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Santa Cruz County, California facts for kids

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Not to be confused with Santa Cruz County, Arizona.
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Santa Cruz County, California
County of Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, California - Boardwalk.jpg
Bigbasinredwoods.jpg Roaring Camp Shay1 04.jpg
DowntownWatsonville.JPG Davenportbeach.jpg
Images, from top down, left to right: The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in 2005, a walkway through redwood groves in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, the Roaring Camp and Big Trees Narrow Gauge Railroad in 2008, Downtown Watsonville in 2010, Davenport Beach in 2006.
Flag of Santa Cruz County, California
Official seal of Santa Cruz County, California
Location in the state of California
Location in the state of California
California's location in the United States
California's location in the United States
Country  United States of America
State  California
Region Central Coast
CSA San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland
Incorporated February 18, 1850
County seat Santa Cruz
Largest city Santa Cruz
 • Total 607 sq mi (1,570 km2)
 • Land 445 sq mi (1,150 km2)
 • Water 162 sq mi (420 km2)
Highest elevation
3,234 ft (986 m)
 • Total 262,382
 • Estimate 
 • Density 432.3/sq mi (166.90/km2)
Time zone UTC-8 (Pacific Time Zone)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-7 (Pacific Daylight Time)
Area code 831
FIPS code 06-087
GNIS feature ID 277308

Santa Cruz County, California, officially the County of Santa Cruz, is a county on the Pacific coast of the U.S. state of California. As of the 2010 census, the population was 262,382. The county seat is Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz County comprises the Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is also included in the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA Combined Statistical Area. The county is on the California Central Coast, south of the San Francisco Bay Area region. The county forms the northern coast of the Monterey Bay, with Monterey County forming the southern coast.


Santa Cruz County was one of the original counties of California, created in 1850 at the time of statehood. In the original act, the county was given the name of "Branciforte" after the Spanish pueblo founded there in 1797. A major watercourse in the county, Branciforte Creek, still bears this name. Less than two months later on April 5, 1850, the name was changed to "Santa Cruz" ("Holy Cross").

Mission Santa Cruz, established in 1791 and completed in 1794, was destroyed by the 1857 Fort Tejon earthquake, but a smaller-scale replica was erected in 1931.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 607 square miles (1,570 km2), of which 445 square miles (1,150 km2) is land and 162 square miles (420 km2) (27%) is water. It is the second-smallest county in California by land area and third-smallest by total area. Of California's counties, only San Francisco is physically smaller.

The county is situated on a wide coastline with over 29 miles (47 km) of beaches. It is a strip of about 10 miles (16 km) wide between the coast and the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains at the northern end of the Monterey Bay. It can be divided roughly into four regions: the rugged "north coast"; the urban City of Santa Cruz, Soquel, Capitola, and Aptos; mountainous Bonny Doon, San Lorenzo River Valley; and the fertile "south county", including Watsonville and Corralitos. Agriculture is concentrated in the coastal lowlands of the county's northern and southern ends. Most of the coastline is flanked by cliffs.

California Cost, Santa Cruz, CA
Santa Cruz Coast

Flora and fauna

Santa Cruz County is home to the following threatened or endangered species:

Año Nuevo State Marine Conservation Area, Greyhound Rock State Marine Conservation Area and Natural Bridges State Marine Reserve are marine protected areas off the coast of Santa Cruz County. Like underwater parks, these marine protected areas help conserve ocean wildlife and marine ecosystems.

Adjacent counties

Counties and bodies of water adjacent to Santa Cruz County, California



Places by population, race, and income


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 643
1860 4,944 668.9%
1870 8,743 76.8%
1880 12,802 46.4%
1890 19,270 50.5%
1900 21,512 11.6%
1910 26,140 21.5%
1920 26,269 0.5%
1930 37,433 42.5%
1940 45,057 20.4%
1950 66,534 47.7%
1960 84,219 26.6%
1970 123,790 47.0%
1980 188,141 52.0%
1990 229,734 22.1%
2000 255,602 11.3%
2010 262,382 2.7%
Est. 2015 274,146 4.5%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 2010–2015

The 2010 United States Census reported Santa Cruz County had a population of 262,382. The racial makeup of Santa Cruz County was 190,208 (72.5%) White, 2,766 (1.1%) African American, 2,253 (0.9%) Native American, 11,112 (4.2%) Asian, 349 (0.1%) Pacific Islander, 43,376 (16.5%) from other races, and 12,318 (4.7%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 84,092 persons (32.0%).


As of the census of 2000, there were 255,602 people, 91,139 households, and 57,144 families residing in the county. The population density was 574 people per square mile (222/km2). There were 98,873 housing units at an average density of 222 per square mile (86/km2).

There were 91,139 households out of which 31.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.0% were married couples living together, 10.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.3% were non-families. 25.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.71 and the average family size was 3.25.

In the county, the population was spread out with 23.8% under the age of 18, 11.9% from 18 to 24, 30.8% from 25 to 44, 23.5% from 45 to 64, and 10.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 99.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.8 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $53,998, and the median income for a family was $61,941. Males had a median income of $46,291 versus $33,514 for females. The per capita income for the county was $26,396. About 6.7% of families and 11.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.50% of those under age 18 and 6.30% of those age 65 or over.

Santa Cruz county residents tend to be well-educated. 38.3% of residents age 25 and older hold a bachelor's degree at least, significantly higher than the national average of 27.2% and the state average of 29.5%.


Major highways

California 236.svg[California State Route 678 State Route 678

County routes

  • Santa Cruz County Route G12 CA.svg County Route G12

Public transportation

Santa Cruz County is served by the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District bus system.

An Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach "Highway 17 Express" bus between Santa Cruz and San Jose is jointly operated by Amtrak, the SCMTD and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. Greyhound Lines bus service also serves Santa Cruz County.


Watsonville Municipal Airport is a public general aviation airport. There are two air carriers based at the airport offering on-demand air charter:

  • AirMonterey, LLC (Corporate Aircraft)
  • Specialized Helicopters, LLC (Helicopters)

There is a notable private airport, Monterey Bay Academy Airport, which is a former military base.

The nearest airports for scheduled commercial travel include San Jose International Airport, Monterey Regional Airport, San Francisco International Airport, and Oakland International Airport.



Census-designated places

Unincorporated community

Population ranking

The population ranking of the following table is based on the 2010 census of Santa Cruz County.

county seat

Rank City/Town/etc. Municipal type Population (2010 Census)
1 Santa Cruz City 59,946
2 Watsonville City 51,199
3 Live Oak CDP 17,158
4 Scotts Valley City 11,580
5 Capitola City 9,918
6 Soquel CDP 9,644
7 Rio del Mar CDP 9,216
8 Interlaken CDP 7,321
9 Ben Lomond CDP 6,234
10 Aptos CDP 6,220
11 Pleasure Point CDP 5,846
12 Boulder Creek CDP 4,923
13 Twin Lakes CDP 4,917
14 Felton CDP 4,057
15 Amesti CDP 3,478
16 Day Valley CDP 3,409
17 Seacliff CDP 3,267
18 Freedom CDP 3,070
19 La Selva Beach CDP 2,843
20 Bonny Doon CDP 2,678
21 Aptos Hills-Larkin Valley CDP 2,381
22 Corralitos CDP 2,326
23 Brookdale CDP 1,991
24 Lompico CDP 1,137
25 Pasatiempo CDP 1,041
26 Mount Hermon CDP 1,037
27 Zayante CDP 705
28 Davenport CDP 408
29 Paradise Park CDP 389
30 Pajaro Dunes CDP 144

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