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Santa Cruz is a charming community on the northern edge of the Monterey Bay about 72 miles south of San Francisco. It is known for its surfing, a strong activist community, the Beach Boardwalk, and its University of California campus.
The weather in Santa Cruz can vary and change at a moments notice. For the most part Santa Cruz has mild to hot summers and cool, rainy winters. The Santa Cruz Mountains have been known to see snow on occasion, though this happens only once or twice a year, if at all.
The nearest airports are San Jose International Airport (SJC), San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Oakland International Airport (OAK). San Francisco has most connections with many intercontinental flights and domestic services as well.
The nearest Amtrak station is in San Jose. You can take the Highway 17 Express bus from the Diridon Station.
Santa Cruz can be accessed from San Jose and the bay area from Highway 17, which winds through the Santa Cruz mountains. For those coming from San Francisco, you can also take the slower, but more scenic Highway 1.
There are various Greyhound bus routes that stop at the downtown Greyhound station directly next to the Santa Cruz Metro station. Visitors coming from over the hill in San Jose can use the High 17 Express bus.
Traffic can be congested on the main routes through town. Road signs can be confusing. Lanes split and merge with little warning and sometimes a lane will randomly become a turn-only lane without any signs at all. In addition to confusion while driving, you have to be cautious of pedestrians and bikers who may dart out in front of you and assume that you'll stop for them. In short, unless you plan on visiting places off the beaten path, avoid driving around Santa Cruz.
Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.
For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.
The Santa Cruz Metro has decent coverage throughout the county and to neighboring areas. A single ride is $1.50 and a day pass is $4.50.
Downtown, the Boardwalk, and a lot of the main beaches are all within walking distance. For those who wish to go beyond that, you'll need to rent a bike, take a bus, or use a car. Many Santa Cruz residents, particularly the college student aged population, tend to hitchhike. Keep in mind that the laws about hitchhiking in California are ambiguous and the act itself can be dangerous.
Santa Cruz is a bike friendly town. Almost every main route has it's own bike lane or even a separate bike path and there are numerous bike rental shops, especially near downtown. Use hand signals and basic common sense when riding around town. Try to avoid Mission Avenue/Highway 1 as it is one of the few major streets without an adequate bike lane and riders are forced to share the main road with traffic.
|Ocean Pacific Lodge||301 Pacific Ave Santa Cruz Beach||Hotel||-|
|Beachway Inn & Suites||619 Riverside Avenue Broadway & Riverside||Hotel||-|
|Big Six Motel||335 Riverside Avenue||Hotel||-|
|National 9 Motel Watsonville||1 Western Drive||Hotel||-|
|Aqua Breeze Inn||204 Second Street||Hotel||-|
|Comfort Inn Santa Cruz||110 Plymouth Street||Hotel||-|
|Paradise Inn||311 2nd Street||Hotel||-|
|Ocean Gate Inn||111 Ocean Street||Hotel||-|
|National 9 Motel||1015 Ocean Street||Hotel||-|
|National 9 Motel||130 Plymouth St||Hotel||-|
|Motel Santa Cruz||370 Ocean Drive||Hotel||-|
There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.
See also International Telephone Calls
The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.
The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.
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