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
Tim Rowland

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. Here’s our pick of the best budget-friendly hotels and motels in Santa Cruz, and they’re all bookable with Culture Trip.

1. Quality Inn Santa Cruz

Hotel, Budget Hotel

The multi-level exterior with covered parking lot at Quality Inn Santa Cruz
Courtesy of Quality Inn Santa Cruz / Expedia

This motel in Santa Cruz 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.

2. Ocean Pacific Lodge

Budget Hotel, Hotel

A simple hotel room with large bed and writing desk at 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 at this cheap Santa Cruz hotel feature complimentary signature toiletries and there’s an outdoor spa and pool, heated between May and September.

3. Comfort Inn Beach / Boardwalk Area

Hotel, Budget Hotel

A simple motel room with large bed and dining table and chairs at the 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.

4. Continental Inn

Budget Hotel, Hotel

The fenced pool area with simple loungers at Continental Inn
Courtesy of Continental Inn / Expedia

This is a fantastic budget hotel in Santa Cruz 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.

5. Hitching Post Studios Inn

Hotel, Apartment

A simple hotel room with bed and armchair with painted brick walls at 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 at this cheap hotel near Santa Cruz 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.

6. Rio Vista Suites

Bed and Breakfast, Inn, Hotel

A four-poster bed in a simple room with in room shower cubicle at 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.

7. Beach Street Inn and Suites

Bed and Breakfast, Inn, Hotel, Apartment

A double twin room with beds that have bamboo reed headboards and a contemporary dining table with two chairs at 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 at this cheap hotel in Santa Cruz 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.

8. Pacific Blue Inn

Bed and Breakfast, Inn, Hotel

The exterior gallery walkways overlooking tree tops at Pacific Blue Inn
Courtesy of Pacific Blue Inn / Expedia

Pacific Blue Inn is a lot more welcoming than your average motel in Santa Cruz 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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