The Most Budget-Friendly Hotels in Santa Cruz, California

Quality Inn Santa Cruz has a great location just off Ocean Street
Quality Inn Santa Cruz has a great location just off Ocean Street | Courtesy of Quality Inn Santa Cruz / Expedia
Photo of Tim Rowland
19 January 2021

Good beach towns like Santa Cruz are fun, a bit kitsch and accessible to all, which is where value hotels come in. The city has a good selection of them, from cheap and cheerful motels to a guest house in an 1890s mansion. Many are either close to the beach or right on it, and those that aren’t have access to bustling streets, scenic walks and some of the best locally loved dining spots and art galleries.

Quality Inn Santa Cruz

Hotel, Budget Hotel
Map View
Quality Inn Santa Cruz
Courtesy of Quality Inn Santa Cruz / Expedia
This motel is well-placed just off Ocean Street, which runs parallel to the San Lorenzo River. You can easily access the Santa Cruz Riverwalk, along which it’s possible to make your way on foot to Main Beach in about half an hour, which is a lovely walk. The hotel offers a complimentary continental breakfast and a free daily newspaper to enjoy on the sun deck or by the outdoor pool. If you’re into your beans, Verve Coffee Roasters is worth a visit, an airy, wood-paneled roastery 10 minutes’ walk away on Pacific Avenue.
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Ocean Pacific Lodge

Budget Hotel, Hotel
Map View
Ocean Pacific Lodge
Courtesy of Ocean Pacific Lodge / Expedia
Although it’s not quite on the coast, Ocean Pacific Lodge is on Pacific Avenue, which turns into Santa Cruz Wharf when it hits the beach – so it’s close enough. Head north and the avenue becomes the best spot in Santa Cruz for restaurants and cafes, as well as the excellent Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History a block east. The rooms feature complimentary signature toiletries and there’s an outdoor spa and pool, heated between May and September.
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Comfort Inn Beach / Boardwalk Area

Hotel, Budget Hotel
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Comfort Inn Beach/ Boardwalk Area
Courtesy of Comfort Inn Beach / Boardwalk Area / Expedia
Santa Cruz Beach is just a short walk away from this value hotel and for a really enjoyable circuit, it’s worth heading north on Riverside Avenue, hooking up with the Santa Cruz Riverwalk and following it round until it meets the top end of the boardwalk at Main Beach. Some of the rooms are quite high-end – one has a jetted tub in the corner of the room. Santa Cruz institution and gourmet bakery and café the Buttery is worth the 20-minute walk north over the river, especially for breakfast. If you’re lucky, they’ll have the garden omelette on special, with zucchini, spinach, mushrooms, roasted tomatoes and cheddar cheese – it’s melt-in-your-mouth good.
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Continental Inn

Budget Hotel, Hotel
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Continental Inn
Courtesy of Continental Inn / Expedia
This is a fantastic budget hotel on Ocean Street. Well maintained with lots of greenery and two buildings, the second of which, the Annex across the street, contains top-of-the-range rooms quietly set back away from the road. All rooms have Keurig coffee machines and there’s also a heated outdoor pool and hot tub. The Santa Cruz Art League is a nearby gallery on Broadway that is well worth a visit. It showcases the work of local artists and also offers classes if you’d like to try your hand. There’s also a gift shop where you can stock up on artsy souvenirs.
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Hitching Post Studios Inn

Hotel, Apartment
Map View
Hitching Post Studios Inn
Courtesy of Hitching Post Studios Inn / Expedia
You’re a little way away from Main Beach and the town center here, but that gives you other options to get your fix of sun, sea and sand. The choices are Seabright or Twin Lakes State Beaches, the latter of which has a lagoon, and Twin Lakes Park, which has its own playground and tennis and basketball courts. The studio rooms have kitchens with separate dining areas, and all rooms have complimentary coffee. If you fancy cooking up some seafood in the evening, get yourself to H&H Fresh Fish seafood market a half-hour walk away on Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbour.
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  • Rio Vista Suites

    Bed and Breakfast, Inn, Hotel
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    Rio Vista Suites
    Courtesy of Rio Vista Suites / Expedia
    Named because it overlooks the San Lorenzo River, this characterful guest house in a converted 1890s mansion also has views of Santa Cruz Beach in the other direction from its spot on Beach Hill. Original hardwood floors and stained-glass windows have been retained, and almost all the rooms have gas fireplaces. You can request a jet tub and custom steam-jet shower in your room on booking, and there’s 24-hour tea and coffee in the lobby, plus a communal lounge and fireplace.
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    Beach Street Inn and Suites

    Bed and Breakfast, Inn, Hotel, Apartment
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    Beach Street Inn and Suites
    Courtesy of Beach Street Inn and Suites / Expedia
    You experience the best of Santa Cruz at Beach Street Inn and Suites, thanks to its beachside location overlooking the wharf and Main Beach. There’s also a pretty pool deck which is kitted out with a hot tub. Grab yourself some Santa Cruz beach wear at on-site shops Aloha and St Kris, and enjoy the best reuben in town at the Picnic Basket cafe, with carrot slaw and smoky chipotle mayo. Another selling point is the free beverages on tap at the beverage bar in the lounge: you can choose from cocoa, locally roasted coffee or espresso.
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    Pacific Blue Inn

    Bed and Breakfast, Inn, Hotel
    Map View
    Pacific Blue Inn
    Courtesy of Pacific Blue Inn / Expedia
    Pacific Blue Inn is a lot more welcoming than your average motel in this price bracket. It has an attractive light blue clapboard facade, a sun-dappled internal courtyard with two firepits and an intimate feel in its nine guest rooms. All rooms have private baths, eco-friendly electric fireplaces, air conditioning and works by local artists on the walls. There are two bikes guests can borrow, great for exploring Pacific Avenue. For one of Santa Cruz’s best diners, try Zachary’s: their brunch is a winner, with three poached eggs served on a herb roll, topped with cream sauce and crumbled bacon and served with fries.
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    These recommendations were updated on January 19, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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