Santa Cruz, CA: Travel guide

Ocean view Hi there! I’m so excited to share with you my travel guide to Santa Cruz, California. As you may know, back in November Paul and I went to Santa Cruz on a road trip. We only spent about three days there (two nights), but we got a good feel for the city. This trip will always hold a special place in my heart because it’s when we got engaged.

We had both been to Santa Cruz before but not together. I visited once on a road trip up the coast with my sister Katie and our aunt Grace.

I hope to go back again sometime, so I included a short list of places I want to go next time.

Where to stay

I recommend looking not just at Santa Cruz, but also at neighboring cities when planning your trip. You may get a better deal on a hotel by sleeping just a short drive away from Santa Cruz. On the trip with my sister and aunt, we stayed in Aptos. When Paul and I went, we stayed at the Fairfield Marriott in Capitola, which is an all-suite hotel. It was on the pricey side, but compared to suite rooms at the Fairfield Marriott in Santa Cruz, it cost less. Our hotel in Capitola was just a short walk to the ocean, which was a nice bonus.

Ocean view

Where to Eat

Betty BurgersGreat burgers and milkshakes. The location on Pacific Avenue is conveniently located in the middle of downtown.

The Crepe Place: Such a cute spot! We went there for brunch on a Saturday and sat on the beautiful patio. The Crepe Place has a stage on the patio with live music fairly often.

East End GastropubIt’s in a small shopping center near a grocery store, so I didn’t have the highest hopes, but it was great. Don’t let that dissuade you. This was my favorite meal of all, although The Crepe Place was a close second. The bao buns were delicious.

Pizza My HeartIt’s a chain restaurant with several award-winning pizzas. I can’t remember what we got, but I was just looking at the menu and all the pizzas look amazing.

Where to Wander

Driving into mystery spot

Bookshop Santa Cruz: A great place to wander around for hours! I found a cookbook I had been wanting on sale, which was very exciting.

Childish Santa Cruz: This store was so cute and the shop owner was very helpful. It’s a great place to go if you have any little ones in your life. All the products are well curated with a focus on creativity and imagination. I picked up a book for my nephews.

The Mystery SpotExperience this strange natural phenomena that’s been open since 1941 and get in on the goofy tour guide jokes.

Mystery Spot Mystery Spot

Pleasure Point & The Hook: This is a great beach for surfing or watching surfers. It’s dog friendly too.

Couple looking at ocean

Santa Cruz BoardwalkThis is one of the last seaside amusement parks in the United States and home to two National Historic Landmarks – the 1911 Looff Carousel and 1924 Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster.

Paul and I didn’t visit the boardwalk on our trip because my feet were already tired after walking all around downtown. My sister Katie and I like to recount the story of how we went on the Giant Dipper after eating five fried things in one day. Thankfully, we didn’t get sick. Those fried things were: a fried artichoke, corn dog, French fries, funnel cake and a fried Oreo.

Places that we didn’t visit but I want to see next time:

Have you been to Santa Cruz before or are you a Santa Cruz resident? If there’s anything we missed, please add to the list. Let us know about your favorite Santa Cruz spots in the comments below.

I would love to hear what you have to say. Leave me a comment and I'll try to write back soon.

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