Highest-rated ice cream shops in Santa Cruz by diners

Written by:
June 20, 2023
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Highest-rated ice cream shops in Santa Cruz by diners

Ice cream is a treat that can be enjoyed all year round, although the volume produced during the hotter months signals otherwise. The majority of ice cream and other frozen desserts in the U.S. are made between March and August, with July being the busiest month of all, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Many Americans have memories of their pastel green mint chocolate chip scoop dripping down their waffle cone at the height of summer or cooling down with their sprinkle-covered chocolate and vanilla soft-serve twist. Ice cream tends to scream nostalgia, but the range of available flavors has evolved since the days when the dessert was mainly limited to vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry.

Of course, that doesn't mean those aren't still top-tier choices. According to a May 2024 survey of 2,200 American adults by the International Dairy Foods Association and Morning Consult, the top 10 ice cream flavors today are still the three classics (vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry, in that order) followed by butter pecan, cookie dough, cookies and cream, mint chocolate chip, chocolate chip, rocky road, and peanut butter or peanut butter cup.

Nowadays, many ice cream shops offer fresh combinations and ingredients you may never have imagined could be made into ice cream, concoctions like black sesame cookies and cream or honey lavender. Some ice cream shops boast flavors with even more unheard-of ingredients and combinations, like the savory tarragon olive oil or pineapple with pink peppercorns.

Ice cream creators have also expanded into rethinking frozen yogurt, soft serve, and vegan options. Dairy-free folks no longer have to order the only sorbet on the menu. There are nondairy milk ice creams made from plant-based milks like oat or almond and other plant-based products like avocado or sunflower butter.

And then there are the toppings, one of the best parts about getting a scoop at your local shop. Pour on the condensed milk or dulce de leche. Sprinkle bits of honeycomb or your favorite childhood cereal.

Ice cream shops everywhere have made it their job to serve up the smoothest, creamiest, and most crave-able options. To find out who's doing the best job of it, Stacker compiled a list of the highest-rated ice cream shops in Santa Cruz using data from Yelp. Data is as of June 14, 2024.

Businesses were selected using Yelp's ranking system, which calculates an adjusted rating value that takes into account the number of ratings as well as the rating score itself. Only businesses with at least 10 reviews were considered. Also, in an effort to highlight independent businesses and local chains, those with more than five locations nationally, based on the Yelp data, were not included.

Read on to determine where you'll get your next cup or cone from!

Note: The photos in this article are stock images and do not necessarily depict the specific ice cream shops listed or the items they serve.

#18. Fosters Freeze

- Rating: 2.5/5 (96 reviews)
- Price level: $
- Address: 229 Laurel St. Santa Cruz, California
- Categories: burgers, ice cream & frozen yogurt, american
- Read more on Yelp

#17. Loard's Ice Cream

- Rating: 2.7/5 (59 reviews)
- Price level: $
- Address: 307 Beach St. Santa Cruz, California
- Categories: ice cream & frozen yogurt, coffee & tea
- Read more on Yelp

#16. Whiting's Foods

- Rating: 3.5/5 (17 reviews)
- Price level: $$
- Address: 613 Beach St. Santa Cruz, California
- Categories: ice cream & frozen yogurt
- Read more on Yelp

#15. Marini's At the Beach

- Rating: 3.8/5 (116 reviews)
- Price level: $$
- Address: 400 Beach St. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Santa Cruz, California
- Categories: candy stores, desserts, ice cream & frozen yogurt
- Read more on Yelp

#14. Marini's Candies

- Rating: 3.9/5 (186 reviews)
- Price level: $$
- Address: Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf 55 Municipal Wharf Santa Cruz, California
- Categories: candy stores, desserts, ice cream & frozen yogurt
- Read more on Yelp

#13. Top A Lot Yogurt

- Rating: 4.1/5 (136 reviews)
- Price level: $
- Address: 738 Water St. Santa Cruz, California
- Categories: ice cream & frozen yogurt
- Read more on Yelp

#12. Cruz Creamery

- Rating: 4.1/5 (189 reviews)
- Price level: $$
- Address: 815 Ocean St. Santa Cruz, California
- Categories: ice cream & frozen yogurt, juice bars & smoothies
- Read more on Yelp

#11. The Penny Ice Creamery

- Rating: 4.2/5 (353 reviews)
- Price level: $
- Address: 820 41st Ave. Santa Cruz, California
- Categories: ice cream & frozen yogurt
- Read more on Yelp

#10. Tiki Hut

- Rating: 4.3/5 (10 reviews)
- Price level: $$
- Address: 400 Beach St. Santa Cruz, California
- Categories: food stands, ice cream & frozen yogurt
- Read more on Yelp

#9. The Penny Ice Creamery

- Rating: 4.4/5 (2234 reviews)
- Price level: $$
- Address: 913 Cedar St. Santa Cruz, California
- Categories: ice cream & frozen yogurt
- Read more on Yelp

#8. Pacific Cookie Company

- Rating: 4.4/5 (852 reviews)
- Price level: $
- Address: 1203 Pacific Ave. Santa Cruz, California
- Categories: desserts, bakeries, ice cream & frozen yogurt
- Read more on Yelp

#7. Mission Hill Creamery

- Rating: 4.5/5 (482 reviews)
- Price level: $$
- Address: 1101 Pacific Ave. Ste B Santa Cruz, California
- Categories: ice cream & frozen yogurt, coffee & tea, bakeries
- Read more on Yelp

#6. Marianne's Ice Cream

- Rating: 4.5/5 (2370 reviews)
- Price level: $
- Address: 1020 Ocean St. Santa Cruz, California
- Categories: ice cream & frozen yogurt
- Read more on Yelp

#5. Donnelly Fine Chocolates

- Rating: 4.6/5 (211 reviews)
- Price level: $$$
- Address: 1509 Mission St. Santa Cruz, California
- Categories: candy stores, chocolatiers & shops, ice cream & frozen yogurt
- Read more on Yelp

#4. Pleasure Point Juice

- Rating: 4.7/5 (155 reviews)
- Price level: $
- Address: 3520 Portola Drive Santa Cruz, California
- Categories: juice bars & smoothies, ice cream & frozen yogurt, acai bowls
- Read more on Yelp

#3. Carousel Cones

- Rating: 4.7/5 (11 reviews)
- Address: 400 Beach St. Santa Cruz, California
- Categories: ice cream & frozen yogurt, food stands
- Read more on Yelp

#2. Ice Cream on Fair

- Rating: 4.8/5 (10 reviews)
- Address: 1201 Fair Ave. Santa Cruz, California
- Categories: ice cream & frozen yogurt
- Read more on Yelp

#1. Izzy's Ices

- Rating: 4.9/5 (10 reviews)
- Address: 106 Lincoln St. Santa Cruz, California
- Categories: ice cream & frozen yogurt
- Read more on Yelp

This story features data reporting by Karim Noorani, writing by Chia-Yi Hou, and is part of a series utilizing data automation across 237 metros.

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