Santa Cruz is one of the 58 counties in the state of California. It was created in 1850, making it one of the original 29 counties in the state. The county was originally named "Branciforte", after the Spanish nobleman who founded the local pueblo. It was changed two months later to Santa Cruz, after the original Spanish mission here, founded in 1791. ("Santa Cruz" means 'holy cross'.) As of the 2010 census, the population was 262,382, up from 255,602 in 2000. The county seat and largest city is Santa Cruz.
The county has 607.16 square miles (1,572.5 km2) of area, including 445.24 square miles (1,153.2 km2) of dry land. Santa Cruz is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, the north by San Mateo County, the northeast and east by Santa Clara County, the southeast by San Benito County and on the south by Monterey County.
Santa Cruz is part of the 12-county San Francisco Bay Area Combined Statistical Area.