The metro is a great way to get around in Santa Cruz. The city has one of the best public transportation systems I have ever seen. The bus has frequent buses on every route, which covers most of the city. The buses are generally clean and has friendly people on them. If you have a student ID you travel free.
Almost everyone in Santa Cruz frequently rides a bike. It's healthy, better for the environment, and a great way to tour SC. It is an extremely bike friendly town, and relatively small. There are bike shops everywhere, so just look one up that's close to where you're staying, rent yourself a cruiser, and cruise the coastline!
(There are also great places to go mountain biking, if that's what you prefer...)
We hiked in Cowell Redwoods' 15-20 miles of trails for about four hours one cloudy afternoon in September 2007. We started at the main visitors center off Rt 9 in Felton. We started at the wide, flat Redwood Grove Loop Trail, a 0.4 mile stretch that is the starting point for most of the other trails in the park. From here we continued on to the nice, flat, redwood lined River Trail just 0.4 mile to a 1.4 mile stretch of the Eagle Creek and Pine Trails, two sandy, deeply rutted horse paths that are wide enough for one person. These led us to an observation deck on a water tower, the park's highest point at 802 feet, which provided views of the beaches along the Monterey Bay. This was about a moderate 400 foot climb from the parking lot, over some 2.2 miles of trails.
From the observation deck we headed west 1/2 mile on the dirt Ridge Fire Road but turned too early on the wide, paved Pipeline Road and headed south, at least 3/4 mile away from our car. Rather than backtracking, we decided to follow the Buckeye Trail to another fire road, but after a .6 mile steep, narrow downhill stretch with lots of switchbacks, we realized the trail has no bridges over the San Lorenzo River, so we again had t backtrack .6 mile back up the 400-some foot tall hill we had just descended...this was easily the toughest part of our entire day. Back on the Pipeline Road, we headed north about 1.5 miles to the Redwood Grove Trail and the last 0.4 mile back to our car.
Our total journey was roughly 6.5 miles over a variety of terrain including packed dirt path, steep narrow dirt path, dirt road, and paved road. We saw just a few animals including a squirrel, two crawfish, and three banana slugs, and we ran across maybe 10 other people.
All-in-all a good day of hiking, that would have been perfect if we had just not made a few wrong turns, if we had not spent so much time in the rutted horse path, and if we had realized the river was uncrossable on foot.
To say there are a few unusual cars here would be a great understatement. I've seen a car with hundreds of kid's tiny toys glued all over the top and hood. There were even a number of little "snow globes" fused to the car - the kind of globes that you shake and the fake snow swirls around a snowman or plastic Santa Claus. Then there are a number of hippie buses cruising the streets. The windows are usually covered from the inside with blankets, and there's a makeshift chimney jutting out of one of the back windows. Just don't be behind one of these iron beasts when it takes off from an intersection; the clouds of dark exhaust they cough out is enough to choke the life out of a family of pigeons. But once they get moving, they're safe, and enjoyable, to observe.
In addition to the wacky cars here, be sure to keep an eye out for the myriad of bumper stickers pasted about. Never will you find a larger percentage of drivers who want everyone else to know their opinions on subjects ranging from Alien Abductions to Zulu Zoology. Maybe it's a form of therapy...
When I stayed in Santa Cruz one summer we used to walk DOWN the big hill but we almost always took the bus UP the big hill. A lot of the locals and/or students would use their bicycles to go down because there is a rack on the bus to put them on to go back up. the bus ran until about midnight, so be prepared to call a cab if you plan on hanging out downtown at night!
Santa Cruz County has a very efficient bus system, the Santa Cruz Metro, which serves the city and all its surrounding communities. In Santa Cruz itself, routes and frequent stops make sure that all the major commerical and residential centres are well served. The Metro is affordable and very efficient to use if you're planning not to use a car when you're in the area.
Check out the Metro's website for detailed times and routes.
Drive by car or motorcycle. Coming from San Francisco or Monterey on Hwy One, or driving from Silicon Valley on Hwy 17 or Hwy 9 are all beautiful drives. If you take Hwy 9, be prepared for a windy but beautiful mountain drive - perfect for motorcycles! It's easy to bike around town. The buses in Santa Cruz are ok, but I prefer to drive if I'm sightseeing.
This is a picture of Hwy. 1 along the coast. If you catch good weather you can see beautiful cliffs and a stunning blue ocean that just seems to go on and on. Not to mention there are some really great cities and towns that you hit along the way.
Santa Cruz sits along highway 1 and is accessible by bus, or car. You can also take a train or plane into San Jose and then take a shuttle or bus over the hill of Hwy.17 to Santa Cruz. However if you do opt for driving you should definetly take Hwy. 1 up or down along the coast. It is really really beautiful and well worth it!
Within Santa Cruz you should walk or take a bike to really see the city. If however you want to explore the areas around the city a bike is great if you are used to going up and down hilly terrain, otherwise a car is your best bet. As a side note: Some buses do frequent the outer coastal cities of Santa Cruz county.