Between its stunning state park-laden landscapes overlooking the Pacific Ocean and its enviable location 45 minutes south of San Jose at the northern end of Monterey Bay, Santa Cruz County is a well-known, highly sought-after destination for adventurous travelers and luxury-seeking homeowners. At the heart of this coastal oasis is the county's namesake city. It is a significant draw for those who delight in the unique trifecta of a lively seaside beach town, vibrant urban-suburban metro, and quaint, secluded rural enclave not far from the city center.
Santa Cruz — city and county — is among the rarest of locales with a bit of something to offer everyone who visits or chooses to make their stay more permanent.
In addition to the region's well-known hot spots and sought-after neighborhoods, Santa Cruz County features a trove of hidden residential gems. Maybe not wholly tucked away from the public eye, but instead, underrated, sometimes underappreciated, enclaves of upscale living.
These places retain the opulence and luxury of more notable Santa Cruz communities while eschewing much of the glamor and fanfare of living along California's vaunted Pacific coast.
Against the backdrop of the extraordinary Santa Cruz Mountains and an oceanfront shoreline stretching for nearly 30 miles, let's explore Santa Cruz County's hidden residential gems.
Notable here are the standout schools — the county's best elementary school in Bonny Doon — and the community's deep connection with nature. The 552-acre Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve is at your backdoor, while the community is characterized by its forested landscapes and direct access to seven major trailheads. You're also less than 15 minutes from five major beach areas.
Of course, the homes in Bonny Doon are not to be overlooked. What can only be described as the pinnacle of rural residential luxury, properties range from rustic modern designs that blend seamlessly into the natural surroundings to traditional cabins outfitted with every convenience imaginable. These properties sit on large plots, with ample outdoor space for gardens, nature trails, and even private wooded areas, which only add to the allure — a peaceful and unhurried lifestyle.
The key word to describe Day Valley is space and lots of it. More so than most of the county's other luxury enclaves, homes in this area occupy sizable plots of land — the average for homes currently for sale is 9 acres, which is typical regardless of the sales cycle or time of year. That translates into a number of sprawling estates and panoramic views and a genuine private retreat for those seeking it. The surrounding community features a handful of wineries and access to the aforementioned state forests, including the 2,681-acre Soquel Demonstration State Forest and the 9,700-acre Forest of Nisene Marks State Park.
Pajaro Dunes's geography supports a mile-long, single-street neighborhood with many unique beachfront properties. Ranging from sophisticated coastal houses to chic condominiums, each is designed to offer stunning views of the Pacific Ocean via large windows and spacious decks and direct access to miles of pristine and private beaches, providing the ultimate indoor-outdoor living experience.
Despite its secluded nature, Pajaro Dunes is conveniently located near the towns of Watsonville and Santa Cruz, offering easy access to various dining, shopping, and cultural experiences. Pajaro Dunes presents an idyllic setting for those seeking a luxurious beachfront lifestyle in a quiet, exclusive community.
But even the most well-known communities can hold a few surprises. A case in point is the ultra-luxe neighborhood of Woods Cove. Tucked along the western edge of the Pasatiempo community, the gated, ultra-luxe neighborhood defines seclusion. Set upon a bluff and situated adjacent to the Graham Hill Showgrounds, the well-hidden neighborhood accessible via Graham Hill Road features 60 homes surrounded by thick foliage.
Even among Pasatiempos prestigious neighborhoods, Woods Cove ascends another level, with every home a coveted showstopper. Grand exteriors and timeless interiors are the rules here, with every home featuring exquisite architectural details, generous outdoor spaces, and an unparalleled lifestyle.
Ready to uncover your hidden gem in Santa Cruz County?
If you're interested in luxury residential real estate in Santa Cruz County, contact Team Zech Properties today and allow our experience and expertise to help you navigate this dynamic, thriving market.
*Header photo courtesy of California Beaches