Santa Cruz is home to a popular seaside amusement park. Set between a long stretch of sandy beaches and the Santa Cruz Mountains, it's a good base for all kinds of activities. If you're going there for a couple of days, you'll find ideas and for things to do in the Santa Cruz Weekend Getaway Planner.
Tips for Choosing a Place to Camp in the Santa Cruz Area
In this area, you can find a campground near the beach, near town or in the nearby mountains.
When you're picking a place to stay, beware of commercial properties with the word "Santa Cruz" in their name. If you think that means it will be in or very near town and don't check the map, you could end up frustrated when you discover they're actually as much as a 30-minute drive away.
The Santa Cruz area is rich with state parks. As you would expect, their campsites are very popular. For any location below that has "state" in its name, you'll need to make reservations as far ahead as you can. It's a tricky process, but never fear. You can find out how to do it in the California State Park Reservation Guide.
Santa Cruz Beach Camping
If you think "Beach Camping" means stepping out the RV door onto the sand or pitching your tent on the beach, you'll be disappointed. Most of the coastal state parks have camping areas, but none are directly on it.
Manresa State Beach Campground: Walk-in tent sites and very close to the beach.
New Brighton State Beach Campground: More than 100 sites for RVs and trailers, some hookups and a nice, shady area.
Seacliff State Beach Campground: A beautiful Santa Cruz camping spot along a stretch of beach and backed by bluffs. Self-contained RVs and camping trailers only - and very close to the beach.
- Sunset State Beach Campground: Sites for tents, travel trailers and RVs, but no hookups. Near the beach but protected by sand dunes.
Other Santa Cruz Area Camping
You'll find one campground in the town of Santa Cruz and others outside of town. The distance to each one is listed below.
Costanoa: This place calls itself an "eco-adventure resort." It has a lodge, but also some upscale tent cabins and a KOA Kampground with RV and tent sites. It's about 25 miles north of town on CA Hwy 1. Read reviews before you go.
KOA Santa Cruz/Monterey: The nearest KOA to Santa Cruz is actually in Watsonville, 11 miles south. It's a good location if you plan to visit both Santa Cruz and Monterey.
Santa Cruz Harbor RV Park: Its location in town is convenient, about a mile from the beach. It can accommodate fully self-contained vehicles only, up to 42 feet long.
- Santa Cruz Ranch RV Resort: This campground is in Scotts Valley, about a 15-minute drive from the beach. Both RV and tent sites are available. It has a swimming pool, shower and laundry, WiFi and welcomes well-behaved pets.
Camping in the Mountains Near Santa Cruz
Check the distances and roads before choosing one of these places to stay. Some are quite far from town and/or reached via a winding road that might not be appropriate for a big RV or towing a trailer.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park; Big Basin is a pretty park and has almost 150 sites for all kinds of camping, including some tent cabins. It's nearly an hour's drive from town, reached by a winding road.
Castle Rock State Park: Located in the mountains and closer to Los Gatos and Saratoga than to Santa Cruz, Castle Rock has backpacking sites that are about a 2.5-mile hike from the parking lot.
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park: This campground is a few miles out of town near Felton (about 15 minutes from Santa Cruz) and is one of the prettiest ones in the area, with more than 100 sites.
- Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort: Located near Henry Cowell Redwoods in and the town of Felton about 15 minutes' f, this resort has tent and RV sites, hookups and free WiFi.