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Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz

(4.4/5 based on 550+ reviews on the web)
Enjoy unparalleled vantage points of the coastline and a butterfly preserve as you explore Natural Bridges State Beach. Located in Santa Cruz, this 26 hectare (65 acre) park is known for the natural bridge that stretches across its beach. The area remains a refuge for about 150,000 monarch butterflies between the months of October and February, which you can view as you walk the trails through the designated butterfly preserve. The site is also home to a number of hiking routes, a sandy cove, tidepools, and a bike path. Take a look at our Santa Cruz trip itinerary planner to schedule your visit to Natural Bridges State Beach and learn about what else to see and do during your holiday.
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Reviews
TripAdvisor
  • The beach is very soft energetically. Usually there are many birds. Our last visit was magical because it was December and the egrets were wading on the shoreline and children were playing and laughin...  more »
  • Santa Cruz's beaches during the winter time are less crowded because it's colder but still very enjoyable on a sunny day. Our kids spent hours playing in the frigid water and on the beach while we rel...  more »
  • The rangers had out several telescopes in which you could get great close up views of the Butterflies. The butterflies are located down a canyon next to the visitor center. 
Google
  • A rather smallish beach with half muddy/dirty sand and scattered bunches of seaweed at low tide, but that's the best time to see the only remaining natural bridge or arch. A few school field trip groups were here learning about the ocean and the local Monarch Butterfly preserve. So it was a little noisy at 10-11am. But probably a nice quiet place for coffee and contemplation at 8am. Used to be you could walk from parking lot #1 out over to the last rock (by climbing over the fence there, of course). But that large arch was lost to a storm in 1980. There is a very nice/rustic picnic area just above the beach back at the parking lot #2 in front of the ranger station/souvenir shop. This is an out-of-the way beach which holds a special place for me. It is the first place I remember seeing the ocean - when I was 4 yrs old. I definitely remember seeing the large arch. It seemed so enormous. Sad to see it gone now. Although I remember seeing it from the OTHER side of the bridges. Which is interesting since there isn't really an easy way to get there without going through the opening of the fallen arch. As comfy as the beach is, the Monarch sanctuary just behind it is like a ghostly cathedral of eucalyptus and pine trees with their aromas mixed in with the cool ocean scents. Except for the cries of delight from school children, the sanctuary was a place where adults would speak in hushed tones, if at all. Really, really magical. They say the best time to visit is late fall/winter, Thanksgiving being an "ideal" time of year. In mid October, there were about 2,000 butterflies in residence. Highly recommended. The beach is about a 3 star, but add the preserver and definitely 4 stars. Especially for an early morning visit. *Note: Park is open from 8am to sunset. Go early for best experience.
  • Not at all what I was expecting. We are visitors from the east coast. The way this place was reviewed I was expecting so much more. beach is tiny. Was very crowded (we were there on a Friday afternoon). There is an old run down visitors center. It cost $10 to drive into the park. There were homeless people picking through the dumpster. Not really someplace I wanted to take my kids!!'
  • Amazing beach. If I wasn't feeling a little under the weather I would have been splashing around and body surfing the nice waves that were rolling in. There was some really nice tide pools within a short walking distance from the beach itself. Amazing view of the coast. Discovered a nice short hike where I saw a few deer and plenty of birds. It was during beginning of summer so the monarch butterflies weren't visiting otherwise it might have somehow been even more amazing.
  • I rely on personal feedback when making travel plans and appreciate everyone's in put. Good or bad. Thank you all.
  • Nice walk. I enjoyed place. Lots of people but the beach was worth it.