Where to Elope in Santa Cruz, California / Santa Cruz Elopement Ideas
Why Santa Cruz is a great place to elope:
California is a popular place to get away for an elopement, for good reason. Recently the most popular places to elope in California have been Big Sur and Yosemite. A quick look at instagram will tell you that couples and photographers have been flocking to those places like crazy. Now, I LOVE both those places, but I think Santa Cruz is a totally underrated destination that ranks up there with the scenery. One great part is that it’s not as isolated as Big Sur or Yosemite. Santa Cruz is located south of the San Francisco Bay Area along one of the most gorgeous highways in the world. It is within an hour of two major airports, yet it feels like a secluded vacation-land. Our little town is sandwiched between a dramatic coastline and some stunning coastal mountains covered in redwood forests. Many people think of the famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk when they think of this area, but it is so much more than that!
I offer elopement experiences for couples looking to elope somewhere gorgeous in the outdoors. Wherever we go during your elopement, it is my priority to make it feel meaningful. Sure, we are going to take lots of fun portraits, but I also believe that your wedding isn’t a photo shoot. It’s about creating real, meaningful and fun memories. Let’s go for an adventure.
1. The Forest of Nisene Marks
Nisene Marks is one of my favorite local spots to hike because there is always something new to discover. This lush redwood forest has a big network of trails, picnic areas, camping spots, creeks, and waterfalls. It’s a popular spot for Aptos locals to go for a trail run or walk their dog on weekends, but once you get off the main fire road you could easily have the park to yourself. Below is one of my favorite new spots in the park that I found by accident while hiking. It would make a gorgeous site for an elopement or micro wedding. It is easily accessible but I rarely see anyone down there! Check out the full blog of this shoot here.
2. Shark Fin Cove
Shark Fin Cove is easy to miss if you’re driving along Highway 1, but if you pay attention you’ll catch a glimpse of the giant rock shaped like a shark fin. The beach itself is tiny and beautiful, but usually a little crowded. Up above you get a much better view of the scenery, plus a nice flat trail that continues along the bluffs. This spot is easy to access, gorgeous and makes for a great backdrop to an elopement ceremony. It is located off of Highway 1 between Santa Cruz and Davenport. Check out the full blog post of this elopement inspiration shoot here.
3. Davenport Bluffs
Davenport, California has it all! Crazy views in every direction atop huge bluffs, a cypress grove, a picturesque beach that looks otherworldly in the fog, and nice meadows! Afterward you can walk across the street from the parking lot to celebrate at one of the local bars in this tiny town. Davenport is in Santa Cruz county and located about 15 minutes north of the city of Santa Cruz. Check out the full blog post of this elopement inspiration shoot here.
4. Panther Beach
Panther Beach is another incredible coastal spot right off of Highway 1 just 5-10 minutes from the west side of Santa Cruz. A natural arch in the cliff gives you access to an entirely separate beach when the tide is lower. I love the red and orange tones and texture of the cliff walls at this beach. One of my favorite things to do at Panther Beach is climb up on a rocky point that juts out from the cliff on the north end of the beach. You can only do it in low tide, but it’s spectacular! If you try it- please be careful and pay attention to whether the tide is going in or out. It’s easy to get stuck if you’re not being careful. Check out this shoot and also this elopement for more photos of Panther beach.
5. Henry Cowell State Park
Henry Cowell State Park is a redwood forest with old growth redwood trees in Felton, California. It is about 15 minutes up scenic Highway 9 from Santa Cruz. Close to the main parking lot is the wondrous Redwood Loop, which is a relatively short and very easy trail circling tremendous old growth trees. The redwood trees there are easily 1000-2000 years old or more. Just beyond the midpoint of the loop is a junction with another trail, which is a designated, reservable spot for wedding ceremonies. Eloping here in Henry Cowell will allow you to have an easy but inspiring journey through some of the most famous redwoods in the Santa Cruz mountains! Contact Henry Cowell SP to find out more details about reserving the site for a wedding and obtaining a permit.
- Naomi Rose https://www.santacruzofficiant.com
Hair and Makeup:
- Wilder Flowers https://www.wilderflowers.net
Are you interested in eloping but not quite sure yet? Are you stuck on how to plan it or where to go? Send me a note and I’d love to help you out. I love giving couples a full-on experience that involves help with planning in addition to photography.
Are you still looking for the perfect place to elope? Big Sur is another great destination. Check out my blog post about how and where to elope in Big Sur!