The Best Beach Hotels in Santa Cruz, California

Beach Street Inn and Suites overlooks the Pacific Ocean
Beach Street Inn and Suites overlooks the Pacific Ocean | Courtesy of Beach Street Inn and Suites / Expedia
Tim Rowland

Santa Cruz has some classic seaside-town beaches – like Main Beach and Cowell Beach, split by the town’s restaurant-packed wharf – but you don’t have to venture far to find more secluded coves, such as Natural Bridges State Beach, with its unforgettable rock formations. Plant a foot outside some of the best beach hotels in Santa Cruz and you’ll be on the sand in no time. Here’s our guide to the areas top hotels.

1. Dream Inn Santa Cruz

Hotel

A double twin room with floor to ceiling windows overlooking Santa Cruzs pier at the Dream Inn Santa Cruz.
Courtesy of Dream Inn Santa Cruz / Expedia

It’s hard to miss Dream Inn Santa Cruz, one of the largest hotels by the beach directly overlooking Cowell Beach. The hotel is done up in a vivid retro-chic way – think surfboards on the walls in the lobby – and all have private balconies or patios looking out across Monterey Bay and Santa Cruz Wharf. The pool at the front of the hotel is just a short hop to the sand, and you can dine by the water in a cabana or next to the fire pit in the evenings. Jack O’Neill Restaurant and Lounge serves great breakfast – the farmstead ricotta and lemon Pancakes, with Yerena Farms berries and lemon zest, are a treat.

2. Beach Street Inn and Suites

Bed and Breakfast, Inn, Hotel, Apartment

A double twin room in simple style at the Beach Street Inn and Suites.
Courtesy of Beach Street Inn and Suites / Expedia

The image that sums up Beach Street Inn and Suites is the set of deck chairs and a table that comes with each guest room’s private balcony. They’re bright yellow, blue and red and sit overlooking the boardwalk with the wharf and Santa Cruz Main Beach beyond. The rooms are cheerful and bright, with seaside flourishes like mini surfboards on the walls, and lots of ocean blue colors. What began life as a 1940s motel is now a mini-resort with a pool, fire pit, hot tub and a café, the Picnic Basket, where the Reuben, with smoky chipotle mayo and carrot slaw, is not to be missed.

3. Ocean Echo Inn and Beach Cottages

Bed and Breakfast, Inn, Hotel

A double twin room at the Ocean Echo Inn and Beach Cottages.
Courtesy of Ocean Echo Inn and Beach Cottages / Expedia

This is a cute boutique inn with great access to Sunny Cove Beach, which is just as pretty as it sounds and a lot less crowded than some of the larger beaches nearer the center of Santa Cruz. The rooms at this beachfront hotel have names like Captain’s Quarters and Sandpiper Room, with plenty of breezy blue walls and pictures of starfish. Separate Pelican Cottage has a semi-private beach, full kitchen and a shared ocean-view terrace. Nearby Live Oak Farmer’s Market has live music and stalls selling fruits, vegetables, take out food, olive oils, plants, ointments and flowers.

5. Casablanca on the Beach

Hotel, Apartment

A simple hotel room overlooking Santa Cruz pier at Casablanca on the Beach.
Courtesy of Casablanca on the Beach / Expedia

The deep red terracotta roofs of this cottage-style hotel near the beach in Santa Cruz speak to the Mediterranean ambience of what was once known as the Cerf Mansion – think deep blue statement walls in the rooms and Moroccan patterns and headboards. You’re just a block away from the boardwalk and the wharf on Santa Cruz Main Beach. The top floor penthouse has wooden vaulted ceilings and a private balcony. Some of the other rooms are a bit rough and ready, but here, it’s all about the location.

6. Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Santa Cruz

Chain Hotel, Hotel

A double twin room at the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Santa Cruz.
Courtesy of Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Santa Cruz / Expedia

Just off Highway 1 to the west of the center of Santa Cruz, Fairfield Inn is within easy reach of some of the quietest and most beautiful beaches on this stretch of coast, including the rock formations and tide pools of Natural Bridges State Beach. Terrace Point on Monterey Bay is close too, from which you might even see seals and whales. This Santa Cruz hotel with a heated pool also boasts a whirlpool spa, a fitness center and a fireside patio. There’s a complimentary grab-n-go breakfast and if you can stretch to a larger suite, you’ll be rewarded with a balcony and living area.

7. Edgewater Beach Inn and Suites

Hotel, Apartment

A private deck on te lawn outside the Edgewater Beach Inn and Suites.
Courtesy of Edgewater Beach Inn and Suites / Expedia

You’re right in the center of Santa Cruz here but also a little way back from the beach if you’d rather not be right on the sand. All suites have fully equipped kitchens and you can choose between motel rooms, units sleeping up to 10 people and intimate honeymoon suites. Neary Lagoon Wildlife Refuge at nearby Chestnut Park is a great place to see herons, ducks and grebes. For lip-smacking Mexican eats, you can walk to De La Hacienda Taqueria where the fish tacos are the special, coming with corn tortillas filled with tilapia, onions, cilantro, tomatoes, sliced avocado and lettuce.

8. Pacific Blue Inn

Bed and Breakfast, Inn, Hotel

A simple hotel room with a bed and a chair at the Pacific Blue Inn.
Courtesy of Pacific Blue Inn / Expedia

You’re a short walk from downtown but able to benefit from the quiet of a secluded courtyard room at this bed and breakfast. The courtyard has two gas fire pits, with seating for an evening glass of wine, and all nine guest rooms have private baths and works by local artists on the walls. Pacific Avenue has many restaurants, bars and galleries, and the inn has two bikes which guests can use to explore. Pacific Blue Inn is eco-friendly too, built with non-toxic long-lasting blue wood and reclaimed construction materials. Lower water use fixtures, renewable bamboo flooring and energy efficient lighting and appliances are also features.

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