Do you love camping?
Whether the answer is yes or no, keep reading. There is something here for everyone.
We love the outdoors, a good campfire and the friendly atmosphere of a campground. However, we sleep a lot better indoors and like the convenience of a hotel. For years, we assumed that Kampgrounds of America, commonly known as KOA, wasn't for us.
Then I found out that many KOAs across the U.S. offer cabins too. These are nice cabins, with all the convenience of a hotel plus everything we like about camping. When KOA offered my family the chance to try cabin camping, we quickly set our sights on the top-rated KOA Santa Cruz-Monterey Bay in California.
We had been wanting to explore this part of California for years, and this KOA is located right in between Santa Cruz and Monterey. We stayed for four nights.
Here's what you can expect at KOA Santa Cruz-Monterey Bay.
KOA Santa Cruz has several cabin types to choose from. These range from one-room camping cabins without bathrooms to deluxe cabins with separate bedrooms and full bathrooms. You can even book a classic Airstream trailer.
We spent four nights in a Deluxe Cabin with one bedroom, one full bath, living room/kitchen, a set of bunk beds and a pull-out couch. It included linens, towels, heat control and two flat screen TVs with cable. This cozy cabin can accommodate a family of six.
The kitchen included a microwave, mini-fridge, sink and dishes. It did not have a stove or oven. For cooking, we used the gas grill and firepit outside, which made for some fun memories. We grilled steaks and asparagus on our last night in the cabin, then roasted marshmallows over campfire coals.
Our cabin was compact, but comfortable. The main bed was full-size, not a queen, but was still quite comfortable. My kids slept in the bunk beds, which are tucked into a nook – not a full bedroom. My teen daughter is 5'9″. Her bunk was too short for her, so these beds are definitely better for kids than adults.
Expect to get friendly with the neighbors. Cabins and RV spaces are quite close together. However, noise was never a problem during our visit. This proximity was actually nice when a neighbor noticed that we needed a hatchet to get our campfire going and he ran over to help. This is usually the type of person you meet in a campground.
Overall, we had a good experience and would stay here again. Click the button below to check prices and availability at KOA Santa Cruz-Monterey Bay
I was impressed by the abundance and variety of RV sites as we walked around the campground. This is how most guests stay at KOA Santa Cruz.
There are currently 11 different types of RV sites at KOA Santa Cruz. All have some sort of hook-ups, a patio, cable TV and are pet friendly. From there, you can decide whether you want to be close to the playgrounds, on a hillside patio overlooking the pool, or farther away from the action.
Related: Easy Campfire Cooking with Kids
KOA Santa Cruz has tent sites, but not nearly as many as RV and cabin sites. Clean, modern bathrooms and showers are provided. Pets are welcome. Book early for best availability.
Related: 5 Tips for Camping With Kids
KOA Santa Cruz is the kind of place where you can let your kids explore and make new friends. The popular jumping pillow at the Beach Zone is a good place to start. Other activities include
- Year-round heated pool
- Oversized hot tub
- Large playground
- Bike rentals
- Bocce Ball
- Corn Hole
- Fun Train
- Palm Tree Climb (like a rock climbing wall)
Staffed activities like crafts, Palm Tree Climb and Fun Train are available only for a limited time during the day. However, most of the items on this list are available all day and we enjoyed the pool and the lawn games in the evenings. My kids (ages 12 and 15) were a little old for the jumping pillow and playground, but would have LOVED them a few years ago.
Be sure to pack your own pool towels. This is one item we forgot, and they are not provided at the pool.
There is a general store on-site where you can purchase almost anything you need. We bought firewood and a few groceries here and it was really convenient. The staff was friendly and helpful. Laundry facilities are available here too.
There is a Safeway supermarket about 15 minutes away in Watsonville. It offers a larger selection and lower prices. However, if you just need one or two items right away, the general store is probably your best bet.
The general store also provided us with menus for local restaurants that deliver. On our first night, we had been driving all day and didn't want to cook or drive into town. We ordered Chinese and it was delivered right to our cabin in about 30 minutes.
The location of KOA Santa Cruz was one of our favorite things about this resort. It is located just off of Highway 1 in a secluded area near Watsonville, California. Santa Cruz and Monterey are both less than an hour away. There is a long list of fun things to do in this region.
The highlights of our trip included the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Santa Cruz Boardwalk, National Steinbeck Center, seeing otters in the wild at Moss Landing and local farm stands.
KOA Santa Cruz is located less than a mile from the ocean. You can't easily walk there because there is a tall ridge and houses in between. The entrance to Manresa State Beach is just down the road. We got our beach fix at Santa Cruz and Moss Landing, so we enjoyed KOA's heated pool instead of visiting Manresa State Beach.
We visited in early June. The weather was cool and sunny, with fog in the mornings. We thought it was perfect, but a little cold for swimming and the beach. We kept the windows of our cabin open all day and closed at night.
Summer is peak season. The average summer high temperature in this area is 70-75 degrees F. Low temperatures are typically in the 50s.
This KOA is open year-round and you'll likely find lower prices and better availability in off-peak months. January is typically the coldest month, with temperatures ranging from 40-60 degrees F. This area is often rainy and foggy in the winter, but always beautiful.
Complimentary WiFi is included for guests of KOA Santa Cruz. We found that it worked for basic browsing, but not as well when my daughter tried to download some new episodes from Netflix onto her phone. This is a semi-rural area and we found the cellular service to be slightly spotty in general.
Pets are welcome at KOA. We noticed several RV sites with fenced kennels on grass. KOA Santa Cruz has three fenced dog parks, plenty of space to walk your dog, and bags for easy clean-up.
We enjoyed cabin camping at KOA Santa Cruz-Monterey Bay. We will consider KOA cabins as we plan future travels, and we would stay here again if we return to this area. It would be especially fun for a family reunion or other multi-family group.
I hope that this review gives you the information you need to decide if this KOA is a good option for your family. Have a question? Please ask me in the comments or visit https://koa.com/campgrounds/santa-cruz/.
Disclosure: Our stay at KOA Santa Cruz-Monterey was provided by KOA for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.