Four Can't-Miss Santa Cruz Adventures

By: Lauren Sloss

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We can’t get enough of Santa Cruz — this mellow beach town has everything you need to make for a jam-packed weekend of outdoor adventure. There’s killer surf — for beginners and experts alike — memorable hikes, mountain bike trails, and oh yeah, a glut of microbreweries where you can reward your efforts with a cold one. Here are our picks for four can’t-miss Santa Cruz adventures, with tips for where to get a great beer to reward your efforts.

Learn To Surf at Cowell’s Cove

Santa Cruz is an ideal spot for beginner surfers — Cowell’s Cove, in particular, boasts a slow pealing right break, a surf shop right across the street, and a friendly, open vibe. It can get a little crowded on weekends, but don’t be afraid to take your time and wait for your perfect wave.

Your Reward: Head towards downtown for a bite and some delicious craft brew at Lupelo Craft Beer House, a mellow bottle shop-cum-bar with great grilled cheese and an even greater beer selection.

Go For A Waterfall Hike At Nisene Marks

Nisene Marks State Park is just south of S.C. in Capitola, and is one of our favorite places to hike on the regular. Right now, we’re loving the 8.5 mile round trip hike to Maple Falls — with a decent amount of elevation, creek crossings, and waterfall reward, the hike is just challening enough without wrecking you for the night ahead. Fuel up at The Point Market & Cafe beforehand; they’ve got some of the best breakfast burritos in town.

Your Reward: Stop by Sante Adairius Rustic Ales on your way back into town — this craft brewery makes excellent Belgian-style beers (with a Santa Cruz twist), and has a nice tap room for sampling the goods at your leisure.

Take a Bike Ride With An Ocean View

We’re all for adrenaline-pumping, aggressively steep mountain bike rides. But sometimes, you just want to cruise, and maybe take in a stunning coastal landscape, too. Old Cove Landing is a great spot for a quick and easy ride — the wide, flat trail is great for beginners, with beautiful coastal views that make it appealing for more advanced riders, too.

Your Reward: Swing by Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, a mellow brewpub with outdoor seating and tasty, interesting beers. Getting a growler to go is definitely a good idea.

Settle in for a Beach Bonfire

What’s not to love about a group of friends, a warm fire, and a gorgeous sunset? Twin Lakes State Beach is the place to have an epic beach bonfire in Santa Cruz — the uncrowded stretch of beach makes for a laid back evening hang, and they’ve got bathrooms on hand, to boot. Bring layers, pack a picnic, and maybe even start a sing-a-long or two.

Your Reward: Really, a bonfire doesn’t really necessitate a celebratory beer afterwards. But you can gear up for a day and night at the beach with a hearty brunch at Harbor Cafe, where you’ll find massive and delicious breakfast offerings and Bloody Marys.

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.