When you search for Santa Cruz, California online, a list of multiple activities and tourist attractions will come up. The various beaches, our famous Beach Boardwalk and state parks definitely top the list. However, I rarely see some of my favorite local spots on those lists. Understandably, it’s probably because I’ve been living in Santa Cruz for several years now and we tend to leave the most popular sites to the tourists. I’ll admit that I still have never ridden on the Big Dipper Roller Coaster at the Boardwalk or visited the Mystery Spot. (I know, I know… I will definitely get to these places one of these days). It’s almost like when I lived in New York City back in college and didn’t go visit the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building until I had visitors in town who wanted to hit all of the sights.
Instead, my husband and I prefer to find the quieter spots around town where we can enjoy the weather, the location, the views, and a little more calm. Here are my Top 5 spots in Santa Cruz, if you’re interested in seeing the area like a local:
Whenever we have visitors staying with us, we always opt to take them to Downtown Capitola over Downtown Santa Cruz. While it can still be a busy area, it is typically described as “quaint.” The various shops are predominantly owned by locals, and there are plenty of restaurants to stop into for lunch or a snack. My perfect day in Capitola looks like this: Head south on 41st street and stop at Verve for a latte and a short walk to The Hook to watch the surfers start their morning. Walking back to the car, make a stop at East Side Eatery for one of the best Breakfast / Brunch spots in the entire Santa Cruz area. After Brunch, head downtown and park at the public lot at 426 Capitola Avenue for your best chance at finding an empty spot. It will cost you to park no matter where you find a free space in the area, so make it easy on yourself instead of wasting your time doing laps on the streets. This lot only charges $0.50 per hour, so it will be your best bet! Wander in and out of all the amazing shops throughout the afternoon and check out Trestles Restaurant if you’re looking for something a little upscale for dinner. Wear plenty of sunscreen and bring your sunglasses.
Just North of Seabright State Beach are several of the best restaurants in the Santa Cruz area, in my opinion. Not only is Seabright a quieter, less frequented beach to set yourself up for a day in the sun, but the area has much less car traffic than Santa Cruz proper. Among some of our favorite restaurants in Seabright, I can highly recommend Seabright Social for great locally brewed beers and food, or check out Betty’s Burgers to try a local chain. For an outstanding Italian meal, you can’t go wrong with La Posta or Tramonti on Seabright Avenue. Nestled right next to each other, there must just be something special about that location! Reserve a table for yourselves to make sure you can get in at a time you desire. You don’t want to miss your chance to have their food.