Santa Cruz is a small coastal city (population about 55,000) in Santa Cruz County, at the north end of Monterey Bay in California, about 40 miles (64 km) south of San Jose and 75 miles (120 km) south of San Francisco.
Santa Cruz is best known as a countercultural hub, with a bohemian feel and youthful vibe, and fun weekend tourist attractions like the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and the dubious Mystery Spot. The rather relaxed beach lifestyle is supplemented by some remaining high tech industry and a vibrant university culture. The University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) is regarded as one of the premier centers of higher learning in the region and was once well known for its strong emphasis on the arts and humanities.
The beaches north and south of Santa Cruz are considered some of the more pristine areas of natural beauty in central California. A variety of conditions prevail, depending on the beach, few are suited for swimming due to temperature and current, several are considered an expert surfer’s cold cold paradise. Don’t expect a beach culture like Southern California, with bikini babes and children swimming in the surf; for much of the year it’s considered perfectly normal to wear a sweater and long pants to the beach. The beautiful beaches and the rather mild climate play a central role in local culture. Most visitors leave Santa Cruz amazed by the city’s beauty and ambiance.