Santa Cruz is the county seat and largest city of Santa Cruz County, California in the United States of America. As of the 2008 census estimate, Santa Cruz had a total population of 56,124. It is located on the northern edge of the Monterey Bay, about 72 mi (115 km) south of San Francisco. The present-day site of Santa Cruz was the location of a Native American settlement since ancient times. It was also one of the earliest settlements of the Spanish during the exploration of Alta California in the later part of the 1700s, including a California Mission. During the late 1800s, after California became part of the United States, Santa Cruz became widely popular for its idyllic beaches and coastal redwood forests, establishing itself as a resort community. Santa Cruz is now known for its moderate climate, natural beauty, educational institutions, alternative community lifestyles, and socially liberal leanings. It is also home to University of California at Santa Cruz.