Santa Cruz beaches are surprisingly accessible. Especially in a beach wheelchair.
by Hilltromper staff
Everybody loves the beach, but all that sand can be a slog for visitors in wheelchairs. We've compiled some resources to facilitate fun in the sun.
Borrow A Beach Wheelchair in Santa Cruz or San Mateo County
Little-known fact: A number of Santa Cruz area beaches have beach wheelchairs available to borrow at no charge. Made of lightweight material with big, wide wheels that roll easily across the sand, these dune buggies are the best way to get out and sniff the ocean breeze, though they do require a buddy to do the pushing. In most cases, the borrower needs to fill out a waiver and leave a form of I.D. There is no formal reservation system, but calling ahead is often advisable.
SANTA CRUZ COUNTY
Natural Bridges State Beach This beach, one of Santa Cruz County's most popular, is an excellent place for visitors with special needs, as the beloved Monarch Grove lies at the end of a gently graded wheelchair-accessible boardwalk. Natural Bridges also has a beach wheelchair available for visitor use; find it at the Visitor Center. 831.423.4609. Map to Natural Bridges State Beach
New Brighton State Beach This beautiful park has wheelchair-friendly paths around the unusual Monterey pine-shaded campground atop the bluff, as well as newly upgraded accessible restrooms and campsites. It also offers a beach wheelchair for use. The beach itself is best accessed from the Day Use Beach Lot. 831.464.6329. Map to New Brighton State Beach
Seacliff State Beach Having revamped its ADA-compliant infrastructure in 2014, Seacliff now has plenty of well-marked handicapped parking spaces and a lovely ramp down to the beach. It also has a beach wheelchair available for visitor use. Calling the day before is recommended. 831.685.6500. Map to Seacliff State Beach
Sunset State Beach This glorious South County beach and campground has a beach wheelchair that can also be borrowed (or ferried) for a trip to Manresa or another nearby beach. Call 831.763.7063. Map to Sunset State Beach
This guide is brought to you by Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks, a nonprofit organization that supports state parks in Santa Cruz County and along the San Mateo Coast. Learn more at the Friends website or read an article about them here.
Twin Lakes State Beach This much-loved and centrally-located beach has a beach wheelchair for use here and at Seabright; park employees will bring it where it's needed. Calling a day or two ahead is encouraged, as these two beaches get very busy. 831.427.4868. Map to Twin Lakes State Beach
Cowell Beach/Main Beach Heading to the beach near the Santa Cruz Wharf? The city of Santa Cruz has beach wheelchairs at the lifeguard station every day during summer and on spring and fall weekends. To make arrangements to borrow during other times, call 831.420.6015 x 3. Map to Cowell Beach
Santa Cruz Harbor Beach The Harbor district offers a beach wheelchair on the honor system; it's locked up by the bike racks between the Crow's Nest and the O'Neill building. Call to get the combination: 831.475.6161. Map to Harbor Beach
SAN MATEO COUNTY
Francis Beach at Half Moon Bay State Beach This popular destination, which also has a campground, has a beach wheelchair for the borrowing. 650.726.8820. Map to Half Moon Bay State Beach
Rent A Beach Wheelchair in Santa Cruz County
Shared Adventures rents beach wheelchairs for $30/day or $175/week. Pickup is on the Westside of Santa Cruz. Learn more about it on the Shared Adventures website. Call 831.459.7210 or email email@example.com.
Looking for accessible trails to tromp? Read our guide to wheelchair-friendly trails in the Santa Cruz area.
Other Santa Cruz Area Beaches With Accessible Features
Año Nuevo State Park A boardwalk approximately 1/4 mile long crosses dunes and coastal scrub to arrive at an observation deck overlooking Año Nuevo's famous elephant seal rookery. During the breeding season, Dec. 15-March 31, the park offers daily wheelchair-accessible tours Friday-Sunday (a van transports guests to the boardwalk); the rest of the year the tours are available on demand. Reservations are essential: learn more at the Año Nuevo accessibility page, by calling 650.879.2033 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Davenport Landing Beach This pocket beach on the North Coast has a wheelchair ramp from the parking lot down to the sand. Map to Davenport Landing Beach
Greyhound Rock Seventeen miles north of town, this beautiful County-run beach at the foot of the bluffs has a wheelchair accessible platform for admiring the stunning scenery below. Map to Greyhound Rock
Find an extremely useful Parks and Recreation section in the Access Santa Cruz County guide.
Shared Adventures' Day on The Beach, typically held on a midsummer day, is a huge celebration of accessible beach fun, with kayaking, scuba diving, beach wheelchair rides and music. Shared Adventures offers activities like gardening, rock climbing and archery throughout the year. Learn more at SharedAdventures.org.
The California Coastal Commission maintains a list of beaches that offer beach wheelchairs. It's a little optimistic—some of the beaches listed don't actually have their own but are serviced by nearby beaches—but it's more useful than not.
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Wheelchair-Friendly Santa Cruz Trails