41 Santa Cruz

PopulationMetro: 275,897
This laid-back surfing mecca just an hour south of Silicon Valley offers an opportunity to escape the high-pressure Bay Area lifestyle, without compromising on culture and prosperity.

Just because they spend a lot of time on the beach doesn’t mean Santa Cruz residents are content to drift through life.

Just because they spend a lot of time on the beach doesn’t mean Santa Cruz residents are content to drift through life. Instead, this funky college town is among our most educated and affluent cities, with a #7 for Educational Attainment and a #10 for Household Income.

Home to a University of California campus, Santa Cruz is ranked #14 for University, and its brainy residents help earn the city a #11 for People. The area’s diversified economy includes strong education, agriculture and tourism sectors, but this is also a top spot for knowledge workers who can telecommute in between surfing sessions, and they now have multiple co-working facilities to choose from.

CITY PERFORMANCE
Place
Place 42
Product
Product 15
Programming
Programming 23
People
People 73
Prosperity
Prosperity 45
Promotion
Promotion 25

Nestled between the blue Pacific and the rolling Santa Cruz Mountains, Santa Cruz is a city that takes advantage of all nature has to offer, whether it’s towering redwoods—or towering surf. For those more interested in turning inward, there’s a bounty of yoga and meditation retreats. But a trip to Santa Cruz wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the famous Mystery Spot, an icon of roadside Americana.

With a #22 ranking for Weather and #10 for Parks and Outdoors, it’s no wonder Santa Cruz routinely tops lists of the happiest places in America. Although cost of living is higher than average, residents are more than compensated by top-notch healthcare, highly-ranked educational institutions and a singular quality of life.