Sunset Beach

Santa Cruz County

Sunset State Beach


Santa Cruz County
4.5 miles west of Watsonville


Day Use $10
Hours vary:
  Call (831) 763-7062

Main Attractions

  • Picnic areas with BBQ grills
  • Remote-control glider port
  • Camping
  • Fishing
  • 3-mile long beach connecting to neighboring beaches

Hazards Include

  • Rip currents
  • Deep off-shore dropoffs
  • High surf, for expert surfers only

Caution: Check with rangers or lifeguards that conditions are safe for your planned activities.

Special Regulations

  • No pets on beach
  • No alcohol on beach or in picnic areas
  • No collecting
  • Fires only in provided fire rings, until 10 PM


Beach wheelchairs available at kiosk, limited supply.
Accessible picnic tables, restrooms, and campsites.

Nearby Beaches

  • Manresa State Beach, 1 mile north
  • La Selva Beach, 4.3 miles north
  • Palm Beach, 1 mile south
  • Zmudowski State Beach, 3.4 miles south, across Pajaro River
  • Moss Landing State Beach, 5.5 miles south, across Pajaro River

Sunset State Beach

Sunset Beach is known for its long sparkling beach stretching north and south along Monterey Bay. A 200-foot tall sand dune bluff overlooks the beach, offering great vistas of the beach and ocean. Popular visitor activities include walking or jogging, playing in the waves, relaxing in the sand, picnicking, and playing sports.

Sunset State Beach, Santa Cruz County, CA

Into the Surf

Many visitors take right to the water, enjoying boogie boarding, skim boarding, and swimming. Dangerous rip currents at Sunset warrant caution. It is not the best swimming beach for young children. Lifeguards are on duty during the busiest season. Experienced surfers venture out to ride the waves.


Sunset Beach is a great place to watch for bottled nosed dolphins through summer and fall from one of the overlooks on the bluff. A pair of binoculars is a good item to add to your beach bag. Gray whales are most often sighted from mid-December through mid-April. Humpback whales, blue whales and killer whales are sometimes seen during this same migration period. Also keep an eye out for sea otters. For bird watchers expect various shore birds, white tailed kites, western snowy plovers, and red-tailed hawks.

Sunset Beach, Santa Cruz County, CA

Food and Supplies

Other than nearby firewood vendors, there are no stores or restaurants close to Sunset Beach. For those things you will need to drive about 5 miles back to Watsonville.

Ocean Safety

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

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