Street view of historic buildings in downtown Watsonville, CA

The dynamic, downtown area of Santa Cruz is recognized for its upbeat vibe and its numerous amenities, including shops, restaurants, and entertainment. It’s easy for those who live downtown to walk, bike, or drive around the city, visiting attractions such as museums, beaches, and even the university campus—for all the students in the area. 

However, rising housing prices and home exclusivity have resulted in prospective buyers looking for properties outside of the Santa Cruz downtown—and often Santa Cruz entirely. Santa Cruz County as a whole is quite luxurious, however the communities found outside of the heart of the city have a lot to offer, and are worth considering when starting your home search.

Safe, Tranquil Neighborhoods

Not everyone loves the hustle and bustle—and the traffic—of the downtown core. Families moving to Santa Cruz area find that location is a huge factor when it comes to choosing a new home, and the neighborhoods outside of the downtown have a lot of appeal.

Families looking to settle down might be put off by the busyness of the downtown, especially during tourist season. Those who work in the downtown area might think to begin their home search there, but the surrounding communities still have a manageable commute time for professionals. Live Oak, for example, is a community found east of downtown Santa Cruz—about four miles to be exact—and yet is known for its safe, quieter neighborhoods, ample amenities, and highly-rated schools.

Additionally, towns such as Soquel and Aptos, located further east, offer similar, family-oriented neighborhoods to Live Oak. These communities also feature excellent views from higher, hilly elevations, something that is rarer to find in properties in Santa Cruz. 

Larger, Scenic Properties

Of course, the nearby conveniences of the downtown often come with a hefty price tag attached—especially true of the desirable, luxury neighborhoods, such as Westlake. While homes in Santa Cruz range in price and square footage, like most other cities anywhere, larger properties are commonly found further away from the downtown. Part of this is likely because Santa Cruz was incorporated in 1866, and lots in the more established neighborhoods are typically smaller than what is popular today. 

These alternative communities in the Santa Cruz area have many of the same, desirable home features that many buyers are looking for—but your money often goes further. Even in Aptos, a community with similar home prices, properties generally feature larger square footage. Again, this this extra space is quite appealing for growing families. 

The mountain communities north of Santa Cruz present a completely different lifestyle. For those who might want additional privacy and a more secluded atmosphere, consider the scenic homes in Felton, Scotts Valley, and smaller, as well as rural communities such as Boulder Creek. These areas are known for their forested, secluded properties, which may appeal to nature-lovers. And if the commute downtown is an important consideration, it’s about a 15 to 20-minute drive from the center of Felton to downtown Santa Cruz. 

Outdoor Recreation

Santa Cruz’s seaside location attracts many. In the warmer months, crowds can be found at the boardwalk and at the beach, surfers can be spotted catching the famed waves, and pedestrians will stroll around, browsing the many shops and restaurants.

As much as we love the city, there are some limits when it comes to outdoor recreation, and getting anywhere usually involves a bit of drive. As convenient as it is, the downtown area isn’t for everyone! Santa Cruz County communities, such as Aptos, have an abundance of green spaces. In the case of Aptos specifically, most of the north side belongs to The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. The same is true of Watsonville, where numerous natural areas are found in and around the city.


But for options closer to the Santa Cruz downtown, Pasatiempo, Paradise Park, Felton, and Scotts Valley are not only arboraceous communities, but also make it easy for residents to go hiking, camping, horseback riding, and so much more.


Discover all of these communities and more with an expert realtor. Find your dream home in Santa Cruz County with Lauren Spencer. Click to contact, or register today to be updated as soon as new listings hit the market. 

Posted by Lauren Spencer on
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