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Relocating to Santa Cruz

Considering a move is exciting and scary. Knowing what's available will help make the transition easiest. Relocating to Santa Cruz is a dramatic change from almost anywhere else. Give us a call and let us know what you're hoping to find. Gregg 831-818-7524

The sunny coastline of the Golden State makes an attractive prospect for anyone looking to relocate for a happier, healthier lifestyle. With year-long summers and a refreshing approach to life, there’s something special about California that draws in people from all walks of life looking for a change. The sun-kissed county of Santa Cruz has something for everyone, whether you envisage spending your weekends surfing on the beach, or refining your taste buds at the various wineries and restaurants in the towns and cities.

Relocating can be a difficult and life-changing decision, with so many burning questions that need answering before you can commit wholeheartedly to the idea. The finer details about work, property, taxes and local amenities can be the deciding factors that determine whether those dreams will become a reality. Whether you’re a large family, a retired couple, or looking for business prospects, this detailed guide should tell you everything you need to know about moving to Santa Cruz, and hopefully get you excited about the prospect of a happy future on the sunny coast of California!

Santa Cruz: An Introduction

The laid back county of Santa Cruz lies midway along the coast of California, and is rich in variety. From sandy beaches to fun-filled cities such as Santa Cruz and Capitola, as well as forests and hills teaming with wildlife, it offers a relaxed pace of life and a more natural contrast to other counties in California.

Santa Cruz has had its fair share of historic changes, shaped by the civil war, several earthquakes, and a history of activism that has made it a popular hippy destination. Today, it’s a vibrant county where you’ll find a healthy combination of sports and beach activity, shopping, family fun, culture and gastronomy. As such, Santa Cruz offers the ‘whole package’ for anyone wanting to relocate to the Golden State, with a wealth of local amenities and no shortage of business and leisure activities. We’ll be giving you an in depth insight into the attractions of the region, as well as the opportunities for finding work and settling in, later in the article.

Finding a property in Santa Cruz

Prominent Towns and Cities

When relocating to the county of Santa Cruz, you should take the time to learn about the prominent towns and cities that make up the region, to decide where might be best suited for you and your family. Of course, the beaches are a highlight of this stretch of California, but there is much diversity to deliver on your dream of moving to the Golden State.

To give you an introduction to the housing market in Santa Cruz, property prices have been steadily rising over the past year as economic recovery and an increasing popularity of the county work their magic on the real estate market.

With the average house value sitting at around $675,000, you would normally expect to pay this for a 2-3 bedroom home. Having said this, the prices of course fluctuate greatly depending on the location and condition of the property; a luxury beach house will set you back far more than a family town house, for example. So let’s introduce you to some of the prominent areas for finding property in Santa Cruz:

The largest and most dynamic city in Santa Cruz County is Santa Cruz itself, nestled on Monterey Bay to create a bustling hub of the region. If you like to mix and match your hobbies and fill your days with fun activities, you won’t be disappointed with Santa Cruz. From surfing to shopping, beach houses to grand Victorian houses, it has it all. Although the largest city in the county, it’s a relaxed and lively place that makes a great alternative to locations such as Silicon Valley in nearby San Jose.

However if you do want to base yourself near the action in Silicon Valley, Scott’s Valley is the perfect middle ground. Situated half way between the two cities, it’s great for commuters and has plenty of natural countryside on the doorstep as well as beautiful beaches. As the house prices in Silicon Valley have rocketed in recent years, more and more people are waking up to the charms of Santa Cruz as a more laid-back and affordable location to settle down. For those who want to make the best of both worlds, Scott’s Valley is great choice.

If charming seaside towns excite you more than city thrills, Aptos, Capitola, Davenport and Soquel will give you that little slice of Californian contentment. Offering a quieter side to the county where surfing, fishing and walks on the beach are top of the agenda, it’s great for families and couples looking for a peaceful retirement. Meanwhile Watsonville is a gateway to the Pajaro Valley, surrounded by a wealth of wetlands and Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Reserve where the wild at heart will feel at home in a leafy suburb or forest cabin that they can call their own.

Whatever your idea of home is, Santa Cruz has a huge scope for personal taste and different demographics. Whether you’re moving to the region for business or retirement, as a family or a couple, you’ll find the perfect spot somewhere along this glorious coastline. When you’ve settled on this, you can then get down to finding your luxury villa overlooking the ocean, suburban home, or country retreat in the rural landscape beyond the beaches, depending on your taste in property.

How do I actually get moved in?

When you actually make the decision to move to Santa Cruz county, you’ll need a little help with moving your belongings from A to B. Moving is never straight forward even if you’re relocating to a nearby neighbourhood, so it can seem very daunting doing the same things hundreds or thousands of miles away. So let’s take a look at your options with a few tips on making the move as smooth as possible.

If you’re moving from another state within the United States, you should do some research to get quotes for both local and national companies who can do the job. Remember, although you’ll want to keep the cost as low as possible, you want to choose a reputable company who will get everything to your new home in one piece. So shop around, but be realistic with your budget. Comparison sites such as Moving.com are a good place to start for quotes to give you an idea of what you should be paying for your project. Alternatively, have you thought about renting a truck to do the journey in yourself? Many truck rental companies have locations all around the US, so when you’ve finished moving in you can simply drop it off at the nearest office in the area.

Moving to California from abroad obviously involves a little more time and effort, as you not only have to travel across America, but overseas too. However there is no shortage of international removal companies that will complete the journey door to door. Use a comparison website again to get some quotes on removal prices, and choosing a professional firm with experience in international moves is essential if you want to be sure that everything will make the journey safely. It’s always a good idea to search for reviews on a particular company before you commit to using them, as unfortunately scams and cowboys do exist out there!

Although you might want to take everything with you on a long distance move, the reality is that you’ll have to streamline your belongings at least a little bit to make it work. After all, if you’re looking for a fresh start, it might be time to sort out that attic or garage anyway. Pack everything well and get organized in plenty of time so that when the removal company arrives, you aren’t running around like a headless chicken. One thing to remember with long distance moves is to keep the essentials that you might need before your luggage arrives at your new home with you. So keep a small amount of any toiletries, personal items, laptops or clothing that you might need in a suitcase or hold-all that you can use during the transition.

IMPORTANT: If moving to the USA from abroad, you should take some time to make sure that you aren’t packing anything prohibited by the border control. If the authorities find anything from this list amongst your belongings, it could delay your belongings by days or even weeks! So make sure no groceries of perishables slip get packed when you box up the kitchen.

Is there anything I need to know?

When moving to Santa Cruz there are a few things you need to know about local administration such as taxes and local services. Although Santa Cruz may be a sunny escape for relocation, you’ll have to pay taxes when living here just like you will anywhere else in the world. Thankfully, we’re here to make it simple by introducing you to the essentials.

If you purchase rather than rent a home in Santa Cruz County, you’ll be responsible for paying the annual property tax to the Treasurer. Working out at roughly 1.2% of the value of your home, it’s paid if two instalments in November and February to break up the impact of the cost. It can be paid online, by mail, or in person in Santa Cruz city at the tax collector office.

Like everywhere in the USA, Santa Cruz also has a sales tax. In the county as a whole the rate is currently 8.25%, whilst in the city of Santa Cruz it’s slightly higher at 8.75%. If you’re moving to the USA from abroad, you should note that the tax isn’t usually included on the prices listed at shops, supermarkets and restaurants, but added at the end. So bear this in mind when you’re purchasing large items to kit out your new home!


1. Get Insured

Once you’ve made the big move, you’ll want to insure your health and your property as soon as you can. That way, you can guarantee that you’ll be covered in the event of any and all unfortunate accidents.

2. Look for work

Refine your job hunt and maximise your chances of finding a relevant position by utilizing local job boards, and taking advantage of our insider knowledge.

3. Find local schools

Ensuring that your kids are well provided for is essential. Take the guesswork out of the process by honing in on the type of school that will best suit your needs, and locating the right option for you.

1. Get Insured

One of the first things you need to do when moving into a new house in Santa Cruz is find some good insurance. As a newcomer to the neighbourhood, however safe it may be, you’re more likely to be a target for any opportunists in the area. So put safety first and phone around for some home insurance quotes. If your property is lacking in security measures, be proactive in taking steps that could reduce your premiums and keep your new property ‘safe as houses'.

People relocating to the Santa Cruz county from abroad should also consider getting health insurance in case you or your family ever require medical assistance. Some jobs offer health insurance as part of the package, but if you aren’t covered then medical bills can soon add up in America when your health takes a turn for the worst.

2. Where should I start looking for work?

Perhaps you’re looking to bring your business and skills with you to Santa Cruz where you can continue doing what you do best, somewhere new. Or maybe you’re looking for a career break in a whole new industry. As a prosperous county driven by tourism, agriculture and the services and management industries, you can put your hand to almost anything in Santa Cruz.

Just as you’re probably looking to relocate to California to take advantage of the sunny climate, beautiful beaches and stunning landscapes, millions of people flock to the West Coast for their holidays every year. This consistent stream of tourists offers a reliable source of revenue for the region. So whether you’re looking for a job directly within tourism, such as being a tour guide or working in hospitality, or you see an opportunity for your own business venture in the region, if you can tap into the tourist market then the rewards can be endless for hard-workers and entrepreneurs.

The city of Santa Cruz is perhaps the most thriving area of the county, and in summer 2013 Forbes it ranked 6th in Forbes’ in a list of the top cities for growth in the future. Why? An entrepreneurial culture of small and big businesses working together to improve the city ensures that the future is bright for Santa Cruz. With several big employers in the city such as the University of California and the County of Santa Cruz seat, there’s a lot of investment and business that has sown the seeds for its success if you’re looking for a good place to relocate.

If you’re searching for proof that Santa Cruz County has an entrepreneurial spirit, you only need to look at some global brands and businesses that are based in the region. International surf brand O’Neill is based in the area, as well as several other sport and apparel brand such as Sessions, West Marine and Giro. The favourable climate and environment has also helped the region to make its mark on wine and cider production, with Martinelli’s sparkling cider produced in the Pajaro Valley, near Watsonville. Business isn’t just centered around the county’s natural charms though; technology has been a big export of the region, and several global IT and electronic firms have found prosperity here. Wherever your interest and skills base lies, there’s a huge diversity in the jobs market in Santa Cruz and a ripe environment for business.

Of course, you may have already decided on the area that you’d like to move to in Santa Cruz and want a more local selection of job listings. Workforce Santa Cruz County unites several organizations to provide services throughout the county, with career centers in Watsonville, Capitola and Santa Cruz city. If you’re looking for a full time or part time job in Santa Cruz, these centers have extensive local listings and will also provide you with career advice and support when searching for a job. What’s more, it’s free. Find out more about Workforce Santa Cruz County to see where you can find these centers when you arrive in the area.

If you decide to go your own way and set up a business or enterprise, Santa Cruz County has support and resources available for you as well. For anyone moving to California from another state or country, it might be a good idea to get some advice on the particulars of setting up a business in the area. Whether or not you’ve had previous experience in running your own enterprise, local customs and regulations vary greatly from county to country and even state to state. SCORE helps businesses throughout the USA with free counselling and low cost training, with a local base in Santa Cruz that small businesses and entrepreneurs can take advantage of. You’ll also find lots of useful information on the various rules, regulations and requirements of starting a business in Santa Cruz County here.

3. Finding a school

From nursery to graduation, Santa Cruz is a great place to raise a family, whether you’re arriving with tiny tots or old-before-their-age teenagers. As an area that combines the natural delights of the sun, sea and countryside with a fantastic wealth of activity in the cities, it’s got the best of both worlds for families. Here, your children can enjoy a healthy balance of a great education and an endless choice of hobbies and things to do, that will make their years of growing up unforgettable.

Santa Cruz city and the Pajaro Valley have the greatest choice in schools, making Santa Cruz and Watsonville popular destinations for families looking to relocate to the region. Before choosing a school, you’ll have to make up your mind as to whether you want to send your child to public or private school. There are various advantages and disadvantages to each, so it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons before making this important decision.

Public schools are free to attend and therefore there is much more variety in the quality of the schools, whatever region of the United States you go to. They are much easier to get your child into than private schools, so long as you’re living locally. What’s more, you can be sure that your child will be receiving an education in line with most schools in the region. However it’s important to do your research into the rating of public schools BEFORE you move to Santa Cruz as a family. After all, your child will probably attend the local institution, so you want to make sure you’re near to a good one, whether it’s an elementary or secondary school.

Private schools are renowned for being expensive in the United States, but if you’re prepared to pay then your child will benefit from smaller class sizes, a more individual education, and more qualified subject teachers. Santa Cruz County has 32 private schools, and nearly half of them are religious ones. Some parents also consider private school as an option for children with special needs, as they are deemed to offer a more individual learning experience that public schools often lack.

Another alternative to consider for your child if you want a more individual education but cannot afford the expense of private school is a chartered school. These independent schools are publicly funded with the help of donations, to deliver a sterling education that is more accessible to children from all backgrounds. Santa Cruz County boasts the best charter school in California that ranks an impressive 6th place in charter schools throughout the USA, Pacific Collegiate School. It uses a lottery process for admission, making it fair but also luck of the draw when trying to get your child into the school.

Children with special needs are well supported in Santa Cruz, with a variety of schools that deal with specific conditions and learning difficulties to give your child the help and support that they need. Some of the notable institutions in the region include the Bay School and Coryell Autism Centre, both of which offer education for children for all ages in the city of Santa Cruz. The latter also provides learning and vocational opportunities for young adults. Chartwell School in Seaside aids children with dyslexia and other learning difficulties with a sensory approach to learning. These are just a few of the schools and programs available for children with special needs in Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz also boasts one of the 10 University of California campuses, and offers a bright and fun destination for higher education. From prestigious degrees to countless clubs and societies, it’s a popular choice for students both from America and around the world. When you haven’t got your head in a book or your schedule full of new hobbies, the city of Santa Cruz is a vibrant place to hang out with friends on the beach and at the various bars and restaurants.

Transport in Santa Cruz County

Santa Cruz County is well connected both within the region and beyond. Silicon Valley is under an hour away by car, whilst San Jose airport is no further than 45 minutes away where ever you live in the region. Although much smaller than Oakland airport and San Francisco airport, it’s well connected and allows you to get in and out of the state with ease.

Most of the county is served by the Santa Cruz Metro, which connects the main towns and cities of the region including Santa Cruz, Watsonville, Capitola and Scott’s Valley. Great for those who don’t have a car or want to cut down on their carbon footprint, it has discounts for those aged 17 and under, adults over 62, and those with disabilities. As such, it’s a convenient way to get around the region without the hassle of driving.

Santa Cruz city also has a fantastic trolley service that runs between downtown and the beach, stopping off at local sites such as the Wharf, Del Mar Theatre, Pacific Avenue and Boardwalk. It runs every 15-20 minutes daily between 11am and 9pm, making it a fun way to get around the city without having to drive into the center. It’s a popular choice for getting around for those with small children, disabilities, or simply a lot of things to do during your day in the town!

Clubs and Societies

Some people come to Santa Cruz wanting to find a new lease of life through discovering new hobbies and interests, others want to bring their passion with them to the West Coast. The county has a wealth of clubs and societies where you can meet likeminded people and pursue your hobbies, both at a local and county level. But to get you started here are a few of the clubs and societies that have gained a strong following in both Santa Cruz city and the region as a whole.

As a region rich with vineyards and wineries, it should come as no surprise that there are several wine clubs and societies in Santa Cruz. Many of these are memberships offered by the vineyards, offering access to exclusive and discount bottles as well as several events throughout the year. However you don’t need to become a member of a wine club to enjoy the produce of the region, and you’ll find no shortage of wine bars and tasting events throughout the year in Santa Cruz.

Another main feature of Santa Cruz is its status as the 4th World Surfing Reserve in the world. As such there are surf schools and clubs scattered along the coast, and the excellent conditions make it a great place to learn and enjoy this thrilling sport. One of the biggest societies in the area is the Big Stick Surfing Association, welcoming surfers of all ages to join in local events and competitions and share in their love of the surf.

The mix of ocean and hilly landscapes has blessed Santa Cruz County with a thriving natural habitat that is a haven for birds. Bird watching is a popular past time of many people living in the area, and the Santa Cruz Bird Club offers information on local birds, events and field trips around the region. Watsonville and the Pajaro Valley are particularly hot spots for bird watching, so anyone relocating to this area of the county may find their interest is sparked by their surroundings.

Other popular societies within the region include music, performing arts and sports groups. If your interest lies more in promoting a cause or campaign, Santa Cruz city in particular is renowned for its devotion to social activism. From community causes to global issues, as well as more niche areas of activism, residents of the area take a keen interest in fighting for change and justice. And if you can’t find a community organization that exists for your cause, you won’t find many better places to start an initiative.

Activities and Events

Santa Cruz has a lively social calendar, and if you want to throw yourself in to the local community when settling in to your new home, this is the place to do it. From free concerts to exciting shows, there’s always something going on in Santa Cruz County.

Theatre and music, movies and art; all things cultural thrive in Santa Cruz. The relaxed approach of the region to leisure time means a fine appreciation of the good things in life. Highlights of the cultural calendar include the Santa Cruz Film Festival, the Capitola Art and Wine Festival, and the Santa Cruz Jazz Festival. However you’ll find regular events in your local area where you can enjoy performances from rising stars and famous names throughout the year.

Surfing has already been mentioned as a popular sport in the region, but it isn’t the only way that people like to keep active along the coast. Water sports such as sailing and kayaking are also great ways to make the most of living near the sea. Meanwhile you can enjoy fishing both at the beach and inland at places such as Scotts Valley on a weekend in Santa Cruz.

If indulging in fine food and drink sounds more up your street, Santa Cruz also has you covered. Gorge on fresh seafood and delicious world cuisine in the many cafes, bars and restaurants that permeate the region, and guzzle it down with a few glasses of local wine or cider produced on your doorstep. The California Beer Festival, Santa Cruz Greek Food and Culture Festival, and Santa Cruz Mountains Vintners Festivals are just a few of the events that grace the county’s calendar, where you can sample the very best of local produce and meet likeminded foodies.

Of course, the list is by no means exhaustive of activities and events in the region, but as an overview of some of the highlights the above should give you an insight into what to expect when moving to Santa Cruz. Regardless of your hobbies and interests, there are many attractions that are a great way to get to know the area when you first arrive, so let’s finish by taking a look at them.

Popular Attractions

Whether you’re working, retired or a family, there are some fantastic attractions in Santa Cruz that you should take the time to discover during your leisure time. From beaches to museums, nature reserves to golf courses, you can shape your evenings and weekends with lots of things to see and do for all ages.

Families can easily spend the weekend making the most of the Beach Boardwalk amusement park in Santa Cruz. At the weekend this colorful stretch of coast is a world of activity, with rides, shopping, bowling and even free concerts and movies on the beach during the summer. Other events hosted at the park include sports challenges and competitions, so keep an eye on their calendar to squeeze the fun from this place.

However if you want to get out of Santa Cruz to explore the more natural side to the county, the Pajaro Valley is a great place to start. Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Reserve boasts miles of walking routes and is teaming with wildlife, perfect for nature lovers, hikers and bird watchers. The Wilder Ranch State Park and Natural Bridges State Beach are also popular places for picnics and walking on a weekend, although we could go on with the huge list of beaches and parks in the area.

If you want to expand your horizons in your free time in Santa Cruz, there are several museums and galleries that are worth a visit for an educational afternoon. Aptos and Capitola both have their own local history museums, whilst the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum and Monterery Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Centre are perfect for anyone with an interest in all things ocean. For the arts, visit the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History to see a range of exhibitions on display.

Beyond the major attractions, Santa Cruz County has a healthy representation of shops, places to eat and drink, sporting and cultural venues, as well as nightlife. If you want to learn more about the wealth of attractions and things to do in Santa Cruz, the Santa Cruz tourism website is a brilliant resource to browse.


With its glorious climate, diversity in location and attractions, as well as attractive opportunities for work, business and education, Santa Cruz County is a shining beacon on the West Coast. Offering a laid-back side to California that makes it popular with all ages and families, it’s no wonder that more and more people are choosing to move to Santa Cruz when realizing their Californian dreams. Hopefully this comprehensive guide on relocating to Santa Cruz should have given you a firm understanding of the ins and outs of the county, including the things that make it special as well as the important finer details.

If you want to make your move to Santa Cruz a reality, Property in Santa Cruz can help to make your relocation happen. Offering an extensive selection of Santa Cruz real estate listings, including beach homes and townhouses, take a look at our collection where you’re sure to find the perfect location and property for you.

With many thanks to Stanislav Sedov, Anita Ritenour and Angelo DeSantis for use of their images in this article.

Current Homes for Sale
Santa Cruz County
City # Price Range
Aptos Homes 346 $330k - $13.0m
Capitola Homes 133 $50k - $8.1m
Rio Del Mar / Seascape Homes 176 $495k - $13.0m
Santa Cruz Events 728 $15k - $23.0m
Santa Cruz Homes 728 $15k - $23.0m
Santa Cruz Real Estate 728 $15k - $23.0m
Monterey County
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Big Sur Homes 10 $425k - $32.0m
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