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Where to Stay in Santa Cruz: Best Areas & Hotels, 2019

Written by Carri Wilbanks

Whether you are traveling to Santa Cruz for a family vacation, a romantic getaway, or a business trip, the city on the sea has hotel options for all styles of travelers, from budget to luxury. The best area to stay is along the beach, close to the Santa Cruz Wharf, which is lined with restaurants and shops and runs all the way into Monterey Bay and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, where you'll find vintage amusement park rides like a roller coaster named the Giant Dipper. The majority of the hotels are found around these attractions, either within walking distance or a short drive away.

In the luxury bracket, the Dream Inn is on Cowell Beach and within walking distance of both the wharf and the Boardwalk. Also near Cowell Beach and in the mid-range budget level is Beach Street Inn and Suites. Even budget travelers can find decent accommodation in this area, with hotel picks like the kid-friendly Super 8 by Wyndham Santa Cruz/Beach Boardwalk East, which is within walking distance of the Santa Cruz Wharf and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Where to Stay for Luxury

Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk

Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk

A fantastic luxury pick, Dream Inn Santa Cruz is located on Cowell Beach and is less than a 15-minute walk from attractions like the Santa Cruz Wharf and Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The hotel has a retro chic vibe and offers contemporary rooms, which are bright and airy with balconies or patios, most of which come with ocean views. They also feature comfortable beds, flat-screen TVs, mini-fridges, and Keurig coffee makers. Away from the rooms, you'll discover a trendy seafood restaurant, laid-back lounge, beachfront swimming pool with sun-loungers, and a hot tub.

Hotel Paradox, Autograph Collection is another option. This affordable luxe property is a five-minute drive from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. It offers elegant, modern rooms with earthy elements like tree trunks, potted succulents, and glass-and-pebble walk-in showers. Accommodations are also spacious and feature fabulous unfinished-wooden headboards on comfy beds. On-site amenities include a farm-to-table restaurant, an outdoor swimming pool, hot tub, fire pit, and a small fitness center.

To be slightly out of town in a back-to-nature luxury environment try Chaminade Resort & Spa. The hotel is located on 300 acres atop a mountain about three miles from downtown Santa Cruz. This Spanish mission-inspired property offers sophisticated decor in its rooms and suites, which have a fun contemporary vibe with bright color splashes and retro furniture touches. They are also clean and very comfortable. Amenities here include a restaurant with eclectic menu choices, a spa offering indoor and outdoor treatment options, a heated outdoor swimming pool and hot tub, tennis courts, and three miles of hiking trails. Additionally, the property is happy to accommodate families and pets.

Where to Stay: Mid-Range

Capitola

Capitola

Sea & Sand Inn is a great mid-range option, which is just a 10-minute walk to the Santa Cruz Wharf and only a few minutes farther to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The property is located on a cliffside fronting Monterey Bay Beach and offers contemporary rooms and suites, which are clean and spacious and come with comfortable beds. The suites here are fantastic, with private decks and hot tubs that can accommodate four people and face the sea. On-site amenities include a free breakfast, afternoon snacks, free parking, and beach access.

Bella Notte - The Inn at East Cliff is just two blocks from Twin Lakes State Beach and about two miles from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. This classy, upper mid-range property features spacious and comfortable rooms with amenities like fireplaces and heated bathroom floors and often whirlpool tubs. A continental breakfast is included in the rates, and there is an on-site hot tub and the ability to book massage services. Guests can also borrow beach chairs, picnic baskets, and coolers.

Also check out Beach Street Inn and Suites, which is just a few minutes' walk from Main Beach and Cowell Beach and under 15 minutes by foot from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Santa Cruz Wharf. This brightly colored hotel offers colorful rooms with wood floors, microwaves, mini-fridges, and flat-screen TVs. Many also feature shared balconies with sea views. Families will appreciate the suites, which come with separate living spaces, sleeper sofas, and kitchens. Amenities include an on-site cafe, outdoor heated pool, and a picnic area. Parking is free.

Where to Stay on a Budget

Lifeguard tower on Santa Cruz Beach

Lifeguard tower on Santa Cruz Beach

Quality Inn is a solid budget pick in a good location, not far from restaurants and shopping and about two miles from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. It offers spacious rooms, which are no frills but clean and comfortable and come with microwaves, mini-fridges, and free Wi-Fi. On-site amenities include a free continental breakfast, free parking, and a seasonal swimming pool. The hotel is also dog friendly and the management and reception staff are friendly.

Super 8 by Wyndham Santa Cruz/Beach Boardwalk East is another budget option, which is popular for its location just under five minutes' walk from the beachfront and a block from the San Lorenzo Riverway. It offers basic but comfortable rooms with premium cable, comfortable beds, microwaves, and mini-fridges. Some rooms also feature Jacuzzi tubs. All come with free Wi-Fi, and the property is family friendly, allowing children under 18 to stay free with an adult. A continental breakfast is also included as is parking, and there is a seasonal outdoor swimming pool.

Where to Stay for Families

Surfing in Santa Cruz

Surfing in Santa Cruz

Hyatt Place Santa Cruz is located on a quiet street in a residential area about a 15-minute walk from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. It is a favorite with families for its spacious and modern rooms and suites, which all feature plush custom-made beds, as well as a sleeper sofa on the other side of the room. The rooms come in a variety of sizes, and the suites also offer separate living and dining spaces, as well as sofa beds. A buffet breakfast is included in the rate, so the kids will have fuel for the day, and there is also a mini-market and a cafe on-site for other meals. Amenities include an outdoor swimming pool and gym.

Carousel Beach Inn is a great choice for families as it features an awesome location, just a few minutes' walk from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and about a 10-minute walk to the Santa Cruz Wharf. The rooms are colorful and feature original art on the walls, and hardwood floors. They also come with mini-fridges, flat-screen TVs, and free Wi-Fi. Families will enjoy the larger rooms with separate living spaces and Jacuzzi tubs. Amenities include a free continental breakfast and complimentary parking.

Where to Stay for Couples

Santa Cruz Lighthouse at sunset

Santa Cruz Lighthouse at sunset

For romance, check out West Cliff Inn, a Four Sisters Inn, located atop a bluff fronting Monterey Bay and just a few minutes' walk from both Cowell Beach and Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The property dates back to 1877 and is a Victorian-style B&B with 10 elegant rooms, which are each slightly different in style, size, and amenities; one features an outdoor jetted hot tub, another comes with a fireplace and oversized marble bathroom. Amenities include a free full breakfast in the morning and afternoon hors d'oeuvres, as well as freshly made cookies and coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. Wi-Fi is also available, and there is parking on-site.

Couples will also like the Edgewater Beach Motel, which has a romantic ambiance and overlooks the ocean. The property is within walking distance of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and the Santa Cruz Wharf and is good value. It features quaint and cozy rooms, which are comfortable and clean. They also offer upgraded options with Jacuzzi tubs and ocean views. Amenities include a heated swimming pool and direct beach and wharf access. The staff is friendly, and there is parking on-site.

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