Travel like a local.


Boardwalk Theme Park, Beach Concerts & Movie Scenes in Santa Cruz, California

Best things to do in Santa Cruz Jenny Navin Boardwalk Carousel sunset 1516804745-huge

The boardwalk carousel at sunset

I’m really excited to interview Jenny Navin about Santa Cruz. Jenny’s tips for the best things to do in Santa Cruz are awesome because she has lived in the city since she was a young girl. She loves the culture of the city and the smell of the ocean after it rains.

Due to coronavirus travel restrictions, we respectfully request that you check local guidelines before planning your trip to Santa Cruz. #UntilWeCruzAgain

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Best things to do in Santa Cruz California Jenny Navin aerial view of the city shutterstock_1271156014

Aerial view of Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz is located on the Central Coast of California. It is about 70 miles south of San Francisco and 30 miles southwest of San Jose. The city offers a mild climate with summer temperatures in the mid-70s and winter temperatures in the mid-50s. The summer fog and ocean breezes will keep temperatures cool during your visit. Jenny says that the best times to visit are spring and fall.

Beyond splashing in the water and laying on the beach, there are many other outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy. You can charter a boat for sailing, whale watching, or fishing. Or you can explore the tide pools and watch the marine life in this unique habitat. Santa Cruz also offers numerous museums, art galleries, and performing arts centers. There are numerous festivals throughout the year, including Santa Cruz Shakespeare in The Grove and the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music.

The city has been a popular location for TV and films. Popular movies filmed in Santa Cruz include The Lost Boys (one of my favorites growing up), Us, Chasing Mavericks, and the cult classic Killer Klowns from Outer Space. And the Santa Cruz Diner was featured on an episode of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.

We share a lot of resources and local suggestions in today’s podcast, but you should also check out Visit Santa Cruz, the local convention and visitor’s bureau. They are a wealth of information and can help you plan an itinerary based on your time, budget, and interests. Due to coronavirus travel restrictions, please contact Visit Santa Cruz when planning your visit to ensure that it is safe to travel and that local stores, beaches, and the boardwalk are open to visitors.

If you’d like to learn how to travel for free using airline miles and hotel points, check out my free 7-day email course.

Best things to do in Santa Cruz California Jenny Navin Sea Lions resting beneath the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf shutterstock_1246366072

Sea Lions resting beneath the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf

Getting around Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz does not have a local airport so most people fly into San Jose International Airport (SJC), which is approximately 30 miles away. The drive to Santa Cruz is about 45-60 minutes and is very scenic. You can also take the Highway 17 Express bus from San Jose to Santa Cruz for $7 per person.

Jenny says that, once you’re in Santa Cruz, Uber and Lyft are excellent ways to get around. If you need to rent a car, click here for the best offers from Avis, Budget, or Hertz.

If you only need a car for a couple of hours, you can rent by the hour with Zipcar. Join now to get $25 loaded into your account.

Santa Cruz California Jenny Navin Natural Bridges State Beach shutterstock_101070745

Natural Bridges State Beach

Places we talked about on the podcast

Here is a map of all of the places we talked about on the podcast episode with Jenny Navin about Santa Cruz, California. You can zoom into the map and click on each dot to explore the city.

  • Red dots = best places to eat in Santa Cruz, California
  • Green dots = best things to do in Santa Cruz, California
  • Yellow dots = best places to stay in Santa Cruz, California

Who is Jenny Navin?

Jenny Navin is a resident that works in a hotel in Santa Cruz. In her spare time, Jenny enjoys dressing up and performing in cosplay. Cosplay is considered performance art where participants wear costumes and fashion accessories to represent a specific character. You’ll find cosplayers at popular conventions, such as Wondercon, Comic-Con, and FanimeCon.

Best things to do in Santa Cruz California Jenny Navin selfie

You can connect with Jenny on Facebook and Instagram.

Big thanks to today’s podcast partner – Acorns

This episode is brought to you, in part, by Acorns. With Acorns, you can invest spare change automatically on every purchase that you make. Plus, you can earn Found Money by shopping at participating retailers. This is a great way to easily build up your travel fund.

For a limited time, when you sign up at, we’ll both earn $5.

Santa Cruz California Jenny Navin Hula's alcohol bowl

Hula’s alcohol bowl

Stay tuned for our next episode

Best things to do in Syracuse New York Deb Pollack Alto Cinco for happy hourListen to the next episode when Deb Pollack of Adventures in Travel Hacking shares the best things to do in Syracuse, New York. In this episode, we talk about the city’s annual Bacon & Bourbon Fest, the New York State Fair, and the smallest ski slope in the U.S. We hope you’ll join us when We Travel There.

What’s your favorite part of Santa Cruz? Send us a Tweet, let us know in the comment section below, or continue the discussion in our Facebook group!

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Related episodes

To learn more about California cities, listen to these other episodes: