Swift Drive off Highway 1, north of Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz County
Hours: 8:00 AM to sunset
Restrooms, picnic area
Monarch butterfly boardwalk
Beach wheelchair available
For beaches to the north, see WILDER RANCH & COAST DAIRIES
The varied attractions of Natural Bridges State Beach make it a great place to spend the day. Once several natural bridges carved out of a point of sandstone by waves stood proudly just beyond the beach. Time has taken its toll, and today only a single smaller bridge remains.
Visitors to Natural Bridges State Beach enjoy the reasonably accessible tide pools that extend up the coast from the sandy beach. Every year bands of school children come to learn about life between Pacific tides.
The monarch butterflies draw just as many visitors as the other attractions at the beach. Flocks of butterflies gather in thick clusters on the branches of the eucalyptus trees in the state beach. A wheelchair accessible boardwalk and hiking trail lead through the trees.
Caution: Check with rangers or lifeguards that conditions are safe for your planned activities.
Natural Bridges sheltered little beach is a wonderful place to sunbathe, surf, sailboard, and swim. A variety of wildlife can often be spotted around Natural Bridges, including migrating whales, seals, sea otters, and shore birds.
Learn about the smaller beaches up the coast on the Wilder Ranch & Coast Dairies page.
Wilder Beach, Fern Grotto Beach, Sand Plant Beach, Strawberry Beach, 3 Mile Beach, and 4 Mile Beach
Laguna Creek Beach, Yellowbank Beach, Panther Beach, and Bonny Doon Beach.
As many as 100,000 monarch butterflies seek out the sheltered groves of eucalyptus trees in Natural Bridges State Park. They usually begin to arrive in October and stay over until mid-February, clinging in thick clusters to the limbs. Once spring arrives they head east for the valleys west of the Rocky Mountains. There they find milkweed, the only plant a monarch butterfly caterpillar eats.
The Monarch Grove at Natural Bridges has been declared a Natural Preserve, protecting the butterflies' home from harm. Visitors must stay on the trail or the boardwalk inside the preserve.
At Natural Bridges the park maintains a demonstration milkweed patch where visitors can see the monarchs' eggs, caterpillars, chrysalides, and - if you're very lucky - watch a newborn monarch emerge from its chrysalis.
For information about guided tours of the monarch preserve, see our Natural Bridges Beach Activities page.
Natural Bridges' Visitor Center features interactive and interpretive displays and videos. Animals found in the tide pools are on display in an aquarium. There is also a park store in the visitor center. The facility is usually open on weekends and some weekdays. Call ahead to see when they will be open. (831) 423-4609.
Two viewpoints on the east side of the park near the entrance station are excellent places to view the natural bridges, the beach, the ocean, and the rugged coast. The observation deck is at the end of a short, accessible trail just inside the entrance station. An overlook just outside the entrance station has a large parking area. Parking there is limited to 20 minutes.
California State Parks and Recreation cautions that "large surf, cold water temperatures, backwash, sudden drop-offs, pounding shorebreak, and dangerous rip currents can turn what seem like safe activities such as playing near the surf line, wading, or climbing on rock outcroppings, deadly." Learn more about ocean safety at CA State Parks: Ocean Safety