The Best Hotels in Santa Cruz, California, for Every Traveler

Dream Inn Santa Cruz is steps away from the beach
Dream Inn Santa Cruz is steps away from the beach | Courtesy of Dream Inn Santa Cruz / Expedia
Photo of Daniel Stables
18 December 2020

Hemmed in by the Pacific Ocean on one side and the towering majesty of Northern California’s redwood forests on the other, Santa Cruz isn’t short on natural beauty. It’s also one of the region’s buzziest areas, with the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, Felix Kulpa Gallery and plenty of great bars and restaurants – including the Crow’s Nest seaside restaurant. Check out our selection of the best hotels to stay at in the city.

West Cliff Inn, a Four Sisters Inn

Bed and Breakfast, Inn, Hotel
4.7/5 (304 Reviews)
West Cliff Inn - A Four Sisters Inn
Courtesy of West Cliff Inn, a Four Sisters Inn / Expedia

The muted pastel shades, Georgian fireplaces and traditional furnishings of this bed and breakfast recall an English country home, but the setting – on a rocky bluff overlooking Santa Cruz’s boho boardwalk – is classic NorCal. The inn’s trademark is a wine and cheese mini picnic, perfect for taking with you to the beach or up into the hills.

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Best Western Plus Capitola By-the-Sea Inn and Suites

Hotel, Chain Hotel
4.4/5 (832 Reviews)
Best Western Plus Capitola By-the-Sea Inn & Suites
Courtesy of Best Western Plus Capitola By-the-Sea Inn and Suites / Expedia

The marine-themed rooms and suites at this comfortable property – with blue and white textiles and beautiful photography representing the Pacific Ocean – revel in the natural beauty of Opal Cliffs and Capitola Bluffs, both within easy reach of the hotel. The art galleries and craft workshops of Capitola Village are within walking distance and are perfect for picking up one-of-a-kind souvenirs.

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Hotel Paradox, Autograph Collection

Chain Hotel, Hotel
4.3/5 (950 Reviews)
Hotel Paradox
Courtesy of Hotel Paradox, Autograph Collection / Expedia

The striking neon sign that announces your arrival at Hotel Paradox sets the tone; bold, artsy and a little bit different, this place will help you get the most out of your time in Santa Cruz. Surf lessons are available to help you fit in with the locals, while you can rent bikes nearby to explore the woods of the magnificent Pipeline Road Trail.

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Hyatt Place Santa Cruz

Hotel, Chain Hotel
4.4/5 (888 Reviews)
Hyatt Place Santa Cruz
Courtesy of Hyatt Place Santa Cruz / Expedia

The contemporary rooms of Hyatt Place are the perfect comfy base from which to explore everything downtown Santa Cruz has to offer, with many attractions within walking distance. Stroll along the pleasant Santa Cruz Riverwalk, or admire the Spanish architecture and lush gardens of the Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park before nestling in at Abbott Square Market to enjoy your pick of food stalls – from Cajun stews to Neapolitan pizzas.

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Dream Inn Santa Cruz

Hotel
4.6/5 (916 Reviews)
Dream Inn Santa Cruz
Courtesy of Dream Inn Santa Cruz / Expedia

The wooden shutters, marine color palette and ocean views from your balcony or patio lend a beachy feeling to Dream Inn’s rooms, while the seafood at Jack’s Patio is hard to pass up – the clam pasta is delicious. Rent a board and try your hand at surfing on the beach, or if you’re feeling adventurous, visit Mount Hermon Adventures to zip your way through the redwood canopy.

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Holiday Inn Express and Suites Santa Cruz

Hotel, Chain Hotel
4.2/5 (921 Reviews)
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Santa Cruz
Courtesy of Holiday Inn Express and Suites Santa Cruz / Expedia

Providing all the comforts and professionalism you’ve come to expect from Holiday Inn, this contemporary hotel is perfectly placed for exploring Santa Cruz. The Santa Cruz Riverwalk Park, Grant Park and Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park are within walking distance. And with its outdoor pool, gym and sauna, there’s plenty of scope for both working out and relaxing back at the hotel.

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Beach Street Inn and Suites

Bed and Breakfast, Inn, Hotel, Apartment
Beach Street Inn and Suites
Courtesy of Beach Street Inn and Suites / Expedia

At the Beach Street Inn and Suites, the paddles, surfboards and other ocean-themed memorabilia that decorate the rooms’ walls signal that the beach is close by, but you knew that already thanks to the ocean views and smell of the sea air. Occupying a motel from the 1940s, the inn retains its retro charms while upholding modern levels of comfort, with each room featuring a kitchenette or full kitchen. There’s a complimentary coffee bar downstairs, but there are also fantastic seafood restaurants, beach bars and cafes within easy reach.

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Ocean Echo Inn and Beach Cottages

Bed and Breakfast, Inn, Hotel
4.2/5 (255 Reviews)
Ocean Echo Inn and Beach Cottages
Courtesy of Ocean Echo Inn and Beach Cottages / Expedia

This collection of neat duck-egg blue cottages and rooms, set around the historic main house above the scenic Sunny Cove Beach, promises a homey stay with a great location. Sunny Cove is a favored spot for surfing and bodyboarding, while whale-watching trips are another unforgettable way to take in the coast. Inland, the rope swings and boardwalks of Mount Hermon are a magnificent way to explore the mighty redwoods.

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  • Rio Vista Inn and Suites

    Bed and Breakfast, Inn, Hotel
    4.1/5 (611 Reviews)
    Rio Vista Suites
    Courtesy of Rio Vista Inn and Suites / Expedia

    This lovely old house was built in 1890, and the 12 guest rooms – while featuring modern conveniences such as microwaves and fridges – maintain a Victorian feel with traditional furnishings, including dark-wood four-poster beds. Overlooking the San Lorenzo River, the hotel is a short walk from the Walton Lighthouse, Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History and Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, home to arcades, food and drink, and mini-golf.

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    Fairfield Inn and Suites Santa Cruz

    Hotel, Chain Hotel
    4.5/5 (511 Reviews)
    Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Santa Cruz
    Courtesy of Fairfield Inn and Suites Santa Cruz / Expedia

    With a heated pool, whirlpool spa and gym, and every guest room featuring a microwave and fridge, Fairfield Inn and Suites has everything you need for a comfortable stay – and its location is perfect for exploring Santa Cruz’s natural beauty. The Natural Bridges Monarch Trail takes in both the rock bridges of the coast and the magical monarch butterflies who nest inland, while the Moore Creek Preserve, just behind the hotel, is home to beautiful hiking trails.

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    Seascape Beach Resort

    Luxury, Hotel, Resort
    Seascape Beach Resort Monterey
    Courtesy of Seascape Beach Resort / Expedia

    The breezy suites at Seascape Beach Resort, with a sand-and-teal color scheme to match the scene outside your window, are breezy and spacious – even the smallest ones feature large seating areas. For a large bath, wet bar and furnished balcony with a barbecue, book a Spa Studio. Sanderlings Restaurant is acclaimed for its California coastal cuisine – with dishes such as lobster, crab and shrimp ravioli – and sweeping views over Monterey Bay.

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    Pacific Blue Inn

    Bed and Breakfast, Inn, Hotel
    Map View
    Pacific Blue Inn
    Courtesy of Pacific Blue Inn / Expedia

    It may be blue in name, but this downtown inn is green in its credentials, committed to low water use, non-toxic paints and a low carbon footprint. Rooms have a homey, unpretentious feel, and many of Santa Cruz’s attractions are within walking distance. Don’t miss the Roaring Camp Railroad, where you can board a restored steam train into the redwood forests.

    These recommendations were updated on December 18, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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