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Santa Cruz Beach Activities

Santa Cruz County

Caution: Check with rangers or lifeguards that conditions are safe for your planned activities.

Surfing and Swimming

While more experienced surfers head for Steamer Lane, many beginners paddle out from Cowells Beach hoping to catch waves closer to shore. Water quality has been a problem at Cowells Beach.

Boogie boarders have a great time at Santa Cruz Beach as do skim boarders and body surfers.

Monterey Bay Area Water Temperatures
Santa Cruz County Water Quality Reports

Rough Water Swim

July 28, 2018 at 11:00 AM. A 1-mile swim around the Santa Cruz Wharf, sponsored by the Santa Cruz Masters & Santa Cruz City Surf Lifesaving Association. Part of Open Water Weekend, which includes a 2-mile Cruz Cruise swim.
(831) 420-5270   Rough Water Swim

Surf Schools

A number of organizations offer surfing lessons at Santa Cruz Beach. Surf Schools at Santa Cruz Beach are overseen by the City of Santa Cruz. Participants must wear a colored vest which identifies which surf school they are participating in.


Volleyball courts are available to the public on the main beach between the Boardwalk and the wharf. The California Beach Volleyball Association holds some of its events on Santa Cruz Beach. They have a variety of programs for all ages and abilities.

The Main Beach Volleyball Club was organized in 2002 to provide a competitive junior volleyball programs for local female athletes. They have since expanded to include a boys' program.
Main Beach Volleyball Club

Volleyball courts, Santa Cruz Beach, Santa Cruz, CA

Free Movies on the Beach

Wednesdays at 9:00 PM from mid-June through mid-August on the Main Beach by the Boardwalk. Bring your blanket and a low back chair. Free.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Movie Schedule

Friday Night Bands on the Beach

Free shows on the beach every Friday beginning in mid-June through August. Two shows per night: 6:30 PM and 8:30 PM. Prime area seating begins at 4:00 PM.
Schedule of performers: Friday Night Bands on the Beach

Wharf to Wharf Race

July 22, 2018
Runners start in Santa Cruz and wind their way along the coast to Capitola. Live bands line the route. Race begins at 8:30 AM.
Wharf to Wharf Race

Cowell Beach Junior Lifeguard & Little Guard Programs

Every summer the City of Santa Cruz's Parks and Recreation Department offers its Junior Lifeguard and Little Guard programs at Cowell Beach. The programs for children and youths ages 6-17 teach them about safe marine and aquatic recreation. Participants improve their physical conditioning, their understanding a respect for the environment, along with respect for themselves and others.

Little Guards are for 6-8 year-olds and Junior Lifeguards for 9-17 year-olds. Participants receive instruction and practice in open water swimming, surfing, self rescue, paddle boarding, beach games, and competition. Sessions meet at Cowell Beach west of the wharf. Registration information: (831) 420-5270
Santa Cruz Junior & Little Lifeguards

Cowell Beach 2018 Junior Lifeguard & Little Guard Schedule (ages 6-17)

Session I - June 18 - July 13, 2018
Session II - July 23 - August 17, 2018

Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation Programs

City of Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation Classes and Camps

Boardwalk, Santa Cruz Beach, Santa Cruz, CA

Reserve a Portion of the Beach for Your Event

Portions of Santa Cruz Beach and Cowell Beach can be reserved for weddings, corporate events, or sporting events. For information call (831) 420-5270.
City of Santa Cruz: Main Beach and Cowell Beach

Nearby Activities and Events

Santa Cruz
Surfing Museum

Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse, Lighthouse Point, 701 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, CA
Photographs, surfboards, and other surfing artifacts telling the story of surfing in Santa Cruz.
Summer hours 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM, closed Tuesdays
Santa Cruz Surfing Museum

Santa Cruz Beach Train

Travel by train from Roaring Camp in Felton in the Santa Cruz Mountains through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and down the San Lorenzo River Gorge, across a bridge and through a tunnel to Santa Cruz Beach.
Begin your journey at Roaring Camp or Santa Cruz.
Daily departures in summer, weekends in fall and spring
Roaring Camp Railroads

Santa Cruz
Whale Watching

Stagnaro Charter Boats
(800) 979-3370
3-4 hour whale, dolphin, and sea life excursions.
Santa Cruz Whale Watching

Seymour Center at
Long Marine Lab

100 Shaffer Road, Santa Cruz
(831) 459-3800
Operated by University of California Santa Cruz
Tours, exhibit halls, aquarium, touch tanks, Ocean Discovery Shop.
Open Tuesday - Saturday, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM,
Sunday noon to 5:00 PM
Adults $6, 4-16 year-olds and seniors 64 and over $4
Seymour Center at Long Marine Lab

Santa Cruz Half Marathon and 10K

March 4, 2018
Finish line on the beach.
Santa Cruz Half Marathon

Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz Triathlon

September 9, 2018
1.2-mile swim around the wharf, 56-mile bike, and 13.1-mile run.
Big Kahuna Triathlon

Books of Local Interest

Ocean Safety

California State Parks and Recreation cautions that "large surf, cold water temperatures, backwash, sudden drop-offs, pounding shorebreak, and dangerous rip currents can turn what seem like safe activities such as playing near the surf line, wading, or climbing on rock outcroppings, deadly." Learn more about ocean safety at
CA State Parks: Ocean Safety

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Every effort is made to provide accurate and up to date information, but we cannot be responsible for errors or for changes that may have occurred since publication. Always confirm information with the service provider and check for any recent changes that may have been made. Also, check with lifeguards that conditions at the beach are safe for your planned activities.

The information provided on this website is done so without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied, including but not limited to, the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose.