It’s no secret that California Highway 1 (aka the Pacific Coast Highway) is considered one of the most scenic routes in the country. All the better, then, that it leads to Santa Cruz, arguably one of the most scenic sun-and-surf towns in the state. You’ll love it there and so will your dog, given all the fun activities you can do together.
You’ll be tempted on the way there by 29 miles of beaches (15 of them dog-friendly). Only one, Mitchell’s Cove, is legally leash-free, and then only early in the morning and again in the evening. But there are plenty of other strands to explore so long as you keep a tether between you.
Start right in town at Seabright State Beach, located between the famous Beach Boardwalk amusement park and busy Santa Cruz Harbor. You and your leashed friend are allowed on the north side to the harbor, as well as on nearby Manresa State Beach, which has a walk-in, blufftop campground.
Dogs are also allowed on New Brighton State Beach, Twin Lakes State Beach, Davenport Beach and Rio Del Mar State Beach. Lighthouse Field State Beach (locally nicknamed “Its Beach”) is a jewel of a place surrounded by bluffs–and, on warm days, populated by people in the buff. Locals often let their dogs run free here, but there’s a costly citation if you’re caught.
While in the vicinity, don’t miss a must-do stroll with your pup along 2.5-mile West Cliff Drive, where you’ll be entertained and engaged by wildlife, surfers and scenery.