Anyone who grew up within the San Francisco Bay Area within the Nineteen Nineties will nearly unquestionably have the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk advertisements stamped on their unconscious, along their very best pal’s landline. But Santa Cruz is a lot more than a West Coast Coney Island. (The Boardwalk, by the way, is California’s oldest amusement park and is a tremendous position to experience a historical curler coaster with an ocean view.)
Santa Cruz, a town of a few 60,000, defies simple categorization. A faculty the town (cross Banana Slugs!) and an international category browsing vacation spot, it’s inside of commuting distance of Silicon Valley. And but come what may it nonetheless manages to really feel hidden away.
Hugging the northern lip of the scallop shell-shaped Monterey Bay, vacationers can achieve Santa Cruz by way of a dreamy coastal power on California’s Highway 1, or rounding vertiginous curves during the Redwood forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Technically the start of the Central Coast, Santa Cruz has been influenced by way of Silicon Valley with out in fact turning into part of it; it’s its personal county and decidedly has its personal vibe. This is a spot the place, day-to-day and unironically, you’ll see a antique Volkswagen Vanagon parked subsequent to a Tesla, with surfboards extending from each.
As a former Bay Area child, I’ve been coming to Santa Cruz for so long as I will take note: Memories of foggy summer season days ambling by myself the Boardwalk with a high-school very best pal meld with pictures of late-night veggie burgers and shakes after backpacking journeys in Big Sur. But what as soon as felt like a unusual, crunchy pit prevent is now one in all my favourite weekend locations from my house in San Francisco — for unbeatable outside adventures, each on land and within the water, a standout reside track scene, and very good foods and drinks choices that may get up to its upper profile neighbors to the north and south.
Reportedly some of the first puts surfed at the mainland, Santa Cruz has spawned quite a lot of world-class skilled surfers and boasts greater than 10 surf breaks, with spots for all ranges. Popular go-tos come with Cowell’s, a cruisey, obtainable ruin very best for learners and liked by way of longboarders; Steamer Lane, a well-known spot in each Santa Cruz and California at huge; and Pleasure Point, a liked native wave at the town’s sleepy jap aspect.
The Santa Cruz surf scene is rather infamous for a powerful locals-only perspective, however tensions will also be have shyed away from by way of respecting the foundations, that are helpfully inscribed on signage fixed atop the cliffs above Steamers and Pleasure Point — along monuments to fallen surfer comrades. (In transient: Respect the lineup and don’t be a kook.)
Take the chance to be told from native mavens at outfits like Surf School Santa Cruz, which provides non-public surf instruction and workforce courses (complicated reserving is advisable). If you’re in a position to shred by yourself and are wanting a board, surf stores, many with condo choices, abound, from Cowell’s Surf Shop, proper off the water, to the Traveler Surf Club, at the Eastside. The Midtown Surf Shop + Coffee Bar is any other profitable vacation spot to your equipment wishes; along with forums, rainy fits, leashes and fins, they’ve were given a pleasing collection of clothes, items, a surfboard shaper (to be had to hire for $15 consistent with hour) and a restaurant serving Verve espresso.
If you’re extra comfy as a spectator, or in search of inspiration, then take a look at the O’Neill Coldwater Classic, a World Surf League qualifying pageant that’s returning to Steamer Lane Nov. 15-19 for the primary time since 2015.
While browsing could also be king in Santa Cruz, there are different nice techniques to get within the water, together with stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking and swimming, plus abundant seashores for seaside volleyball, bonfires and, naturally, lounging. And don’t put out of your mind concerning the many alternatives for land-based adventures: Santa Cruz is a well-known hub for mountain cycling, with trails snaking alongside the coast and during the surrounding mountains, and is a climbing and tenting vacation spot, too, specifically in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and Big Basin Redwoods State Park, which is recently open for restricted day-use get right of entry to following 2020’s C.Z.U. Lightning Complex fires.
Tempting as it can be to stay within the gorgeous wilds of the world, it’s value a go back to civilization to catch a demonstrate. Santa Cruz has a wealth of reside track venues and attracts an excellent mixture of indie bands and legacy acts, plus a thriving group of native musicians who incessantly carry out at cafes and bars round the town. The Rio Theater in Midtown, housed in a transformed film theater, is an intimate venue that pulls a variety of acts, together with Patti Smith, Little Feat and indie legends like Bill Callahan and Built to Spill. Other venues with calendars value scoping come with the Catalyst, which performs host to bands, karaoke nights and DJ occasions; Moe’s Alley, which has a spacious outside patio and meals vans; and the Kuumbwa Jazz Center, a vacation spot for jazz performances and academic techniques. Up within the mountains you’ll to find the Felton Music Hall, an intimate venue with a forged bar and eating place hooked up for pre- and post-show foods and drinks.
Where to consume
All of this task is a tremendous approach to paintings up an urge for food, and Santa Cruz greater than delivers with scrumptious choices throughout a variety of costs. I’m evangelical concerning the Point Market, an unassuming store and cafe out by way of Pleasure Point that makes my platonic best of a breakfast burrito — best possible as pre- or post-surf gas. (They’ve were given a location close to Cowell’s now, too, known as the Pacific Point Market & Cafe.) Steamer Lane Supply, a low-key stand at the cliffs above Steamers, has a flavor-forward menu of quesadillas, breakfast tacos and bowls bursting with contemporary, native elements. For a sit-down brunch, Harbor Cafe is unbeatable, with its hangover-busting breakfast platters and hair-of-the-dog cocktails. In Soquel, a small the town northeast of Santa Cruz, Pretty Good Advice, a undertaking from chef Matt McNamara (previously of San Francisco’s Michelin-starred Sons & Daughters), is slinging on-point breakfast sandwiches and burgers; the menu is solely vegetarian and contours produce sourced from Mr. McNamara’s farm within the close by mountains.
Elsewhere in Soquel you’ll to find Home, a captivating dinner choice with contemporary pasta and a very good in-house charcuterie program. Other favorites come with Bantam, a wood-fired pizza vacation spot on Santa Cruz’s bustling Westside (the soppressata pie and fried rooster are must-orders); Copal, for remarkable mole and an encyclopedic mezcal variety; and Alderwood, the place you’ll discover a variety of top of the range cuts of pork along native produce. While it’s tempting to splurge on a bone-in rib-eye, Alderwood could also be a very good position to seize seats on the bar for his or her gloriously messy burger and a cocktail. (The mezcal-based Director’s Cut is exceptional.) During my final talk over with, I stopped up in dialog — and sharing bites of the eating place’s signature maitake mushrooms, sometimes called sometimes called hen-of-the-woods, with my neighbors. (Oswald is any other native favourite for a burger-cocktail aggregate.)
Where to drink
Wine has lengthy been a fixture in Santa Cruz. (The Santa Cruz Mountains is a devoted AVA, or American Viticultural Area.) More not too long ago, although, spots devoted to herbal wine — wines made with minimum interventions and no added yeast — were gaining a foothold. Bad Animal, an extraordinary and used book place and herbal wine bar, has wines from California and past, at the side of books starting from $4 paperbacks to $40,000 antiquarian volumes. Dedicated to “the wild side of the human animal,” the store opened in 2019 and performs host to a rotating roster of chefs-in-residence. (The most up-to-date, Hanloh Thai Food, began this month.) Apero Club, a heat, funky wine bar and store at the Westside, opened in August 2020 and hosts meals pop-u.s.and, incessantly, raucous dance events with tunes spun on vinyl.
Santa Cruz’s craft beer scene could also be remarkable, from Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, an all-organic brewery based in 2005, to New Bohemia Brewing Company, which makes a speciality of European-style brews along I.P.A.s. Some of my favorites come with Soquel’s Sante Adairius Rustic Ales, a vacation spot for funky sours and farmhouse ales, and Humble Sea Brewing, which, along with standout hazy I.P.A.s and co-ferments, has probably the most very best can artwork round. For a much wider array of beers, take a look at the Lúpulo Craft Beer House in downtown Santa Cruz for a frequently converting collection of brews and Spanish-style small plates, or Beer Thirty, a sprawling beer lawn in Soquel with 30 rotating faucets. If you’re with a gaggle of beer fanatics, you’ll be able to join a Brew Cruz, a craft beer excursion of the world aboard a antique VW bus.
Your explorations might result in a slow morning; fortunately, Santa Cruz could also be a significant espresso vacation spot. Verve, which has cafes round the town (plus round California and in Japan), opened in 2007, specializing in equitable industry practices and deliberately sourced espresso beans. Cat & Cloud has 4 cafes within the house; the sunny Eastside location is a specifically great position to spend a morning. At eleventh Hour Coffee, the very good espresso is roasted in-house and very best loved of their plant-filled cafes each downtown and at the Westside. (Their chai is exceptional, too.)
Where to stick
There are abundant accommodation choices in Santa Cruz, together with Airbnbs and low-key seaside accommodations. The Dream Inn is the town’s solely beachfront lodging; renovated in 2017 in a unfashionable surfer-kitsch genre (the lodge’s Jack O’Neill Restaurant were given a refresh in 2019), the lodge has 165 rooms (from $299), all of that have an ocean view. The pool deck overhangs Cowell’s Beach, with stairs main at once to the sand, making for unprecedented ocean and browsing get right of entry to. Hearing the waves (and the barks of sea lions) from mattress is relatively great, too.
For a mountainside retreat that’s nonetheless with regards to downtown Santa Cruz, Chaminade Resort & Spa has 200 rooms (from $359) and is on 300 acres within the Santa Cruz Mountains, with direct get right of entry to to climbing trails. Also on be offering are tennis, pickleball, disc golfing and Santa Cruz’s solely full-service day spa, plus panoramic perspectives of the Monterey Bay from the lodge’s eating place — fittingly known as The View. The belongings finished a significant renovation in 2020 and finished a brand new pool house in 2022 that comes with two swimming pools, cabanas, a bar and a meals truck on weekends.
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