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Watsonville Hotel Area Guide

Surfer walking out to beach in Santa Cruz
This is how we Cruz......

Go exploring in the redwoods, play in the surf, ride a roller coaster, take a steam train ride, and much more. 

70 miles south of San Francisco and 35 miles north of Monterey, you'll find great surf, sandy beaches, redwood-covered mountains, laid-back towns organic farms, and a burgeoning beer and wine scene. 

With over 14 state parks, wineries, museums, farmer's markets, and outdoor activities like hiking, stand up paddle boarding, surfing, canopy tours and mountain biking, there is plenty to choose from. Visit the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Roaring Camp Railroads, the Santa Cruz Wharf, UCSC, and lots more!

Santa Cruz County has attractions for visitors of all ages! From the mountains to the sea, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Offering 29 miles of scenic coastline and 14 state parks and beaches to explore.

Visit the iconic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, home to two historic landmarks: the Giant Dipper and Looff Carousel! From rides and games to unbeatable ocean views, the Boardwalk offers things-to-do year round. Head over to Neptune's Kingdom for laser tag, mini golf and an arcade with dozens of classic games. This seaside amusement park has been the backdrop for films such as “The Lost Boys” and Jordan Peele's “Us”.

Roaring Camp Railroads offers visitors a look into the past. See the county's ancient redwood trees from a 19th century steam locomotive! Before you board, spend some time in the old-town setting, chalked full of activities like gold mining, square dancing and more! Finish your excursion with a chuck wagon BBQ. This pet-friendly attraction offers two destinations: through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, or down to the beach for a drop-off at the Boardwalk!  Head down to South County for activities the whole family can enjoy. The original Martinelli's Company Store resides in Watsonville. Equipped with historical points of interest, a colorful gift shop and a free tasting bar; this cider haven is perfect for the food lover + the history buff!

Head up to North County for ancient coastal views in Davenport. Fronting the wild Pacific, as opposed to Monterey Bay, Davenport sports some of the most unique and striking coastline in the county. Davenport Landing is easily accessed via a short and level walk to the sand where visitors can admire a picturesque setting backed by dramatic coastal bluffs.

Visit Main Beach, the heart of Santa Cruz's seaside action. This beach links to prominent county landmarks; including the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the Santa Cruz Wharf, and the mouth of the San Lorenzo River. Enjoy watching pros battle it out at beach volleyball courts or take a scenic walk in the soft sand.

Redwood forests are the perfect retreat for a self-care recharge. There's just something about looking up at an ancient redwood tree taller than the Statue of Liberty that grounds a person in the moment. Henry Cowell, Big Basin, Nisene Marks, parts of Wilder Ranch, and the Land of the Medicine Buddha are all excellent forests and trails to be in the moment and let nature do the talking.

Fall Creek is home to some of the dreamiest hiking trails in Santa Cruz County. Hike along creeks and streams as you head into the deep redwood forest of the Fall Creek Unit of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. Birds and banana slugs can be spotted along the trail and pause beside the waters to find small fish, and for the keen eye, newts.

Spend a day at the historic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk! This seaside amusement park boasts over 35 rides; including the Looff Carousel, the Giant Dipper and more. During the summer time, live performances from magicians can be seen directly next to the Pirate Ship. Wednesday nights during the summer, the Boardwalk hosts a free screening of a family-friendly movie right on the sand.

Santa Cruz County offers a wealth of kid-friendly museums. Kids can drive a tractor, guide a simulated sea turtle to safety, and touch a real, live shark! Visit the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum and Botanic Garden! At this 135-acre outdoor, living museum, you can also explore the Hummingbird Trail to seek out the rare, elusive white hummingbird, and sniff pleasing scents of lavender, jasmine, and oregano in the fun Aroma Garden.

Centrally located within Capitola-by-the-Sea, Capitola Beach is the de facto playground for the charming village. Gentle waves provide plenty of warm weather fun, and the ideal conditions for pint-sized surfers learning the sport!

Listen to Moments in Nature at Natural Bridges State Beach, a must see when visiting Santa Cruz County.

What: Berry Creek Falls at Big Basin State Park
Big Basin is California's oldest State Park and is home to the largest continuous stand of Ancient Coast Redwoods south of San Francisco. The park offers over 80 miles of trails and has a surprising number of waterfalls.
Walk: You have to work a bit for this one! Berry Creek Falls is just under 11 miles and climbs over 1000 feet of elevation. It features a series of year-round waterfalls, lush redwood forest and steep canyons.
Pro tip* Veteran Berry Creek Falls hikers recommend a counter-clockwise loop starting on the Sunset Trail, turning left on to the Berry Creek Falls Trail, taking another left onto the Skyline-to-the-Sea trail, which returns to the trailhead.

What: Wilder Ranch State Park
Grasslands, oaks, knobcone pines, coastal redwoods, douglas firs, rugged coastline, tidepools, hidden beaches, Victorian farmhouse, barns — need we say more? Wilder Ranch boasts a wide assortment of terrain and habitat, and offers over 34 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails winding through coastal terraces and valleys.
Walk: By far, one of the most scenic spots to hike is the Old Cove Landing Trail, a 7 ½ miles round-trip located on the north coast that is one of the prime spots for wild flowers.  You can access the beach from here and walk along the bluff leading to the cove.
Pro tip* Bring a jacket on this hike, as the coast can get a little breezy.

What: Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Whether you're a family with tiny tikes or tough teens, Henry Cowell has a trail for you and yours. The main park area features 15 miles of hiking and riding trails through a variety of forested areas with redwoods, mixed evergreens, ponderosa pines, and even sandhills. Some park trails run alongside the San Lorenzo River.
Walk: For stroller riders and little legs, try the Redwood Grove Loop. This one mile path is a breeze for hikers, but doesn't skimp on impressive encounters with redwood giants. For slightly older kids – not in need of a stroller – take the River Trail for a scenic hike with great rewards – i.e. some water play!
Pro tip* Leave a change of clothes or towel in the car for the little ones. The streams, river and creeks sure are tempting!

What: West Cliff Drive
Although not considered a traditional “hike”, West Cliff Drive delivers on some serious strides with seaside views. Bustling beaches and surf spots to tranquil coves and wildlife, this coastal path serves up some breathtaking vistas.
Walk: Begin your 6 mile round trip and let the Monterey Bay be your trail guide. Pass the famed Steamer Lane surf spot and a brick lighthouse which also serves as a Surfing Museum. When the path ends, take a peek toward the ocean and see the photogenic Natural Bridges State Beach. Add some steps to your outing and explore the monarch groves and short trails offered at the popular state park.
Pro tip* When the waves are crashing against the cliffs, take a breather between Auburn and Chico Ave and try to spot the “blowhole” where water surges up into the sky mimicking our whale friends. Also, Fido will love this walk and the pup-friendly beaches along the way.

What: Quail Hollow Ranch
Quail Hollow Ranch's 300-acre space offers scenic trails, majestic vistas, and a dazzling array of family-friendly activities — and is off-the-beaten-path enough to always seem to have plenty of space to roam. This “local secret” is one of the best kept of its kind in the county.
Walk: On the 2 ½ – mile long Sunset Trail and the mile-long Discovery Loop Trail, you'll see oak riparian forests, a visitor center housed in an historic ranch house, and endangered Western pond turtles. The park also hosts a broad range of interpretive programs.