The Best Resorts to Book in Santa Cruz, California

If youre looking for a place with a bucketload of personality, Paradox wont disappoint
If you're looking for a place with a bucketload of personality, Paradox won't disappoint | Courtesy of Hotel Paradox, Autograph Collection / Expedia
Pierre de Villiers

Santa Cruz is not all about the beach and the boardwalk – it’s also surrounded by rivers, creeks, and redwood forests in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Off the beaten path, you’ll find 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 Mountain 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.

1. Dream Inn Santa Cruz, for walking on the boardwalk


Double bedroom with white sheets, blue geometric wallpaper and balcony overlooking ocean at Dream Inn Santa Cruz
Courtesy of Dream Inn Santa Cruz / Expedia

California dreaming? Better believe it. Located on the historic Beach Boardwalk, this Santa Cruz favorite is synonymous with surfing, sunsets, and fresh seafood. You’ll find an effortless retro-chic style in the beachfront hotel’s 165 guest rooms, all of which have ocean views. There’s an outdoor pool just a few steps from the sand, while the hotel is also about a 10-minute walk from the Santa Cruz Wharf.

2. West Cliff Inn – A Four Sisters Inn, for coastal chic

Bed and Breakfast, Inn, Hotel

Bright room with yellow walls and white crisp linen at West Cliff Inn, a Four Sisters Inn
Courtesy of West Cliff Inn, a Four Sisters Inn / Expedia

The colors and textures of Santa Cruz are celebrated at this fully renovated Victorian inn, conveniently located on a bluff across from Cowell’s Beach. The coastal-inspired decor includes blue and white fabrics, rattan furnishings made from recycled wood, and, charmingly, a collection of locally-found artisan accessories. To stretch your legs, head for the historic Boardwalk, bike along the water, or shop at some of the most eclectic stores in California.

3. Ocean Pacific Lodge, for easy access to attractions

Budget Hotel, Hotel

Double bed in simple room at Ocean Pacific Lodge featuring green bedding and dark wooden night side tables
Courtesy of Ocean Pacific Lodge / Expedia

There are few places better placed to enjoy Santa Cruz’s endless array of attractions than the Ocean Pacific Lodge. From here you are an easy stroll away from the famous Wharf, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and Santa Cruz Downtown. You’re also a short drive from restaurants and must-see sights like the Mystery Spot and the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse. And, if you still have energy left, hit one of the hiking trails near the hotel to explore the beautiful surroundings and wildlife.

4. Babbling Brook Inn, for a historical ambiance


Elegant bedroom featuring a double bed, a leather sofa, an ornate coffee table and a TV at Babbling Brook Inn
Courtesy of Babbling Brook Inn / Expedia

History and natural beauty combine at the Babbling Brook Inn, a former 18th-century corn grits mill that sits among redwood and pine trees close to Santa Cruz’s idyllic beaches. The Inn’s Contessa Suite pays homage to the building’s past and is named after the Austrian Countess who once owned the estate and added the chamber to the original building above the water wheel. Meanwhile, the walls of the Cezanne room are adorned by the works of the Post-Impressionist painter and, in the Fern Grotto, you can enjoy the sounds of the running brook from a renovated private deck next to the water wheel.

5. Ocean Echo Inn & Beach Cottages, for peace and quiet

Bed and Breakfast, Inn, Hotel

Outside seating area at Ocean Echo Inn and Beach Cottages with wooden deck and table and chairs
Courtesy of Ocean Echo Inn and Beach Cottages / Expedia

You get the best of both worlds at the Ocean Echo Inn & Beach Cottages. Located about 100ft (30m) from Sunny Cove Beach on the Monterey Bay, it sits at the end of a quiet street but is still within easy walking distance of the area’s coffee shops, markets, and eateries. It is also just 20 minutes from Santa Cruz’s famous redwoods and 45 minutes from Silicon Valley and San José Airport.

6. Edgewater Beach Inn and Suites, for stellar views

Hotel, Apartment

Outdoor table and chairs on a wooden deck in a small yard at Edgewater Beach Inn and Suites
Courtesy of Edgewater Beach Inn and Suites / Expedia

Situated in the heart of Santa Cruz on Beach Hill and overlooking the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the Edgewater Beach Inn and Suites boasts vistas of wide, sandy beaches that are framed by redwood-covered mountains. Remember to pack your activewear – the Inn is close to some sand volleyball nets – since you are also near the Roaring Camp Beach Train.

7. Mission Inn, for an outdoor lover's paradise


Bedroom with two double beds, a wood accent wall, a picture of an otter on another wall and a small armchair at Mission Inn
Courtesy of Mission Inn / Expedia

Modern but charming, this hotel on Mission Street in the center of Santa Cruz is the ideal perch from which to explore everything Santa Cruz has to offer – from surfing to shopping. From here you have access to almost 31mi (50km) of beaches where you can ride waves, tan, run, play volleyball, or go for a romantic stroll at sunset. To get the blood pumping, head to the Santa Cruz Mountains for a challenging hike among the redwoods. Add some world-class restaurants, local wineries, and boutique stores around Santa Cruz into the mix, and you’ll never be bored during your stay.

8. Seaway Inn, for easy access to sights


Cream-toned room at Seaway Inn featuring two double beds with crisp white linens and sea-themed pictures and a mirror hanging on the wall
Courtesy of Seaway Inn / Expedia

The modest rooms at the casual Seaway Inn are comfortable enough but you will be itching to get outside with so many great sights within walking distance. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Mystery Spot, Main Beach, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center, and the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum all line up for you to see. The outdoorsy set can go scuba diving, parasailing, mountain biking, and rock climbing.

9. Hotel Paradox, for an all-American statement

Chain Hotel, Hotel

Outdoor pool and lounge areas at 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 woodland 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.

10. Hilton Santa Cruz Scotts Valley, for a great hiking base


Large interior featuring leather sofas and coffee tables, a wooden staircase leading up to another level, a fireplace and a bar in the background at Hilton Santa Cruz - Scotts Valley
Courtesy of Hilton Santa Cruz Scotts Valley / Expedia

A mountain retreat in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Hilton Santa Cruz Scotts Valley gives you the option to spend the morning hiking Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and the 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 serves a mix of standard favorites and modern California dishes. Check out the Bruzzone Family vineyard, just a short drive away, and try their renowned chardonnay and pinot noir.

Looking for a different type of stay? Opt for an ecofriendly hotel in California and book your sustainable stay now on Culture Trip. For more West Coast resorts, head south of the border and check into one of the best resorts in Baja California. Unsure where to go? Discover our guide on where to unwind in Santa Cruz.

This is an updated version of an article originally by Tim Rowland.

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