With plenty of sun, sand and surf, Santa Cruz is the quintessential coastal California town. It’s actually the place where surfing was first introduced to the mainland back in 1880, which explains why Santa Cruz exudes such a laid-back charm. While surfers flock here to ride the city’s famous waves every year, Santa Cruz is far more than just a destination for those seeking the perfect wave.
Whether you’re looking to enjoy a family holiday at the beach, go on a hike through a stunning redwood forest or ride a rollercoaster at the seaside boardwalk, Santa Cruz has something for everyone. And its mild climate makes it the perfect destination to visit any time of year.
Santa Cruz is an ultra-popular vacation destination for nature lovers, surf enthusiasts and beachgoers. Whether you’re planning a family vacation, a romantic getaway or a long-awaited reunion, there’s no doubt that you will find a unique Airbnb in Santa Cruz that is perfect for you. From luxurious beachside estates to funky treehouses to relaxing mountain retreats, the options are endless.
Finding the perfect vacation home might seem overwhelming, so we have picked out 12 of the best Airbnbs in Santa Cruz to make your decision just a little bit easier!
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Top 10 Things To Do in Santa Cruz
- Ride the Giant Dipper, indulge in sinful snacks, and play carnival games at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
- Dip your toes in the sand at Natural Bridges, the city’s most picturesque beach.
- Take a scenic hike through the area’s towering redwoods at Henry Cowell State Park.
- Eat and drink the day away at Abbott Square Market – a collection of hip bars and restaurants featuring everything from local craft brews to Cajun-Creole cuisine and innovative vegetarian fare.
- Visit Pacific Avenue, home to the city’s best shopping, dining, and entertainment options.
- Walk along the Santa Cruz Wharf – the longest on the West Coast – and stop off at the many restaurants and shops along the way.
- Take a 3-mile stroll along West Cliff Drive where you’ll enjoy sweeping views of Monterey Bay. Make sure to stop off at Lighthouse Point and peruse the Surfing Museum.
- Watch surfers catch some seriously epic waves at Santa Cruz’s most popular surf spot, Steamer Lane.
- Defy gravity at the iconic and quirky Mystery Spot.
- Learn all about Santa Cruz’s incredible marine life at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center.
Why Stay in an Airbnb in Santa Cruz
Staying in an Airbnb in Santa Cruz comes with lots of perks. First off, you’ll have the chance to experience a cute local neighborhood instead of staying in a more touristy spot. Santa Cruz locals are known for their friendly demeanor, which means you are likely going to get lots of travel and dining tips from your Airbnb host.
The selection of unique Airbnbs in Santa Cruz is extensive. You can opt for a luxurious treehouse with ocean views, a secluded bungalow surrounded by nature and farm animals or a cute cottage right across from the beach.
By choosing to stay in an Airbnb, you are likely to get more bang for your buck. Most Santa Cruz vacation homes are much nicer and more spacious than your average hotel room. And you’ll likely have a kitchen to prepare home-cooked meals, which saves on dining costs.
If you are traveling as a large group, Airbnbs will likely cost less per person than shelling out money for multiple hotel rooms. This is especially true in the summer months when tourism is at its height.
The 12 Best Airbnbs in Santa Cruz
Best Santa Cruz Airbnbs for Couples and Solo Travelers
The Pinecone Treehouse is by far the most unique Airbnb in Santa Cruz. This artistic geodesic treehouse dangles 35 feet above the ground on one side and 60 feet on the other. It truly feels as if you’re floating in the middle of the forest. This special experience makes for the perfect romantic getaway for couples or solo travelers who just want to be at one with nature.
The treehouse is accessible via a ladder (complete with a safety harness) that leads to a trap door. Inside, you’ll find a comfy bed with plenty of cozy blankets in case it gets chilly at night. The translucent floor, walls, and ceiling offer 360-degree views of the surrounding redwood trees and the forest below.
The private open-air bathroom is also a work of art – in its very own treehouse on the ground level it features a rain shower (with hot water) so you can bathe in the sunlight.
You might feel like you’re worlds away from civilization, but the treehouse is just a scenic 15-minute drive to downtown Santa Cruz. A stay at this incredible Airbnb is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – we highly recommend adding it to your California bucket list!
This vibrant Tuscan-style apartment is situated in one of Santa Cruz’s loveliest neighborhoods and just minutes from the beach. You’ll have access to the second story of this adorable, vine-covered cottage via a completely private entrance. Every inch of this apartment just bursts with color, making it one of the more unique Airbnbs in Santa Cruz! This cozy 1-bedroom apartment is the picture-perfect option for couples or solo travelers, but the sofa also folds out for a third guest if you need it.
There is a yoga loft upstairs where you can relax or get some work done and a small balcony in the back of the apartment overlooking a variety of fruit trees. The hosts will even offer you fresh lemons, apples, avocados and plums depending on the season!
If you’re looking to be right in the heart of the city, this Airbnb is for you. You can easily walk to Seabright Beach, a range of restaurants and cafes and the boardwalk. If you’re interested in renting bicycles – a popular way to explore Santa Cruz – the owners will make arrangements with advanced notice.
Have you ever wanted to vacation in an actual work of art? Well, this is your chance! This Insta-Worthy Sculptured House is a bit removed from downtown Santa Cruz (roughly 20 minutes), but it’s worth being a little outside of the action for an opportunity to stay in this architectural gem. Plus, it’s just a short stroll to a private beach.
This Airbnb was originally designed as an art studio and features curved walls and rounded ceilings made with smooth white plaster. The first level has an open living area, huge windows with garden views, a small fireplace, and French doors that open up to the expansive garden. The décor is contemporary, yet minimal and the recently remodeled kitchen is a thing of beauty. It features top-of-the-line appliances and everything you need to cook at home.
The loft bedroom is located up a funky glass spiral staircase. Take advantage of the deep, round windows – it’s actually possible to crawl into them and curl up with a good book. The bedroom also opens up to a large balcony complete with ocean views. The stunning bathroom is creatively designed with a floating vanity and a beautiful soaking tub. This is an Airbnb you’ll never forget!
There’s a reason the Mushroom Dome Cabin is the most requested Airbnb in the world. This place is absolutely magical!
The adorable geodesic dome provides forest views thanks to its partially glass ceiling. The owners have outfitted it with all the creature comforts you could ask for. In the loft area, you’ll find an ultra-comfy queen-sized Casper Mattress and plenty of blankets. There is also a foldout bed in case you’re traveling in a group of three, making this cabin a great option for couples and small families.
The dome also features amenities such as a mini-fridge, a hot air popcorn popper (with kernels), dishes, and an electric kettle. If you’d like to prepare your own meals simply let the owners know and they’ll help you out. The tiny cabin has a sizable deck complete with a barbeque and outdoor seating.
The owners have 10 acres of property that you are free to explore. There are ample hiking opportunities and friendly goats roaming around. The cabin is located 20 minutes from downtown Santa Cruz so it’s the perfect spot to escape while still being close enough to enjoy all the city has to offer.
Best Santa Cruz Airbnbs for Small Groups and Families
If you’re looking for a beautiful beach house in the heart of Santa Cruz, this one’s for you! This spacious 3-bedroom Airbnb is located a 3-minute walk from the beach and just one block away from the famous West Cliff Drive. You can even glimpse Monterey Bay from most rooms.
Its central location means that most major attractions – from beaches to shops to restaurants – are just a few minutes away. This 2,260-square-foot home is large enough to sleep eight people so it’s a great option for families or a group of friends who want to stay in a dreamy vacation home.
The entire house features modern furniture and thoughtful décor. The large windows let in lots of light while the wood ceiling and wood-burning stove add to its homey vibe. All of the bedrooms are large and have plush bedding. The master bedroom has its own living area and an amazing ocean view. And the open-plan kitchen is equipped with stainless steel appliances and has a kitchen bar that’s perfect for socializing.
This cute Santa Cruz Airbnb has ample outdoor space as well. Upstairs you’ll find a large deck and the backyard has a massive patio with a barbeque, comfy couches, and a hot tub!
If you’re looking for a truly memorable Airbnb experience, then this luxurious treehouse is for you. This architectural gem of a house is located just 5 miles from downtown Santa Cruz. Sunset Magazine calls this vacation rental a “chic escape,” so it’s well worth the short drive.
This 3-bedroom home is perched on the hillside and offers unbeatable views. The use of mid-century furniture, natural wood and stone materials add to the Zen-like environment. The modern kitchen has a long kitchen bar and opens up to the spacious living room, making it perfect for socializing. The floor-to-ceiling windows allow you to enjoy the lush view, or simply head out to the deck to look out over the forest below.
Every detail is well thought through, including heated floors throughout the house, Japanese-style doors in every bedroom, colorful rugs and pillows and a flatscreen with Netflix.
The beach and hiking trails are just a few minutes away. Or if you’d rather stay in, cook a nice meal, and watch the sunset from the balcony you can do that too. Whether you’re looking to have a romantic getaway or just want to pamper yourself, this Santa Cruz vacation rental will not disappoint.
There are plenty of unique Airbnbs in Santa Cruz but nothing is more memorable than spending the night in a funky and historic windmill!
This property consists of two separate homes and each is decorated completely differently. But you can expect bright and bold colors like tangerine countertops, yellow couches and blue showers in both. The homes are also outfitted with quirky appliances and décor – like a converted 1950s orange vintage refrigerator and a bright yellow tea kettle. Each tower home has three sleeping areas, one on every story, and the third floor of both homes is dedicated to kids. Each features a special play area and bunk beds, making the homes a very popular choice for families with young children.
The property also has a yard, a putting green, and a hot tub. However, these areas are shared between the two units. It is common for families, companies or groups of friends to rent both units so they can create a unique and memorable experience with loved ones.
The windmill is located right next to a picturesque creek and is a short drive to all major attractions.
If you’re headed to Santa Cruz to soak up the city’s surf and beach culture, this Airbnb is definitely for you! This colorful beach bungalow is owned by surf legend Richard “Frosty” Hesson. Gerard Butler actually portrayed Hesson, who is one of the many surf legends known in Santa Cruz, in the film Chasing Mavericks!
If you’re a surfer or a family looking to be near the beach, this location can’t be beat. You’re just a short walk to Pleasure Point – one of the area’s most famous breaks – and tons of restaurants and cafes. This is a great Airbnb for those looking for a mellow vacation, as the neighborhood is super quiet and family-friendly.
The charming bungalow is chock full of character, colorful decor, and quirky art pieces. The main house has two bedrooms, including the master bedroom. And the third bedroom is located in a funky shack in the back of the house.
The space features a patio and hot tub, perfect for chilling out after a day at the beach. You can also borrow the family’s beach cruiser bikes and kayaks if you want to do some exploring!
Best Santa Cruz Airbnbs for Large Groups and Events
Nestled deep in the mountains you’ll find another one of the coolest Airbnbs in Santa Cruz. This modern mountain retreat absolutely oozes luxury. The spacious decks offer unreal views of the Santa Cruz Mountains. You can either soak up the sun on the lounge chairs, stargaze in the sunken hot tub, or enjoy a glass of wine on the plush patio furniture. There’s also an outdoor fireplace and barbeque for your convenience.
The main home is absolutely stunning and features four bedrooms, including two incredible master bedrooms. The lovely casita in back can fit up to three people, meaning this property can accommodate up to 10 guests.
The Italian kitchen is fully outfitted for all your cooking needs. And the living area is equipped with a 60-inch Samsung TV with HBO and Netflix and has a huge white Italian leather sofa. Expect stylish décor throughout the home from walnut live edge dining tables to chic rugs and elegant freestanding tubs.
This vacation rental is located 12 miles from downtown Santa Cruz, making it the perfect place for a relaxing retreat or an unforgettable girl’s weekend.
This luxury beach house is the perfect place to host a big reunion with family and friends. Located right across from the beach, the wharf, and tons of restaurants, this stunning vacation home is ideally situated right in the heart of town.
This massive Santa Cruz Airbnb has a whopping nine bedrooms – with multiple master bedrooms – and fits up to 20 guests! Stunning views, travertine flooring, granite counters, soaking tubs, rain showers, and an in-home elevator just add to this lavish beach vacation experience.
Plus this vacation rental has everything you need to entertain. There are multiple fully equipped indoor and outdoor kitchens with Viking appliances, three outdoor grilling areas including a barbeque island, a spacious patio overlooking Monterey Bay, and a fire pit. There’s no shortage of areas to socialize.
Call up your family and friends because this is one of the best Airbnbs in Santa Cruz for a much-needed reunion!
Live it up on your next family vacation at this Mediterranean-inspired villa. Everything about this place is over the top – in the best of ways. Some of the standout features of this 5,700-square-foot property are its huge infinity pool, hot tub, home movie theater, pool table, and unbeatable views of the mountains and Monterey Bay. Both kids and adults will absolutely love staying at this incredible vacation rental!
The villa has five bedrooms and can fit 10 people comfortably, making it perfect for large groups. Each room is painted a different color and features simple yet refined decorative elements to match the color scheme. And all of the rooms are both cozy and luxurious.
The use of reclaimed pine floors, French provincial stone, and arched doorways adds to the home’s rustic European vibe. While the customized lighting system adds to the dreamy ambiance. The kitchen looks as if it was ripped right out of a magazine and includes all top-of-the-line appliances and cookware, making it the perfect spot to whip up a delicious family meal.
Located in Soquel, an easy 5-mile drive from downtown Santa Cruz, this villa has everything you need to enjoy a memorable family vacation.
If you truly want to live like royalty during your beach vacation, then this grandiose mansion on the Northern California coast is for you. With its baroque architectural style, you’ll feel like you’re being transported to an ornate villa in Italy! From the outside, the grand estate stands out with its circular driveway, grand columns, and arched entryway.
Upon entering this Santa Cruz Airbnb, you’ll be wowed by an imperial staircase followed by the grand living room which offers immaculate views of the Monterey Bay. With its sparkling chandeliers, grand pianos, and fancy 4-poster beds, this place is as posh as it gets. It would be a great option for an intimate wedding or special celebration.
The villa has seven luxurious bedrooms and fits up to 16 guests. For those looking to have a little bit of fun, there’s a recreation room complete with a pool table, dartboard, bar, TV, board games, and more. Or you can take a 10-minute walk to the private beach, which is shared with only one other home!
The villa is situated in Watsonville, roughly 20 minutes from Santa Cruz. But something tells us you won’t ever want to leave!
That’s it – 12 of the best Airbnbs in Santa Cruz! Do you have a favorite vacation rental in Santa Cruz? Let us know in the comments below.
* All vacation rental photos courtesy of Airbnb.
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