Visiting Santa Cruz is a treat for anyone looking to experience the beauty of California’s central coast. The beaches are stunning, and the Boardwalk is a must-see for any first-time visitor. I loved visiting the Boardwalk and all the vintage amusement rides on my last trip.
If you’re looking for a place to stay, I’d highly recommend checking out one of the cool boutique hotels in the area. They offer a unique and personalized experience that you won’t find at a chain hotel.
Boutique Hotels in Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz is home to several vibrant neighbourhoods, each with its own unique character and charm.
The Westside is known for its cool shops, restaurants and markets, while Seabright has a more laid-back atmosphere.
Of course, the lively Downtown area offers a mix of cultural attractions, museums, and green spaces.
If you’re visiting Santa Cruz, I’d recommend staying somewhere between the Downtown area and Santa Cruz Beach, where you’ll be within walking distance of the Boardwalk and wharf and many of the city’s best shops and restaurants.
Top PickDream Inn Santa Cruz
Address: 175 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, CA
The Dream Inn is a stylish and unique place to stay in Santa Cruz. Located just a short walk from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and the wharf, this boutique hotel is the perfect base for exploring all the city offers. The hotel’s retro-chic style is reflected in its vintage furnishings, colorful decor, and funky artwork, creating a playful and inviting atmosphere.
- Retro vibe rooms, all with ocean views.
- Café serving organic, locally-sourced breakfast and lunch.
- Cozy bar serving craft cocktails.
- Great beginner-level surf at Cowell Beach.
Pros: Amazing beachfront location, fun design features, easy access to the city’s sights, and abundant nature.
Cons: There are limited sustainability measures in place.Check Availability
Santa Cruz is a paradise for food lovers, offering an abundance of fresh seafood, locally-grown organic produce, and high-quality wines from nearby wineries.
Whether you’re in the mood for a seafood feast, a farm-to-table dining experience, or a wine-tasting tour, you’ll find no shortage of delicious options in this vibrant and culinary-rich city.
I highly recommend the Dream Inn if you’re looking for the best boutique hotel in Santa Cruz. However, if you’re interested in something in a different location, my next top pick might be a good fit for you.
Address: 611 Ocean Street, Santa Cruz, CA
Hotel Paradox offers guests a variety of amenities and features to make their stay comfortable and enjoyable. The hotel has an outdoor pool with cabanas and fire pits for you to use. All rooms are soundproofed and come with an electronics charging station, a coffee machine and bathrobes. The onsite bar and restaurant serves local wine and beer and offers a farm-to-table dining experience with a seasonal menu. There’s a fitness centre and a unique lending library.
Cool Santa Cruz Hotel near the Boardwalk
As you stay in a cool and unique boutique hotel, you can expect personalized service, stylish interiors, and an unforgettable atmosphere that reflects the local charm of Santa Cruz.
You’ll appreciate my next recommendation, as it embodies the perfect blend of comfort and uniqueness that discerning travellers seek while being located just near the Boardwalk.
Beach Street Inn and Suites
Address: 125 Beach Street, Santa Cruz, CA
You’ll love your stay at the Beach Street Inn, a cool and unique boutique hotel centrally located in Santa Cruz, just across from Main Beach. This unique inn has a courtyard with picnic tables, an outdoor pool, and well-equipped guest rooms. With breathtaking views of Monterey Bay, a beach just below, and bicycle rentals for exploring the surrounding area, you’ll find yourself immersed in the best of Santa Cruz. Plus, its proximity to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and the wharf makes it an unbeatable location with wonderful, large, comfy, clean rooms that previous guests have raved about.
Luxury Boutique Hotel
Opting for a luxury boutique hotel, you’ll be immersed in a world of lavish comfort, impeccable service, and sophisticated design that truly captures the essence of Santa Cruz.
The West Cliff Inn is one such hotel, as it provides a remarkable blend of opulence and local flair that creates a truly unforgettable stay.
West Cliff Inn
Address: 174 W Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, California
At the West Cliff Inn, a luxury boutique hotel nestled on a bluff across from Cowell’s Beach, you’ll discover a restful bed and breakfast experience in a charming 3-story Victorian home. Just steps from Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk, this gem offers unique guestrooms with fireplaces, marble-tile bathrooms, and thoughtful amenities. Start your day with a delicious breakfast buffet and enjoy afternoon wine and hors d’oeuvres while taking advantage of the bicycles available for exploring Santa Cruz. Guests rave about the friendly staff, beautiful architecture, hardwood floors, spacious rooms, quality toiletries, delicious breakfast, and convenient parking. The hot tub rooms provide an extra touch of luxury, perfect for stargazing at night.
Choosing a sustainable or eco-friendly hotel, you’ll enjoy a stay that focuses on minimizing environmental impact while still providing exceptional comfort and service.
My next pick will surely appeal to you, as it offers a harmonious blend of eco-conscious practices and a delightful guest experience, making it an ideal choice for environmentally-minded travellers.
The Aqua Pacific Hotel
Address: 330 Ocean Street, Santa Cruz, CA
The Aqua Pacific Hotel is an eco-friendly gem in Santa Cruz, within 1.2 km of Santa Cruz Beach and Seabright State Beach. This 4-star hotel provides accommodations focusing on sustainability, featuring a beautiful garden and using 100% renewable electricity. Guests appreciate the clean, newly remodelled, and spacious rooms and the excellent service from the owner and manager. The hotel makes efforts to reduce food waste, offset a portion of its carbon footprint, and source most of its food locally. Additionally, the Aqua Pacific Hotel invests a percentage of its revenue back into community or sustainability projects, making it a great choice for environmentally conscious travellers.
Where to Stay in Santa Cruz
When considering where to stay in Santa Cruz, several neighbourhoods stand out as great options for visitors looking to book a boutique hotel:
- Westside: This trendy district is known for its thriving cafe culture, independent stores, and local galleries. Staying in the Westside area will put you in the heart of Santa Cruz’s creative scene.
- Downtown: A hub for cultural attractions and museums, Downtown Santa Cruz is an excellent choice for those interested in art, history, and green spaces. The lively atmosphere will keep you entertained and engaged throughout your visit.
- Seabright: With cool bars, eclectic nightlife, and a variety of entertainment options, the Seabright neighbourhood is a fantastic option for visitors looking to enjoy Santa Cruz’s vibrant social scene. The area’s proximity to the beach and boardwalk adds to its appeal.
- Eastside: Home to beautiful parks and recreational areas, Eastside Santa Cruz is perfect for travellers who appreciate nature and outdoor activities. This neighbourhood also offers a quieter, more relaxed atmosphere while still providing easy access to the city’s attractions.
- Pleasure Point: Renowned for its laid-back beach vibe and excellent surfing spots, Pleasure Point is a great choice for visitors seeking a more casual and sporty experience during their stay in Santa Cruz.
By exploring these diverse neighbourhoods, you’ll be able to find the perfect boutique hotel to suit your preferences and make the most of your time in this enchanting coastal city.
If you’re planning a trip to California, be sure to check out my guide to the best places to visit, where you’ll find top recommendations for amazing sights, activities, and experiences all across the Golden State.
If you’re planning a trip to Santa Cruz, be sure to check out the city’s tourist office website for helpful information and resources. The website is a great resource for visitors and provides details on local attractions, events, and things to do in the area.
Responsible Travel Tips
Many of us are increasingly concerned about climate change and sustainability. Here are a few actions we can take to lower our travel impact.
- Choose accommodations that are committed to energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources. One great sustainable hotel in Santa Cruz is the Aqua Pacific Hotel mentioned above.
- Reduce food waste by being mindful of portion sizes and choosing restaurants that offer smaller plate options or allow guests to take leftovers home.
- Limit consumerism by choosing experiences over material purchases and supporting local businesses. You could try surfing with a local guide or hiking in the State Park.
- Consider incorporating sustainable diets like plant-based or locally-sourced meals into your travel plans. There are many opportunities for this in Santa Cruz, CA, where you’ll find vegan and vegetarian cafes and high-quality markets.
- Use sustainable transportation options, such as biking, walking, or taking public transportation, instead of driving or flying. This is easy to do if you’re coming from somewhere nearby, like San Francisco, San Jose or Monterey.
- Support the local community by choosing locally owned and operated businesses and participating in socially and environmentally responsible tourism initiatives. In Santa Cruz, this might mean beach clean-up events or tree planting or restoration initiatives.
Please share your sustainability tips in the comments.
When searching for a boutique hotel in Santa Cruz, keep in mind your preferences in terms of atmosphere, proximity to attractions, and the kind of experience you’re seeking.
Santa Cruz offers a diverse range of districts, each with its own unique charm, making it easy to find a boutique hotel that perfectly matches your taste.
As you explore the city, be sure to embrace the local culture, indulge in the food scene, and enjoy the beautiful coastline.
Santa Cruz is 75 miles from downtown San Francisco. The fastest way is usually straight along the US-101, but check traffic before leaving. Public transit should get you to Santa Cruz in around 2 hours and 30 minutes via San Jose.
Santa Cruz is 30 miles from downtown San Jose. It’ll take around 50 minutes by car or 1 hour on the # 17 Express for $7.
Santa Cruz is 45 miles from Monterey, which will take around 50 minutes by car.
In Santa Cruz, you can find a variety of boutique hotels, from cool and unique options with personalized service and stylish interiors to luxury hotels that offer elevated experiences, exceptional amenities, and an elegant atmosphere.
Santa Cruz offers a wide range of activities and attractions, such as exploring the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, visiting the historic Santa Cruz Wharf, surfing at Pleasure Point, discovering local art galleries and museums, and enjoying the vibrant cafe and nightlife scenes in various neighbourhoods.
If you have questions or want to leave a hotel review, please do so in the comments.
Recommendations are independently chosen based on personal travel experiences and extensive research. This post contains affiliate links to hotels in Santa Cruz, California. This means I get a small commission from any bookings at no extra cost to you.