(Updated on Feb 4th, 2021) – Ready to change scenery but not ready to jump on a plane or to drive for hours? Santa Cruz is a great candidate for a great 3-4 days trip. It’s only 1h30mn South of the City and it claims 300 days of sun a year.
Take 280 and 17 or even better, use Highway 1 to feel the California vibe 5 mn South of San Francisco! Santa Cruz, here we come.
Where to stay?
Dream Inn Hotel: you want a beach view from your room? This is the place to be! The Dream Inn hotel is right there, by the wharf with direct access to Cowell beach. Not even a road to cross.
The rooms are very comfortable and all of them have an ocean view with a private patio or a balcony (reliable Wi-Fi too).
The heated swimming pool (recently renovated) is open all day. Dip in, enjoy, sip a drink, snack by the pool, and finish your day by watching the sunset next to a fire pit. The whole experience is totally fine with or without kids. The pool area has been laid out very wisely to accommodate your mood.
Many options for food within the hotel: Room service is available from breakfast through dinner. For a light breakfast, a cart is located in the hallway and serves Verve coffee and danish pastries until 11 am.
Thursday through Sunday, Jack Patio is opened for outdoor dining.
Dream Inn Hotel is currently offering great packages. Check the website.
Where to eat in Santa Cruz?
Due to the pandemic, please check opening hours as they depend on the county rules, here are the updated rules
Walnut Avenue Cafe – The reference for American breakfast and lunch. Very central with a nice terrace in the sun. Friendly service.
Beach Street Café – Casual outdoor breakfast place by the beach. Sip your coffee while looking at the beach volley players.
And of course, Verve Coffee Roasters – Founded in 2007, in Santa Cruz California, it’s a must go. Today, Verve has locations in cities from Los Angeles to San Francisco to Japan, but their roots remain planted in Santa Cruz.
Hula’s Island Grill – downtown Santa Cruz, this Polynesian place serves generous and yummy dinners in a relaxed ambiance. Beware, portions are generous. Indoor, outdoor, and take-out.
Tramonti – Nice Italian restaurant with good pizzas, great minestrone and a like home feeling. Outdoor patio, indoor dining and take-out.
Activities in Santa Cruz and around include sailing, fishing, golfing, surfing, kayaking, hiking, and biking. So there are activities for all tastes.
Natural Bridges State Park: this is a mile and a half walk from the Dream inn hotel, and a very pleasant way to stretch your legs. You can even borrow a bike from the hotel to reach the beach.
Moran Lake Park and Beach: one of the local parks where you will be able to picnic, fish, and more.
The Wharf – for a walk or for the pleasure to look closely at seals sunbathing next to the wharf. Feeling like to bring a little souvenir? Look for the “Made in Santa Cruz” store. Every piece is either designed or made in Santa Cruz.
The Boardwalk: unfortunately the rides, indoor arcades miniature golf, and bowling are closed due to Covid19 restrictions.
Capitola is the little sister town of Santa Cruz. You can easily bike there from Santa Cruz and enjoy lunch there for instance. The whole place is charming and here is a self-guided tour put together by the local museum.
If you feel like pushing it South, shoot to the Monterey Bay area and Carmel. This is less than an hour away from Santa Cruz.
Currently, both the Monterey Bay Museum and the Carmel-by-the-sea mission are closed, but the journey is the reward. You will enjoy the coast, the dunes, and cross all the pieces of land described by Steinbeck (check the video about Salinas Valley) in “East of Eden” and of “Of Mice and Men”.
On the way in or out:
If you use Highway 1, and if you want to break the journey at lunchtime, we recommend that you stop in Half Moon Bay.
The Main Street Grill (sorry no website – closes at 2 pm sharp): The place is “dans son jus”, with a jukebox and paraphernalia on the walls, but the most important is what you will get on your plate: a delicious grilled sandwich or a large hearty breakfast!!
Dad’s Luncheonette: right by Highway One, a well-known place to grab a delicious salad or a sandwich. Beware, there are not opened every day.
21 miles North of Santa Cruz on Highway 1, stop at the Pie Ranch and experiment with a different type of farmstand with incredible pies, great bread loaves, and veggies from the farm. It’s worth checking their website as, since COVID and the Santa Cruz fires in 2020, they have set-up very interesting programs to support the local economy…
Voila, that should keep you busy and satisfy your temporary desire for an escape.