Location: Sunset State Beach, California
Directions: 16 miles south of Santa Cruz (from Hwy 1, take Andreas Rd exit to Sunset Beach Rd)
Day-use fee: $10
Parking: end of Shell Road
Date: April 2016
We have been coming to Sunset State Beach for years now. We discovered it one day when we were checking out beaches south of Santa Cruz. It was the last and best beach we visited that day (in our opinion of course) and we happened to be at Sunset State Beach at sunset. We had gone down the main park road, Shell Road, just to check out the campgrounds, and by chance we happened to drive the road all the way down to the parking area. We walked up the dune, sat near the top all by ourselves and watched the sun go down. We were just awe struck by this place and couldn’t wait to come back.
What we like about Sunset beach is that it has parking close to the beach (we always forget something) and it never feels crowded. There are restrooms with flush toilets, lifeguards and an expansive beach to take long walks.
Last weekend we were able to meet up with some friends for a beach day. The weather was supposed to be in the mid 70s, but the wind coming over the ocean cooled things down a bit. That’s the thing about Sunset beach, you never know what the weather will be like, so bring layers.
Our crazy kids still wanted to put their wetsuits on and go boogie boarding in the frigid water, so we, the even crazier parents, let them. To their credit, they did last about an hour before they moved on to their next (warmer) endeavor.
If you are in need of a place to eat after a fun-filled day at Sunset State Beach, Burger. (“burger dot”) in Aptos is a great casual burger restaurant. They do burgers well and the restaurant itself is a fun, kitschy place with various rooms and outdoor areas to dine. Half the fun is standing in line (to order at the register) and going through their extensive burger menu trying to decide what you’re going to get. I always change my mind at least 3 times because everything looks so good. (FYI – they have a gluten-free bun option as well).