Seabright Beach, Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz has many beaches, but this is my favorite. It is right in town but doesn't have the crowds or hype of the main beach by the Boardwalk. If you want a busy beach with shops and amusement rides, then go to the main beach. If you just want a place to take in the sun and enjoy the atmosphere, or walk or run along the beach, then this is the place to go. It is plenty long and wide, and even on hot summer days you should be able to find your own space easily.
There is no parking lot, no lifeguards, etc. At the corner of Murray and Seabright there is a good brewpub/restaurant and a coffee shop. At the east end is Walton Lighthouse and the harbor.
Getting here isn't difficult, but you have to know how to do it. You can actually walk here from the main beach when the San Lorenzo River is low. Just wade through the river and venture through the tunnel in the rock cliff that make a point. This can be dangerous in bad weather or when the river is high. You can also walk across the river from the Boardwalk on the railroad bridge, but this is illegal and, of course, dangerous. To drive here from the main beach area, take the bridge across the river and continue to Seabright Avenue. Turn right toward the ocean go left on Atlantic Ave and look for a parking spot.