Santa Cruz Is The Perfect Day-Trip Destination From San Francisco

When you think of a day trip destination from San Francisco, California, the first thing that comes to mind is probably Napa Valley. But what if we told you that there's another destination that would make for an even more perfect day trip? Well, when it comes to day trips in California, few destinations can beat the beauty and fun that is found in Santa Cruz.

Along your drive south of San Francisco along the Pacific Coast Highway you'll pass by several beautiful locations including the Pedro Point Headlands, Half-Moon bay, and the Pigeon Point Light Station. By the time you find yourself in Santa Cruz, you'll be ready to do some exploring in one of California's most iconic seaside towns where you can find the perfect waves, beautiful forests, and an incredibly fun boardwalk. You're sure to create lasting memories here as you explore the stunning beaches and the quaint and historic town, and walk through the many towering forests. Santa Cruz is truly the perfect place for any occasion, whether it be a romantic getaway, an outing with friends, or a solo trip to enjoy some alone time.

Catch the surf and sun in Santa Cruz

If you're willing to get up fairly early, you'll see why Santa Cruz has long been considered a haven for surfers. This is because Santa Cruz is home to some of the best surfing spots on the West Coast. Whether you're an experienced surfer or just getting into it, the waters here have plenty to offer with waves suitable for all levels (per Beach Nest). And if you don't feel ready to try surfing solo just yet, there are plenty of nearby shops where you can rent a board and take lessons from local pros. For the best surf spots, Redbull writes that surfers should head to Steamer Lane or Cowell Beach!

But there isn't just surfing, you'll find sunbathers hanging out on Main Beach and Natural Bridges State Beach in the summer and the city's boardwalk is home to the famous Santa Cruz Boardwalk Amusement Park which has tons of rides to enjoy (per Travel Lemming). Plus, with no shortage of seafood restaurants, you can satisfy your craving for fresh clam chowder and fried fish while taking in breathtaking views of the ocean. So no matter what your day-tripping crew wants to do, it's easy to find something for everyone along the waterfront.

Explore the town and local forests

If you're not a fan of the sand and surf, though, don't worry! Downtown Santa Cruz is equally delightful and packed with areas to explore. One of the most popular spots is downtown Pacific Avenue—a pedestrian-friendly walkway lined with stores ranging from unique boutiques to classic gift shops. Santa Cruz also offers visitors a unique glimpse into its history in this downtown area with its historical Mission Santa Cruz. Don't forget to check out the Santa Cruz Murals that have made the city one of the premiere locations for murals in the U.S.!

But if you really want to escape the urban setting entirely, Santa Cruz has something for you, too. To see the range of nature that California has to offer Santa Cruz County recommends heading to Wilder Ranch State Park where you'll see everything from grasslands and redwoods to Victorian farmhouses and hidden beaches. If you have little ones with you, you'll want to check out the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and walk the Redwood Grove Loop which is stroller and child-friendly!