Finding a place to stay in Santa Cruz sounds easy. Don't you just go to some online booking site and find one you can afford? You could do that, but there's a lot that online booking services don't tell you. The local visitor's bureau won't tell you, either. That's what I'm here for - to be sure you know all those dirty little secrets and end up with lodging that's perfect for you.
What You Need to Know About Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz and its neighboring towns stretch along 6 miles at the northern edge of the Monterey Bay.
It's possible to stay anywhere in the area and get to everything else fairly fast. That is, as long as you don't get stuck in traffic.
The Santa Cruz area includes the towns of Santa Cruz, Aptos, Capitola and Soquel. Some online reservation services will include all of them when you search for Santa Cruz hotels. At others, you may have to search by the individual town names.
Argentina and Portugal also have towns named Santa Cruz. You'll get to what you're looking for a lot faster if you add the word "California" to your search.
Visiting Santa Cruz
You'll need more than just a place to sleep while you're in Santa Cruz. Take a look at things to do in Santa Cruz for a weekend getaway or find out what the best things to do are.
Finding a Hotel in Santa Cruz
Find your Santa Cruz lodging like a pro. Use the same process we use to choose our recommended hotels. However, you'll need to know a few things about Santa Cruz hotel locations first:
- The coast runs more or less east-west at Santa Cruz, along the upper arc of the Monterey Bay. The other towns in the area are all east of Santa Cruz itself.
- Most of the hotels cluster in Santa Cruz along Ocean and Beach Streets. Those closest to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk will be on Beach Street.
- The San Lorenzo River runs through the middle of town and only a few streets cross it. Downtown Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk are west of it. If you're on foot and stay on the east side of the river, you may have to go out of your way to get where you want to go.
- Reserve as far ahead as you can if you want to visit Santa Cruz on a summer weekend. It's also super busy during the annual Blues Festival (Memorial Day Weekend). And even busier around graduation time at UC Santa Cruz (mid June).
- Capitola is a great place to stay if you want to spend most of your time there, but although it's close to downtown Santa Cruz, traffic on CA Hwy 1 can be quite slow on busy days, making it frustrating to get there.
- You can't blame them for trying, but the Hilton Santa Cruz/Scotts Valley is actually in the town of Scotts Valley, just off CA Hwy 17. On the map it looks close. The truth is that it's a more-than-annoying drive from there into town on a busy day.
Once you've picked a few suitable candidates for your trip, apply all the best tricks to get the lowest possible rate.
Santa Cruz Hotels We Recommend
Finding a B&B in Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz has only a few bed and breakfasts. The best-rated among them are:
- Adobe on Green Bed and Breakfast: Conveniently located a few blocks from downtown, in the historic district, this is the best-rated B and B in Santa Cruz. It's 100% non-smoking and all rooms have private bathrooms.
- Babbling Brook Inn: With rooms decorated in the style of famous painters and a babbling brook running through the garden, this has been a Santa Cruz visitors' favorite for years.
- Pacific Blue Inn: 9 rooms in a new, eco-friendly building and it's within walking distance of the most popular spots. And for ones a little further away, they offer complimentary bicycles.
- Pleasure Point Inn: Rooms boast an impressive collection of amenities, including gas fireplaces, hardwood floors, patios and custom-made furniture. They have a rooftop deck with hot tub and serve an "expanded" continental breakfast. Maximum two people per room.
Camping Near Santa Cruz
Many Santa Cruz visitors like to go camping. Use this guide to find the best places to pitch your tent or park your RV. Or if you don't have either of those, some even have tent cabins for rent.