A hidden gem along the Californian coast, Santa Cruz offers lush natural parks, eateries with local charm and the traditional boardwalk. It has a relaxed feel like most beach towns, and the locals prize natural food and sustainable living. In the summer, the weather is mild; temperatures hover in the 70s during the day and the 50s at night.
We recently spent a few days in Santa Cruz – here’s a three-day itinerary for the redwood and coast lover:
Grab a coffee from The Verve and spend the morning downtown at bookstores, shops, the movies and thrift shops. Later, lunch on hot sandwiches from Zoccoli's Deli ($5.50-6.75), which was still buzzing with locals at 2 p.m. on a weekday.
Then head to Wilder Ranch, and walk past a field of fragrant rosemary until you reach the cliffs. Climbing down to the inlets, venture into caves (left) with hanging moss and wild plants, where cool seawater drips down into subterranean pools.
For dinner, consider Sabieng Thai Cusine ($8.95-13.95), which cooks up delicious barbeque chicken, yellow curry and rice noodles with veggies. This restaurant is popular with UC Santa Cruz students.
Breakfast at Walnut Avenue Café, where you can start off the morning with a hearty omelette, scramble or eggs benedict ($7.85-10.50).
Traverse Pogonip's enormous redwoods and view the historic limestone kilns, where lime was heated to burn off toxic chemicals in order to be made into mortar. Eight miles of trails provide plenty of hiking with friends and leashed dogs.
Grab lunch at Las Palmas and order their crispy chicken or shredded beef tacos piled high with grated cheese. Walk a few blocks down to the boardwalk, and spend the afternoon at the arcade, on the beach or riding roller coasters. Once the sun sets, dine on crab cakes, prawn ravioli or chargrilled ahi at The Crow's Nest ($15.95–28.95).
Load up on fresh fruit, vegan sandwiches, and healthy snacks at one of the two New Leaf stores or Food Bin.
Then head out to Henry Cowell Redwood State Park and take the 4.7-mile loop through redwoods and chaparral. And if you haven't had enough of the redwoods, consider the steam train, a 1.5-hour ride through the woods.
For dinner, enjoy excellent Italian food at Lillian's Kitchen, ($8.95-14.95). Grab dessert at Marianne's Ice Cream, which has been around for 50 years and boasts over 70 flavors.