Santa Cruz

This county was named after the city, which grew out of the Mission, which was named after a small creek, which was originally dubbed The Stream of the Most Holy Cross (or Sanctae Crux in Latin) by the wayward Portola expedition in 1769 (searching for a land route to Monterey Bay and missed it terribly as they continued northward, accidentally discovering San Francisco Bay in the process). The word crux today has come to mean the critical part of a matter, problem, or argument. And this county may well be the crux of the California Coast. Here, you’ll find a south-facing stretch of coast creating a moderate climate and groomed waves, similar to regions south. But here you’ll also find towering redwoods in the hills and a raw and rugged Pacific Northwest coast much like furthest northern regions of the state. You’ll even find the stupid real estate and rent prices fed by the explosion of the tech industry alongside a drug and homelessness epidemic that epitomize the madness of living in coastal California in the early 21st century. To put it simply, if you can solve Santa Cruz, you will have solved California.