This summer you don’t need to go far to feel like you’ve traveled to paradise. With sandy beaches, magnificent redwoods, delicious and fresh food, and the famous boardwalk, Santa Cruz is a dream destination for families of all types. Read on for our favorite spots and then hit the road!

Stay

The Dream Inn
When it comes to the Santa Cruz area, you’ve got plenty of choices but for the only hotel in Santa Cruz directly on the beach, you can’t beat The Dream Inn, This historic hotel just went through an extensive renovation and is looking more stunning than ever. You will feel transported by its colorful retro-chic style, spacious and comfortable rooms-all with ocean view- and stunning pool just steps away from Cowell beach! Grab dinner after a day in the sun at “Aquarius” or enjoy a refreshing drink at Jack O’Neill Lounge. You will never want to wake up from this dream!

Tip: Don’t forget to book surfing lessons when you arrive. You can book lessons for the kids through the Dream Inn as they have amazing group and individual lessons directly in front of the hotel, at the world famous Cowell beach!

The Dream Inn
175 West Cliff Dr.
Santa Cruz, Ca

Online: dreaminnsantacruz.com

Play

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
Just a few steps down the road from the Dream Inn, you’ll find this wonderful marine education center which is free and perfect for kids of all ages. You’ll learn about the local coastal community and all the creatures that depend on it. Kids will also learn how to operate an underwater robot and participate in many hands on activities.

Tip: It’s closed on Monday and Tuesday and open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. the rest of the days.

MBNMS Sanctuary Exploration Center
35 Pacific Ave.
Santa Cruz, Ca

Online: montereybay.noaa.gov

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is located in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and is most famous for the 40-acre grove of towering old-growth redwood trees. Its historical significance and spectacular scenery draw travelers from around the world. Visitors can enjoy hiking, horseback riding, picnicking, swimming, and camping on more than 4,650 acres of forested and open land.

Tip: If you little ones are into trains you must check out the Roaring Camp Railroad which passes through the park. For more info and tickets click here.

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
2591 Graham Hill Rd.
Scotts Valley, Ca

Online: parks.ca.gov/

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
No trip to Santa Cruz is complete without a ramble along the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. From a ride on the antique carousel (the only one still in existence that has a ring-toss game built in) to a round of pirate-themed mini-golf to a trip on the Big Dipper roller coaster, there’s something here for all ages and stages. Check out our insider’s guide to the boardwalk for the complete scoop.

Image Courtesy of Yelp

Eat & Drink

Martinelli’s Complimentary Cider Tasting
Martinelli & Company, founded in 1868 and still specializing in non-alcoholic apple juices, has debuted a new company store and tasting room in Watsonville where the business is headquartered. Visitors can sample Martinelli’s Gold Premium juices, sparkling ciders, sparkling juices, mulling spices and limited edition products. During prohibition, the company grew exponentially, encouraging consumers to “drink their apple a day.” Today, visitors to the tasting room can also learn about the history of the Martinelli’s juice brand through a collection of historical photos and archival machinery.

Martinelli’s Tasting Room and Store
345 Harvest Dr
Watsonville, Ca
Online: www.martinellis.com/

Sunday Farmer’s Market at Life Oak
Don’t leave without checking out this amazing farmer’s market where you will find an excellent selection of organic produce from local farms, tree ripened fruits, dried fruit and nuts, baked goods, pastries, seafood, pasture-raised organic meats and more. The market is also the epicenter of the clean food movement, showcasing amazing Sunday brunch offerings like smoked, pastured-raised local pork and egg street tacos and cook-to order custom traditional Michoacan Mexican dishes using fresh organic ingredients. This is your Sunday destination.

Live Oak Sunday Farmer’s Market
E Cliff Dr & 15th Ave
Santa Cruz, Ca
Online: santacruzfarmersmarket.org

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Image courtesy of Humble Sea Brewing

Humble Sea Brewing Co
Check out this fantastic and brand new beer garden with one of the most spacious and dog friendly outdoor areas in town. They offer 9 house brewed beers on tap, and also feature 6 guest taps and a small sandwich menu- we recommend the grilled Cubano!

Humble Sea
820 Swift St.
Santa Cruz, Ca

Online: humblesea.com/

Hula’s Island Grill and Tiki Room
Hula’s Island Grill and Tiki Room is offering diners a side of al fresco with their fish tacos and Hawaiian-inspired fare. A new lanai parklet – which seats two dozen diners – has added more vibrancy to pedestrian-friendly Downtown Santa Cruz. Hula’s lanai is decorated with colorful umbrellas and comfortable laid back chairs. A tropical menu infused with Asian, Latin and Caribbean touches pairs nicely with a drink selection complete with Tiki glasses, fresh fruit, and—of course—tiny umbrellas.

Hula’s Island Bar and Grill
221 Cathcart St.
Santa Cruz, Ca

Online: hulastiki.com/

What are your favorite spots in Santa Cruz? Please let us know in the comment section!

—Sonia Gandiaga

All pictures are by the author unless otherwise noted

featured photo: egorshitikov via pixabay