8 Best Neighborhoods to Live in Santa Cruz County


8 Best Neighborhoods to Live in Santa Cruz County

If you are considering a move to gorgeous Santa Cruz County, you might be wondering which of its many communities is the right fit. From the soaring redwoods of Scotts Valley to the waterfront vistas of Capitola, Santa Cruz County is replete with simply stunning communities, endless natural beauty, recreation spots, and incredible properties.

Read on for a guide to the neighborhoods in Santa Cruz County to find an amazing new home you’re sure to fall in love with.

1. Westside Santa Cruz

In the Westside neighborhood, you’ll find a vibrant sense of community full of personality, promise, and surprises. Plus, there is no shortage of natural wonders and adventure to be found.

On the Lower West Side, don’t miss the waterfront path along West Cliff Drive with its magnificent vistas of Monterey Bay. Feel inspired and at one with nature (and check out the natural bridge!) on the sandy shores of Natural Bridges State Beach, or explore the Natural Bridges Monarch Trail to see these glorious fluttering creatures among the eucalyptus groves. The adventure continues to the west at Wilder Ranch State Park, with miles of mountain biking trails and the awe-inspiring scenery at Old Cove Landing Trail.

Check out the Seymour Marine Discovery Center to see a blue whale skeleton, marvel at the elephant seal sculptures, or pet a swell shark. Head to Younger Lagoon Reserve for magnificent vistas of the beach and lagoon — you might even catch a glimpse of wildlife in the marsh. Don’t skip Terrace Point for its jaw-dropping views of the cliffs over Monterey Bay and the surrounding terrain.

Santa Cruz’s Upper West Side is home to the renowned U.C. Santa Cruz and the Pogonip Open Space Preserve, an incredibly gorgeous woodland and meadow system that’s perfect for hikers, equestrians, and bicyclists seeking an adventurous outing on the trails. In addition, the U.C. Santa Cruz Arboretum & Botanic Garden features a beautiful assortment of plants from the Southern Hemisphere, along with a gift and garden shop, bird tours, fun-filled events, and more.

2. Soquel

Soquel is a charming neighborhood that exudes a quaint, laid-back vibe. Whether you're strolling through antique shops, exploring the delightful eateries, or enjoying the serene wineries, Soquel offers a little something for everyone. Nature enthusiasts will find their place at Anna Jean Cummings County Park, a 95-acre park with winding trails, a picnic pavilion, barbecue pits, a kids’ playground, and athletic fields.

3. Aptos

Aptos is a nature lover's dream. This beautiful unincorporated town boasts majestic forests, stunning beaches and parks, and world-class golf courses. If you love outdoor activities, Aptos will indeed feel like home. Residences here offer impressive vistas of Monterey Bay. The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park is an ideal place for outdoor excursions, with 30 miles of trails, an ancient tree, and soaring redwoods up above.

Seacliff State Beach off the Cabrillo Highway promises a relaxing venture by the coast; here, you can picnic by the shores, fish on the pier, or check out the S.S. Palo Alto. Rio Del Mar State Beach and Manresa State Beach are other top coastal spots for enjoying the gorgeous views and the sound of the waves. Finally, residents often head to Aptos Village, a charming retail and dining area that also hosts the Santa Cruz American Music Festival nearby.

4. Watsonville

Watsonville offers a rich agricultural heritage. Known for its luscious strawberries and apple orchards, this neighborhood's peaceful farmland setting is both tranquil and inspiring. The community’s downtown area showcases a mix of historic architecture, quaint shops, and local eateries, from Gizdich Ranch to Jalisco Restaurant. The Watsonville State Wildlife Area promises endless adventure, with nearly 600 acres perfect for wildlife viewing or taking a hike.

Its warm community, thriving agricultural industry, and scenic surroundings make Watsonville an appealing destination for those seeking a harmonious blend of small-town charm and natural beauty.

5. Scotts Valley

Scotts Valley is a welcoming neighborhood in Santa Cruz County with fantastic schools and beautiful parks. It's a prestigious neighborhood where community spirit is always in the air, making it a wonderful place to plant roots. Thanks to its peaceful suburban vibes and easy commute, the community is home to tech workers and families alike.

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is an outdoor oasis with 40 acres of gorgeous redwood tree groves, numerous trails, river canyons, and campgrounds. The community enjoys a scenic backdrop of coastal redwoods, promising endless trails and plenty of shade. Skypark is another excellent family hang-out spot, featuring a dog park, soccer fields, playgrounds, bocce courts, barbecue pits, a skate park, and more. Skypark also hosts the annual Scotts Valley Art & Wine Festival, a beloved community event featuring samples from local wineries, great food, and a classic car show.

6. Ben Lomond

A step into Ben Lomond is a step back in time. This picturesque mountain village, surrounded by ancient redwoods, offers a peaceful refuge from the bustle of city life. The San Lorenzo River runs through the community, and Highlands County Park is a go-to spot for outdoor fun, with its tennis courts, sports fields, picnic spaces, a skate park, and volleyball courts.

7. Felton

Felton is a charming and picturesque town nestled at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Known for its lush redwood forests, the tranquil San Lorenzo River, and its small-town charm, Felton is a truly peaceful escape. The heart of the town is centered around its historic downtown area, where one can find quaint shops, cafes, and local eateries. As a beloved community pastime, the Felton Farmers’ Market from May through October is one of the oldest in Santa Cruz County and offers fresh fruits, meats, bread, and more from regional businesses and farms.

The nearby Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is a significant draw for adventurous spirits, offering miles of hiking trails and the iconic Roaring Camp Railroad, which takes passengers on a nostalgic journey through the towering redwoods. Outdoor enthusiasts will also appreciate the nearby opportunities for camping, fishing, and picnicking along the San Lorenzo River. The Felton Covered Bridge County Park is an ideal spot for a stroll, a quiet picnic, or a game of sand volleyball.

With its natural beauty and welcoming sense of community, Felton provides a serene retreat for nature lovers and those seeking a tranquil getaway.

8. Capitola

The incredible Santa Cruz County neighborhood of Capitola, idyllically situated along Monterey Bay, promises endless luxury and stunning views. The unique condos here are painted in bright colors, creating an electric and trendy vibe. Capitola is also home to an indoor mall and several top dining destinations. In addition, the community hosts an impressive roster of fun-filled events, from community runs and beach festivals to the Capitola Art and Wine Festival.

Thanks to its gorgeous landscape, outdoor enthusiasts can find truly scenic trails that offer fantastic views of Monterey Bay and pine trees. Enjoy the ocean vistas at the top of Depot Hill, or check out the Pleasure Point cliff trail. New Brighton State Beach offers beautiful sandstone cliffs, campgrounds, and forested bluffs with hiking trails.

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