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Ultimate Guide to Relocating to Santa Cruz, CA

Santa Cruz is a beach city in California that all of us, even if we haven’t been there, are familiar with. It’s the archetypal Californian beach city, sung about in countless songs and shown in so many of our movies. But it also offers so much more for those who visit and those looking to relocate to the Californian coast. Here, a fun and relaxing lifestyle plays out against a backdrop of mountains, forests and sea.

Beautiful homes in front of the waters in Santa Cruz

Those looking to set up here can look forward to a high quality of life, exceptional opportunities for adventure and great real estate. Before you look for homes for sale in Santa Cruz, let us give you a sample of what you can expect in this city.

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A quick history

When Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola first explored the river that runs through the Santa Cruz area in 1769, little could he have known what it would one day become. Starting out as a collection of missions and a Spanish colony in the late 18th century, it became more Americanized from the mid 19th century, when it came under US control.

As with many places in the new world, it became a place where the abundance of natural resources led to steady growth. Industrialization came quickly in the 20th century, however, to this day, the land features prominently in the economy of the city, especially with the growth of tourism.

Today it has become one of the most desirable locations for homemakers to relocate to and draws tourists from not only the US but from around the world.


Santa Cruz is blessed with a mediterranean climate. This means that throughout the year you can expect the weather to be mild to warm. Summer months are typically dry and can reach highs of 77 degrees, while winter can go to as low as 40 degrees. It never gets cold enough in Santa Cruz for snow.

The area receives lower than average rainfall a year. Santa Cruz receives 33 inches of rain a year while the national average comes in at 38 inches a year, and this is mostly spread over a 70 day period.

Overall, Santa Cruz ranks as one of the most comfortable places in California to live in.

Santa Cruz Real Estate

The Santa Cruz real estate market is very competitive. Over a 4 year period, including the time of the pandemic, there has been an upward trend in the prices of homes for sale in Santa Cruz. At the beginning of 2018, the median price of a home was $800,000; as of June 2022, the median price of a home in Santa Cruz stood at $1.5M, an increase of 9.8% over the previous year.

As with many other parts of the country, inventory is unable to keep up with high demand. In a place like Santa Cruz that attracts a high level of interest from investors and homebuyers, this is not surprising. This does not mean it is impossible to get a place, but to give yourself the best opportunity to land your ideal home for sale, you’ll want to partner with a top real estate professional.

Note that the market is correcting across the US, and this will have consequences for buyers and sellers alike. While it is unlikely that homes will lower in price any time soon, they will probably not appreciate as rapidly as they did in the frenzied market of the last 2 years. Ultimately, this is good news for both buyers and sellers. Homeowners can be confident that their homes will appreciate at decent levels over time and those looking for a property will not have to pay exorbitant prices for their homes. That being said, if you are looking to relocate to Santa Cruz, the best time to buy a property is now, as there is little chance of homes becoming cheaper in the near future.

Luxury homes for sale in Santa Cruz

There are some fantastic luxury properties in Santa Cruz. The cost of properties naturally vary depending on a raft of factors, the most important of which are location, size, and quality. However, it is possible to get an idea of what you could get at the upper end of luxury properties.

At around the $8.5M mark, you can get a stunning property that’s a “livable work of art” according to an international awarding body. You get fantastic views of the beach, mountains and forests with the redwoods clear to see. Covering over 37 acres, the lot size provides space for whatever you need and the sense of privacy and seclusion is unlike anything you could dream of getting in a city. The finishing is top end and features include walk in closets, home office, and a 3 car garage.

If you don’t need that much space, there are properties for almost any reasonable budget in Santa Cruz. Again, to fully explore your options and to find out about possible properties which are not listed, it’s best to work with a local real estate professional.

Cost of living

With so much going for it, Santa Cruz, does come in with a higher cost of living than most areas in the US and is one of the more costly places in California. Much of the difference can be in the price of properties, which in some neighborhoods will reflect the exclusivity of the area. However, general costs are only marginally higher than the US average, and some are lower. While the cost of groceries and transportation are higher, health costs and utilities are considerably lower. While you should know that you’ll pay a little more in your cost of living in Santa Cruz, many who choose to relocate here, find that the benefits and lifestyle provided by the city more than make up for it.

What Santa Cruz Offers

Santa Cruz offers too many attractions for us to list them all here, however here are a few of the most popular and eye opening attractions to visit.

The Beach

When you think of a Californian beach, it’s likely you have an image of Santa Cruz in your mind. Santa Cruz offers sun, sea, and sand, and all the recreation that the beach brings. You’ll find that along with what you’d expect from a beach city, there’s also an abundance of other interesting activities along the coast.

Santa Cruz makes the claim of being the first surf town. The area even has its own Surfing Museum where you can view memorabilia and find out about the area’s rich surfing history which stretches back almost a hundred years.

There are different sections of beach, the 2 most popular being Main Beach, and Cowell Beach. Cowell Beach is where the surfers head to, while Main Beach is a great place for all the family to enjoy. On Main Beach you’ll find visitors playing volleyball, lounging in the sun, and kids wading in the safe waters.

Theme Park by the beach in Santa Cruz

Along the boardwalk, there’s a lovely area that recaptures the spirit of fun and innocence of a not so long ago past. Here, there’s an arcade where kids can play arcade games, along with the obligatory pinball machines, and air hockey. After, stroll along to get some corn dogs and an ice cream. Set against such a beautiful backdrop, you may want to take a special someone on a date here. Sophisticated? Not really. Incredibly good fun and romantic? Absolutely! The boardwalk provides great amusement for the kids, but it would be a shame not to enjoy its charms yourself.

Roaring Camp Railroad

Santa Cruz is not just the beach though, and if you take a ride on the Roaring Camp Railroad, you’ll get to see the beauty of the land in fantastic style. Highly recommended is the Redwood Forest Steam Train, which takes you to the top of Bear Mountain. Along the way you’ll pass through wooded areas that hold some of the most amazing and large trees in the world. They are as breathtaking today as they must have been to those who used the rail 150 years ago to transport lumber from the area. The Redwood Forest Steam Train runs everyday, throughout the year, so there’s no real need to make any special plans around it.

Big mammals

Less than an hour’s drive away, in Monterey, is an attraction that’s worth the drive. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is a sanctuary that holds almost 40 different sea mammals and over 500 different types of fish. Covering over 270 miles of coastline, it is one of the biggest sanctuaries in the US for marine life.

There’s a cruise that runs from April to November which will take visitors to watch migrating humpback whales, however if you cannot go during these months, you may still be lucky as there are also humpbacks who stay in the area throughout the year. You’re not limited to humpbacks though, other mammals you might see include gray whales, killer whales, and the enormous blue whale. Take the kids along, as video can never capture the majesty of the animals when seen in their natural habitat.


What’s great about Santa Cruz is how it exudes a sense of being very local and comfortable, yet at the same time, very worldly. Here you’ll find high end brands and boutique shops that sell fun and artful wares.

A particular favorite is Streetlight Records in downtown Santa Cruz. Exceedingly cool, it not only has a vast collection of CDs, it’s also a mecca for those looking for vinyls.

Take Two Antiques is a delightful shop where you can find furniture as well as one of a kind decorative pieces that will lift any home. The friendly staff make browsing an adventure in itself, and fair warning, you’ll find it hard to resist buying at least 1 piece before you leave.

There’s also 2 great malls in Santa Cruz. Pacific Garden Mall is a vast space that covers all your shopping needs from boutique and luxury items to your day to day needs. There are plenty of food stalls and often you’ll be able to enjoy music provided by street performers. Capitola Mall is an enclosed mall that has a range of fun and fashionable stores.


Santa Cruz offers a fantastic variety of dining options. No matter what you’re in the mood for, there’s the cuisine and the style to offer you a great culinary experience.

Linda’s SeaBreeze Cafe is a must try. This cafe, which has an unassuming but pleasant exterior, soon reveals its star power when you eat. The menu is simple but fun. There’s the familiar and comforting such as pancakes, but also the slightly more adventurous Greek Scramble. The food quality is great, the prices very reasonable, and the ambiance light. You’ll find yourself coming back often to snack or fill up before the rest of the day.

For the best seafood, try Johnny’s Harborside. Not only is the seafood fresh and deliciously prepared, but the location is picturesque. Casual and relaxed, it’s the perfect spot to go to to enjoy the bounty of the sea.

For fine dining, try Trestles Restaurant. Chic and stylish but also, in typical Santa Cruz style, it’s very relaxed. The menu is exciting but familiar, so you get your steak and you know it will be perfectly done and excellently presented. There’s also a very good selection of wines, white, red and rose.

Your place in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is a picture perfect town that has layers of charm. Rich in history it’s also very confident of its future. The people who live here know that they found a good thing.

Realtor shaking hands with his client

If you’d like to explore your real estate options in Santa Cruz turn to a top 1% Realtor, who has lived for over 20 years in the area. Amber Melenudo works with highest levels of integrity and always adheres the “Golden Rule” meaning she’ll provide the highest levels of service to her clients. The result, a number of awards and recognitions for her service.

If you’re looking for homes for sale in Santa Cruz, CA or if you’d like to know more about the area, get in touch with Amber at 831.566.2263 or leave a message here. Let’s begin your journey to a better life.