The Best Resorts in Santa Cruz, California

Chaminade Resort and Spa has 156 guest rooms spread across several villas
Chaminade Resort and Spa has 156 guest rooms spread across several villas | Courtesy of Chaminade Resort and Spa / Expedia
Photo of Tim Rowland
29 January 2021

Santa Cruz is not just about the beach and the boardwalk – it’s surrounded by rivers, creeks and redwood forests in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, with plenty of hiking trails and rustic attractions such as the Roaring Camp Railroad, a steam train that will take you to the summit of the Bear Mountains on an old-time narrow-gauge track. Of course, you can still stay in a resort by the beach, or in the lively town of Santa Cruz itself – the choice is yours.

Chaminade Resort and Spa

Resort
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Chaminade Resort & Spa
Courtesy of Chaminade Resort and Spa / Expedia
This collection of 156 guest rooms, spread across 11 two-storey villas, sits atop a hill in an area of woodland off Highway 1 above Santa Cruz. The rooms and suites feature woodland views – some with private patios from which to enjoy them – granite bathrooms and BeeKind Gilchrist and Soames bath amenities. In the grounds you can hike redwood-lined trails, take a dip in the pool, enjoy a relaxing soak in the hot tub or treat yourself to a Himalayan salt sauna session. If you’re in a group, try a competitive geocache activity, hiking up to five miles. Nearby Santa Cruz Shakespeare puts on plays by the Bard in an outdoor woodland theater with Monterey Bay views.
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Hotel Paradox, Autograph Collection

Chain Hotel, Hotel
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Hotel Paradox, Autograph Collection
Courtesy of Hotel Paradox, Autograph Collection / Expedia
This Marriott has some funky neon signage on its frontage – Paradox in giant letters – and a giant tree trunk for a reception desk in the lobby beyond, a design statement contrasting urban design with nature that unites the whole resort. Relax in a daybed by the largest pool deck in Santa Cruz, or enjoy the wooded views from the balcony of your room overlooking San Lorenzo Park. Solitaire Restaurant and Bar serves farm-to-table American comfort food; try the grilled Berkshire pork chop with hard cider butter, scallion potato cake, apple butter and roasted romanesco.
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Hilton Santa Cruz Scotts Valley

Resort
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Hilton Santa Cruz - Scotts Valley
Courtesy of Hilton Santa Cruz Scotts Valley / Expedia
A mountain retreat resort in the foothills of the Santa Cruz mountains, Hilton Santa Cruz Scotts Valley gives you the option of a morning hiking Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and an afternoon relaxing at the beach, as Santa Cruz Boardwalk is just a 15-minute drive away. There’s an outdoor pool lined with trees, a fitness center and Stonehouse Bar and Grill serving a mix of standard favorites and modern California cuisine. Check out Bruzzone Family vineyard a short drive away to try their renowned chardonnay and pinot noir.
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  • Seascape Beach Resort Monterey

    Luxury, Hotel, Resort
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    Seascape Beach Resort Monterey
    Courtesy of Seascape Beach Resort Monterey / Expedia
    A major selling point of Seascape Beach Resort Monterey is the 17mi (27km) of Monterey Beach you have before you to enjoy, around 20 minutes by car along Highway 1 from Santa Cruz. It’s a lot more private than the beaches in town, and the accommodation allows you to do your own thing, with kitchens in all the suites and villas, and private balconies with ocean views. You can have a spa treatment in your suite, or hotel staff will build you a fire on the beach and provide everything you need to make s’mores. You can also try beach volleyball, surfing and paddleboarding, or play a round at Seascape Golf Club.
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    Fern River Resort

    Hotel, Apartment
    Map View
    Fern River Resort
    Courtesy of Fern River Resort / Expedia
    You will feel as if you’re back at summer camp at Fern River Resort. Each wooden cabin has its own outdoor decking arranged around free-standing pedestal barbecues and picnic benches. The resort has its own beach, a sandbank on the San Lorenzo River, and an outdoor kitchen that can be booked by larger groups, with a stainless barbecue, two ovens and a stove with six burners. Just across the valley is Roaring Camp Railroad Station, from where you can take a steam train to the summit of the Bear Mountains or a larger locomotive all the way through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

    Jayes Timberlane Resort

    Resort
    Map View
    Jayes Timberlane Resort
    Courtesy of Jayes Timberlane Resort / Expedia
    If you want to sample the pleasures of the redwood forest, the 10 rustic cabins of this small resort in San Lorenzo Valley could be the choice for you. Stroll down to the creek, barbecue on your private patio, play some table tennis or just relax among the trees. There’s nothing fancy about the cabins, but that’s really the point. Full plates of German fare, along with steins of beer, are served at the Tyrolean Inn in the nearby town of Ben Lomond; don’t miss the Jägerschnitzel, thin pork cutlets in a creamy mushroom sauce served with spätzle – pasta made with fresh eggs – and a salad.
    These recommendations were updated on January 29, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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