Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is one of my favorite theme parks in Northern California! It’s right on the beach and is a fun mix of activities. From roller coasters to little kid rides to chilling at the beach, there’s a lot to do for adults and for kids. If you live close by and you’re solely doing the Boardwalk, you just need one day. However, if you do not live close by, it’s best to stay the night there and maximize your experience.
Look up directions from your location. The road is a bit windy so drive carefully. You will take either Highway 17 or scenic Highway 1 to Santa Cruz. Once you get into Santa Cruz, follow the street signs to Santa Cruz Beach.
Where to stay:
Aqua Breeze Inn is a 5-10 minute walk to the Boardwalk. It’s located right across from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk… BEST location. It’s super convenient to walk back and forth to change clothes, pick up/drop off belongings, rest, etc. Check the weather because it usually gets pretty hot during the day and gets cold at night so being able to change when it gets dark is optimal. If you have a group of friends, you can get a suite and split the costs. There were 5 of us and we got a suite that had 2 queens and 1 king bed. The hotel room had 2 rooms and 1 bathroom. It had a fridge, microwave, and a television. It was pretty basic, but it was a good price for the location. The walls are super thin though so make sure you bring earplugs. You can park your car at the hotel as well.
If you’re not staying the night, there’s a parking lot directly across from the Boardwalk. It’s $15 for all-day parking. Space is limited so get there early!
If you plan on going on more than 8 rides, then the all-day wristband is totally worth it. If this is your first time, I recommend getting the wristband. There’s so many fun rides to go on and you can go on them as many times as you want. Each ride is about $5-7. Most rides are $5, but the more popular rides are around $7 per ride. The all-day wristband is $39.95 plus tax. The workers put the wristband on you and they put it on pretty tight… so you won’t be able to share the wristband amongst your group. If you do decide to just buy rides, there’s ticket kiosks throughout the park so you can buy more tickets later on if you want. You should also make sure you’re tall enough to ride the rides since each ride has a different height requirement.
If you get there early, you should definitely go on the more popular rides. The Giant Dipper is the most popular ride at the Boardwalk and usually has a long line. It’s so much fun! Go there first. You should also check out: Looff Carousel, Double Shot, Undertow, Pirate Ship, Typhoon, Fireball, Ghost Blasters, Haunted Castle, Space Race. These are other ones that you should check out as well: Logger’s Revenge, Sea Swings, Riptide, and Sky Glider.
When you buy tickets, you get a bunch of coupons. Some of the coupons are awesome! Buy a funnel cake, get 1 funnel cake free. Free corndog with a purchase of any combo meal with a drink. Buy any size kettle corn and receive 1 free, $5 off a beach towel. There’s some great deals so definitely check out and use the coupons to save some money! I highly recommend getting the funnel cake with ice cream… it’s a game changer and you’ll thank me later. Other good food options are: Crepes (sweet and savory ones), pizza (super yummy and reasonably priced), garlic fries (um, yum), and there’s surprisingly some healthy options too. I saw there were wraps (vegetarian and meat) towards the middle of the park.
What else is there to do if I don’t like rides?:
There’s still a lot of options if you don’t like rides. Thankfully the Boardwalk is RIGHT on the beach!! Such beautiful scenery. You can sit at the beach and relax. There’s also Neptune’s Kingdom which has mini golf, pool, air hockey, ping pong, laser tag, food, and more. This cost extra and is not included with your all-day wristband.
There’s amazing events throughout the month that can be worth checking out while you’re there. Take a look on the Boardwalk’s website to see if there are any upcoming events when you’re at the park. Some of my favorite memories as a child was going to concerts on the beach at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. We would see Papa Do Run Run and The Drifters. So much fun. If you’re going to any concert and want good seats, you need to get there early. People line up at 10:00 am. They don’t open the middle area (right in front of the stage) until 4 pm. I highly suggest bringing: blankets, a cooler with drinks and food, an umbrella for shade (or a hat), and some items that you do not care about so you can leave it on the blankets so it doesn’t blow away. Typically the concerts have two show times, one starts at 6:30 pm and the second show starts at 8:30 pm. The performers will play different songs for both shows so if you really like the band, you might and can stay for both shows.
Hope you have so much fun at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk! If you have any questions, comment below!