1. Bonny Doon Beach: a long beach with high cliffs on one side and dunes all around. It’s north of Santa Cruz, and there’s parking right along Highway 1 and Bonny Doon Road (get there early). A quick walk across the railroad tracks and down to the nearby beach where you can spend the day in the sun. This is a great beach for sunbathing, and there is a section that is clothing-option, marked off by a few rocks and a dune on the far right side of the beach. Viewer discretion advised.
2. Davenport: an interesting beach with something to look at, always. At certain times of the year, you can find sea glass while walking along the beach. There are cliffs and rock formations with water dripping down from the cracks. Shallow caves are found throughout the base of the cliffs. Tide pools can be found along the southern side of the beach. There is a large parking lot along Highway 1, across from the town of Davenport. Several trails lead the way down to the beach–it is steep in some parts but definitely manageable.
3. Shark Fin Cove: in between Bonny Doon Beach and Davenport Beach is Shark Fin Cove. This small beach has a shark-tooth-shaped rock, and you’ll always find photographers shooting the cove and the rock at sunrise and sunset. There is parking along the highway, and a short, steep trail will take you down to the beach.
4. Twin Lakes State Beach: a peaceful place for a long walk on the beach. There’s always a game of beach volleyball going on, and a few restaurants nearby to grab coffee, food or a cocktail. When the tide is low, you can walk for quite a ways, but be warned, if it comes up, you can be trapped on the other side. We have had many walks back with soaking shoes, socks and even pants, attempting to outrun the tide!
5. Capitola Beach: a great beach for kids, as the waves are generally very mild. The town of Capitola is fun to walk around, with various stores and restaurants right near by. You can grab a slice of Pizza My Heart and eat it at the beach, or a scoop of Marianne’s ice cream from one of the nearby stores. There’s tons of cute little shops to wander through if you want to buy souvenirs or beach wear.