Women sometimes sunbathe topless on Capitola Beach and Santa Cruz Boardwalk Beach on warm days. For several decades, lifeguards and rangers at the sites have allowed the practice to continue. So far, they've received few complaints. However, full nudity isn't accepted.
Since at least 1981, when activist Nikki Craft was arrested on a Capitola beach for topless sunbathing (she then co-founded the Cross Your Heart Support Committee, whose members were arrested nine times in Santa Cruz for nudity), countercultural and law enforcement values have clashed on and off the sand in Santa Cruz and Capitola. Neither city has an antinudity statute, and attempts to pass them have been unsuccessful.
How to find it:
How to find it: Boardwalk Beach: from downtown Santa Cruz, go west on Front Street until it ends at Beach Street, across from the Santa Cruz Municipal Pier. Park on the pier or turn left onto Beach and find parking on a side street. Capitola: take Highway 1 south of Santa Cruz to the Capitola Avenue exit. Follow Capitola west to Capitola State Beach.
Backed by a large amusement park, Santa Cruz Boardwalk Beach is wide, expansive, and very flat and sandy. Capitola Beach is enclosed between two bluffs and is bordered by the Esplanade, an area lined with shops, galleries, and dozens of restaurants.
A mix of locals and tourists.
At both beaches, wind, fog, and cold water. For Boardwalk Beach, add noise from the amusement park.
Select an Area: