Best Surf Spots in Santa Cruz

Surf Spots in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz, located in gorgeous Northern California, is often referred to as the ‘Surf City’. It boasts a bevy of surf spots that cater to a variety of skill levels, and a vibrant surf culture rooted in history. Whether you’re a beginner just starting to find your balance, or a seasoned professional hunting for the next thrilling ride, Santa Cruz has a wave for you.¬† If you’re looking to discover the best surf spots in Santa Cruz, you’re in the right place!

The Surfing Heritage of Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is often credited as the birthplace of surfing on the mainland United States. Its surfing culture is deeply ingrained, and the city is recognized globally for its dedication to the sport. The famous Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, located in the iconic lighthouse on Point Santa Cruz, displays over a century’s worth of surfing artifacts and history, making it a must-visit for any surfing enthusiast.¬† By the way, the museum a great place to go to learn more about the best surf spots in Santa Cruz.

The Weather and Surf Conditions in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is blessed with fantastic weather conditions throughout the year, making it an all-season surfing destination. The city faces straight south, curving towards the north, which allows it to capture swells from multiple directions. The summer months are characterized by smaller, gentler waves, perfect for beginners and longboarders. In contrast, the winter months bring more powerful, larger swells that experienced surfers thrive on.

Surf Spots in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is home to numerous surf spots, each offering a unique surfing experience. In fact, one reason why Santa Cruz is a true mecca for surfers from around the world is that as the locals say, there’s always a wave breaking somewhere in Santa Cruz. Here are some of the best surf spots in Santa Cruz.

Steamer Lane

Steamer Lane is arguably the most iconic and celebrated surfing location in Santa Cruz so it deserves to be at the top of the list of best surf spots in Santa Cruz. Steamer Lane is conveniently located off the cliffs on West Cliff Drive, providing spectators with a stunning view of the action. Steamer Lane consists of several sections: Middle Peak, The Slot, Indicators, and The Point. Although this spot is typically crowded, it is also known for its camaraderie and vibrant surf culture.

Natural Bridges

Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz stands out as a beloved surfing destination, especially renowned for its iconic natural bridge rock formation. This beach offers a unique blend of moderate waves and stunning natural scenery, making it a popular spot for both beginner and intermediate surfers. The surf here is known for its gentle breaks, which provide an ideal environment for those looking to improve their skills in a relatively safe and scenic setting. While it may not have the challenging surf of other Santa Cruz beaches, Natural Bridges offers a peaceful and picturesque atmosphere, making it a delightful spot for surfers who appreciate the combination of good waves and natural beauty.

Pleasure Point

Located on the east side of Santa Cruz, Pleasure Point is a cherished location among the local surf community. It offers a long, right-hand wave that can offer rides of considerable length, great for surfers of all skill levels. It is also a hub of surf culture, surrounded by charming houses, has plenty of local surf shops, with abundant restaurants and coffee shops to chill out at after you hit the waves.  There are a number of small coves and beaches dotting Pleasure Point, and the best way to discover them all is on foot, taking a leisurely walk along stunning East Cliff Drive. By doing so you will become intimately familiar with many of the best surf spots in Santa Cruz.

The Hook

The Hook is a popular spot located at the end of 41st Avenue and East Cliff Drive, at the tip of Pleasure Point. This spot is known for producing consistently good, powerful right-hand waves. However, be prepared for a crowded lineup, especially on good surf days.

Cowells Beach

Cowells Beach is a beginner’s paradise, where many a grom (or grommet – that’s surfer speak for young/child surfers) gets their start. Small, consistent and gentle waves make it the perfect spot for those just starting out or looking to improve their skills. Despite its popularity, Cowells Beach maintains a laid-back, welcoming vibe, making it one of the top choices for surf instruction.

26th Avenue

26th Avenue is a lesser-known but excellent surfing spot, and offers both left and right waves, making it a great location for surfers of all skill levels. It is also less crowded compared to other spots in Santa Cruz, providing a more relaxed surfing experience.

30th Avenue

30th Avenue near Pleasure Point Park in Santa Cruz is a renowned surfing spot, famed for its consistent and high-quality waves that draw surfers of various skill levels. This area, a part of the iconic Pleasure Point surfing zone, offers a diverse range of wave conditions, from long, rolling breaks ideal for longboarding to sharper, faster waves suited for shortboarding. This is a spot where many surfers congregate because the park has restrooms, a sunny spot to chill, and there’s the nearby Point Market which serves the famous “The Barrel” breakfast burrito and is well-stocked with other surf essentials.

Pleasure Point Park / 30th Avenue

Pleasure Point Park / 30th Avenue

Scott Creek

Located north of Santa Cruz city, Scott Creek is a hidden gem loved by locals. The beach break here can produce punchy, fun peaks that offer both lefts and rights, providing an exciting option for those who can handle the shifting sandbar conditions.

Four Mile

Four Mile Beach, located on the picturesque north coast of Santa Cruz, offers a right-hand point break that works best with a significant west or northwest swell. It provides a powerful, fast-paced wave that can be challenging, even for experienced surfers. However, its relative remote location keeps the crowds thinner compared to city spots like Steamer Lane.

Capitola Beach

Capitola Beach offers a unique and delightful surfing experience, especially near its famous jetty. This spot is renowned for its gentle, rolling waves, making it an ideal destination for both novice and seasoned surfers. The jetty, jutting out into the Pacific, not only adds to the scenic beauty of the beach but also plays a role in creating consistent wave patterns, which are perfect for longboarding and smooth surfing sessions.

Manresa Beach

Manresa State Beach is renowned for its picturesque coastline and consistent waves, this beach offers a unique surfing experience, attracting both beginners and seasoned surfers alike. The consistent swells and uncrowded waters make it an ideal spot for those looking to catch some waves away from the more crowded surfing spots in Santa Cruz. With its wide expanse of soft sand and stunning sunsets, Manresa State Beach is not just a surfer‚Äôs paradise but also a tranquil retreat for beachgoers. Whether you’re paddling out for the first time or carving up the waves like a pro, the combination of natural beauty and excellent surf conditions makes Manresa State Beach a must-visit destination for anyone passionate about surfing.

One of my favorite Santa Cruz Surf Photos

Places to Eat on a Surf Day in Santa Cruz

It’s no mystery why so many surfers are lean and physically fit:¬† surfing burns a lot of calories!¬† So where do local Santa Cruz surfers like to go and grab a bite to eat after a few hours or even an entire day on the waves?¬† There are a few spots cherished by the locals which visitors will love as well.¬† The places on this list are more “fast casual” than fine dining, but if you’re looking for an inexpensive and quick boost of sugar, fat, and salt after a day in the surf, give these a try

Surf Shops in Santa Cruz

Of course, if you plan to go surfing in Santa Cruz, you’ll need a surf board.¬† And you’re also going to want a wetsuit, because the waters of Monterey Bay are frigid year-round.¬† Fortunately, Santa Cruz boasts numerous surf shops that cater to all your surfing needs. Whether you need a new board, a wetsuit, or some wax, these shops have got you covered. Some of the notable surf shops in Santa Cruz include O’Neill Surf Shop and Freeline Surf Shop.although there are many more to choose from.

Surf Schools in Santa Cruz

For beginners looking to catch their first wave, or intermediate surfers hoping to improve their skills, Santa Cruz offers a variety of surf schools. These schools provide lessons for all levels, and most of them offer equipment rental as well. Club Ed, located at Cowell’s Beach, is one of the most popular surf schools in Santa Cruz.¬† There’s also the Surf School Santa Cruz which connects aspiring surfers with surf instructors for one-on-one coaching as well as group surf lessons.

Surf Cams in Santa Cruz

Many surfers will check any number of surf cams before they head out for the day. These surf cams come and go, sometimes they are up, sometimes they are down, but it may save you a trip out to the beach if the surf is flat. The very best place to find Surf Cams for Santa Cruz is on the Surfline website, which in addition to providing a number of live surf cams and gives you an abundance of information about current surf conditions at various spots along the Santa Cruz coast.

Surf Apps

You know what they say:¬† there’s an app for that, and it’s certainly true when it comes to surfing in Santa Cruz (or California, or in most parts of the world, for that matter).¬† Thee days, using a smart phone to stay on top of constantly-changing surf conditions is a critical part of any surfer’s toolkit.

Surfline:¬† this is the #1 app for surfers, and if you’re interested in surf conditions in Santa Cruz, this is the app to use.¬† Available on the iOS App Store and Google Play for Android.

Tide Guide: Charts & Tables: this is also a popular application that surfers in Santa Cruz you to check current tides and ocean / beach conditions. Available on the iOS App Store only.

EPIC РSurf Report & Forecast: another popular app that helsp you check current conditions at your favorite surf spots. Available on the iOS App Store only.


Santa Cruz, with its rich surfing heritage, variety of surf spots, and welcoming community, is a dream destination for any surfer. Whether you’re just starting out, or an experienced surfer looking for your next big wave, Santa Cruz offers an unforgettable surfing experience. However, always remember to respect the ocean, adhere to surfing etiquette, and be mindful of local surf culture. Happy surfing!

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