No matter what else people have to say about these twin beaches, their natural beauty is spectacular, with high rock towers and a rocky cliff above a sandy area about 100 yards long and 70 yards wide.
Some sources list them as two separate beaches, but in fact, they're in the same place, once separated by a rock wall with (guess what!) a hole in it. Although the arch over the wall has now collapsed, Hole in the Wall Beach is still accessible, but only at low tide by going north from Panther Beach.
Before it stopped publication, the Bay Guardian newspaper gave both Panther and Hole in the Wall a grade of "B." These are some comments from people who have been there:
Bill says: "I have been a couple of times during the week (visiting from out of town) and the beaches are mostly deserted with maybe a handful of people. I was the only one nude on one occasion, but no one cared or even seemed to notice. The other time it was chilly so not many there, no one nude. It is beautiful and not easy to get too from the south side, have not tried from the north end. The 'hole in the wall' is still there, not sure why this article says it is not. It is probably my favorite to go to, although I would feel more comfortable if I wasn't the only one participating. Seems like only locals really know about it."
Rachel says: "Stumbled upon this beach a couple days ago and had tons of fun exploring the area. Lots of cool rock formations to look at and to climb on. There was only a couple people there I wasn't even aware it was a nude beach until I read this article. I'm confused why this article is saying that the hole is collapsed because I just took a picture standing under it! Definitely worth going for something different! More interesting than just sand, sun and water to look at."
Things to Do at Panther and Hole in the Wall
The primary activities are sunbathing and rock climbing. Swimming is not advised because of riptides that can appear suddenly, catch a swimmer off guard, and drag them out to sea.
Nude Recreation at Panther and Hole in the Wall
Only a few people are at these beaches most of the time, and about half of them are nude.
- There are no facilities at these beaches. Not even a porta-potty. Take care of primary needs before you go and take plenty of water to drink.
- It can be very sunny at this beach, with no natural shade.
- It can also be very foggy, especially in the summer. Check the weather conditions before you go.
- Watch for poison oak along the trail, which can give allergic folks a rash even after it drops its leaves.
How to Get to Panther and Hole in the Wall Beach
If you want an interactive version of the map above, would like to convert to a close-up satellite map that shows the beaches and trails or need driving directions, use the Santa Cruz County Beach map at Google.
Panther is off California Highway 1 between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay, but closer to Santa Cruz and about 2 miles south of tiny Davenport and a half mile south of Bonny Doon Beach at approximately mile 26.5. You can find it by watching the mileage markers if you know how.
Parking at Panther and Hole in the Wall Beach
The entrance to this parking area is easy to find if you're northbound on CA Hwy 1. It's an informal, dirt area on an elevated spot between the highway and the railroad track and you won't miss it if you're watching the mileage markers.
Southbound, the entrance is very hard to see. Look for a dirt road between the west side of the highway and the railroad track and be prepared to make a very sharp turn to get into it. Keep watching the milepost markers to make sure you don't go too far.
Park on the dirt between the highway and the railroad tracks (west of the highway). Take care with your belongings. Vandalism has been reported here.
You can also park north of the beach in the gravel lot at Call Box SZ-001-273 across from the produce stand. This parking area is easier to find when going south, more visible from the main road and likely less attractive to thieves than the one on the south side.
Walking from Parking Lot to the Beach
From the north parking area across from the fruit stand, follow the dirt road which parallels the highway until you reach the path leading down to the beach.
From the south parking area, go to the north end of the lot (near the trash cans), cross the railroad tracks and follow the trail. See a photo of the trail on the next page.
The path is steep and eroded, and you may be more comfortable going down it if you wear good shoes with soles that grip.
Nudity Laws and Panther and Hole in the Wall Beach
Laws regarding nudity vary by location and fines are stiff in some places. This guide makes every effort to provide accurate information, but the responsibility for knowing the law at Panther and Hole in the Wall beaches is yours.
Nude or naturist beach neophytes, please be respectful of others and before you go to a nude beach read the nude beach and topless beach etiquette guidelines.