With summer travel traffic dwindling and the summer tourist season coming
to a close, now is the time to escape to nearby destinations that were far
too crowded during the peak summer season for us to truly enjoy.
With its proximity to the Bay Area and relaxed beach town vibe, Santa Cruz
is a quick and easy getaway from the Bay Area. Just over 30 miles and less
than an hour’s drive away from the Silicon Valley, Santa Cruz boasts
several state parks, beaches, museums, and wineries – there’s something for
everyone. So, whether you want to relax to the sound of the waves under an
umbrella at the beach, or ride the waves via surfing, sailing or swimming,
head “over the hill” to Santa Cruz for a weekend of fun relaxation.
WHERE TO STAY
175 West Cliff Drive
Santa Cruz, California, 95060
The Dream Inn is located right on the beach on West Cliff Drive. This hotel
is the place to stay for a quintessential beach getaway.
The hotel has recently undergone a multi-million dollar renovation and the
updated guest rooms and lobby have been made over in a fresh retro-chic
beach style that fits right in with the Santa Cruz vibe.
All guest rooms have spacious and well-furnished private patios or
balconies with expansive ocean views.
The beachfront pool deck offers views of the bay and access to the beach.
Take a dip in the pool, unwind in the oversized hot tub or sit back on a
chaise lounge or cabana and admire the ocean view while sipping a drink
from the poolside bar. In the evening, grab a seat by the fire pit and
watch the sun set.
In the summer, complimentary yoga on the pool deck is offered, and cruiser
bikes are available to explore town.
The hotel’s ideal location is within steps from the beach, and walking
distance to the boardwalk, the pier, and a variety of restaurants and
For more information or to book reservations, call (831) 426-4330, or
THINGS TO DO
Santa Cruz County features 14 state parks, each offering a unique hiking
experience. Here are a few favorite spots:
Henry Cowell Redwood State Park , located in the Santa Cruz Mountains,
is popular with avid hikers, offering 30 miles of hiking and biking trails through
a centuries-old redwood forest. The most popular trail is the Redwood Grove
Loop where visitors can admire the magnificent redwood trees. The park has
much to offer nature enthusiasts including camping, birdwatching, and fishing.
Wilder Ranch State Park is another excellent hiking spot with 35 miles of
hiking, biking and equestrian trails traversing through the Santa Cruz
Mountains and along the coast. Wilder Ranch once operated as a dairy
farm in the late 1800’s and includes historic farm buildings, farm animals
and a Victorian home within the park. Visitors can experience life on the
ranch during History Day events (September 16 & November 11) which
include hands-on activities like churning butter, making ice-cream, wagon
rides, and roping skills.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park is the oldest state park in California
and is home to the largest continuous stand of ancient coast redwoods
that are among the oldest and tallest trees on Earth. The park boasts
over 80 miles of hiking trails featuring rushing waterfalls, views of the
Santa Cruz Mountains and the Pacific, and lots of wildlife.
Hit the Beach
It goes without saying that a day at the beach is what a visit to Santa
Cruz is all about. With almost 30 miles of coastline, Santa Cruz has
beaches galore with fun activities for everyone.
Twin Lakes Beach offers a mile of sandy coastline and is great for
those who want to enjoy the Santa Cruz beach experience without the
crowds. This beach is great for swimming, surfing, boogie-boarding,
paddle-boarding, kayaking and playing in the sand and surf.
Natural Bridges State Park , famous for its bridge-like rock formation,
is also well-known for the annual Monarch Butterfly migration which
occurs between the months of October and January. During this time,
visitors can observe thousands and thousands of butterflies roosting for
the winter in the Eucalyptus Grove. Natural Bridges also offers the perfect
vantage point for viewing birds, whales and seals. During low tide, tide
pools reveal colorful sea life including sea stars, hermit crabs, and sea
anemones. Beach activities include picnicking, kite-flying, surfing, boogie
boarding, swimming and sunbathing.
For surfers, Capitola Jetty is recommended for novice surfers. More
experienced surfers already know about Steamer Lane on West Cliff.
Pleasure Point on West Cliff and 36th is ideal for intermediate
surfers but offers waves for both beginners and experts alike.
Four Mile Beach is also considered a surf hotspot for beginner to
intermediate surfers, but beware the evil eye of locals who want to
keep this spot to themselves.
Experience Santa Cruz Art & Culture
A quick trip to the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, housed inside the
Mark Abbot Memorial Lighthouse on West Cliff Drive, is a must for
surfing enthusiasts. Overlooking surfing hotspot Steamer Lane, the
tiny museum displays photographs, surfboards and surf memorabilia
chronicling over 100 years of surfing history and culture in Santa Cruz.
The Museum of Art & History is a gem of a museum situated in lively
Downtown Santa Cruz. Don’t miss the current installation: Ballooniverse –
Balloon Art by Addi Somekh which runs until November 19. This quirky
ever-changing art installation showcases works of art made entirely of
balloons. Head upstairs to the 3rd floor to the Mary and Harry Blanchard
Sculpture Garden where you can explore the artwork or sit and relax while
enjoying the peaceful surroundings. The rooftop gallery features a soothing
fountain, a colorful succulent garden, and stunning granite and clay
sculptures. The museum also hosts Free First Fridays the first Friday of
each month from 5 – 9 pm with free admission all day, live music, a no-host
bar and an art activity for visitors of all ages.
Go Wine Tasting
The Santa Cruz Mountains is home to over 70 wineries. With the varying
micro-climate, mountainous terrain, and marine influence, Santa Cruz
vintners offer a unique wine tasting experience. This fall, the Santa Cruz
Mountains Winegrowers Association will hold a series of events featuring
food and wine. For more information about the wineries and events, visit
WHERE TO EAT
175 W Cliff Drive
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Aquarius, located on the waterfront, within the Dream Inn offers delicious
food accompanied by a gorgeous and expansive view of the ocean, beach and
Tasty offerings include the California Mussels from the starter menu – a
generous portion of mussels in a savory broth served with tender potatoes
and toasted baguette. The Ribeye, cooked to perfection and served with
creamy mashed potatoes and topped with blue cheese butter, is a delicious
entrée option. Other highlights are the Sea Scallops and the Swordfish –
everything is fresh, well-prepared and beautifully presented. There’s
something for everyone on the menu which highlights the fresh farm-to-table
ingredients from nearby purveyors.
Aquarius has an extensive wine list, highlighting wines from the
surrounding Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey and San Luis Obispo Counties.
The Jack O’Neill Lounge, adjacent to the restaurant, serves cocktails in a
relaxing and casual environment.