And, for the most part, free to explore as you wish
Things to Do in the Monterey Bay Area
Succinctly describing the Monterey Bay Area is very difficult due to the incredible diversity of what you can see and experience. Want to explore the outdoors? There’s mountain biking, beach walking, whale watching, redwood hiking, bird watching, and wildlife kayaking. The ocean in front of the house is part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the largest in the country.
Interested in the arts? There’s Santa Cruz Shakespeare, a half dozen movie theaters, festivals celebrating all sorts of cuisines and cultures, and the Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz. In the fall, you can visit local artists in their studios during Open Studios Art Tour. Love Academia? There’s several excellent four-year universities, plus a couple of leading community colleges.
While we’re plugging local businesses, Santa Cruz County turns out to be a Mecca of natural food stores and organic farms. Our favorite farm, and there are many to choose from, is the Everett Family Farm, located on Soquel-San Jose Road, about 12 minutes from the Hawley Beach House. Rich and Laura and their team have a road stand with seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables, and some of the best soft and hard apple cider anywhere.
Considered one of the great aquariums in the world, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is located on historic Cannery Row in Monterey. You can spend all day roaming the exhibits, or stop by for 90 minutes. Ideal if you want to integrate a visit with a trip down to Big Sur; it’s all possible in a busy but wonderful day.
Big Basin keeps you in a constant state of awe, with the incredibly tall coastal redwood trees, damp forest floors with its special biodiversity, and the vistas of Santa Cruz County. Located about 40 minutes from the Hawley Beach Cabin, it’s an ideal place for a day hike.
One of the last seaside amusement parks on the West Coast, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is just over 110 years old, and it’s be delighting visitors the entire time. Historic wooden roller coaster and hand-carved horses on the carousel. Stroll for free, or buy a wristband for a day of thrills on the rides.
No introduction should be necessary if you’ve ever read a travel guide to California. One of the most spectacular highways in the country, nestled along soaring coastal mountains and incredibly clear ocean waters. Numerous state parks are found along the way for overnight camping, picnics, and a quick snapshot. Drive at least as far as Nepenthe, one of the most dramatic restaurants and bars anywhere.
Famous for the SS Palo Alto, or “The Cement Ship”, this state beach is close to the northern end of the Monterey Bay beaches. There’s a wharf that you can walk out on to gaze at what was once a WW1 tanker, which never saw service. Walk there in 30 minutes from the cabin, or drive to the parking lot at the top of the cliff and walk down.
This 2.5 mile pedestrian and bike pathway winds along the coast, providing intimate views of surf spots, secret beaches, and Monterey Bay wildlife. For several months of the year, you can see whales during their migration north and south, and there are always sea otters wrapped in the giant brown kelp.
For dog owners, there’s It’s Beach, located immediately west of the Santa Cruz Lighthouse.