Living a luxurious life is easy in Santa Cruz County, California.
Located at the northern tip of Monterey Bay, Santa Cruz County is home to 276,603 residents and renowned for its year-round sunshine, pristine beaches, and verdant forests.
Aside from its stunning natural beauty, Sta. Cruz County is also well known for its thriving economy, its stellar school system, and its luxury housing market. As such, many consider Sta. Cruz County as one of the best places to live in California.
Continue reading as we discuss the county’s most sought-after neighborhoods, the state of its luxury real estate market, and everything else you need to know if you’re planning on investing in Santa Cruz County luxury homes.
Welcome to Santa Cruz County
Santa Cruz County started out as a collection of ranches and farms, and was once considered to be one of California’s most important agricultural hotspots.
Throughout the years, however, Santa Cruz County – fueled by a robust and thriving economy – would soon rebrand and transform itself into a much sought-after enclave of luxury living.
Santa Cruz County is known for its healthy job market. According to recent statistics, Santa Cruz County residents are employed mostly by the County Government, as well the technology, agriculture, and tourism industries.
In 2021, Santa Cruz County residents had a median household income of $82,234, which is significantly higher than the national average of $62,843.
When it comes to premium real estate, location, location, location is key.
Lying approximately 65 miles south of San Francisco and 35 miles southwest of Silicon Valley, Santa Cruz County occupies 607 square miles. Four other counties make up its border: San Mateo to the northwest, Santa Clara to the north and east, and Monterey and San Benito to the south.
Six major highways lead to Santa Cruz County: Highways 1, 9, 17, 129, 152, and 236. Rail access, on the other hand, is provided by Union Pacific Railroad, with a railhead at Watsonville Junction.
Santa Cruz County can also be accessed via the San Jose International Airport, the San Francisco International Airport, Oakland International Airport, Monterey Peninsula Airport, and the Watsonville Municipal Airport.
There are four incorporated cities in Santa Cruz County:
- The City of Santa Cruz, the largest, has a population of 64,522 and functions as the county seat
- Watsonville is home to around 53,000 residents
- Scotts Valley has a population of 11,863
- Capitola is home to roughly 10,000 people
In addition, Santa Cruz County has 26 census-designated places, as well as three unincorporated communities.
What is the luxury real estate market like in Santa Cruz County?
Given its unique location in the Pacific Coast, Santa Cruz County offers an impressive range of luxury homes and properties for every type of homebuyer and investor.
The vast array of available listings include:
- Coastal properties
- Beachfront houses
- Single-family homes in gated communities
- Wine properties
- Vintage homes
- Modern luxury condominiums
- Undeveloped land
At present, Santa Cruz County has a very competitive luxury real estate market, with the demand for luxury housing units often outpacing inventory.
Santa Cruz County luxury homes for sale typically spend an average of 32 days on the market, with the median sale price of single-family homes at around $1.35 million. Some Santa Cruz County luxury homes, however, are known to easily fetch prices of up to $6.25 million.
Luxury properties in Santa Cruz County come in an incredible variety of architectural styles, including:
- Greek Revival
- Gothic Revival
- Stick Style
- Queen Anne
- Shingle Style
- Colonial Revival
- Mid-Century Modern
No matter the architectural style, however, Santa Cruz County luxury homes typically feature one or more of the following:
- Custom gourmet kitchens
- Fully equipped home gyms
- Home theaters
- Spa-like bathrooms
With luxurious amenities, an abundance of attractions, and a relaxed atmosphere, Santa Cruz County has become the permanent address of choice of some of the most famous personalities in the world.
It was once the home of late great filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, who bought a ranch near Scotts Valley in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Television star Adam Scott of “Big Little Lies” and “Parks and Recreation” lived in the area for most of his life. American supermodel and brand ambassador Marisa Miller also lives in Santa Cruz County.
Area highlights: Where to live in Santa Cruz County
Spanning over 600 square miles, Santa Cruz County is awash in luxury homes dotted throughout dozens of upscale communities and neighborhoods.
Some of the best Santa Cruz County luxury homes, however, can be found in the following:
- Santa Cruz City
Famous for its gorgeous beaches, Santa Cruz City is one of the best spots in the world for surfing. It also offers its residents many familiar comforts such as bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and parks. Homes in Santa Cruz range from exquisite Victorian-style estates to modern condos and apartments. Prices for properties in this sun-kissed city range from $850,000 to $2.75 million.
Nestled on the coast of Monterey Bay, Capitola is a quaint seaside community best known for its suburban charm and picturesque beaches. As a popular tourist destination, Capitola offers an impressive assortment of attractions and leisure options such as restaurants, shops, museums, and entertainment. It is also home to the oldest beach resort in the entire West Coast. Luxury properties in Capitola come in single-family homes and condos, and are priced at $3 million.
- Scotts Valley
This small city located among the verdant redwood forests in the upland slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains is a highly sought-after community. It exudes an air of upscale sophistication amid a laid-back, rural lifestyle. Properties in Scotts Valley range from single-family houses and townhouses, to sprawling acre-size estates. In January 2022, condos in this neighborhood were priced at $500,000, while single-family homes were listed at $1.8 million.
Strawberry fields and apple orchards surround this dense, suburban community where the high standard of living is matched by the breadth of amenities. If you enjoy a thriving restaurant scene, a multitude of retail establishments, and plenty of outdoor parks and green spaces, this community in the Pajaro Valley is for you. Explore your options from homes listed between $464,000 and $2.5 million.
Located in Monterey Bay, Aptos is a beach town with a sprawling coastline, top-quality shopping and dining options, and outdoor attractions. It’s been named as one of the best places to live in California, offering an array of property options. Homebuyers and investors can choose from beachfront houses, condominiums, single-family homes in gated communities, ranches, and even wine properties. Luxury beachfront homes are priced at around $6.25 million, with inland properties going for $1.8 million.
- Pleasure Point
A sun-kissed, seaside community, Pleasure Point plays an important part in surfing history because it once served as home to the late surfing legend Jack O’Neill. Today, Pleasure Point bustles with tourists, making it a valuable location for investors and luxury homebuyers. Pleasure Point’s housing stock ranges from charming beach cottages to ultra-luxe multimillion-dollar oceanfront villas.
A relatively small coastal community, Seacliff draws tourists from all over the country because of its gorgeous beaches and exquisite parks. In addition, Seacliff is as well known for its luxury real estate. Expect beachfront homes from $3 million and clifftop estates that command prices of up to $10 million.
- La Selva
This tiny coastal neighborhood located near Aptos is known primarily as a quiet rural farming community. La Selva is popular among families with children, as well as those searching for a private retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. For buyers and investors, La Selva boasts an impressive selection of properties, from well-preserved houses from the 1960s and 1970s to swanky new beachfront estates. Price tags range from $4 million to $9.8 million.
A quaint and quiet town on the northern coast of Monterey Bay, Soquel has a population of just around 11,000 – making it popular among young professionals, families, and retirees. This picturesque town, established in 1883, boasts many parks and vineyards. Soquel’s housing stock is composed of Mediterranean-style homes in gated communities, well-preserved vintage houses in the downtown area, and modern one-story single-family beachfront homes.
- Rio del Mar
A tight-knit community located in Santa Cruz County, Rio Del Mar is the perfect neighborhood for those who enjoy upscale coastal living. Residents love Rio Del Mar’s natural attractions like stunning ocean views and landscapes, as well as a wide range of restaurants and shops. Homes in Rio Del Mar include two-story townhomes and condos, both of which are conducive to luxurious coastal living.
- Live Oak
Located between the cities of Santa Cruz and Capitola, Live Oak is a dense, suburban community that is home to many young professionals and families. Live Oak is a relatively affluent neighborhood, with residents earning a median household income of $83,750. One of its major draws is the diversity of natural attractions including gorgeous beaches and verdant parks. Moreover, Live Oak offers an enviable selection of high-end beachfront single-family homes and condominiums, and apartment complexes.
- Westside Santa Cruz
Positioned just west of the San Lorenzo River, Westside Santa Cruz has some of the most beautiful beaches in the region and is considered to be a world-class surfing destination. In addition to beaches, Westside Santa Cruz’s numerous parks and nature sanctuaries make it a paradise for hikers, mountain bikers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. Westside Santa Cruz has a wide range of available properties, including luxury beachside estates that can fetch prices of up to $2.75 million.
Those who prefer an upscale golfing community will find Pasatiempo hard to resist. One of the wealthiest communities in Santa Cruz County, Pasatiempo promises a high quality of life, thanks to unmatched amenities and attractions like the world-class Pasatiempo Golf Club.
- San Lorenzo Valley
One of Santa Cruz’s hidden gems, San Lorenzo Valley boasts gorgeous surroundings and an idyllic, small town atmosphere. The former logging camp now has a stellar public school system, an active and vibrant arts scene, and a thriving local economy anchored on family-owned businesses. Homes in the area come in a wide variety of styles, from condos, ranch homes and cabins, to Mediterranean-influenced estates.
Luxury homes for sale in Santa Cruz County
When investing in luxury homes and other real estate properties, selection is key. Will the home align with your personal needs, lifestyle, and overall investment goals?
For example, Santa Cruz County offers a wide range of luxury homes that appeal to beachgoers (seaview and coastal properties) and urbanites alike (luxury condos).
Here are some of the properties that await homebuyers in Santa Cruz County:
Dramatic ocean views at
635 Beach Drive, Aptos, CA 95003
- Built in 2009, this 3-bedroom, 2,725-square-foot Aptos home boasts dramatic 180-degree ocean views from every room and is located just steps away from one of the best beaches in Santa Cruz County.
Currently on the market for $6.25 million, this house has 3 spacious bedrooms, a 2-car garage, and its own balcony and deck. The details are exquisite: Jerusalem bone brushed limestone flooring, white marble and mother-of-pearl kitchen counters, and teak cabinets. The living room fireplace uses hand-chiseled limestone, while the bathroom wall and counters are made of Esmeralda onyx.
A turnkey home with investment potential
680 Dove Lane, Watsonville, CA 95076
- Located in gorgeous Watsonville, this inland luxury property comes with 4 bedrooms, spa-like bathrooms, and a separate oversized garage. Hardwood floors, high-end kitchen appliances, and exquisite custom cabinetry complete the luxury features.
Spanning 3,086 square feet, this property also has multiple decks and covered porches, making it perfect for those who love to entertain.
All are well worth the price tag of $1.59 million.
Pro tip: The lower level of the house can be turned into a separate two-bedroom rental, thus ensuring a quicker return on one’s investment.
A custom kitchen with a retro futuristic vibe at
101 Bartlett Way, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
- Built in 1999, this contemporary-style home has a total area of 4,481 square feet. It’s ideal for larger families as it has 4 bedrooms, a skylit custom kitchen, and a 4-car garage.
The property also has vaulted ceilings, generously sized windows, and a spacious rear deck. Buyers will also take to the whimsical tiki bar, lanai, home office, game room, and gym.
The property is listed at $2.75 million.
What makes luxury living better in Santa Cruz County
As an enclave of luxury living, there’s no shortage of things to do in Santa Cruz County Visit the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for fascinating carnival-like attractions. Or West Cliff Drive to watch the blazing California sunset. Those longing to connect with nature can book a whale watching tour in Monterey Bay, or take a hike at Wilder Ranch State Park.
Santa Cruz County takes equal pride in homegrown shops like the Stripe Design Group which supplies locally made designer goods to residents and visitors.
Feeling peckish? Sumptuous meals abound in Santa Cruz County. One fine example is Perspehone in Aptos, which serves a seasonal menu using local ingredients. Alderwood is worth repeated visits for the top-quality selections of steak and seafood.
When it comes to finding your ideal Santa Cruz County luxury home, it’s always best to work with a real estate professional with a proven track record.
As a certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist, I, Amber Melenudo, have had years of experience in the luxury real estate market. I understand the unique needs of affluent buyers, allowing me to find ideal Santa Cruz County luxury homes that meet individual needs and investment goals.
My commitment to serving my clients is paramount, which is why I am in the Top 1% of Producing Agents in the county.
If you’re ready to get your very own Santa Cruz County luxury home, call me, Amber Melenudo, at 831.661.5591. Or send me an email at amber(at)davidlyng(dotted)com so we can discuss your real estate options.