When the day-to-day routine wears thin, think about escaping to Santa Cruz. With its laid-back vibe, it’s the ideal place to reinvigorate yourself. Hit the waves with the surfers, the Boardwalk with the fun-seekers or be in town with the locals and discover everything from casual to upscale.
Santa Cruz is one of those locales where any time of the year is a good time to visit. It’s less than two hours from San Francisco – either along the coast on Highway 1 or through the Santa Cruz Mountains on 17. Here’s what we discovered.
Stay: You can’t beat beachfront in Santa Cruz. The Dream Inn is the perfect place to idle away the day – right on Cowell Beach. From our top floor room, we lounged on the balcony (every room has one) and took in the view – across the Monterey Bay, up and down the Boardwalk, and farther north along the coast. This Joie de Vivre property doesn’t disappoint with its comfortable rooms, modern interiors and friendly service.
With equally stunning views, the Sea & Sand Inn is up the beach from the Dream Inn. This property is smaller and more intimate and some rooms have Jacuzzis for two. A complimentary continental breakfast is offered in the morning, and every afternoon from 5 – 7 P.M. (October – March) guests can enjoy wine and cheese on one of the landscaped patios.
Downtown, the recently opened Hotel Paradox is a contemporary boutique hotel. The interior décor blends elements from the outside including the front desk made from a giant redwood, coffee tables from redwood stumps and colors reminiscent of the woods. At night, snuggle next to fire pits by the pool. (855-425-7200, X)
Shop: Don’t miss the original O’Neill Surf Shop at the entrance to Cowell Beach, now an official California Point of Historical Interest. Jack O’Neill, the wetsuit pioneer, opened the shop in 1959.)
Downtown, find lots of unique shops around Pacific Avenue selling handcrafted jewelry, ceramics, books, art and clothing. Annieglass sells unusual hand blown glass made by owner Annie Morhauser as well as her favorite gifts from craftsmen worldwide. The True Olive Connection is a family-owned tasting room offering a collection of extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars from around the globe. And don’t forget the interesting selection of gifts at the local museums.
OTHER ESSENTIALS: Santa Cruz Visitors Council; Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce; City of Santa Cruz
PATTY BURNESS can be found on Twitter at @pattygb