Visit Aptos CA

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

Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

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

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

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

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.

S.S. Palo Alto Concrete Ship

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

Surf School Santa Cruz

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.

Stagnaro Sport Fishing Charters & Whale Watching Cruises

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 Tour

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.

O’Neill Yacht Tours

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.

Capitola Beach Company

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

$-Inexpensive $$-Moderate $$$-Pricey $$$$-Ultra High End

$$ – $$$  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.

Mediterranean Bar

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.

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.  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

Seascape Beach Resort

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.

Rio Sands Hotel

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.

Best Western Seacliff Inn

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.

Monarch Cove 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.

Inn at Depot Hill

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


  1. Dira

    This place is lovely. The nature and history make it a very interesting place to visit. What got my attention is reading about the donation of land to the government of California with the condition to preserve it. As a nature lover, I love this and wished more would contribute to preserving nature. California is on my list to visit. Thanks a lot for sharing about Aptos in such detail.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Glad you enjoyed Dira! Yes, a lot of people think that California should just break off and go away. It’s beautiful and they are really doing things to preserve nature. Probably more than some states, that is for sure. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Nate

    Apots, CA sounds like the spot! I love how you included all the tourist attractions and spots. The S.S. Palo Alto Concrete Ship looks really cool, I love exploring history, thanks for showing me

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are so welcome Nate, and thank you for stopping by to visit Aptos CA. I hope you enjoyed your visit!


    Wow, very informative article.
    Looks very beautiful.
    Will love to visit one day.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You will have to Pearl! Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Jacob Highley

    Wow, great information here! I like the Rio Sands hotel. It looks really nice and the ratings look pretty good too. I had no idea that there was so much to see and do in Aptos! I haven’t visiting the area before, but I’ve been thinking of traveling around the area recently. I’m glad I came across your article. Thanks!

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Great Jacob! I am glad you enjoyed my visit Aptos CA post! You will enjoy the area and the Rio Sands Hotel is nice! Thanks for visiting.

  5. Wayne Biggs

    I have never considered Santa Cruz area up to this point. But after reading your article and seeing the many activities, we would like to visit. This is a very thorough and informative article!

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you Wayne! The whole Santa Cruz area is beautiful with so many things to see and do. You will have a wonderful time. Thanks you for reading my visit Aptos CA post.

  6. Teresa

    Hi Leahrae,

    Awesome post! I came across photos of Santa Cruz on Instagram and it’s listed on my bucket list. This is a good article for me to refer back to when I do go. Also, gives me an idea of WHEN to go and what to do. Saves me the hassle of looking deep into things to do!

    Thank you so for this awesome post, I have just bookmarked it! =)


    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Great Teresa. If you need any other information, please feel free to shoot me a message. I would be glad to help. I am sure you will have a great time when you visit Aptos CA!

  7. Juan

    I found this post very useful and interesting because I and my family are always thinking about new places to go and visit in the holidays and vacations and I have never heard about Aptos but after reading this I feel that I would love to go there and visit.
    I will keep this in mind for my next trip, thanks for the article and all the useful information about Aptos, I will certainly find this information very handy when going there.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Great Juan, I am glad you enjoyed and found the information useful for an upcoming vacation. You will love the area for sure. If you need any additional information, please let me know.

  8. roy

    I have been looking for information on Central California. Now I have everything I need to start planning. Beautiful site, interesting, and very well organized. Thanks!

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are very welcome Roy! Thanks for visiting beach travel destinations.

  9. Daniel

    I am currently in Europe and this post has just given me a desire to visit Santa Cruz someday. Visiting Cali is something I have been planning as I do love this state for real. This is not the first time I have stumbled onto your site and I’ll be checking out more often to be updated. If you do have an email list, you can have me as your subscriber, I would love to receive your latest article first hand.


    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      California is really a beautiful state, and I know you would love to visit the Santa Cruz area. I will definitely subscribe you to my newsletter, so hopefully you can visit Aptos CA soon!

  10. Justin

    I had not heard of this locations Aptos in California but it looks a nice place to visit. I have wanted to visit California, and wow it is a big state making it hard to decide where I want to go. Looks like Santa Cruz might just be where I need to vacation to in California. Thank you for the great and information post!

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are welcome Justin. Aptos and the whole Santa Cruz County is really a great vacation destination with so much to see and do. I think you will love the entire area. Thanks for stopping by to read my post, visit Aptos CA. Please come back again when you are ready to plan 🙂

  11. rsln

    Great article, with this information it’s easy for people to know about best Aptos CA restaurants, what kind of activities are available, the best place to stay, etc.
    I’m looking forward to visiting Santa Cruz, especially Aptos! It’s a wonderful place, especially the forest, Seacliff and the beach, it’s so beautiful. I have been a vacation to the area, and your website has so much information I can use. Thanks for all the info.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I hope you can make it to Santa Cruz county soon. You will love the area, and you will not be bored, that is for sure. Thanks for visiting beach travel destinations.

  12. Nate Stone

    Hi Leahrae! It looks like Aptos has some absolutely stunning beaches!

    It would be quite a distance for me to travel, could you recommend anywhere in Santa Cruz county to visit at the same time, so I can make a couple of weeks of holiday worthwhile?



    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Aptos really does have some beautiful beaches! Boy, anywhere in the area is great and I am just finishing up a few posts for the area. I will forward the links to you. I hope you will visit Aptos CA soon and if you have any additional questions, please let me know!

  13. Stan

    This article is fantastic, I’ve been planning on going back to Santa Cruz for quite sometime. The last time I went I was just driving up the coast and went to Manresa Beach. I didn’t explore anywhere outside of that. Based on your article I made a grave mistake. I’ll probably go sometime this spring when I return from Thailand. Thank you for all the info, your site is amazing.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I’m glad you enjoyed my visit Aptos CA post! Santa Cruz is really a great area in California. And yes, you must go back and explore. Just driving thru is doing this area a great dis service. Thanks for stopping by!

  14. stefanie taylor

    Hi Leahrae, being on a beach in California is always a far of dream to a Brit. In fact we have ads on the TV over here promoting California depicting bronzed perfect bodies and surfers and it all looks so inviting ha ha.
    I’ve always wanted to walk in a forest full of Redwood tress, so it’s great that Aptos offers that! It really looks like such a cool place to visit; I love the look of that old wrecked ship, something that I love doing is poking around old abandoned places. Can you actually get on that wreckage?

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, you can get on that wreckage….right now it is closed for renovation. Not sure how long that will take. But yes, California is full of bronzed perfect bodies and surfers 🙂 I hope you can visit Aptos CA one day soon. it is a beautiful area!

  15. Daniella

    Awesome article!

    I am planning a trip next summer to Santa Cruz and I didn’t know where to go and what activities were available there. You have given me all the information I needed to plan my holidays and I thank you for it! Great job!
    The list of gear is very useful, I’ll take a look. I don’t think I can travel with a beach chair, but I really need snorkeling equipment and swimwear:)

    Just a question, please. Do people from Europe need a Visa to enter Santa Cruz?

    Thank you for this excellent post!

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Glad you enjoyed Daniella! You will love the Santa Cruz area. You do not need a Visa to visit this area, nor any Visa for the U.S., so you are good to go. Thanks for reading my visit Aptos CA post.


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