Rio del Mar Beach is perhaps the most well-known beach in Aptos, if only because it shared the name with the Rio del Mar neighborhood. Of all the beaches in Santa Cruz county, it is among the most accessible. There is a free public parking lot along the esplanade, and when that is full (as can often happen on the weekends or on the evenings for a particularly bodacious sunset), you can often park your car on one of the nearby streets…and in all cases, there’s no cliff to climb up or down, just a nice easy stroll from your car to the sand.
There is a restroom at this beach which is publicly accessible; the cleanliness of the bathroom is another matter – this is a popular beach and the restroom gets a lot of use, so if you come long after its most recent cleaning, the experience may leave a little to be desired.
The area does offer some amenities aside from the beach; there are a number of hotels/motels, a mini market, coffee shop, the Pixie deli, and of course, Cafe Rio.
The beach at Rio del Mar is long and wide, and it’s a great place for to go for a run. Visitors can also cross a bridge over Aptos Creek (that’s the Rio in Rio del Mar) and continue on to Seacliff State Beach and walk for a mile along a paved path to take in the sunset.
Tip: this is a great beach to bring your dog, as they are allowed on a leash.
See also: Rio del Mar State Beach