Santa Cruz is the largest city in Santa Cruz County, with a population of over 60,000. It is approximately 32 miles from San Jose and a part of the Monterey Bay Area. Santa Cruz experiences a Mediterranean climate, cool winters and warm summers. With its beautiful coastline, mountains, redwood forests, and beach boardwalk amusement park, Santa Cruz has become the beach destination for Silicon Valley, as well as for visitors from all over the world. We invite you to learn more about the neighborhoods.
Many visitors entering Santa Cruz proper from Highway 17 are familiar with Ocean Street. Shops, restaurants, and hotels line this main thoroughfare on both sides, as well as City Hall and local businesses. Nearby attractions include: Grant Park, easy access to main biking and pedestrian routes (such as the arterial San Lorenzo River Trail), DeLaveaga City Park and, of course, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Proximity to Highway 1 and Highway 17 are of particular appeal to commuters.
Moving East, the Seabright neighborhood is one of the beloved neighborhoods in the area. Neighborhood borders are usually subjective, but for this description, everything Bay-side of Broadway, between the marina and Ocean View is considered Seabright neighborhood. The main intersection is at Seabright Avenue and Murray Street. Frederick St Park and Ocean View Park are walking distance, with playgrounds, field, and dog-off-leash areas, making Seabright neighborhood one of the more pet-friendly microclimates of the City. Arana Gulch provides a lovely open space, with newly paved bike-trails connecting upper Seabright to the Live Oak neighborhood. Neighborhood Night is Tuesday, when local restaurants and businesses offer discounts. The harbor is immediately adjacent, and Seabright Beach, one of the few beaches that allows bonfires within the city limits, is just a short stroll away. Late 19th century Victorian homes characterize the architectural gestalt of many of the main intersections throughout this beautiful neighborhood.
The Midtown area extending north toward Prospect Heights offers quiet streets and perhaps less tourist presence than other locations. The golf course at DeLaveaga is very accessible, as is the historic Rio Theater at the heart of Midtown. Within these neighborhoods, there are many beautiful examples of craftsman-styled homes built in the early 20th century. You will also see many single-story traditional mid-century single family units throughout these neighborhoods, which can offer great relative value to a buyer looking to own in this wonderful part of town.
Downtown Santa Cruz includes most notably the vibrant and eclectic Pacific Avenue, a beautiful tree-lined historic downtown with a hustle-bustle mix of local and chain stores, restaurants, bars, music venues, and local street performers. You'll also find plenty to love about the culture downtown, with the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, and the Felix Kulpa Gallery. The entire downtown itself becomes an art exhibit every First Friday of the month. Music venues include Kuumbwa Jazz Center and The Catalyst, intimate venues where many well-known acts schedule a tour-date on their way into or out of the San Francisco Bay Area. The Kaiser Permanente Arena, home to the local Santa Cruz basketball team the Warriors, is also right next door. This area includes the Beach Hill and Beach Flats neighborhoods, and adjoining Main Beach, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and the Wharf.
The Lower Westside consists of the neighborhoods south of Mission, beach-side, out to West Cliff. Along West Cliff Drive, beautiful Spanish Colonial Revival homes with red clay roofs sit atop the cliffs, which descend to beaches and fishing spots below. An ocean-side paved pedestrian trail provides access to bikers and pedestrians to recreate sea-side, and sea lions, humpback whales, dolphins, porpoises, and sea otters all frequent the coastal shallows. Lighthouse Field State Beach with grasslands and wind-swept Monterey Cypress gives this area a very Central Coast feel, and within the neighborhoods, a mix of single-story residential and modern beach-style homes suit everyone's needs. The commercial space on the edge of town has been giving rise to new hip businesses, studio spaces, and restaurants. Proximity to the University creates high demand for rentals, and there are many vacation rentals close to the ocean. This is a highly sought community for many uses.
The unincorporated area between Santa Cruz & neighboring Capitola is referred to as Live Oak. The formerly rural area is gaining popularity due to its more affordable neighborhoods and close proximity to beautiful coastline. Sunny Cove, Twin Lakes, and nice and lesser-populated beaches like 21st Ave provide great access to sand and surf all along Live Oak. Sunday Farmers' Market takes place at 17th Ave and Portola, and many small neighborhood shops and restaurants give this area a decidedly local feel. Moran Lake is a great picnic area with scenic walking trail and beach-let. Nearby 41st Avenue is conveniently located for shopping needs, and downtown Capitola is just as accessible as downtown Santa Cruz.
Nestled in the foothills surrounding the city proper, sits the Pasatiempo golf course and gated community of luxury homes. With views of Santa Cruz and across the Monterey Bay, Pasatiempo is an upscale golf club, the course listed as #21 in the USA by Golf Digest. The nearby Carbonera estates sit on the varied topography of the foothills between Pasatiempo on one side and the DeLaveaga City Park/Golf Course on the other. These homes, many built in the 1970s as top-end properties, have captivating and varied architecture, hardwood floors, fine attention to detail, were built incorporating the surrounding landscape. Large lots with mature landscaping and diverse vegetation characterize these established high end communities.
The Jewel Box area of western Capitola includes all of the streets named after precious stones in most of the area between 41st and Soquel Creek. This walkable neighborhood has nearby access to the community commercial zones along 41st Ave, with many grocery stores, boutiques, restaurants, and the County's largest shopping mall. Great surf spots line the coast just blocks away. Privates Beach is a nearby gated beach, to which local residents can gain yearly access for a low fee, and of course, Capitola Village is also right next door. Many of the lawns in this neighborhood have been landscaped with drought-tolerant species, lending this neighborhood a character all its own.
Capitola is one of the four incorporated cities in Santa Cruz County. When many people they think of Capitola, they think of Capitola Village, the quaint downtown neighborhood by the wharf and Capitola beach. Closely configured colorful blocks of dining and shopping establishments, all at the foot of tall bluffs with the train trestle overhead lend the area almost a retro-beach feel. Within the City, short-term (less than 30 day) vacation rentals are only allowed within Capitola Village, south of Cherry Ave and along Riverview Ave, up to Blue Gum Avenue. This is the only neighborhood in the entire city where vacation rentals (AirBnB, etc.) are permitted. What this means for the rest of the City is that despite being a highly desired, scenic and cozy vacation destination town, Capitola has retained a distinctly residential character and feel.
The name Soquel has a somewhat unknown history. The Ohlone Indians were the native tribe in the area and their word for the creek running through town was Osocalis, which was later translated by Westerners as Soquel. The name stuck, and grew into the family-friendly town it is today.
Soquel is a small, historic town adjacent to Capitola. There is a downtown area, great for shopping, eating (Michael's on Main & Beer 30 are local favorites) and enjoying the small-town feel. Land of Medicine Buddha nearby has great trails and joins into the larger Nisene Marks park. Single-family homes in this area are in a lower price range due to distance from the beach, compared to some of the neighboring cities. If you are looking for a family-friendly town close to all the action, historic Soquel could be a great option.
Aptos is a quaint, quiet beach town, backed to redwood forest. Aptos Village is a historic downtown area where visitors can shop boutiques, great restaurants and go antiquing. Some of our favorite spots are the Seascape Golf Course, Nisene Marks State Park (they have a partially dog-friendly hiking trail), the Aptos Farmer's Market, and of course, the historic cement shipwreck S.S. Palo Alto. Cabrillo College is also located in town, where residents enjoy the shows put on by the excellent theater department. The almost retro-beach-feel of Aptos, while still being a quiet, relaxing area to escape to, makes this town one of Santa Cruz County's best kept secrets. Beaches to visit include Rio Del Mar, Seascape, New Brighton or Hidden Beach.
Watsonville is a city in Santa Cruz County. Located on the central coast of California, the economy centers predominantly around the farming industry. The Pajaro Valley, where Watsonville is located, has a climate that is usually pleasant year-round, with very hot summers. There are several private religious-based schools in Watsonville such as Notre Dame School, Monte Vista Christian, Salesian Sisters and St. Francis, in addition to the Pajaro Valley Unified School District. There are also several charter schools, providing a wide range of educational options for local families.
Proximity to the town of Santa Cruz makes Watsonville an excellent and affordable commute location for many residents. Adjacent to Watsonville is La Selva, a small beach town that many in the county frequent. These two factors make Watsonville a reasonable choice for many families. Watsonville is more conservative on the political spectrum in comparison to the neighboring communities of Santa Cruz, so some might find a better fit in the less liberal community.
Scotts Valley is one of the four incorporated cities of Santa Cruz County, and is home to approximately 11,500 residents. The city is 5 miles north of the coastline in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and, as the name suggests, sits mostly in a valley, surrounded by densely wooded redwood and douglas fir forests. Scotts Valley has the top-rated public schools in the county, many large newer residences, and several parks and greenbelt areas, making this a desired city to raise a family. Several tech companies are established in Scotts Valley, and for those residents who work "over the hill" in Silicon Valley, the commute is a good deal shorter than elsewhere in Santa Cruz County.
The San Lorenzo Valley is in the Santa Cruz Mountains and was once the center of the logging industry in California. Home to the Sequoia (redwood) trees, the valley includes the villages of Ben Lomond, Felton, Brookdale and Boulder Creek, which lie along Highway 9. Traveling up the 9 from Santa Cruz will take you right into the Saratoga area, making places like secluded Boulder Creek a great affordable option for commuters working in Silicon Valley.
The San Lorenzo River runs through the valley all the way down to city of Santa Cruz, where it flows into the Monterey Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Much of this area is rural and wooded. At the northern end is Big Basin Redwoods State Park and Castle Rock State Park; toward the southern end is Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. There are so many beloved hiking areas in the San Lorenzo Valley where visitors can see the magnificent old-growth redwoods.