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Things to do and places to stay in Santa Cruz

Home to towering redwoods, pure mountain air, and striking vistas, our Santa Cruz forest is an idyllic piece of California wilderness. While on a trip to our forest, spend some time enjoying Santa Cruz County by riding a train through the redwoods, eating pizza on the beach, or visiting a local winery. 

This guide will help you find the best attractions, hotels, and restaurants near Better Place Forests Santa Cruz

What to eat in Santa Cruz County

Santa Cruz County offers a variety of delicious fare. Below we’ve listed some of our favorite bites in Santa Cruz, and our forest’s neighboring cities of Aptos and Corralitos.

  • Harbor Cafe: If you’re staying in Santa Cruz, begin your day with breakfast at Harbor Cafe. You can’t go wrong with their Cali Croissant, one of their delicious omelets, or the award-winning Bloody Mary. Make sure you get there early before the line gets too long. 
  • Pizza My Heart: This local favorite has been serving pizza to surfers and tourists alike since the 1980s. With three locations in Santa Cruz County, Pizza My Heart is a great place to stop for a quick bite before or after a visit to the forest. 
  • Cafe Sparrow: Located within a historic two-room post office and general, this intimate and romantic restaurant in Aptos will have you lingering long into the evening. The menu offers a variety of fresh foods with French influence and rotating specials. An excellent wine list gives you an opportunity to sample local bottles. 
  • Akira Aptos: Fresh sushi, sashimi, and nigiri are on offer at Akira along with a selection of sake and beer. It has a modern ambiance, a mix of traditional and inventive rolls (including vegetarian options).  
  • Dharma’s: This vegetarian restaurant has been serving Santa Cruz since 1981. With indoor and outdoor seating, the highest quality ingredients, and a wide-ranging menu, there’s a lot to like. Try the Brahma Burger or the Butternut Squash Ravioli. 
  • Taqueria Los Pericos: If you’re looking for a California burrito, look no further. This hole-in-the-wall taco shop is famous for its traditional Mexican dishes, extensive burrito menu, and generous serving sizes. Taqueria Los Pericos has locations in Santa Cruz and Corralitos. 

Things to do in Santa Cruz

There is something for everyone to enjoy in Santa Cruz County no matter if you’re staying for a few hours or a few days.

  • Henry Cowell Redwood State Park: Located near Scotts Valley, this park features an iconic 30-acre old-growth redwood grove. Enjoy hiking, horseback riding, picnicking, swimming, and more. 
  • Nisene Marks State Park: A retreat from the busy towns and beaches along Highway 1 near Santa Cruz, Its dense second- and third-growth redwood forest rises from near sea level to steep coastal mountains. Picnic near Aptos Creek, or hike, jog, and bike along 30 miles of trails in this semi-rugged wilderness, which rises from sea level to coastal mountains at 2,600 feet. 
  • New Brighton State Beach: This 95-acre state beach offers sweeping views of the California coast and is often less crowded than more urban beaches nearby. Available recreation includes camping, hiking, fishing, surfing, and swimming. 
  • Scotts Valley Farmers’ Market: Features over 30 local farmers and specialty food purveyors every Saturday from May through November. Enjoy getting to know the community, taking in live music, and activities for children.
  • The Corralitos Wine Trail: Discover six independent, family-owned wineries in Corralitos. As you travel the short distance between wineries, take in redwoods, apple orchards, olive groves, and flower farms. 
  • Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: This beachfront amusement park is fun for the entire family. Known to be one of the nation’s best, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has been operating since 1907 and admission is free.
  • Roaring Camp Railroads: Take a train ride through redwoods and over trestles with Roaring Camp Railroads. Learn about local history and the railroad while winding through the mountains on a steam train from the 1880s! 
  • Santa Cruz Wharf: Paddle out on a kayak, buy a souvenir, or grab a bite to eat while enjoying the beautiful Santa Cruz Wharf. 
  • Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing: One of several independent breweries in the area, stop by this taproom and beer garden to sample organic beers, sandwiches, and small plates.

Where to stay in the Santa Cruz mountains

Enjoy a standard hotel close to the forest, in the Santa Cruz Mountains, or on the shore of famous beaches with one of these hotel recommendations. 

  • Best Western Seacliff Inn: Located 40 minutes from our forest, the Best Western Seacliff Inn has everything you need for a good night’s rest. The hotel has a heated swimming pool, hot tub, and on-site dining.
  • Four Points by Sheraton Santa Cruz Scotts Valley: Spacious rooms with comfortable amenities, a restaurant and lounge, and convenient access to the surrounding area. 
  • Babbling Brook Inn: This boutique hotel is located in an 18th-century grist mill. It is a block from Highway 1, and just an 11-minute walk from downtown Santa Cruz and 0.9 miles from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
  • Rio Sands Hotel: Located just a two-minute walk away from the famous Rio Del Mar and Seacliff State Beach this hotel is a great home base for a trip to Santa Cruz County — and it’s only 40 minutes from our forest. 
  • Hotel Paradox: If you’re looking to stay in Santa Cruz, Hotel Paradox is a stunning hotel inspired by the beauty of the local region. This modern hotel boasts a gym, pool, and on-site dining. 
  • Chaminade Resort & Spa: Those looking to relax in luxury should look into staying at Chaminade Resort & Spa. You’ll be surrounded by breathtaking views of the Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay while enjoying all of the perks of a secluded resort. 

Choose a lasting legacy in Santa Cruz

Making end-of-life plans early relieves your loved ones’ burden and empowers you to take control of the process. At Better Place Forests Santa Cruz your ashes will be spread in an idyllic protected forest, surrounded by trees and wildlife. It’s a beautiful legacy to leave where your family and friends will always be able to visit. 

Our stewards and customer care team get to know you and your wishes to help you select the perfect tree for your final resting place. Our goal is to give you an easy and stress-free end-of-life planning experience. To reserve your memorial tree, place a fully-refundable $95 deposit and save your spot in this exclusive forest nestled in the Santa Cruz mountains.

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