Aptos is located on the “sunny side” of the Monterey Bay in Santa Cruz County, which is one of the smallest counties in California, but has the widest variety of beautiful scenery. Aptos has mountains covered by redwood forests, some of the world’s most fertile farmland, long sandy beaches, and ocean cliffs. They are also a gateway to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. It is the variety of beautiful scenery which makes Aptos and the Central Coast such an exciting vacation destination with something for everyone. Whether you visit one of their award winning wineries, hike in the forest, ride a roller coaster or a steam train, walk on the beach, or do it all, you will want to visit Aptos CA! For a list of all the great beaches in the central California area, << Click Here >>. Visit Aptos CA today, and read on for our travel planning guide for your Aptos vacation.
Weather (When to Go)
The best time to visit Santa Cruz is from September through November when the summer tourists have returned home, leaving a bit more room on the beaches, walking paths and other attractions. December, January and February see a slight dip in temperatures, which are still warm enough for the monarch butterflies who overwinter at Natural Bridges State Beach. September and October are stacked with special events and festivals, which are characterized by almost perfect weather. Average high temperatures dip from the mid-70s to the mid-60s this time of year. What’s more, hotel prices take a dive from their summertime highs. December – February Monarch butterflies flutter into the county during the winter to take advantage of Santa Cruz’s mild temperatures: Average lows huddle in the 40s and average highs reach the 60s. Travelers might want to follow the butterflies to Santa Cruz to take advantage of the affordable winter room rates. However, wintertime travelers should pack an umbrella since this time of year is also the rainiest. Spring (March – May) usually comes early in Santa Cruz, with average highs reaching the mid-60s in March and edging into the 70s in April and May. Hotel rates will also start creeping up toward their summertime peaks. Summertime (June – August) is high season in Santa Cruz. The sun is shining, the beaches are packed and outdoor concerts and beach parties clutter the calendar. Hotel rates are at their highest, too. Average temperatures in June, July and August hover in the mid-70s, though Santa Cruz can experience much warmer days.
Aptos Area Attractions
Visitors to this tranquil place will find over 30 miles of trails for hiking, jogging, and biking, which vary from gently winding sea-level trails to the steep inclines of the mountain slopes. The park is named for Nisene Marks, whose family donated almost 10,000 acres of land in her name to the state of California on the condition that it never be developed. This promise, upheld by the government, is evident in the untouched beauty of the area, where the redwoods and other trees heal from deforestation of decades past, and the red dirt and green ferns on the ground make for beautiful scenery.
Seacliff State Beach is a great destination for swimming, picnicking, and fishing. There is a long fishing pier which extends from the beach out into the ocean which gets quite popular at certain times of the day. The long, sandy stretch of beach along the coast provides unparalleled views of the water and is backed by bluffs which protect from some of the wind. There is also a massive concrete freighter ship called the SS Palo Alto, which was built at the end of World War I and is closed to the public, though it still makes for an iconic and impressive sight.
Rio Del Mar State Beach is very popular with families. The beach is dog friendly, contains many fire pits and picnic areas, and has restrooms available near the parking lot. Rio Del Mar State Beach is very close to the Seacliffe Promenade Trail, which provides a scenic walk through the beaches in the area, and the beach is also a great place to spot wildlife, as everything from otters to sea lions can often be seen there, as well as the gray whales which are often spotted in the bay during their migratory seasons.
Manresa State Beach is a beautiful sandy area that is known for being very well kept. There is a fee for parking at Manresa Beach, which is open daily from 8am to sunset, and visitors to the beach will find gorgeous views of the ocean, the Santa Cruz Mountains, and the Monterey Peninsula as they soak up the sunshine, build sandcastles, and splash in the water. Manresa State Beach is popular for a variety of reasons, but foremost among them are its status as a destination for surfing, surf fishing, and for watching breathtaking sunsets each evening.
The SS Palo Alto Concrete Ship is located at Seacliff State Beach, where the long fishing pier leads to the impressive and historic tanker. After its short career as a naval ship in the 1920s, the SS Palo Alto was docked in Aptos, where it became an amusement ship, complete with a swimming pool, cafe, and a dance floor. But during the Great Depression, it was reduced to a hulking shape in the Aptos waters, and was used as an extension of the fishing pier.
Things to Do in Aptos
They accept students of all ages and skill levels and guarantee a quality, safe, and fun learning experience. This surf school was created because of their passion for surfing and developed because of their desire to share it with the world. They believe that surfing is not just a sport, but is actually therapy for life. They ardently advocate that the only thing better than a great day of surfing is helping fuel someone else’s passion or improve skill sets that work in the ocean and carry over to day-to-day life. Their instructors are professionals who tailor each lesson to the students, so no matter your ability, you are encouraged and supported in the most personalized way possible. For more information call 831-428-3647, or visit them on the web at Surf School Santa Cruz.
This historical landmark business is still leading the way in ocean fun on the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. There is something for everyone: Whale Watching, Scenic Bay Cruises, Fishing Trips and Private Parties for any occasion. Whichever your choice, today’s fourth generation Stagnaro Charter Boats will surely make your trip fun and memorable. For more information call 831-427-0230, or visit them on the web at Stagnaro Sport Fishing Charters & Whale Watching Cruises.
Santa Cruz Bike Tours makes riding fun and easy. From the Monterey Bay coastline to the redwoods, they take you to unique and beautiful places you may not have otherwise discovered. They supply bikes, helmets, water, snacks, binoculars and full support for your ride. For more information call 831-722-2453, or visit them on the web at Santa Cruz Bike Tour.
Experience an exciting sailing adventure aboard the luxurious 65′ Team O’Neill catamaran on the Monterey Bay! Sailing activities include afternoon cruises, sunset sails, local wine and beer tastings, seasonal firework cruises, live music sails and wildlife tours, each offering an exceptionally smooth and thrilling experience. Sailing enthusiasts and newbies alike will enjoy sailing along the Santa Cruz coastline, whether it’s a family day out on a public sail or special occasion aboard a private charter. For more information call 831-818-3645, or visit them on the web at O’Neill Yacht Tours.
Do you want to have some fun while visiting Santa Cruz? Get an introduction to paddle boarding Santa Cruz at Capitola Beach. Paddle by sea otters and dolphins while enjoying the amazing views of the Monterey Bay. Rent a paddle board, take a Capitola paddle boarding lesson or tour with them Or learn to surf at Capitola Beach! If you are new to the sport, you don’t want to surf just any Santa Cruz beach. Capitola is the best beginner surf spot in town. Come take a lesson form a one of their instructors; both lifetime Capitola Beach locals.. For more information call 831-462-5222, or visit them on the web at Capitola Beach Company.
Best Aptos Restaurants
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$$ – $$$ Cafe Sparrow
Located in the historic turn of the century Aptos post office and general store, this quaint two room restaurant with its open kitchen, combines traditional french stocks and sauces with a California flair. The weathered wood floors, printed and lace tablecloths, and fresh flowers create a comfortable environment for relaxing and dining. Why not dine where the locals choose to eat when they want the best food in a casually elegant atmosphere. For more information call 831-688-6238, or visit them on the web at Cafe Sparrow.
$$ – $$$ Aptos St. BBQ
Aptos St. BBQ is family-owned and operated right in Aptos, CA. They have amazing food and a huge beer selection. They have 35+ beers/ciders on tap and live blues every night – what could be better! For more information call 831-662-1721, or visit them on the web at Aptos St. BBQ.
$$$$ Persephone Restaurant
Persephone Restaurant is a fine dining establishment focused on bringing the best and freshest ingredients Santa Cruz County has to offer directly to you. They are a Seasonal Kitchen meaning that they change their menu based upon whatever ingredients are locally seasonably available. For more information call 831-612-6511, or visit them on the web at Persephone Restaurant.
$$$ Pino Alto Restaurant
Pino Alto Restaurant is located in the historic Sesnon House on the Cabrillo College campus in Aptos. The student run restaurant is open for dinner Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 5:50 – 8:30. The Terrace, with more casual fare, opens at 5:00. The restaurant is also open for lunch Monday – Thursday. They only accept lunch reservations for groups of 6 or more. For more information call 831-479-6524, or visit them on the web at Pino Alto Restaurant.
$$ – $$$ Bittersweet Bistro
Recognized by locals as one of the top restaurants in Aptos and Santa Cruz County, Bittersweet Bistro offers an American Bistro Cuisine style dinner menu with Mediterranean influences. An outstanding dessert menu and award-winning wine list are served in a casual, relaxed atmosphere in the dining room, heated outdoor patio and new lounge. Dinner service starts at 5 pm. For more information call 831-662-9799, or visit them on the web at Bittersweet Bistro.
Best Aptos Bars
Severino’s Bar & Grill
Severino’s Bar & Grill’s lounge is the perfect environment for having a glass of wine by the heated patio and Koi pond or catching a game on one of our high definition televisions with friends! Enjoy one of their signature cocktails, shaken or stirred from their full bar. Drink specials daily from 3:00pm to 6:00pm Tuesday-Saturday, 3:00pm to 9:00pm Sunday/Monday. Enjoy $5 well drinks, $5 margaritas, $5 house wine, and $5 premium/local draft beers. Best of all is their happy-tizer menu with an array of discounted appetizers! For more information call 831-688-8987, or visit them on the web at Severino’s Bar & Grill.
The Mediterranean Bar has a colorful history. Opened in 1967 by Al Fien for 15 years. It changed hands several times during the next 25. The new owners have made many changes to the bar which includes much upgrading and remodeling. 5 LCD flat screens and the NFL football package have turned The Mediterranean into a popular sports bar. A great place to watch Monday night football and have a beer! There is also a pool table, darts, and an internet jukebox. For more information call 831-688-7004, or visit them on the web at Mediterranean Bar.
Cantine Wine Pub
At Cantine, they offer an extensive selection of wine and beer sourced from right around the corner, throughout the west and across the pond. They use wine that is nuanced and balanced – wines that express the grapes from which they are made and the terroir where they are grown; beer crafted using hand selected ingredients, specifically picked for distinct flavor characteristics in mind and brewed to be flavorful, quality beer. Drop by. Eat, drink, savor – enjoy good conversation and linger over a great varietal. Sit at a table with close friends and family. Share a story, sip a pint, break bread… and stay for a while. For more information call 831-612-6191, or visit them on the web at Cantine Wine Pub.
Recognized by locals as one of the top restaurants in Aptos and Santa Cruz County, Bittersweet Bistro offers an American Bistro Cuisine style dinner menu with Mediterranean influences. An outstanding dessert menu and award-winning wine list are served in a casual, relaxed atmosphere in the dining room, heated outdoor patio and new lounge. For more information call 831-662-9799, or visit them on the web at Bittersweet Bistro.
The Parrish Publick House
Located in lovely Aptos, where they are making new friends and more memories with old friends. Expect great pub fare, delicious cocktails, and a rotating selection of draft beer. For more information call 831-708-2036, or visit them on the web at The Parrish Publick House.
Best Aptos Hotels
You’ll find the comforts of home—plus the services and features of a luxury resort. Each accommodation has a kitchen and gas-burning fireplace with a beach home feeling, which is why Seascape is unlike any other Monterey Bay resort. With 17 miles of Monterey Bay beach to explore, spacious all-suites accommodations, delicious fine dining, and a full range of activities to choose from, Seascape is the premier Santa Cruz luxury resort. Seascape provides everything to make your Santa Cruz lodging experience memorable, including a host of resort options and amenities. It all adds up to being one of the best Monterey Bay resort destinations you’ll experience. That’s why guests return year after year. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Seascape Beach Resort.
The Rio Sands Hotel is nestled in the quiet Rio Del Mar neighborhood of Aptos in the county of Santa Cruz–minutes south of the city of Santa Cruz and just 35 minutes north of Monterey and Carmel. The Rio Sands is located an easy, two-minutes flat walk away from Rio Del Mar and Seacliff State Beaches where you can enjoy 20 miles of walkable sand. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room visit Rio Sands Hotel.
The full-service Best Western Seacliff Inn boasts 148 well-appointed guest rooms and 10 oversized suites. The rooms are situated in six separate, two story buildings (with no elevator access) that surround lush gardens and the pool as the focal point. Rooms feature cable TV and HBO, free Wi-Fi and courteous room service. Hotel amenities include complimentary hot buffet breakfast, heated swimming pool, hot tub, and fitness room and business center. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Best Western Seacliff Inn.
Poised on an ocean cliff, the Monarch Cove Inn looks out onto the breathtaking curve of Monterey Bay. Accommodations are intimately nestled among flower filled gardens and a monarch butterfly habitat. Enjoy a memorable stay on our 2.5 acre estate with uniquely appointed Victorian guestrooms and cottages, which are a thoughtful blend of yesterday and today. You can also stroll along the eucalyptus-lined pathway through the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary that leads to New Brighton State Beach. Breakfast is served to your room daily. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Monarch Cove Inn.
The Inn at Depot Hill offers an intimate location for a sumptuous, relaxing getaway. A working train depot well into the 1950’s, the historic Inn at Depot Hill offers guest rooms decorated in the style of famous travel destinations. From the romance of Paris to the serenity of Kyoto, each guest room boasts feather beds, luxury Italian linens and a crackling fireplace. Join them for a full breakfast in the elegance of their dining room or enjoy breakfast in bed. They encourage guests to see them each afternoon for a wine and cheese reception and each evening for Port, Sherry, and desserts. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Inn at Depot Hill.
Beach Travel Essentials
- Sun Hat, Cap
- Swimwear – Suit, Shorts, Shirts, Cover Up
- Beach Bag or Back Pack to Carry Everything
- Sunglasses For Men, or For Women
- Plastic Zip Travel Bags
- Sunblock & Lip Balm
- Beach Towel/Blanket
- Men’s Jacket & Extra Layers – Women’s Jacket & Extra Layers
- Umbrella/Sun Shade
- Beach Chairs
- Snorkel Gear
- Boards – Surf, Skim, Boogie, SUP
- Wet Suit, Rash Guard
- Beach Toys/Floatables
- First Aid Kit
- Beach Games
- Waterproof Headphones – Waterproof Smart Phone Case