8.2 out of 10

Santa Cruz

Ranked 18th best city in California
36.9865093591016 -122.030398654494
Great for
  • Parks & Recreation
  • Gym & Fitness
  • Public Transport
  • Childcare
  • Medical Facilities
Not great for
  • Cost of Living
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
Who lives here?
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Beach Lovers
  • Students
  • Families with kids

Reviews

5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 5/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 5/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 5/5
  • Nightlife 5/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 1/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 5/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 5/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 5/5
2yrs+

"Where the redwoods meet the sea"

I live in the Santa Cruz Mountains but my daughter goes to school in Santa Cruz City, so I am there every day during the week. Yes, its gritty and there are areas we know to just stay away from, but we love this city. The art culture is thriving, there is a relaxed atmosphere because we live in the place where people go to vacation, and the food choices are delightful! There is always some fun and free community event going on. In ten to twenty minutes you can go from the beach to the redwoods. There are miles of hiking trails. There are shops and boutiques, bars, coffee shops, art galleries, museums, disc golf courses, historical places, an amazing University. There are people riding bikes everywhere, tons of public transportation, easy routes for walking and public art all over the city that is appreciated all the more when you take the time to see it up close. Santa Cruz is warmer than other spots along the bay area because it is on the south-facing slope of the bay and boasts several microclimates where you can grow many kinds of fruits and warm climate plants that can't be grown just a few miles north. Sure, its hard to get to on winding Hwy 17, but it also makes it stay small and cozy, relatively speaking. It has something for everyone. We love Santa Cruz!
Pros
  • Great Art Scene
  • Free Community Events
  • Hiking Trails Everywhere
  • Fun downtown scene
  • Great beaches
  • Great College Scene
Cons
  • Hard to get to from the Bay
  • Some sketchy areas at night
  • Underlying drug culture
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Tourists
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Hipsters
  • Students
  • Country Lovers
  • Trendy & Stylish
  • Beach Lovers
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 2/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 1/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 5/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 4/5
2yrs+

"Where Dead Heads Go to Surf"

Santa Cruz is the last true vibrant hippy area in the Bay Area. It’s been kept alive by a steady infusion of younger kids who come to Santa Cruz to live the post-modern hippy dream of communal living and the psychedelic culture. It is the kind of place where you are likely to hear “Truckin’” at least three or four times a day without fail.

It really is a unique place. I know it mainly for the UC campus that is located there. It was one of the campuses where I applied both when I had just finished my undergraduate work and when I had finished my masters. I was rejected both times (probably for the best—I’m not completely sure I would have been a good fit), but I still like the idea of the campus.

The Santa Cruz campus is basically in a seaside, redwood forest. It is the only UC Campus that I know of where the possibility of getting eaten by a mountain lion on the way to your nighttime physics lecture is a real concern. The campus is huge and sprawling and between many of the buildings you have these wooden walkways that remind me of summer camp as a kid. I think that part of the requirement for graduating from here is that you be able to figure out how to schedule your classes so that it is actually physically possible to get to them, because I can imagine that if I had two classes on the opposite side of campus, I might not be able to get to them.

The other weird thing about this campus is that the student dorms are mixed in with the classrooms, which would also be a little weird. You step out of your dorm room to go take a shower and there is a graduate student going over section work staring at you.

That said, it’s a lovely campus.

I don’t know the city of Santa Cruz that well beyond the campus, but it seems quite attractive as a place to live as well. Many parst of it, I understand, are pretty straight forward middle class suburban living, though I can’t imagine that sitting next to the sea as it does it could be too much like this.

I am given to understand however that there is a bit of a gang problem near the Watsonville border with Santa Cruz, though I have never seen any sign of it. And statistics show that Santa Cruz’s crime rate is actually above the national average—with rapes being unusually and disturbingly high. This may be a combination of gangs on one end and the drug use that is common in near the campus. I don’t know. I have not felt unsafe on my visits but it is definitely something to consider.

Also, if you are a surfer. This is definitely the place in Nor Cal to be. Great waves!
Pros
  • Great College Scene
  • Fun downtown scene
  • Great beaches
Cons
  • Hard to get to from the Bay
  • Some sketchy areas at night
  • Underlying drug culture
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Tourists
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Hipsters
  • Students
  • Country Lovers
  • Trendy & Stylish
  • Beach Lovers
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 5/5
  • Nightlife 5/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
2yrs+

"Desirable and Reasonable..."

On the surface, this town doesn't look like the ideal place for someone to settle down in. Ocean Avenue is peppered with gas stations, motels, and auto body shops, and the downtown area has its fair share of drug users. The drive from San Francisco takes several hours and takes you through both congested suburbs and windy back roads, and the homes are as modest as they come for a beach town in Northern California. And the bipolar weather can be frigid and foggy in the morning and blisteringly hot in the afternoon when the fog burns off.

Yet somehow, I always find myself wistfully thinking "I want to live here" whenever I visit. Something about the crisp ocean air, the omnipresent surfer culture, and the fun late-night scene smack dab in the middle of lovely Northern California tempts me to stick around every time I visit. Cost of living is expensive by real-world standards but reasonable compared to nearby towns, given that it IS a college town. Head to El Palomar for happy hour $3 burritos, or enjoy one of the many craft beers at Seabright Brewery (dogs welcome!) Tap into the massive tap selection at Burger, or check out the legendary surf museum and learn about how the idyllic sport, admired and envied by many around the world, was invented and developed.

For those who prefer the mountains to the beach lifestyle, there is no shortage of redwood-lined hiking trails or mountain biking. Nearby state parks prevail and allow for overnight adventures and rock climbing, and if surfing is not your cup of tea, paddleboarding and sea kayaking are popular, viable options as well.

On the down side, there is a strong subculture of a drug-filled lifestyle, and apparently several gangs do exist. I would recommend living closer to the foothills if you are raising a family, although the lively downtown area is certainly appealing for the younger crowd.

I want to give a fair assessment for those whose priorities differ, but I unabashedly love this town! It definitely feeds the California beach addiction while still allowing you to live the laid-back NorCal lifestyle.
Pros
  • Great beaches
  • Fun downtown scene
  • Reasonable prices
Cons
  • Hard to get to from the Bay
  • Underlying drug culture
  • Some sketchy areas at night
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Tourists
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Hipsters
  • Students
  • Country Lovers
  • Trendy & Stylish
  • Beach Lovers

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