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Panther Beach: Santa Cruz’s Secluded Paradise



One of the best cities to be in California is Santa Cruz. This place is teeming with so many cultures that even choosing one gets a bit difficult. With Santa Cruz’s beautiful beaches, a downtown area full of life, and its rich cultural heritage, to name a few, you’ll have a swell time spending your summer here!

But Santa Cruz is well-known worldwide for its skateboarding culture and surfing scene. Who wouldn’t be in awe of what Santa Cruz has to offer? Whether you’re surfing on the concrete or the waves, joining the City of Santa Cruz is surely an adventure. But did you know that Santa Cruz has a not-so-hidden gem waiting for you to embark on it?

Santa Cruz’s undeniable bohemian charm keeps visitors and locals coming back for more, and Panther Beach adds more to that charm. Panther Beach has it all—nature lovers, adventure seekers, and relaxation enthusiasts can find their place and be in their element at Panther Beach. Though Panther Beach has already become a local household name, it is still considered an exquisite escape because of the ways to get there.

How Panther Beach Came to Be

panther beach, santa cruz


Panthers don’t exactly go to the shores near the waters. But who knows? You might spot a panther or two just lounging around on Panther Beach. Just kidding! The California coast isn’t exactly the best place for panthers to be. One might have a theory that Panthers are why Panther Beach is called that way, but it’s more complex than we think.

Panther Beach is sitting comfortably in the northern part of Monterey Bay. Contrary to the popular beaches in Santa Cruz, where people flock, lounge, do picnics, sunbathe, swim, surf, and anything else, Panther Beach looks slightly different. Though it is a beach, you won’t find locals saying it’s a good spot for a family to spend their time in.

I hope you’ve got a little imagination in you because you’ll need that to figure out why Panther Beach is called Panther Beach. Are you ready? If you look around the beach, you will spot golden cliffs near it. Looking at it closely, you might spot a panther! No, not the wild feline. Panther Beach wouldn’t be a good location if wild animals were around. The mixture of yellow, gray, and red rocks is shaped like a panther from where you’re standing. And that’s how the beach’s name came to be.

The Adventure Begins Even Before You Set Foot on Panther Beach

Panther Beach


Picture a California beach. It’s surrounded by hotels, great restaurants, relaxing lounging areas, and a wide seashore to sunbathe on, play on, enjoy beach sports, or anything else possible under the sun. Isn’t it so relaxing and just fitting for your summer vacation? Well, that’s not how Panther Beach is. Usually, beaches have widely and safely accessible areas to enter the beach and the shoreline. Panther Beach doesn’t.

Don’t get too intimidated! One of the great things about Panther Beach is how the adventure begins even before you set foot on the beach. If you have a knack for hiking, this will be the perfect place. There are no people to maintain the trail to the beach. Therefore, you’ll be left with a narrow trail that’s overgrown with grass and flowers. You can pick some along the way. Bringing in some materials to cut overgrown foliage would be helpful, but if you’re feeling adventurous, you can just wade your way through.

It’s rare to be on the wrong path going to Panther Beach, but one sign that indicates you’re on the right path is that there will be tons of UCSC college students walking the same path as you. Don’t worry; Panther Beach doesn’t have an age restriction. It doesn’t even have a proper entrance! It’s a great place for college kids to let out their adventurous spirit and relax by the ocean.

What to Expect in California’s Not-so-hidden Paradise

Even though Panther Beach isn’t exactly a hidden paradise, it is still considered one of the best-kept secrets of Santa Cruz and California due to the fact that not many tourists flock to this area. Only the college kids and a few locals enjoy this spot. Going to Panther Beach and seeing all the locals accompanying you will make you feel like they let you in on some local secret—it feels really special!

The lack of hotels and restrooms in this state park will make you feel like you embarked on an adventure that only a handful of people can treasure and share. Panther Beach provides some novelty that only a few other beaches could provide. Additionally, the rock formations on the beach by the shore make it a sight to behold.

Panther Beach was once known as Yellow Bank Beach because of its position. The beach is sitting at the mouth of the Yellow Bank Creek. It is also known as the Hole In The Wall Beach because of a low-tide phenomenon you’ll only see when, well, during the low-tide of the Pacific waters. If you come at the right time, there will be so many picturesque spots on the not-so-hidden beach that Instagram will surely love!

Whether it’s high tide or low at Panther Beach, its remarkable and unique beauty will captivate you like never before. And, of course, like any other beach, you can enjoy your time here sunbathing, eating out, or just plainly relaxing. Remember to leave no trails of your visit, and keep your eyes and mouth to yourself if you spot some naked sunbathers. Remember, Panther Beach is a clothing-optional beach.

Yep, There Are Still Some Rules To Follow To Enjoy Panther Beach


Panther Beach might be a secret beach, but it doesn’t mean there are no rules to follow. This is a state park, after all. Although Panther Beach only has a few rules, it’s best to follow them religiously so you, the rest of your gang, and the people that will follow afterward can enjoy the beach at its best. Check out the rules below, and list them before your trip!

  • Do not go rock climbing! The unique rock shapes and formations on Panther Beach aren’t made for rock climbing unless you’re some kind of daredevil or professional rock climber. Even if you are and see some people doing it, it’s still incredibly dangerous and illegal.
  • Don’t bring glass bottles to the beach. To avoid littering the precious Panther Beach sand and rocks with dangerous glass bottles, it’s best to leave those soda bottles or whatever is behind and enjoy them later. Or if you insist, make sure to bring them back on your way home.
  • Pets are not allowed.
  • Camping isn’t allowed.
  • And yes, setting up bonfires is prohibited, too.

But Wait, There’s More Than Just Lounging On Panther Beach


Have we all forgotten about all the aquatic activities we can freely (and safely!) do on Panther Beach? Of course, swimming is allowed! As long as someone supervises you and ensures you’re safe. And while you’re at it, bring your swimsuits, surfboard, and cowabunga the day away at this breathtaking beach!

Take advantage of Panther Beach’s huge waves and have the Californian experience that’s one for the books. And if you want to go more on the safer side, Panther Beach has quite a few tide pools that are best for those who want to lounge and dip into the clear waters of the Pacific.

Beyond Panther Beach: Hangout Areas After Your Beachy Adventure


Looking for more places to spend your precious vacation time after your adventure with Panther Beach? Worry not, because Santa Cruz has so much to offer! From downtown Santa Cruz’s mix of eateries, boutiques, and art galleries to the beachfront rentals you can book in advance, Santa Cruz offers many experiences! Mingle with the locals skateboarding all around town, or have a short drive to the Natural Bridges State Beach or the Seacliff State Beach and have the time of your life.

Santa Cruz is the best place for adventure seekers who want to try just a little of everything else. With Panther Beach, this coastal sanctuary will give you a sense of serenity and fulfill your craving for experience all in one go. Enjoy the unspoiled beauty of California’s hidden secrets and experience the surf culture that’s famous worldwide. Santa Cruz is perfect for living that California dream. Surf’s up, dude!

Bea Marie is a communication graduate from the Philippines, currently navigating adulthood with her feline friend. She works as a content writer by day, and you'll find her nose buried in books that strike her fancy by night. Embracing stoicism, she seeks tranquility and balance amid life's challenges. Balancing work and hobbies, Bea Marie seeks to live a fulfilling life by opening herself to learning more and enjoying her time with her feline, friends, and family.