Santa Cruz is the perfect place to elope in California. While maybe not the obvious choice when there are places that are well known for elopements like Sequoia National Park, Big Sur, and Yosemite close by but I think that Santa Cruz is one of the most underrated areas in the state. It’s a little sleepy laid-back surfer town with friendly locals and limitless places to explore for the outdoor enthusiast.

Santa Cruz is a magical place to elope. But I’m going to be honest, before I spent a lot of time here I really had no clue about it. I thought of the movie Lost Boys or the boardwalk with the giant ferris wheel but let me tell you it’s so much more than that.

Santa Cruz is where the forest meets the sea. In others words, it’s perfect.

Beach Elopement location #1: Davenport Beach

Just north of Santa Cruz and south of Half Moon Bay sits the sleepy town of Davenport. Blink and you’ll miss it but the beaches are so beautiful and often quiet, making it an excellent choice for your elopement in Santa Cruz. Rolling dunes and the rock formations at “shark fin beach” remind me of Carmel and Big Sur. In the Spring the wildflowers blooms and the rolling hills are covered in bright green grass. The winters bring romantic fog, one of my favorite environments to photograph elopements and intimate weddings in.

Redwoods Elopement Location #2: Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

The Redwood Forest need I say more? Have you ever been to the magical mystical Redwood forest? If you have then there’s no need for me to explain why it’s the best place for an elopement in California. But if you haven’t, what are you waiting for? It’s an area that hits all of your senses. Scent of moss and pine and big beautiful trees as far as the eye can see. One of my favorite aspects of elopements in the Redwood forest is the beautiful light. The canopy of leaves above casts an even light which means that you’re not limited to only certain hours of the day for your elopement or intimate wedding. Henry Cowell has many different hikes to choose from for all athletic abilities.

Lake Elopement Location #3: Loch Lomond Recreational Area

One of Santa Cruz’s hidden gems. Serene and beautiful from every angle but some of the best views are from being out on the water. There are two main options for your elopement. You can walk around the southern shores of the lake on the flat shaded path with lake views the whole way or a more strenuous four mile, and often overlooked, roundtrip hike through the majestic Redwoods and up to a big beautiful view. Or two is renting a canoe or kayak and rowing over to the Little Clar Innis Island for your Intimate wedding! Since it’s a reservoir swimming is off limits. It’s important to note that the lake is open from March 1st through Labor Day weekend.

Forest Elopement Location #4: The Forest of Nisene Marks

Located in the forest in Aptos in Santa Cruz this state park has 30 miles of serene hikes to pick from for your unique elopement. This park has 10,000 acres of second-growth redwoods and oak groves just waiting to be discovered. There are two (seasonal) waterfalls- Maple Falls on the Bridge Creek Trail and Five Fingers Falls on the Aptos Creek trail if you’re game to take the adventure to get you there. Some of the trails are frequented by joggers and cyclists but I know some secret spots that are less trafficked for your elopement or intimate wedding. Rumor has it there are a couple of albino redwoods hidden in the forest!

One of my favorite aspects of living in California, and something I think is just so quintessentially the “slow coast” lifestyle is beach bonfires. Sunset, a cozy fire, a blanket to cuddle under, and the sound of waves crashing a few feet aways sounds like an epic activity to add into your elopement day. .I Here are some of the beaches in Santa Cruz where it’s legal to have a bonfire.

As always, when eloping check online for what permits, if any, are required.

I’m a destination elopement and intimate wedding photographer helping couples craft a meaningful experience for their wedding day in nature.

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