West Cliff, Santa Cruz
While in Santa Cruz, make sure to take a drive or walk along West Cliff. It's a road that runs along a cliff overlooking the bay. Whenever I was feeling stressed or overwhelmed because of my classes, I would take a drive here and would always feel better. Watch out for pedestrians crossing the street, though. A stop at Natural Bridges State Beach is a perfect way to end a drive here. In my mind, there is nothing better than standing and smelling the ocean while you hear the waves crashing on the beach and feel the breeze. If you like seeing expensive homes, there are many multi-million dollar homes along this road that are worth taking a look at.
A popular activity for tourists and locals alike is to walk or ride a bike along West Cliff Drive. The entire way from the Boardwalk to Natural Bridges has a paved oceanside walkway, so walkers don't have to worry about getting run over by cars. This walkway takes you past the surfers statue, Steamers Lane surfers point, the lighthouse and several swimming coves. There is one nudist beach at the cove near Almar Ave, but don't be a jerk and peek down the cliffs. Where the walkway ends at Natural Bridges State Park there are facilities such as picnic tables and restrooms. There's also a grove where migratory butterflies gather, and a visitors center.
Be warned that this popular path can get crowded on summer afternoons. Be careful about people riding bikes while they look at the ocean and don't pay attention to where they are going.
This perhaps is one of the city's (and county's) most scenic strips of road. Starting near the Boardwalk and meandering next to the cliffs bordering the Monterey Bay, the road provides you with an almost cinematic view of the bay, the Monterey coast, and the ocean beyond. This is especially true during sunsets.
In addition to the great sea views, West Cliff Dr. is home to some of the city's most elegant residences, featuring old charming Victorian and Edwardian houses to giant multi-million dollar homes. It's vaguely like Newport, Rhode Island's Mansion Row, albeit on a much, much smaller scale!
West Cliff is also a major pedestrian place. Families, couples, skaters, bicyclists, surfers, bladers, and kids alike are all seen strolling along the sidewalk next to the cliffs. Surfers especially flock to West Cliff due to its closeness to Steamer Lane, the city's most famous surfing spot.
West Cliff is also home to the Santa Cruz Lighthouse, now the city's Surfing Museum, and Natural Bridges State Park.
Walk/Bike/Drive along West Cliff Dr. between Santa Cruz Boardwalk and Natural Bridges Beach. There are wonderful views at every turn, and there's even a surfing museum along the way! There are a couple of places to surf if you're game (not a good place for a beginner, due to the cliffs).
This is a very scenic stretch of road which runs along the Pacific. It's like a mini Big Sur.
You will see Waves crashing against Cliffs, giant rock formations in the middle of the ocean, surfers galore, and beautiful sunsets. It doesnt take too long, maybe an hour with stops to take pics. Well worth the effort.