2531 W Cliff Dr, Santa Cruz, CA, United States
NileGuide Expert tip:
The waves can get very big very quickly at Natural Bridges, so on the look out for changing conditions, especially with small children. Also, the tide pool rocks can get slippery.
Natural Bridges is arguably the best beach in Santa Cruz. It epitomizes the Santa Cruz coastal landscape, and offers a few tricks up its sleeves as well. Natural Bridges is a very intimate beach, so much so that, early in the day when there aren't as many beach combers, it can almost feel like your own private beach. It's located at the very end, or beginning depending on your point of view, of West Cliff Drive, a popular drive/walk/bike/roller blade road that offers up-close and spectacular views of the Pacific.
As you pull into Natural Bridges, take note of the small parking lot sprinkled with onlookers catching their daily dose of the surf before heading back to work. Natural Bridges most distinctive feature is the giant rock arch on its eastern side. This is the last standing stone "bridge" of the many that used to stretch out from the cliff faces into the shore. When the tide is low enough, take a gander at the wildlife like anemones and starfish inside the arch.
Another unique feature of "Natty Bridges" is its tide pools. A quick jaunt over the rocks on the west side of the beach takes you on the shallow cliff faces and the countless pools brimming with wildlife.
As if all this, plus being an awesome beach to sunbathe and swim at, wasn't enough, Natural Bridges is also home to a Monarch butterfly reserve. Every year in the early spring, millions of Monarch butterflies congregate in the eucalyptus grove on the beach's north end. They are there to mate, and for a few magical weeks the grove is transformed into a butterfly haven. A lovely wooden path takes you deep into the grove. Be still, look up and witness orange-winged life flutter all around you.