Sunset State Beach
Sunset stairs


The historic Van Laanen farm provides the backdrop for this large park at the south end of Santa Cruz County. Surrounded by fertile farmland, Sunset State Beach features a wooded campground, picnic area, group campground, and 200-foot high dunes (the largest in the county) built up in front of a coastal bluff. The beach itself stretches down to where it meets the mouth of the Pajaro River, giving 3 miles of unobstructed and spectacular shoreline.

Visitors enjoy broad vistas of Monterey Bay from two main overlooks. During the summer and autumn, it is possible to see large groups of bottlenose dolphins. The beach features pine trees, mountainous sand dunes and ocean-side picnic spots.

Learn more in the California State Parks brochure.

Operating Hours

Day-Use Area 8 a.m. to Sunset


The beach is 16 miles south of Santa Cruz. Take Highway 1, exit on San Andreas Road, and follow signs south.

Things to do

Picnic Area

To reserve two large ramadas for special events at Sunset State Beach, call (831) 464-6290.

Beach Area

Visitors enjoy swimming, surfing, windsurfing, fishing and boating.


Surf perch, sardines and striped bass may be caught. A sport-fishing license is required.

Hiking Trails

Explore the dune area and the campground.


Beach wheelchairs are available for use on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Reservations are recommended. Contact the State Park Special Events Office at or 831-400-8519, Tuesday to Friday excluding holidays, between 8:00 am and 4:30 pm. Email is preferred.

Fees and Passes

Parking is $10 and supports the park. Credit card payments are encouraged.

Annual State Parks passes also are available to purchase at the entrance kiosk.


  • Picnic tables and barbecues
  • Camping areas (including large group camping)
  • Restrooms
  • Showers (Camping showers are 25 cents; bring quarters.)
  • Interpretive programs
  • Beach wheelchairs are available to borrow for day use. Learn more and make a reservation.


The campground is open year-round. There are 91 camping sites, one bicycle site and one group site. Call 800-444-7275 or go online for reservations. South Camp (sites 1-37) are open year-round. Dunes and Pine Hollow camps (sites 38-90), as well as the Group Camp, are open April 1-Oct. 31.

Maximum trailer and camper/motorhome length is 31 feet.

Firewood is available for purchase at the campground. By purchasing firewood in this park, you will help sustain the natural environment for the benefit of plants and animals – and support local park programs. Proceeds from firewood sales go to Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks and all funds stay local.  Thank you for your support.


Sunset State Beach is in the region known by local Indigenous Tribes as Calendaruc. The Tribes that lived in Calendaruc stewarded these lands since time immemorial. Centuries of colonial violence led to the removal and displacement of the Calendaruc people. Today, their descendants continue their stewardship and presence here, in partnership with State Parks.


  • Alcohol is not allowed on the beach or in day-use areas.
  • A fishing license is required.
  • Dogs are not allowed on the beach. They are allowed in campsites, on leashes no longer than 6 feet.
  • Do not feed or leave food out for wildlife.

Recreate Responsibly

Before you visit, check the Recreate Responsibly page to protect yourself, family, friends and your community by following these measures during your visit.

More Info

(831) 763-7063

Plan Your Visit

Get Directions

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Events at Sunset State Beach