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Things to do in
Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz, California

Our most recommended things to do in Santa Cruz, California

From San Francisco: Monterey and Carmel Day Tour

1. From San Francisco: Monterey and Carmel Day Tour

Discover the scenic coastline of California on a day trip by air-conditioned bus from San Francisco. Visit the Monterey Peninsula, Cannery Row, and Carmel-by-the-Sea. Travel scenic California’s Pacific Coast Highway 1 to the beautiful Monterey Peninsula, famous for its spectacular ocean views, abundant wildlife, and historical past. Stop at Cannery Row, made famous by John Steinbeck, where there are great shops and restaurants overlooking the Pacific. Next, travel through the famous 17-Mile Drive and see Pebble Beach Golf Course. Photo stops will be made along this gorgeous drive.  Your tour continues to Carmel by the sea where ample time is given to walk through this charming town dotted with lovely shops, and beautiful architecture.

San Francisco: Monterey and Carmel Tour

2. San Francisco: Monterey and Carmel Tour

Begin your tour by traveling south on the famous Pacific Coast Highway, California Highway 1. Head to Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea. At your first rest stop in Davenport, you will have a chance to take a selfie with the whole Pacific as your backdrop.  At Monterey, you will have 2 hours on your own to explore. You can visit the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, rent a kayak or paddleboard, hike along the coast, or take a bike to roam. You can also stroll among the quaint boutiques and art shops along the historic Cannery Row. Grab a seafood lunch at Old Fisherman’s Wharf.  Enjoy another eyeful of Pacific beauty along the scenic 17-Mile Drive through Del Monte Forest and take photographs of the hardy Lone Cyprus Tree. This famous road winds its way by magnificent homes and the spectacular coastline, between the greens and tees of world famous golf courses, and among the last remaining forest of a rare species of the Monterey Cypress.  Your scenic drive finishes at Pebble Beach Village. Upon arrival in the enchanted town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, you can explore the boutique shops on Ocean Avenue and be dazzled by the white sandy beach. If there is time, you can visit the historic Carmel Mission. Then, it will be time to head back to San Francisco. 

California Audioguide for Self-Drivers (English & German)

3. California Audioguide for Self-Drivers (English & German)

After booking you receive a separate Email from us with the instructions on how to install the app and the guide! You can ignore the "Ticket" Email from Get Your Guide. Please also check your spam-folder for our Email and please get in touch with us if something does not work! Complete your road trip around California with an audio guide featuring 169 locations and 3 hours of audio in 1 app. Listen to the recordings as you take in views at Yosemite, Mt. Whitney, and Zabriskie Point, experience the unique cultures of Silicon Valley, Santa Monica, and Hollywood, and drive down Highway 1. Feel at ease taking in the views while the app uses GPS to find your location and suggest stops. From famous landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge to lesser-known gems like Moss Landing, appreciate the wealth of beauty and history in California with detailed audio descriptions. Stop and start your journey as often as you please, there’s no constraints once you download the app and activate your audio guide. If there’s a specific site you’d like to visit, manually choose audio guides from the built-in map or from a list.

From San Francisco: Carmel, Monterey & Big Sur Private Tour

4. From San Francisco: Carmel, Monterey & Big Sur Private Tour

Explore the Big Sur and Monterey areas of California at your own pace, and avoid the hassle of organized bus tours. Traveling by private car, enjoy the comfort of seeing the places you want to see without worrying about your departure or arrival time. Learn more about the famous landmarks with a reliable service, offering maximum security and, most of all, the best level of hospitality in the industry. Following a pick-up from your accommodation in San Francisco (pick-ups in other cities in the Bay Area are available on arrangement), get recommendations on the best places to stop to take pictures or explore further; you decide where you want to go. Take a scenic drive from San Francisco to Carmel and Big Sur via State Route 1, the north-south highway that runs along most of the Pacific coastline of California. Travel the forested road of 17-Mile Drive. Discover the Mission District and Monterey Bay Aquarium. See all the sights of Fisherman's Wharf. Drive down to the Big Sur Bixby Creek Bridge, and marvel at the flora and fauna of Poit Lobos State Reserve south of Carmel before your return to San Francisco.

Pacific Coast Highway: Self-Guided Audio Driving Tour

5. Pacific Coast Highway: Self-Guided Audio Driving Tour

Start by downloading the Action Tour Guide app, which will function as your personal tour guide, audio tour, and map. Purchase one tour per car, not per person. Everyone listens together! NOTE: This 555-mile-long tour covers the essentials of Pacific coast highway in 5-7 hours. Drive along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway and experience the beauty of the California coast. Take advantage of the flexibility to set your own pace between stops during the self-guided app-based audio tour. See Monterey, the famous beach town known for its prestigious aquarium, and the popular golf courses of Pebble Beach. Stop off at picturesque Carmel-by-the-Sea, an artsy enclave where Clint Eastwood was once mayor. Hear the sound of barking sea lions at Point Lobos State Park, whose rocky headlands are interspersed with jewel-like coves. Big Sur is one of the not-to-be-missed highlights along the scenic road, where you can enjoy gorgeous views, waterfalls, and bridges. Near San Simeon, the home of Hearst Castle, pull off at Piedras Blancas Beach, where enormous elephant seals can be spotted in the winter months. Before cutting inland to San Luis Obispo, stop to admire Morro Bay Rock and hunt for anemones in the tidal pools. Explore Santa Barbara’s quintessential downtown and then continue down to Ventura and Malibu. If you started the drive in San Francisco, end your tour in Los Angeles at the famous Santa Monica Pier. The audio tour is curated by local guides and creative writers and is narrated by professional voice artists.

Santa Cruz: Sidecar Wine Tour with Guide and Wine Tasting

6. Santa Cruz: Sidecar Wine Tour with Guide and Wine Tasting

Take on the open road in a tandem sidecar on this guided wine tour of Santa Cruz. See beautiful California scenery, taste local wines, and learn about the city's fascinating history from your guide. Meet your guide and begin your guided ride throughout the Santa Cruz area. As you ride in style in a tandem sidecar, feel the wind rush through your hair and marvel at the beautiful scenery. Hear about your surroundings from your sidecar driver. Throughout your tour, enjoy stops at local wineries, where you can see the making of wine up close. Enjoy a tasting at each tasting room, and decide for yourself which local wine is your favorite. Finish your tour with a visit to one scenic destination. Depending on your tour, visit locations such as Alfaro, Storrs, La Vida Bella, Lester Family Vineyards, Nicholson & Cantine WinePub.

Beginner Surfing Lesson - Pacifica or Santa Cruz

7. Beginner Surfing Lesson - Pacifica or Santa Cruz

On this 2.5 hour surfing course you’ll learn the basics from a professional coach. All instructors are all lifeguard certified, and ready to teach you the fundamentals of surfing. You’ll learn about ocean awareness, wave breaks, ocean conditions, safety in and out of the water, wave etiquette, paddling, push-up and pop-up techniques, and riding waves and balancing. You’ll start out in shallow areas riding the whitewater until you’re comfortable enough to venture farther out. The environment is safe and non-threatening for beginning surfers. Have fun learning how to surf in Pacifica or Santa Cruz, and explore the wonders of the ocean with an experienced guide. If you’ve ever thought about trying out this iconic sport, this is a great opportunity to catch some waves!

Santa Cruz Must Sees: A Self-Guided Driving Tour

8. Santa Cruz Must Sees: A Self-Guided Driving Tour

Santa Cruz is America’s original “Surf City”. While there’s still plenty of surfing to be seen, on this driving tour you’ll discover that there’s so much more to the city than catching waves! Starting at the Graham Hill pullout, you’ll wind along West Cliff Drive to the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum and Natural Bridges State Beach before making your way to the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC). There, you’ll see the city’s mighty coastal redwood trees before taking a slow cruise back to the Visitors Center and Marianne’s Ice Cream store, where our tour ends. En route, you’ll hear how the Town Clock has been a staging spot for protests, and learn the difference between art and graffiti while taking in a sculpture at Pyramid Park. I’ll also point out the unusual looking Court of Mysteries and tell you how its owner got around city planners. Along the way, I’ll show you the must-see sights to take in if you’re pressed for time, and point out places that you can explore at your leisure. You could easily fill a whole weekend! On this Santa Cruz tour, you can look forward to: • Hiking along a sandy ancient seabed that’s now hundreds of feet above sea level and seven miles inland at Graham Hill • Exploring Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center’s interactive displays of an underwater canyon that’s wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon • Watching talented surfers at Steamer Lane, a famous break • Seeing monarch butterflies congregate at Natural Bridges State Beach in the winter • Smelling the flowers as you stroll through UC Santa Cruz Arboretum and Botanic Garden’s outdoor tree museum • Attending a concert in the shadows of giant redwoods at UCSC • Soaking up Pogonip Vista Point’s views of mountains, three types of forest, the ocean and a roller coaster • Taking in architecture from 1791 through to Victorian times • Puzzling over the depiction of the Santa Cruz Sea Monster By the end of this one-hour tour, you’ll have a taste of what Santa Cruz County can offer, along with some fantastic photos and memories! You might also leave with a full tummy and some terrific stories to share as you’ll hear stories unique to Santa Cruz. I mention in the tour that you should come back here to explore a 3D model of a pocket watch that melted in the gunpowder mill explosion of 1898. Here’s the link to see it: Please don’t look at it while operating a vehicle!

Whale and wildlife watching Private and Semi-Private tours

9. Whale and wildlife watching Private and Semi-Private tours

Experience an ocean adventure and Get up close and personal with some of California's marine life on this whale-watching tour departing from Santa Cruz. We limit the tour to just 6 people to be able offer intimate encounters with wildlife emphasizing unique animal experiences, featuring humpback whales., gray whales, blue whales, killer whales, great white sharks, up to six species of dolphin and more. We have one simple goal in mind — to create a life-changing experience for you. Groups are small (one to six people), we travel quietly, and the focus is on the wildlife. There is plenty of free time for us to explore. Start your tour in Santa Cruz, from here we enter the Monterey Bay and see Sea lions, sea otter and whales, Learn more from your certified naturalist / Captain and spot whales including humpback whales, gray whales, killer whales, blue whales, sharks, and other sea life such as mola mola, sea turtles, and jellyfish. The tour departs from the Santa Cruz North harbor Dock J

Monterey: 24-Hour or 48-hour Motorcycle Rental

10. Monterey: 24-Hour or 48-hour Motorcycle Rental

Rent a motorcycle to explore California’s Big Sur in an unforgettable way. Begin your adventure in the Monterey area after your motorcycle delivery to your local hotel.  Head out on your adventure to explore Cali’s diverse landscapes, whether you choose 24-hour or 48-hour hire. Ride a 2019 Kawasaki Ninja 400abs, selected for its ease of operation by novices and more experienced riders alike. Appreciate the Pacific Coast as you hit the road, or head inland to explore the canyons and mountainous terrain. Enjoy the freedom to choose what you see. Even meet fellow motorcyclists on the way.

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What people are saying about Santa Cruz, California

Overall rating

(43 reviews)

My private tour to Carmel, Monterey and Big Sur was truly memorable. I'm not sure I can put into words how glorious Big Sur is. If you can, take this tour. You will be so glad that you did. In addition to the magnificent natural beauty of Big Sur and the Pacific Ocean, my excellent guide Fred took me to see Carmel, Monterey, and many points along the way including the Capitola Overlook, a Frank Lloyd Wright residence, the Mission Carmel, Pebble Beach, Pacific Grove, and more. Fred, my guide, was just fantastic. He was knowledgeable, friendly, flexible, and very warm. He will accommodate any special requests he can. You can't ask for a better guide. I look forward to returning to the San Francisco area and taking another tour with Dingo Tours. I am more than satisfied. Thank you, Fred and Dingo Tours!

Excellent value for money & a beautiful full day exploring & visiting Monterey & Carmel. Danilo the driver/guide was superb, friendly, knowledgeable & attended to the passengers nerds & requests. One couple complained re not stopping at scenic places but this total rubbish as they were just being awkward. Danilo stopped at fantastic places & really went out of his way to e sure everyone had a great day! Thank you kindly Danilo.

Danilo was an awesome guide and so happy and cheerful from 7.40 am when he picked us up until 8 pm when he dropped us off - I don’t know how he does it, but I need to know his secret lol. Weather was perfect and highway 1 was a gorgeous drive. Would definitely recommend!

It was an excellent private tour with the best guide Marciano Bravo. Thank you so much! We loved it, spectacular views, good talk, all very interesting and beautiful. 🙏🏻 Thank you

Our kids remembered a number of historical and other facts the guide explained