While Santa Cruz County contains several different climates, the city of Santa Cruz itself enjoys mild temperatures throughout the year. The winters are cool and wet while the summers are warm and dry, though its proximity to Monterey Bay can result in foggy or overcast weather in the mornings and evenings.
Aside from its famous boardwalk and Mystery Spot, Santa Cruz is perhaps best known as one of California’s most popular surfing destinations. There are plenty of exciting surf breaks within its Pacific coastline (some of which are world-renowned) that cater to all different levels of surfers.
Those warm, dry summers from June to August see the most visitors, and tourist numbers usually plummet significantly by September. Winter, fall, and spring are still quite pleasant weather-wise, so don’t count those seasons out completely if you’re planning a getaway. Santa Cruz does have some humid months, above average, in fact, with the least humid month being January (60.5 percent) and the most being July (71 percent). The wind, however, is almost always calm.
Fast Climate Facts
- Hottest Months: August and September (76 F / 24 C)
- Coldest Months: December and January (41 F / 5 C)
- Wettest Month: January (6.28 inches)
- Windiest Month: May (8 mph)
- Best Month for Swimming: August (64 F / 18 C)
Throughout California, the height of wildfire season typically spans from August to October or November. In 2020, the CZU Complex Fire tore through San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties from mid-August to late September, burning over 86,000 acres and destroying almost 1,500 structures. Wind in Santa Cruz proper doesn’t pick up very often, but the mountainous areas around the rest of the county do see some fairly intense wind storms (a major contributing factor to fire risk). Travelers coming to Santa Cruz during these months should come prepared by staying updated with CAL FIRE and having a portable charger on hand in case of blackouts.
Summer in Santa Cruz
Summer is always a busy time in Santa Cruz. The beaches fill up with vacationers and residents alike taking advantage of the warm weather and fun surf. There may be some foggy moments along the coast and in the mountains in the early mornings, but this time of year rarely sees rain.
What to pack: Bathing suits, shorts, sandals, and tank tops are essential in Santa Cruz in the summer. If you’re planning on staying outside early in the morning before the fog burns off, pack some long pants, a scarf, and a jacket to keep warm. Santa Cruz is quite sunny in summer, so don’t forget to bring ample sun protection such as sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats, as well.
Fall in Santa Cruz
For travelers who want to avoid heavy crowds but still enjoy the tail end of Santa Cruz’s most pleasant temperatures, it doesn’t get any better than the fall. The summers can experience marine layer clouds over the beach into the late morning and afternoon hours, causing some to feel that the weather is even better in the fall and spring. The beaches are less busy, art festivals, county fairs, and other events are in full force, and accommodation prices have been significantly lowered. Daily highs range from 78 F to 65 F (26 C to 18 C).
What to pack: Although not as rainy as winter, fall does tend to see a few light drizzles of rain in the mid to late months, usually anywhere up to four days. Bring an umbrella and light rain jacket just in case, but otherwise, you’ll be safe with jeans, T-shirts, and closed-toed shoes.
Winter in Santa Cruz
This time of year is the slowest with tourists, but as long as you can handle lows temperatures that dip below 40 or 50 F (4 or 10 C), there are still plenty of activities like holiday shows, wine tasting, and whale watching to enjoy. As it rains between five and seven inches each month in the winter, the hillsides are brightened with new green grass and the air is crisp and fresh. Highs range between 66 F and 60 F (19 C and 16 C) in the winter.
Pro tip: For those visiting in the winter, don’t miss the monarch butterfly migration in Santa Cruz. Each year from October to February, peaking in November, around 100,000 monarch butterflies migrate to Natural Bridges State Park.
What to pack: Like clockwork, Santa Cruz residents break out the flannels and puffy jackets as soon as the temperature drops (in fact, you’ll probably see them here and there no matter what season). This is the rainy season, so don’t forget an umbrella along with long pants, raincoats, scarves, and hats.
Spring in Santa Cruz
The combination of humidity and temperature makes spring the most moderate of the seasons, with only one to four days of significant precipitation and highs ranging from 71 F to 63 F (22 C to 17 C). The weather is warm enough to start sunbathing and beachcombing while the daffodils and wildflowers begin to pop up along the lovely hiking trails.
What to pack: In Santa Cruz, comfort almost always comes first in terms of fashion. The style falls somewhere between beachy and outdoorsy, so don’t be afraid to keep it casual while you’re packing. Spring is no exception, and you can get away with beach clothes during the day, but be prepared for temperature drops in the evenings and early mornings with scarves, pants, and jackets.
Average Monthly Temperature, Rainfall, and Daylight Hours
|Avg. Temp.||Rainfall||Daylight Hours|
|January||52 F / 11 C||6.28 inches||10 hours|
|February||53 F / 12 C||6.24 inches||10 hours|
|March||55 F / 13 C||4.63 inches||11 hours|
|April||57 F / 14 C||1.97 inches||12.5 hours|
|May||60 F / 15 C||0.84 inches||14 hours|
|June||63 F / 17 C||0.19 inches||14.5 hours|
|July||64 F / 18 C||0.01 inches||14.5 hours|
|August||65 F / 18 C||0.04 inches||14 hours|
|September||64 F / 18 C||0.27 inches||13 hours|
|October||61 F / 16 C||1.45 inches||12 hours|
|November||56 F / 13 C||3.75 inches||10.5 hours|
|December||51 F / 11 C||5.68 inches||10 hours|