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12 Best Bars In & Around Santa Cruz

Beyond fog-drenched mountains and world-class wave breaks lies a bustling tapestry of nightlife and cocktails with influences from around the world. Whether you’re looking for a chill night with a craft beer in hand at a taproom or a live concert, there’s a place for everyone in the Santa Cruz bar scene.

So, designate a driver and get ready to check out the best drink specials, dives, music venues, and wine bars downtown Santa Cruz offers, all within just a few miles of our stunning Santa Cruz vacation rentals.

Here are the 12 best bars in and around Santa Cruz, California.

1. Blue Lagoon

Photo Credit: Matt Gatlin
  • Address: 923 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Price Point: $$
  • Features: Live Music, Billiards, Comedy Shows
  • Ambiance: Late-night dive bar

If these walls could talk! As if the weathered wood, dimly lit corners of this dive needed to tell you, it’s been around Santa Cruz long enough to become a true local establishment. Don’t let the rough edges fool you though; this lively dive throws concerts, DJ events, drag shows, and more that draw large crowds. Blue Lagoon is the place to be if you’re looking for drinks on the cheap, and a good and wild time.

Pro Tip: Check this out if you’re specifically on the hunt for other live music venues.

2. Hula’s Island Grill

Photo Credit: Neo Gonzalez
  • Address: 221 Cathcart St, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Price Point: $$
  • Features: outdoor dining, happy hour, sharable cocktails, Hawaiian
  • Ambiance: Quirky American-influenced Tiki-Bar with an excellent menu

Inspired by the California sunsets? Suddenly, find yourself craving a Mai Tai. Hula’s is your spot for when that tiki drink craving hits. This over-the-top Hawaiian-themed bar is great for couples or groups with many cocktail options (some including fire) for sharing with 2 to 4 others. If you don’t feel like sharing, be sure to try their famous painkiller or mai tai! The food here is highly recommended, so don’t forget to order some appetizers.

3. Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing

Photo Credit: Shane Brashear
  • Address: 402 Ingalls St #27, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Price Point: $$
  • Features: Beer Garden, Organic Craft Beer
  • Ambiance: Casual Microbrews in a Dog-Friendly Setting

Since 2005, Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing has been bringing craft and Santa Cruz quirkiness together for truly unique beers, Bavarian pretzels, outlandish decor, and plenty of space for large parties. If you can’t decide on a single ale, their beer flights and seasonal drafts are always worth a taste. Their emphasis is on organic, clean processes to maximize their flavor and quality, and trust me, it shows.

4. Crow’s Nest

Photo Credit: Orlando Rios
  • Address: 2218 E Cliff Dr, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Price Point:$$
  • Features: Sunset views, Brunch
  • Ambiance: Scenic ocean view seafood restaurant with great drinks.

A meal on the water like you’ve never experienced it. The Crow’s Nest has been serving delicious Santa Cruz seafood cuisine since 1969. And while this restaurant may not be bar-heavy, a cocktail during happy hour at sunset over Walton Lighthouse is hard to beat. Relax and sip as boats cruise in and out of the marina.

5. Moe’s Alley

Photo Credit: Evangeline Glickman
  • Address: 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz, CA 95065
  • Price Point: $
  • Features: Live Music
  • Ambiance: Concert Venue with Drinks

Santa Cruz is well known for its lively music scene. Hippies, surfers, and oddballs have been flocking here since the 60s. But that’s what we love about this seaside city, kinda like San Francisco. Moe’s Alley is where you’ll find a consistent calendar packed full of artists of all genres and from all corners of the world. Enjoy cheap, delicious cocktails in an amazing outdoor setting, with a stage inside and a dialed sound system to bring it all together.

6. Rosie McCann Irish Pub

Photo Credit: Matt Gatlin
  • Address: 1220 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Price Point: $
  • Features: Live Music
  • Ambiance: Classic Irish Pub meets sports bar

No matter where you go in the world, you can find an Irish Pub, and Santa Cruz is no exception. With a commitment to Irish hospitality, great food, and live music events, Rosie’s has been entertaining guests from near and far for over two decades. Grab a pint, stay for two, and check their website for music and events.

7. Brady’s Yacht Club

Photo Credit: Robert Mungary
  • Address: 413 Seabright Ave, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Price Point:$
  • Features: Dog-Friendly, Pool Table
  • Ambiance: Classic Westside Dive Bar

Every city has its best-kept secret. Brady’s in Seabright is where things get weird, drinks get cheap, and you’ll be sure to make some new mates. There won’t be a tourist in sight, and everyone will know each other’s names in this dog-friendly, ‘no-cares-given’ local joint. For anyone who claims to be a fan of dives, this sure is a deep one!

8. The Red Room Cocktail Lounge

Photo Credit: Raquel Robinson
  • Address: 1003 Cedar St, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Price Point: $
  • Ambiance: Casual but classy cocktail lounge

A local spot that lives up to its name. With huge leather sofas and red plush bar stools, the vibe is intoxicating at The Red Room Cocktail Lounge. This is the perfect place for a date night or a boozy place to start your evening.

Just sit back in one of the oversized couches that look fit for an old Victorian living room and see where the night takes you as you sip on delectable yet stiff cocktails at this ‘classy dive bar’ with an atmosphere cranked to 11 if one could ever exist. Don’t let the term dive mislead you; Red Room offers an extensive bourbon and tequila list, as well as specialty cocktails that will keep any connoisseur content.

9. Rush Inn

Photo Credit: fancynancy666 via Flickr CC2.0
  • Address: 113 Knight St, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Price Point: $
  • Ambiance: Cozy Neighborhood Dive

While on the subject of hidden gems in Santa Cruz, the unassuming Rush Inn is the place to go for cheap drinks and a more laid-back vibe, far away from the rowdier Moe’s or Brady’s. The ‘Cheers energy’ here is unmatched. No frills, no tinsel, just a neighborhood watering hole at its finest.

10. Front & Cooper

Photo Credit: Kenneth Lui
  • Address: 725 Front St, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Price Point: $$
  • Features: Craft Cocktails, Outdoor Dining
  • Ambiance: Approachable Craft Cocktail Bar with the atmosphere of a taproom.

When it comes to craft, innovative flavors, and novel recipes, Front & Cooper takes the lead. Where else can you enjoy an Ube Sake cocktail or find out why a place can be known for its Gin and Tonics?? This beautiful bar located in the Cooperhouse Shopping Center puts out equally aesthetic drinks and has a variety of craft beers and outstanding wines available as well.

While it doesn’t count as a tasting room, Front & Cooper has some of the best wines in the California region.

11. After Hours

Photo Credit: Getty Images
  • Address: 1001 Center St #1, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Price Point: $$
  • Features: Craft Cocktails, Coffee, Events
  • Atmosphere: Approachable, creative craft cocktails.

Established by the team over at Eleventh Hour Coffee, this funky, functional bar is all about experimentation and fresh seasonal ingredients. You’ll find wild combinations of flavors that will make you say, ‘Oh, I have to try that!’

After Hours is a fun little spot where creativity radiates from every surface; with events ranging from live music to trivia night and comedy shows, there is always something going on here. If After Hours is a craft cocktail bar, it wants you to know that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Good prices, great bartenders, and high-end libations are always on the menu in this downtown bar!

12. The Catalyst

Photo Credit: Michael Weisert
  • Address: 1011 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Price Point: $$
  • Features: Karaoke, Live music
  • Atmosphere: Night Club style

A quick little bonus bar we have to mention is The Catalyst. While it’s really known around town for its two stages and live music with world-class performers, Karaoke Night is a fan favorite. So move it on over the Catalyst on Friday nights with friends to sing your favorites. It’s a staple of Santa Cruz’s late-night nightlife.

Book Your Next Weekend Getaway in Santa Cruz!

While the Santa Cruz boardwalk is great for a Monday night stroll, most visitors are looking for something a little more lively to partake in when the weekend rolls around. These 12 bars of Santa Cruz are perfect for every 21+ visitor staying at our scenic vacation rentals in the heart of downtown Santa Cruz or the surrounding areas. Come check them out and book your next visit to the Surf City.