Santa Cruz, California, is first and foremost a beach town. But not just any old beach town. It’s a tie-dyed, technicolor kaleidoscope of cool, home to the boundless, counterculture spirit of the West Coast that transcends the region, from the redwood-studded mountains to the sea. The community is a collective state of sunshine, surf, street art, and sustainability. When you visit Santa Cruz, and the nearby charming towns, including Capitola, Soquel, and Aptos, you’re stepping into a living portrait of California’s avant-garde edge.
Dreams come to life here, largely due to the residents — a motley crew of surfers, scholars, artists, and dreamers who are also DOERS. Their open-minded ethos, underpinned by a deep respect for nature and community, forms the lifeline of this city. Think the historic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and legendary Steamer Lane surf break intermingling with independent bookstores, Santa Cruz Mountain vineyards and wine tasting rooms, and organic farmer’s markets. UC Santa Cruz, where innovation is a way of life, heavily influences the spirit and mindset of the region.
California’s surfing culture was born here, and Jack O’Neill, the inventor of the modern-day wetsuit, made his home here — and established his international headquarters here. Innovation and entrepreneurship continue to thrive in Santa Cruz. Silicon Valley is just a 30-minute drive “over the hill” via Highway 17, and many of its tech stars have chosen to live in Santa Cruz, closer to the beach and hiking trails, and have launched cutting-edge companies nearby. –Cheryl Crabtree