by imported Italian marble countertops and linens. All rooms include a wet bar, mini-fridge, free Wi-Fi, and underfloor heating in the en-suite bathroom. Some come with additional perks such as a soaking tub or fireplace.
Other than the rooms themselves and a complimentary continental breakfast, Bella Notte has limited amenities. However, guests will find plenty to explore within easy walking distance, including an excellent Sunday farmers market and several quirky cafés, bakeries, and restaurants. Parking is provided free of charge.
Best Budget: Quality Inn Santa Cruz
Quality Inn Santa Cruz is situated a seven-minute drive from Main Beach in a neighborhood that guests say is both quiet and safe (but maybe not the most scenic area). Its high TripAdvisor ranking, clean rooms, and friendly staff have made it a favorite choice for budget travelers. The motel provides plenty of complimentary extras, including Wi-Fi, parking, and a weekday newspaper. Best of all, each day starts with a complimentary hot breakfast buffet.
All rooms include a TV with HBO, a mini-fridge, microwave, and coffee maker. This allows savvy travelers to cut down on costs by preparing snacks in their room rather than eating out. With that being said, there are several affordable diners and cafés within a few minutes’ walk of the motel.
Floor plans with two Double or two Queen beds provide a budget option for families or friends traveling together. Kids will enjoy the small outdoor pool, while pets are welcome with one of the most reasonable pet fees in Santa Cruz.
Best for Families: Beach Street Inn and Suites
For families, there’s no better place to be than in the heart of the action. Beach Street Inn and Suites puts you halfway between Cowell and Main Beaches, and a four-minute walk from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk amusement park.
Kids will love the heated, ocean-view pool; while the hot tub gives Mom and Dad the chance to recharge their batteries in peace. Help yourselves to complimentary coffee and cocoa throughout the day, or cool off with gourmet ice cream from full-service restaurant The Picnic Basket Café.
Rooms and suites are designed with families in mind, with plenty of space and standard amenities that include a fridge, microwave, and free Wi-Fi. The larger suites have a separate living room and full kitchen, giving you the freedom to cook meals for the kids according to their unique tastes and schedules. The largest suite has two bedrooms and sleeping space for up to six people. The hotel’s laundry facilities are a particular perk for those traveling with children.
Best Beachfront: Dream Inn
Although a couple of other Santa Cruz hotels are located close to the ocean, only retro-chic Dream Inn is directly on the beachfront. All 165 guest rooms offer a private balcony or patio with stunning ocean views, accessed through floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors. Start your day with a cup of coffee overlooking the sea, brewed to perfection by your in-room coffee maker. Other amenities include a mini-fridge (perfect for storing ingredients for sundowners), a 42” TV, and complimentary Wi-Fi.
You’ll also find best-selling books at your bedside, which you can take to the beach or home as a souvenir. The heated outdoor pool is a hotel highlight, complete with a hot tub and the same uninterrupted sea views; not to mention luxurious cabana beds and a poolside food and beverage menu.
For all other meals make your way to Jack O’Neill Restaurant and Lounge, where local and coastal classics pay homage to the simple lifestyle of the local surfing legend. Valet and self-parking are available for a fee.
Best for Romance: West Cliff Inn
Part boutique hotel, part cozy B&B, West Cliff Inn is a fully renovated Victorian property with fabulous elevated views of Cowell Beach. With just 10 rooms, it’s the perfect choice for an intimate couple’s retreat or celebration weekend.
Rattan furniture, recycled driftwood, and local artworks create an atmosphere of coastal chic throughout the inn, while each bedroom comes with a king bed and marble tiled bathroom. Many have ocean views and some spoil with jetted spa tubs big enough for two.
The Superior King Spa with Balcony is the ultimate choice for romantic stays, with a fireplace and a two-person hot tub on its large private balcony. Spend leisurely mornings reconnecting over the inn’s complimentary full breakfast, then reminisce over your daily adventures at the afternoon wine and hors d’oeuvres reception.
If your stay coincides with a special anniversary, engagement, or honeymoon, consider booking the Celebration Package, which comes with a bottle of sparkling wine, a box of chocolate truffles, and breakfast in bed.
Best for Business: Chaminade Resort & Spa
A mountaintop property with beautiful Monterey Bay views and Mission-style architecture, Chaminade Resort & Spa is a 15-minute drive from downtown Santa Cruz. It’s especially great for business travelers in search of a conference or event venue, with an array of flexible meeting rooms and breakout spaces. The largest can accommodate up to 230 delegates.
You can also make use of extensive catering facilities, a business center, and team building activities (which range from boat building challenges to brewery tours).
All 156 guest rooms offer high-speed internet and a coffee maker for maximum productivity, as well as an iron and ironing board to help you look your best before an important event.
When you’re not working, make time to play. You’ll find plenty of ways to relax on-site, with a swimming pool, fitness center, and hiking trails for those that like to be active. The spa caters to those that prefer a spot of pampering in between meetings. The resort has two restaurants and offers room service from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Best Boutique: Hotel Paradox, Autograph Collection
Backed by riverfront San Lorenzo Park, Hotel Paradox may have more rooms than a conventional boutique property, but it ticks all the boxes with its fashion-forward aesthetic and unique amenities.
The name comes from the contradictory-yet-complementary relationship between its two main design inspirations: natural beauty and city style, translated into an entirely original “urban forest” theme. Expect reclaimed wood paneling, river rock shower floors, and a giant redwood trunk in the lobby.
Public spaces showcase the work of a different local artist every month, with a meet-and-greet every second Friday accompanied by libations and live music. Days at Hotel Paradox are spent lounging by the outdoor pool with its private cabanas and poolside service, or exploring on an electric bike rented from the front desk.
In the evening, sample Modern American cuisine at Solaire Restaurant + Bar before making new friends around the outdoor fire pits.
All 170 rooms and suites treat you to luxury bathrobes, down bedding, and illy coffee makers; while floor-to-ceiling windows welcome the outside in.
Best B&B: Monarch Cove Inn
For a traditional B&B experience enhanced by spectacular clifftop views, it’s worth taking a 10-minute drive out of town to neighboring Capitola. Built in 1895, Monarch Cove Inn is a Victorian mansion set amidst 2.5 acres of flower-filled gardens. Take a stroll through the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary, or soak up those Californian rays on the sun deck.
There are nine uniquely decorated Queen-sized rooms and a pair of two-bedroom suites to choose from. All of them evoke the elegance of a past era while still providing every modern comfort. Sought-after rooms include the Monarch Grove Room, with its Victorian cupola, four-poster bed, and deep-soaking tub; and the Victorian Room with its fireplace and generous bay windows. Whichever you choose, a gourmet continental breakfast will be served to your room every morning.
For special occasions, ring in advance to arrange thoughtful extras such as flowers, wine, or chocolates. Parking is provided free of charge and dogs are welcome in the Carriage and Holiday House suites.