Cowell State Beach


Rating: C

The wooden deck at Santa Cruz's Cowell State Beach isn't considered clothing-optional -- or even a beach. But on the hottest summer days, we've observed a few people skinny-dipping right off the platform, which was definitely a surprising sight. The pier there is usually used by surfers to put on or take off their wetsuits.


State beach.


How to find it:

Head to West Cliff Drive but park when you first turn onto it from the Municipal Wharf area. Parking is often easy to find. Walk to the beach stairway at West Cliff and Monterey, on the west side of West Cliff. Leave your clothes on the deck, where water access begins (there's no beach per se).


The beach:

A deck and the water near it. Watch out for frequent rough waves. Skinny-dippers prefer to stay near the shore.


The crowd:

Mostly surfers, but on particularly hot days a few naturists sometimes show up.



Not a beach; mainly used by suited surfers; heavy undertow; cold water; fog; proximity to residences; lack of privacy.

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