Sunset State Beach
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 country) built up in front of 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 the 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.
The beach is 16 miles south of Santa Cruz. Take Highway 1, exit on San Andreas Road, and follow signs south.
Things to doPicnic 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.Fishing
Surf perch, sardines and striped bass may be caught. A sport-fishing license is required.Hiking Trails
Explore the dune area and the campground.Bonfires
Beach fires are allowed in park-provided fire rings.
Fees and Passes
Parking is $10 and supports the park. Annual State Parks passes also are available to purchase at the entrance kiosk.
- Picnic tables and barbecues
- Fire rings
- Camping areas (including large group camping)
- Showers (Camping showers are 25 cents; bring quarters.)
- A sand wheelchair is available for use here — learn more in the Hilltromper Beach Accessibility Guide.
- Interpretive programs
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. Campsites in the Dunes and Pine Hollow loops are first-come, first-serve during the winter (Nov. 1 to the end of February).
Maximum trailer and camper/motorhome length is 31 feet.
- 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.
- Fires must be confined to fire rings provided.