Santa Cruz County is a county located on the Pacific coast of the U.S. state of California, on the California Central Coast. The county forms the northern coast of the Monterey Bay. (Monterey County forms the southern coast). As of the 2010 U.S. Census, its population was 262,382. The county seat is Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz County is a member of the regional governmental agency Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments and is one of 11 counties in the U.S. Census Bureau’s definition of the San Francisco Bay Area Combined Statistical Area.
Santa Cruz County was one of the original counties of California, created in 1850 at the time of statehood.
In the original act, the county was given the name of “Branciforte” after the Spanish pueblo founded there in 1797; a major watercourse in the county, Branciforte Creek, bears this name. Less than two months later, the name was changed to “Santa Cruz” (“Holy Cross”). Mission Santa Cruz, established in 1791 and completed in 1794, was destroyed by an earthquake in 1857, but a smaller-scale replica was erected in 1931.