Pleasure Point, Santa Cruz
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COVID-19: How To Enjoy A Weekend Right Outside Santa Cruz

November 14, 2020

Santa Cruz is one of my favorite local destinations. In particular, I love the amusement park rides at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and its proximity to the beach. Unfortunately, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is mostly closed (at time of writing) due to COVID-19. On the flip side, I see it as an opportunity to explore some other places around Santa Cruz. In particular, I recently visited Capitola and its smaller surrounding towns, and I highly recommend a visit if you haven’t visited before. Read on for my recommendations for a chill, COVID-safe weekend right outside Santa Cruz!

Capitola Village

Capitola is a beach town about 10-15 minutes east of Santa Cruz. You don’t have to only go to the beach to enjoy Capitola. You can visit the many shops and restaurants, or just take a stroll around town. Note: when I visited it was pretty crowded, so I didn’t linger too long on the beach or in the shops.

To orient yourself, you can visit the Capitola Museum, which will probably still be closed due to COVID-19, but there you pick up a map of their recommended walking tour (also available here). Of course, you can always meander without a set agenda — just keep your eyes peeled for the highlights below!

Capitola Venetian Hotel

Capitola Venetian Hotel, Capitola

This Instagram-worthy block of colorful buildings is an iconic part of Capitola’s waterfront. You can book a stay here if you’d like to stay the night by the beach; otherwise, you can enjoy a crowd-free stroll through the alleys.

Capitola Wharf

Capitola Wharf

Walk along the pier at Capitola Wharf to take in the view of the beachfront and the ocean itself. To be honest, there isn’t too much on the pier itself, but it’s away from the crowds and a calm way to enjoy the scenery.

Stockton Ave Bridge / Capitola Trestle

Capitola Trestle, Capitola

If you take Cliff Drive / Stockton Avenue toward Capitola Beach, you’ll cross a bridge that goes over Soquel Creek. From a distance, you’ll see a rustic railroad bridge. It was first built in 1874 — that’s over a hundred years ago! Trains still cross the tracks several times a week. You can get a closer view by walking on the path along the creek.

Pleasure Point

About a mile southwest of Capitola Beach is Pleasure Point, a charming beach town that attracts many surfers. Along 41st Avenue you’ll find a number of food and drink options and cute boutique shops selling beach apparel and coastal decor. You can even rent a bike to explore the area!

Cliff Beach

Surfers at Cliff Beach, Pleasure Point

If you walk along 41st Avenue toward the ocean you’ll see a little outlook with a view of many surfers in the ocean. It’s fun to see multiple surfers catch a wave at the same time. There are also plenty of signs for you to learn about the surf culture at Santa Cruz.

Pleasure Point County Park

Pleasure Point County Park

From Cliff Beach, you can continue west and walk (or bike!) along the path and enjoy the ocean views. There are also a handful of stairways that will take you down to the beach. As you continue north you’ll reach Pleasure Point County Park, where you’ll find restrooms and the Point Market and Cafe.

Soquel / Aptos

Soquel is just north and inland of Capitola. It’s a small town with an equally small “downtown,” but it has a number of antique shops along Soquel Drive and Main Street. In addition, I found myself eating in Soquel a number of times — especially when I was craving ethnic food! In particular, Soquel has a surprising number of Thai restaurants. I’ve only tried Bangkok West in Aptos, which the town next to Soquel. It’s actually the most ornate Thai I’ve ever been to, and I do recommend it.

Soquel also hosts some fun seasonal activities. When I stopped by in October, Sunnyside Produce hosted a pumpkin patch right along Daubenbiss Ave. They also plan to host a Christmas Tree Farm that’s probably worth checking out during the holiday season.

Summary

This is a quick synopsis of what I explored, and I hope I’ve convinced you that you can enjoy the chill, beach town vibes of Santa Cruz without necessarily having to visit Santa Cruz itself. I’m also sure there’s a lot more to discover in Santa Cruz itself and the greater Santa Cruz region. Have you visited other places around Santa Cruz before? Let me know about your experience!

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