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With over 600 square miles in Santa Cruz county, there’s a lot of ground to cover in terms of finding the right neighborhood to live in that fits your needs. So we thought we’d help you learn more about the highlights of each micro-community to help you better decide which Santa Cruz neighborhoods might be right for you.

Upper West Side

While the Upper Westside is most known for being home to UCSC, there is so much more to this neighborhood! Adjacent to the university is the Pogonip Open Space Preserve, which has over 11 miles of trails. Equestrians and bicyclists can use some of the trails that are a part of the preserve. Westlake Park is also part of the upper westside and features a pond for fishing, a playground, a large lawn area for playing sports, and picnic tables. Homes in this neighborhood vary in architectural styles, including beautiful Victorian style homes and sprawling apartment complexes that are often used as rentals for the students at UCSC.

Lower West Side

Picture of a man riding a bike, picture of the Santa Cruz Surf Museum, picture of a light house, picture of Swift street courtyard

With famed West Cliff Dr, this neighborhood exudes quintessential California beach town. Consists of primarily detached single-family homes, the lower west side is what many people think of when they picture a Santa Cruz neighborhood in their mind. There are tons of activities to do on the lower west side! A walking and biking trail was recently built. It starts at the North end of the west side and goes into the downtown area. Those that live in this area often frequent the Swift St & Ingalls St Courtyard, where one can find tasting rooms from several wineries, a brewery, and boutiques. Natural Bridges state beach is located at one end of West Cliff Dr and is home to a large grove of Eucalyptus trees included in the Monarch butterfly’s migration path.


A picture of downtown Santa Cruz

Downtown Santa Cruz offers a vibrant scene full of boutiques, restaurants and bars, museums, and art galleries. In addition, the city often has events in the downtown area that include a weekly farmers market (Wednesdays from 1-6 pm), cultural fairs like the greek festival, makers markets, and First Friday. There is a wide variety of different types of architecture in this neighborhood, including several blocks of historical homes. Downtown Santa Cruz offers easy access to highway 17 and highway 1, the two main thoroughfares in and out of Santa Cruz.

The Beach Flats

Picture of Santa Cruz wharf area

This neighborhood is adjacent to the famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and is approximately four acres large. People that live here enjoy easy access to the boardwalk, Main beach, and the wharf. There are a plethora of activities to do in this area, including a bowling alley and arcade. The Santa Cruz Wharf is also a part of this neighborhood and is home to 9 restaurants, shops, and even a bocce ball court! The wharf is also home to several events, including wharf to wharf, a 6-mile race, and Woodies on the Wharf, a car show featuring automobiles built pre 1952 that have wooden bodies.

Santa Cruz Gardens

Picture of Santa Cruz Gardens Neighborhood

Tucked away in the foothills of the Southern Santa Cruz Mountains, Santa Cruz Gardens was developed in the 1970s and quickly became a tight knit community. Per, people that live in this neighborhood enjoy living here because of the friendliness, walkability, quiet and easy access to nature. A community pool can be joined for a nominal fee. With easy access to Highway 1 and Old San Jose Rd, Santa Cruz Gardens is a great neighborhood for people that commute to Silicon Valley.


Picture of the Rio Theater
Picture of Midtown Santa Cruz
Picturs of Tomboy store

Midtown Santa Cruz is a bustling neighborhood chock full of restaurants, boutiques, a live music venue, and one of the top 10 breweries in the WORLD! Those that live in this neighborhood enjoy slightly warmer weather giving this neighborhood the nickname “the banana belt.” The stretch of Soquel Ave between Branciforte and Seabright Ave has a high concentration of locally owned boutiques and fan favorite restaurants like Charley Hong Kong and Lillian’s Italian Kitchen. Another highlight of this neighborhood is the Rio Theater, a venue that offers live music, stand-up comedy, and film festivals.

Prospect Heights

Picture of DeLaveaga Golf Course

Located on the Northside of Highway 1, Prospect Heights is a highly sought-after neighborhood due to its proximity to major commute routes. They also enjoy easy access to highway 17, which many people use to commute to silicon valley. It also shares a border with DeLaveaga Park, which includes a golf course with a restaurant, softball fields, a disc golf course, and multiple trails throughout the park. Prospect Heights also includes the Chaminade, a luxury hotel and conference center that offers outdoor movies and live music events.


Many people call the coastal neighborhood of Seabright their favorite in Santa Cruz. It’s easy to see why with things like the harbor, fabulous restaurants, and a long stretch of beach! Made up of a variety of housing styles, everything from studio apartments to multi-million dollar luxury homes. Seabright has a vibrant nightlife scene with Brady’s yacht club, Seabright Social Brewpub, and the Blue Lounge within a block of each other. In addition, several restaurants in this area participate in a weekly event called “Neighborhood Night” on Tuesday evenings. This often looks like an extended happy hour or special prix-fixed menu at a discounted rate.

Pleasure Point

Picture of Pleasure Point

Rich in surf history, Pleasure Point is home to some of the most popular beaches in Santa Cruz County and was once home to surf legend Jack O’Neill. This neighborhood is also home to the originators of the “Pack Your Trash” movement. So it’s safe to say that those who live here take tremendous pride in where they live. It’s easy to see why with a beautiful walking and biking path, and beaches that can be easily accessed. There’s also a wide variety of local, family owned restaurants with a variety of cuisines from around the world.

Live Oak

Located in between Pleasure Point and Highway 1, Live Oak is an unincorporated area of Santa Cruz. Live Oak is located in almost the middle of the county. While there isn’t a central shopping center or town square in this neighborhood, it still has much to offer! Live Oak has numerous parks, cafes, and a weekly farmer’s market. This densely populated neighborhood enjoys a strong sense of community.

To learn more about real estate, check out the June Market Update.

The Madani team and ROOM Real Estate have been helping home buyers and sellers in Santa Cruz County for almost two decades. Equipped with a large team of dedicated agents and staff, ROOM Real Estate works tirelessly to help its clients accomplish their real estate goals. We are here for you; if you have questions about real estate or are interested in buying or selling a property, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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