Whilst writing The Offspring's ninth album, Days Go By, frontman Dexter Holland realized most of the material was heavy and a bit serious, so he decided he need a couple of tunes that were lighter and more fun. "Cruising California" is one of them, and the song was released as the first single off the record worldwide (except for the United States, Canada, Germany, Austria and Switzerland) on April 30, 2012.
Holland explained the song's meaning to Spinner: "It's about what it'd be like if I was driving down the beach in my hometown on a nice sunny day in Southern California," he said. "I live in Huntington Beach so I thought that's what I should write about. My hometown is great, and there's a lot of fun reflected in the song. At the same time, there are some shady and seedy parts. I tried to put both of them in the lyrics. It's a great place, but there's a dark underbelly as well. Huntington Beach had some of the biggest riots in the '80s and '90s so that side of the place always existed. At the end of the day, I want people to know it's a fun, summer song."
Holland added in the same Spinner interview that it was producer Bob Rock who told him to write about Huntington. "It seems weird to write about your hometown - like you're bragging or something," said the West Coast native. "He said people in the rest of the world have a different perception of California. It's like a dream place. It might be where you live, but others don't see it the way you do. You've got to have fun. It's also a good way to cope. There's a lot of silly stuff out there, and it's good to laugh and have fun with it."