Cowell Beach in Santa Cruz

Cowell Beach Santa Cruz

Cowell Beach, located in the heart of Santa Cruz, California, has been a popular destination for both locals and visitors alike. Known not only for its stunning views and sandy shores, but it’s also a hotspot for oceanic activities such as surfing and sunbathing. As we dive into the details, you will find that Cowell Beach is not just a beach, it’s a complete package of natural beauty, adventure, and relaxation.

Location and Accessibility

Cowell Beach is conveniently located right next to the Santa Cruz Wharf and Beach Boardwalk. It’s a spot that’s easily accessible and offers ample parking options for visitors. Whether you’re planning to drive or walk, reaching Cowell Beach is a breeze. It’s also surrounded by numerous restaurants and bars, making it an ideal location for a full day of fun.

The Beach Experience

One of the main attractions of Cowell Beach is its picturesque sandy shores. The beach offers a grand view of the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor and the Municipal Wharf pier. Whether you’re a fan of sunbathing, beach volleyball, or simply enjoying a leisurely stroll, Cowell Beach has something for everyone.

If you’re an early bird or a sunset lover, you’re in for a treat. The beach is known for its awe-inspiring sunrises and sunsets that paint the sky with hues of oranges, pinks, and purples. The sight is truly a spectacle that shouldn’t be missed.

Surfing at Cowell Beach

Cowell Beach is a recognized spot for surfing. In fact, Santa Cruz proudly claims itself as California‚Äôs original surf town. This is where surfing was first introduced in the U.S, and the tradition continues with Cowell Beach being a favorite among surfers. The beach is known as a beginner’s wave, making it an excellent place for those who are new to the sport.

The beach is home to famous surf competitions such as the Coldwater Classic and Volcom Great White Surf Series. If you’re lucky, you might even get to witness these events on your visit. For surfing enthusiasts, this is the perfect opportunity to learn from the pros and up your surfing game.

Live by the Beach

Surf Forecast and Live Feed

Never miss a wave at Cowell Beach. With up-to-the-minute information on wave conditions available, you can plan your surfing sessions accordingly. The live feed offers an insider’s perspective on the surf forecast, making it a handy tool for surfers.

Surf Lessons and Rentals

If you’re new to surfing, don’t worry. Cowell Beach is home to Club Ed, a team of Master Surfing Instructors dedicated to teaching surfing in the most fun, successful, and safest environment. They offer a range of exciting surfing programs for all levels from first-time daily lessons to week-long Surf Camps that give surfers a chance to immerse themselves in the surfing lifestyle.

Wildlife Encounters

Cowell Beach is not just about water sports and sand. It’s also a great place for wildlife watching. From sea lions to sea otters and a variety of sea birds, the beach is a haven for nature lovers. During the gray whale migration season, you can spot these majestic creatures from the far end of the wharf.

Water Quality and Safety

While Cowell Beach is a favorite among beach-goers, it’s also known to be one of the most polluted beaches along the California Coast. As such, it’s crucial to check the water quality before heading in. Lifeguards are available during the summer for added safety.

Cowell Beach and the History of Surfing USA

Cowell Beach holds a significant place in the history of surfing, particularly for its connection to the early days of surf culture in the United States. Cowell Beach became a hub for surfing in the early 20th century, further popularized by Hawaiian surfer and Olympic swimmer Duke Kahanamoku, who visited Santa Cruz in the 1920s and showcased his impressive surfing skills. This event is often credited with sparking a surge in surfing’s popularity in California.

Adding to Cowell Beach’s surfing legacy is the iconic Jack O’Neill Surf Shop. Jack O’Neill, a renowned figure in the surfing world, opened his first surf shop in San Francisco in 1952, but it was his subsequent move to Santa Cruz that left a lasting impact. His innovations, including the invention of the neoprene wetsuit, revolutionized the sport, allowing surfers to brave the colder waters of the Northern California coast. O’Neill’s shop became a staple of the Santa Cruz surfing community, contributing significantly to the area’s reputation as a surfing haven.

O'Neill Surf Shop Santa Cruz

O’Neill Surf Shop Santa Cruz

Lodging Options

If you’re planning to extend your stay, there are several nearby lodging options. The Dream Inn, located right by the beach, offers beachside accommodations with a retro-style charm. There are also many other hotels within a short distance from the beach, catering to different budget ranges.¬† While the city of Santa Cruz has been clamping down on vacation rentals, there are still some to be had on sites like VRBO.

Dining Options at Cowell Beach

Cowell Beach is at the heart of the tourist scene in Santa Cruz, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that there are numerous dining options in and around Cowell Beach.¬† Here are some of the most popular restaurants at Cowell Beach:

Nearby Attractions

While Cowell Beach itself is an attraction, there are also many nearby places that you can explore. The Santa Cruz Wharf, Santa Cruz Main Beach, and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center are just a few of the attractions within a short distance from Cowell Beach.¬† On rainy or cold days, many locals will take advantage of the nearby Boardwalk Bowl and Neptune’s Kingdom.¬† Of course, you’d be remiss if you had some free time by Cowell Beach and you didn’t also go and check out West Cliff Drive¬†and the iconic Santa Cruz Surf Museum at Lighthouse Field State Beach.


In conclusion, Cowell Beach in Santa Cruz offers a complete beach experience. From beautiful sandy shores to exciting surfing opportunities and abundant wildlife, the beach has something for everyone. With nearby dining and lodging options, you can plan a perfect beach getaway at Cowell Beach. So, pack your bags and get ready for a memorable beach experience in Santa Cruz.

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