Named after an arched rock formation jutting offshore, this beach features stunning views of the coastline and its animal inhabitants. At one time there were three of these "natural bridges," but erosion claimed one in the early 20th century and a storm wiped the second one out in 1980. An adjoining park offers visitors close-up looks at local plants and flowers, and from October to February thousands of Monarch butterflies roost in the eucalyptus trees of Monarch Grove. The tidepools and underwater reefs just north of the beach are considered so ecologically valuable that they were named a state marine reserve in September 2007. West Cliff Drive at Swift Street, Santa Cruz.
Natural Bridges State Beach is world-renowned for its yearly migration of monarch butterflies. Visitors can see thousands during the butterflies' peak season. The best time to see monarchs in the park is usually from mid-October to late January. (Dates the butterflies arrive and leave can vary widely from year to year. Call ahead to find out if the monarchs have arrived in mid-October, and to make sure they are still in the grove in late January.)