This perfect example of a beach town located on central California’s coast is known for its endless summer sunshine, its long boardwalk and wharf, its retro roller coaster, wooden pier, surf culture and of course its beautiful sandy beach.
It’s also quite a funky spot with a great collection of vintage clothing stores, cool cafes, fun shops, art galleries and awesome eateries galore. To match its hip vibe there are some also special places to stay, from boutique inns to chic and modern accommodation, here are the best cool and unusual hotels in Santa Cruz, California (in no particular order)...
1. Hotel Paradox, Autograph Collection – a cool, hip and trendy hotel that blends nature and urban design
Santa Cruz has a reputation for natural beauty, and Hotel Paradox has taken that idea, and created a unique and incredible place to stay. As the name suggests, the hotel design looks to create a paradox, juxtaposing the luxury and style of a modern urban boutique hotel with the warmth and rugged beauty of nature itself.
Beautiful rooms, wonderful dining and fabulous service maybe what you expect, but as you enter below the bright neon sign that is the signature of this amazing hotel, it is the natural materials that really grab your attention.
From the walls with wood branches running across them to the amazing reception desk hewn from a giant tree, you are never far away from nature at Paradox.
- To book, check prices or availability for Hotel Paradox, Autograph Collection
2. Dream Inn Santa Cruz – a fun and funky beachfront resort perfect for millennials and Gen Zs
Some hotels define a destination, and the Dream Inn Santa Cruz is one of those. Sitting right on the boardwalk and looking out across the ocean, Dream Inn is a notable local landmark in its own right, and choose one of the 165 rooms on offer, you will see why.
Balconies point out over the swimming pool area to the beach and sea beyond, the perfect backdrop to end your day, and one of the most beautiful views in the world to wake up to. The outdoor pool has fire pits for cooler evenings, all just a few steps from the beach itself and the famous Santa Cruz Pier.
With great dining, including an amazing seafood menu at Jack O’Neil restaurant or poolside, either giving you an ocean view as you enjoy the food, as well as quality amenities, including a fantastic wedding location, Dream Inn gives you the chance to enjoy the best of Santa Cruz right from the beach.
- To book, check prices or availability for Dream Inn Santa Cruz
3. Chaminade Resort & Spa – one of the most Instagrammable resorts in Santa Cruz
Set in stunning countryside within its own 300 acres of wooded hills and lush grass, Chaminade Resort and Spa offers a peaceful, relaxing way to enjoy the fresh air, hiking trails and glorious natural environment that Santa Cruz has to offer.
Despite that, you are never far away from Santa Cruz and the beach if you want to explore, giving you the best of both worlds in this fantastic location.
With 156 rooms located in 11 villas, luxurious living is on the menu, with a sumptuous spa and fitness center for the ultimate in relaxing times, while for dining the resort includes The View, which gives spectacular views over the treetops as you enjoy fabulous service and fresh, local cuisine.
Close enough to the traditional attractions to get the full Santa Cruz experience but set away from the hustle and bustle to make it a truly relaxing getaway, Chaminade Resort and Spa is definitely unique.
- To book, check prices or availability for Chaminade Resort & Spa
4. Rio Vista Inn & Suites Santa Cruz – an upscale inn with modern decor housed in a restored Victorian mansion
With just 12 rooms, Rio Vista offers a luxury experience, fabulous views and a step back in time with a Victorian style that takes you back to the way the region was at the turn of the 20th century.
From its impressive location on Beach Hill, you look out over the famous boardwalk and the beach and sea beyond, picturesque during the day and enthralling as the sun goes down.
It began as a private estate, built in 1890, and was fully restored in 2013, reviving the original features and creating a sympathetic décor that has the look of that Victorian time but incorporates modern luxury, creating a wonderful place to stay.
- To book, check prices or availability for Rio Vista Inn & Suites Santa Cruz
5. West Cliff Inn, A Four Sisters Inn – a unique and beautiful boutique style B&B that is within walking distance from the beach
Sitting on the bluff above Cowell’s Beach and looking across the fabulous Santa Cruz Boardwalk, West Cliff Inn gives you amazing views of Monterey Bay and the glistening ocean beyond.
A fully restored Victorian-era Inn, built at the peak of Santa Cruz’ appeal as it became what we know today, West Cliff Inn keeps that tradition going inside, with classic Victorian-era furniture and simple décor belying the luxurious experience that this hotel delivers.
Outside, the gleaming white walls and wooden balcony rails are as it would have looked when built, a grand building that is home to a grand experience when you stay. Wine and cheese in the afternoon are a delight, and with fresh breakfast cooked on site every day, you are always set to go explore.
The hotel offers bikes to borrow too, so you can explore this wonderful area at your own pace. They even provide a range of towels and toys for the beach, just remember the sunscreen and you’ll have everything you need!
- To book, check prices or availability for West Cliff Inn, A Four Sisters Inn
6. Pacific Blue Inn – a funky eco-friendly bed & breakfast that offers colorful rooms
Sitting in the heart of Santa Cruz on Pacific Avenue, the Pacific Blue Inn is the perfect base for exploring this incredible area.
Within easy walk of the famous boardwalk and beach as well as the best restaurants, stores and sights of the Downtown area, and free bikes provided by the hotel, you can get out and about and see everything Santa Cruz has to offer.
The hotel itself is built around sustainability, with clean lines and simple décor allowing the choice of natural, sustainable materials to shine. A secluded courtyard with its own firepit is a great place to relax in the evening, and you are never far away from great dining options being so close to Downtown.
- To book, check prices or availability for Pacific Blue Inn
7. Casablanca Inn on The Beach – an extraordinary beachfront inn that overlooks Monterey Bay
Sitting right on the beach with the ocean, pier and palm trees creating incredible views, Casablanca Inn on the Beach brings a Mediterranean feel to California.
With 33 rooms offering a choice of ocean or garden views, this hotel is designed to provide classic beach cottage experience, putting you just a few steps from the beach and the famous boardwalk itself.
Another hotel with a rich history, Casablanca Inn on the beach is not just a cool, comfortable place to stay for beach lovers, but with easy access to the best of Santa Cruz itself, including the dining and entertainment of the boardwalk, surfing and more, it’s the essence of Santa Cruz lifestyle to enjoy whenever you want.
- To book, check prices or availability for Casablanca Inn on The Beach
8. Beach Street Inn and Suites – a tropical boutique hotel that provides comfort and relaxation
Beach Street is one of the most famous in Santa Cruz, and from the hotel, you can look out across the pier, ocean and the world-famous boardwalk, day or night it will always be a memorable view. This is a hotel that doesn’t try to be anything else, it gives you the Santa Crux lifestyle like nothing else can.
Cool, laid back and charming, the hotel has been a fixture in the city since the 1940s, and with a remodel in 2011, today stands as a beautiful luxury hotel that gives you everything you imagine Santa Cruz to be, and more.
There is a gourmet café on site, along with a pool, a fire pit for cooler evenings and retail shopping on site. Relaxed luxury with that incredible beach as a backdrop to your stay, Beach Street Inn really has it all.
- To book, check prices or availability for Beach Street Inn and Suites
9. Hyatt Place Santa Cruz – a stylish place to stay conveniently located near Santa Cruz’s Downtown
Sitting on Broadway Avenue, Hyatt Place is close enough to both the beach and boardwalk as well as local museums and the entertainment of downtown to be the ideal place to stay whatever you are looking to enjoy in Santa Cruz.
Thoroughly modern, Hyatt Place has the luxurious appointments of a state-of-the-art hotel, but with those little details to remind you of where you are, such as the fun wall-mounted surfboards.
It’s a great place to spend time, and with catering facilities offering quality snacks and beverages to suit every taste, including a dedicated breakfast bar to start the day off well, makes for the perfect base for exploring Santa Cruz and everything it has to offer.
- To book, check prices or availability for Hyatt Place Santa Cruz
10. Cliff Crest Inn – charming and quirky – a historic one-of-a-kind quirky chic B&B close to great attractions
Stay in an original 1887 Queen Anne Victorian property when you choose the Cliff Crest inn. A trip back in time, this fabulous bed and breakfast has 5 themed rooms, including one specially built for the wife of a California Governor sometime in the 1890s. Each has its own quirky charm, with eclectic décor that reflects the history of the property.
Breakfast at the Cliff Crest In is an event, with a choice of freshly made food using local ingredients, all served in the amazing solarium.
From its location on Cliff Street, the hotel provides stunning views across the bay, while the beach is just a three-minute walk away. If you want to experience Santa Cruz with a different flavor, the Cliff Crest Inn is a fantastic choice that will not disappoint.
- To book, check prices or availability for Cliff Crest Inn
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My first true adventure began as a six month voyage around South East Asia as a fresh faced backpacker and ever since I’ve lived a semi nomadic existence, clocking up visits to over 40 countries. I’m a lover of US Road Trips, deserted beaches bathed in warm glow of a sunset, Cuban mojitos, travel destinations far away from the tourist crowds and all things Scandinavian – from cloudberry liquors to Nordic noirs. When not wandering the world and running Global Grasshopper, you’ll find me walking my rescued Greek street dog in leafy South West London, strolling around the Brighton Lanes on random day trips, hunting for photogenic landscapes or daydreaming about my favourite places; Havana, Copenhagen, Italy, Laos, California and the surreally beautiful landscapes of a wintry Iceland.