There’s something magical about the seaside city of Santa Cruz, California, and it’s no wonder why visitors flock here year after year. With its famous surf breaks, redwood-studded state parks, and miles of sandy beaches, Santa Cruz is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts year-round. If you’re looking for outdoor adventure, you’ll find it in spades in Santa Cruz!
But if you’re just in the mood for a relaxing getaway or a weekend away with friends, Santa Cruz won’t disappoint, either. You can easily spend your entire trip riding roller coasters at the historic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, sampling locally sourced seafood dishes on the Santa Cruz Wharf, and going shopping, wining, and dining along Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz.
From embarking on scenic hikes along oceanside bluffs to having bonfires on the beach with friends, you’ll find plenty of fun things to do in Santa Cruz. Plus, this city is brimming with oceanfront bars and buzzing breweries, where you can enjoy a sunset tipple at the end of a fun-filled day!
With so many fun things to see and do, you’ll want a nice hotel room to relax in before another action-packed day on the town. Luckily, Santa Cruz is overflowing with oceanfront resorts, beach-chic boutique hotels, and charming inns. So many, in fact, that you might have a hard time choosing the perfect one. So we’ve created a list of the 12 best hotels in Santa Cruz to help you plan your perfect getaway!
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Where to Stay in Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz may be a relatively small beach town, but there are tons of different areas to stay in, depending on what kind of trip you’re looking for!
It’s no surprise that some of the best hotels in Santa Cruz are clustered around Cowell and Santa Cruz beaches. This is where you’ll find the bustling Santa Cruz Wharf and the historic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
If you want to stay in this part of town, you’ll find some of the city’s most popular and budget-friendly hotels along Beach Street. But for a bit more luxury, head up to West Cliff Drive, and you’ll find some seriously cool hotels and inns!
Another popular place to stay is near Pacific Avenue, which is Santa Cruz’s downtown. Base yourself in this area, and you’ll have endless shops, restaurants, and bars to choose from. Plus, the University of California, Santa Cruz campus is an easy 10-minute drive from here.
For budget-friendly hotels, you’ll find a wide range of options dotted along Ocean Street, which is conveniently located near both downtown and the beach. Or, if you prefer to be removed from the hustle and bustle of downtown, you can always opt to stay among the redwoods in nearby cities like Scotts Valley, Soquel, or Aptos.
Located just east of downtown, Seabright is a super chilled-out neighborhood where you’ll find rustic hotels and the beautiful Seabright Beach. But whether you stay in Seabright or on West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz is a small town, so you’ll never be too far from the action!
The 12 Best Boutique Hotels in Santa Cruz
If you’re looking for cool boutique hotels in Santa Cruz, it doesn’t get much better than Hotel Paradox. From the rustic-chic rooms to all sorts of standout amenities, you’ll have everything you need for a fun and relaxing stay!
When you’re not adventuring around Santa Cruz, you can spend your time splashing around the outdoor pool, gathering around the fire pit on the massive deck, lounging around in a poolside cabana, or working up a sweat with the gym’s cardio equipment and free weights.
Once you work up an appetite, you’ll love dining alfresco at the hotel’s farm-to-table Solaire Restaurant + Bar. The menu boasts “nature/nurture-themed” dishes, local, sustainable cuisine, and a long list of creative cocktails.
Whenever you’re ready to retire to your room, you’ll appreciate the plush beds and the stylish reclaimed wood accents. Plus, you can catch up on work at the ergonomic workstation, have a movie night with the large flat-screen TV, and freshen up with the complimentary Acca Kappa toiletries in the ensuite.
With so many boutique touches, this is easily one of the best hotels in Santa Cruz!
Speaking of cool Santa Cruz hotels, Dream Inn Santa Cruz is yet another boutique gem. And with its prestigious location overlooking Cowell Beach on West Cliff Drive, this place is tough to beat. You’ll even be able to walk to all of the seafood restaurants on the Santa Cruz Wharf and the rides at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk!
One of the best parts of staying at Dream Inn Santa Cruz is that each of the 165 guest rooms offers an ocean view. But even when you’re not taking in the views from your private balcony or patio, you’ll love your room’s stylish mid-century decor, Keurig coffeemaker, and iPod dock.
Explore the hotel, and you’ll also find a large beachfront pool, a deck with sun loungers, and a hot tub where you can take a soak at the end of a long day. If you’re feeling peckish, dine poolside while lounging on a cabana bed, or relax in your room and get food delivered to you!
For special meals, the hotel’s Jack O’Neill Restaurant and Lounge is situated right on Cowell Beach. This is the perfect place to enjoy locally sourced seafood dishes while relishing beautiful ocean views.
As the name implies, West Cliff Inn enjoys a prime spot on West Cliff Drive, offering easy access to Cowell Beach and Neary Lagoon Park. This place is a great pick if you’d prefer an intimate B&B-style experience with all the luxurious perks of a boutique hotel!
Set in a beautiful, fully-renovated 1877 home, West Cliff Inn offers 10 contemporary guest rooms. While each room and suite is different, they all feature plush pillow-top beds, large flat-screen TVs, and complimentary high-speed internet.
Many also boast fireplaces and elegant marble baths with jetted tubs. Plus, select rooms have private outdoor hot tubs and sitting areas with ocean views.
One of the perks of staying in a B&B versus a mainstream hotel is all of the thoughtful freebies. You’ll love filling up on the delicious breakfast spread each morning, which includes a daily chef’s choice signature entree. If that’s not enough, there are complimentary freshly-baked cookies each afternoon, wine and cheese socials each evening, as well as bicycles and beach gear to borrow whenever you want!
There are plenty of reasons why Beach Street Inn and Suites is considered to be one of the best hotels in Santa Cruz. First, it’s set right on Beach Street, just across the street from Santa Cruz Beach and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. And second, this whole place has been given a retro-chic makeover, complete with all of the forward-thinking amenities of a hip boutique hotel!
You’ll absolutely love all of the freebies that come with staying here, including the complimentary caffeinated drinks at the Espresso Bar from 6 am to 11 am, free use of the Guest Laundry Facility, and the free Wi-Fi and Google Chromecast Streaming services. There’s also a heated outdoor pool as well as a huge communal terrace where you can watch the sunset each evening.
Whether you’re flying solo or traveling with the family, there are a ton of different room types to choose from. All revamped rooms feature hardwood floors, 43-inch smart TVs, and oversized custom bathrooms that you’ll absolutely love.
If you need more space, the Beach House Suite can sleep up to six and offers 675 square feet of space and a separate bedroom and living area. Or, if it’s an ocean view you’re after, the Ocean View Sundeck Suite is perched on the third floor and boasts a large semi-private deck where you can chill on the lounge chairs or at the outdoor table.
If it’s not obvious by now, you’ll find some of the coolest Santa Cruz hotels on West Cliff Drive – and Sea & Sand Inn is no exception. From ocean views from every room to all of the free amenities, it’s pretty much impossible not to be charmed by this Santa Cruz gem!
In the mornings, enjoy the complimentary continental breakfast of scones, bagels, yogurt, and more. Plus, you can snack on the freshly baked cookies each afternoon before mixing and mingling with fellow guests at the evening wine and cheese hour. After that, head out to the communal waterfront deck to watch the sunset.
Once you’re ready to retire to your room, you’ll appreciate the ultra-comfy bed, the cozy electric fireplace, and the 40-inch flat-screen TV. If you’re willing to upgrade, the Luxury King Spa rooms offer two-person jetted tubs in the room, as well as a private balcony with an ocean view.
Or, if you really want to go big, the Cottage Suite is spectacular and boasts a private outdoor hot tub overlooking Monterey Bay!
Once a spectacular mansion, Casablanca Inn on The Beach is now one of the most popular boutique hotels in Santa Cruz. Not only can you choose from a wide range of room types, but this place is located right across the street from Santa Cruz Beach and the bustling Santa Cruz Wharf, so the location really can’t be beat!
You can choose from 33 guest rooms. Opt for the Classic King, and you’ll get ocean views from your shared or private balcony, as well as free perks like high-speed internet, in-room coffee makers, and organic bath products.
If you’d like more space to spread out, the Captain’s Suite offers a beautiful bedroom, a cozy kitchen where you can prepare your own meals, and a private outdoor deck with loungers overlooking the beach!
And if you don’t feel like going far for food, Casablanca Inn is home to the excellent Thai restaurant Sawasdee by the Sea, where you can dine on spicy curries and fresh seafood dishes overlooking the beach.
If you’re searching for boutique hotels in Santa Cruz, Pacific Blue Inn is one of the coolest in town! Located right on Pacific Avenue, you’ll be situated between Santa Cruz’s bustling downtown and the Boardwalk. So everything is either within walking distance or a short drive away!
In true Santa Cruz fashion, this place is all about green living, so expect eco-friendly touches throughout the rooms and property. The thoughtfully appointed rooms all boast bamboo flooring, eco-friendly electric fireplaces, and 37-inch flat-screen HDTVs with DVD players. Plus, there’s a complimentary DVD and board game library, perfect for movie and game nights!
Or, if you prefer to relax outdoors, the courtyard features a fire pit, which you can gather around while mingling over a glass of local wine or beer. While there is no on-site restaurant, you can enjoy the complimentary continental breakfast in the mornings as well as homemade baked goods each afternoon!
Chaminade Resort & Spa is a really cool Santa Cruz hotel if you’re looking for a pampering and luxurious getaway. You’ll find this incredible property tucked away in the mountains near the DeLaveaga Golf Course, just off Highway 1. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is just four miles away, but you honestly won’t want to tear yourself away from this dreamy hotel!
This mission-style retreat is set on 300 mountaintop acres and boasts some of the most incredible rooms and suites in the city. You’ll love the retro-inspired rooms, which are all outfitted with plush beds, 55-inch flat-screen TVs, and granite bathrooms with microfiber bathrobes and BeeKind Gilchrist & Soames toiletries. There are also family-friendly and pet-friendly room options, depending on who you’re traveling with.
When you’re not relaxing in your room, take a dip in the heated outdoor pool and hot tub, go hiking on the property’s three miles of trails, get massages in the spa, or join one of the group fitness classes.
Chaminade Resort & Spa also features The View, an alfresco farm-to-table restaurant that’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Whether you want to enjoy Sunday brunch or sunset cocktails, the mountain views are spectacular. From live music to aperitivo hours, there are always fun events going on here, too!
Set just off Ocean Street on the east side of town, Hyatt Place Santa Cruz is one of the best hotels in Santa Cruz if you’re looking for a clean and modern place to stay. Plus, these spacious suite-style rooms are perfectly designed to make you feel right at home!
You’ll love resting up on the comfy Hyatt Grand Bed, lounging around on the (sleeper) sofa in the Cozy Corner, and catching up on emails at the ergonomic workstation. Extras like the blackout curtains and the individually-controlled heat and air-conditioning ensure that you’ll have a comfortable night’s sleep.
In the mornings, work up a sweat in the fully outfitted gym or swim laps in the outdoor pool before filling up at the complimentary breakfast buffet.
If you prefer to dine at the hotel for lunch or dinner, The Placery has got you covered with delicious burgers, salads, and sandwiches. There’s also a 24/7 market on-site where you can purchase Starbucks coffee drinks and grab-and-go items.
Located off Highway 17, The Inn at Pasatiempo is one of the best places to stay in Santa Cruz if you want to be away from the hustle and bustle of downtown.
This place is surrounded by beautiful Eucalyptus trees and adjacent to the Pasatiempo golf course, so it’s a great location for peace and tranquility. Plus, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is an easy 10-minute drive away – so you won’t be far from the action!
One of the coolest things about The Inn at Pasatiempo is that the guest rooms were recently given a full makeover by local artist Michelle Prough. Expect boutique touches and rustic-chic vibes with contemporary custom furniture and wood-beamed vaulted ceilings.
Even the standard rooms are outfitted with a 50-inch flat-screen TV with complimentary HBO, Holcombe & Moore toiletries, and a handy coffee maker, mini-fridge, and microwave. The spectacular suites are well worth the upgrade if you’d like more space or are in town for a special occasion.
Explore the hotel, and you’ll find a heated, year-round outdoor swimming pool and the on-site Back Nine Grill & Bar, where you can enjoy happy hour specials every day from 3-6 pm!
You’ll find Hampton Inn Santa Cruz just off of Highway 1 and Highway 17, making it the perfect choice if you’re planning to arrive in town super late and are looking for a convenient place to stay. Plus, this hotel has every amenity you could possibly need for a comfortable stay.
You’ll love all of the thoughtful freebies, including a hot breakfast in the mornings, parking, and Wi-Fi. Plus, there’s an indoor pool where you can swim laps or just splash around!
The rooms are clean and comfortable and boast signature Hampton Beds with crisp white linens, 37-inch flat-screen TVs, and a plush easy chair where you can curl up with a good book or a cup of coffee brewed with the in-room coffee maker.
While there is no on-site restaurant, all the eateries on Pacific Avenue are a 5-minute drive away. Or, if you’re just looking for convenience, the famous Santa Cruz Diner and Marianne’s Ice Cream are just down the road!
Hilton Santa Cruz Scotts Valley is easily one of the most unique hotels in Santa Cruz. This chateaux-style hotel is surrounded by towering redwood trees. And while you’ll feel like you’re worlds away, all of the shops and restaurants on Pacific Avenue are just 10 minutes away.
When you’re not out exploring Santa Cruz, you can take a dip in the beautiful outdoor pool, while away the hours in a private poolside cabana, or fit in your daily workout in the state-of-the-art gym. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head over to the Stonehouse Bar & Grill for creative California fare, as well as an excellent selection of local wines and craft beers.
You’ll have plenty of room types to choose from, too. But if you want to take full advantage of the hotel’s setting, it’s well worth snagging one of the Forest View Rooms on a high floor for the best redwood views.
If you suffer from allergies, the Pure Wellness Rooms are also a cool option and feature hypoallergenic bedding and pillows, as well as high-tech air filters. You can also order healthy meals directly to your room with the Hilton Eat Right Menu!
That completes our list of the 12 best hotels in Santa Cruz! Did we miss any cool boutique hotels in Santa Cruz? Comment below so we can add them to the list!
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