Last Updated on March 30, 2024 by Katrina

Photo credit: Dream Inn

Tucked between the Bay Area and the Central Coast, the town of Santa Cruz encapsulates what a lot of people love about California. It has serious beach and surf culture, as well as an old-school boardwalk and amusement park. Also, Santa Cruz has redwood forests and wineries within easy reach. The beach hotels in Santa Cruz tend not to be big sprawling resorts, but they’re big on charm. Here are five great places to stay near the sand in the Santa Cruz area.

Dream Inn (175 W. Cliff Dr.; 831-740-8069) Santa Cruz

“A short stroll from the boardwalk and wharf, this full-service luxury hotel is the only lodging in Santa Cruz directly on the beach,” says Fodors, which also writes that the hotel’s rooms “all have private balconies or patios overlooking Monterey Bay.” The hotel, originally built in the 60s, now exudes a retro surfer ambience. “As soon as we walked into our room, my family was excited,” says a Tripadvisor user. “Not only was the decor of the room fun, but the view of the ocean/beach was incredible.”   >> Book this hotel for less

Casablanca Inn (101 Main St.; 831-423-1570) Santa Cruz

This 33-room, Mediterranean-style beachfront hotel offers a free breakfast plus a Thai restaurant on site. One Yelp user likes that you just have to cross the street to get to “the beach wharf and the Boardwalk. We had a king size bed with a scenic beach view.” A Google reviewer gives the hotel props for being dog-friendly. “The friendly staff offered top-shelf dog treats to my travel buddy when we checked in. And the hotel is pretty quiet considering it’s so close to the beach.”   >> Book this hotel for less

Sea & Sand Inn (201 W. Cliff Dr.; 831-427-3400) Santa Cruz

Walk about 10 minutes from this laidback 22-room hotel to either the Santa Cruz Wharf or the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Some rooms have Jacuzzi tubs and fireplaces, too. “Very reasonable rate compared to others like it that don’t even have beach views,” says a Google reviewer. “Small, but I appreciated the touch of a taffy treat bag in the room.” A Tripadvisor reviewer loves the little perks: “The service was good, we loved the cookies in the afternoon for the kids and the wine and cheese for the adults.”   >> Book this hotel for less

Capitola Venetian Hotel (1500 Wharf Rd; 831-476-6471) Capitola

The quaint town of Capitola sits just outside Santa Cruz, and this 1920s hotel ups the charm factor with its Mission-stye suites that come with kitchens. “This place is pure magic,” says a Google reviewer. “You are in heaven right on the best beach near the best town and food options everywhere…if you’re here for ocean ambience, you’ll love it. “ Meanwhile, one Yelper says, “If you keep your windows open at night, you can hear the waves crash all night, which was so peaceful.”   >> Book this hotel for less

Seascape Beach Resort (1 Seascape Resort Dr.; 831-688-6800) Aptos

Spread out at this all-suites Santa Cruz County resort set on 45 acres of coastal bluffs, about 10 miles outside the town of Santa Cruz. A Tripadvisor user calls the hotel, which also has three pools, “a gem situated on the cliffs above Monterey Bay. Quiet. Our unit had a gas fireplace, a newly refreshed kitchen and bathroom and a bed I could spend days in.” While the hotel sits above the beach, a Google reviewer says, “the walk to the beach is quick, and beautiful. You can find sand dollars at the beach.”   >> Book this hotel for less