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Privates Beach in Santa Cruz, California

Privates Beach in the Opal Cliffs area of Santa Cruz is a public beach again! In 2018 the California Coastal Commission required the park operators to unlock the gate at this beach access during daylight hours.

Previously this shoreline access at Opal Cliffs Park, which is better known as “Privates Beach”, was locked most of the time and those who wanted access had to pay a fee to get a key (it was also known as “Key Beach”). According to the CCC this was the only public park in the state that charged for coastal access. It was operated by a neighborhood recreation district which has since been dissolved and the park was moved to a Santa Cruz County recreation district. All of this effort, including reversing some un-permitted work, means that the general public now doesn’t have to chase down a key for access.

This beach is mostly a locals surfers beach, but when the tide is low it’s a great place for families with little kids who want to run around. At low tide you’ll find abundant tidepools to investigate. Unfortunately, you won’t find a lot of dry sand at Privates Beach except at lower tides.

When the gate was locked this mostly secluded beach was also considered clothing optional, but we hope that this practice will not be allowed anymore especially since families are using the using it more.

The address of the beach is 4524 Opal Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz if you want to map your way there. There is a small parking lot provided but it only has spots for three cars plus a handicapped spot. The gate leads to a small grass park with beaches on the bluff where a walkway descends toward the shore. A platform above a staircase provides a nice overlook for Privates Beach and the surfers offshore. The stairs lead to a rocky shelf where you’ll have to decide whether to climb down to the left or right side (be careful). To the left there’s a hidden beach called Trees Beach that is accessible at low tide. Note that waves are eroding the bluffs, the stair platform, and the stair foundation so use this beach while you can. It’s possible that access could be lost in the future.

The hours at Privates Beach are sunrise to sunset.


4524 Opal Cliff Dr
Santa Cruz, CA 95062
Park Name
Opal Cliffs Park
Other Names
Key Beach, Opal Cliffs Neighborhood Beach, Trees Beach
Surfing, Tidepooling
Grass Lawns, Benches, Tide Pools, Viewpoint, No Facilities
Pet Policy
No dogs on weekends and holidays
Free parking

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