Santa Cruz County
4.5 miles west of Watsonville
Day Use $10
Call (831) 763-7062
Caution: Check with rangers or lifeguards that conditions are safe for your planned activities.
Beach wheelchairs available at kiosk, limited supply.
Accessible picnic tables, restrooms, and campsites.
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.
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.
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.
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