Santa Cruz (CA) is known for its boardwalk, beaches, surfing, wharf, downtown area, university, and a myriad of other things. There is so much to do, and sometimes during peak season when the parking is tough, the lines long and the crowds inescapable, it can get a bit overwhelming. There are a few things we like to do in Santa Cruz to keep us relaxed and wanting to come back again and again.
Santa Cruz has a special place in our hearts because my hubby and I first met when we were attending college here. We didn’t meet in the classroom or the library or the lecture hall, but playing volleyball. What a coupla slackers! We’ve returned many times to celebrate anniversaries, revisit old haunts or just enjoy a beach day. When the weather is nice, we can’t help but be drawn to the place. However, everyone else in the Bay Area must also be thinking this based on the amount of traffic on Hwy 17 on nice summer weekends. Getting there early is a good idea!
Recently, my hubby and I headed to Santa Cruz on a warm, sunny day to celebrate a wedding anniversary (on a week day) with the sole purpose of relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. To get us into our relaxed mindset we started the day at the Tea House Spa. This place was actually here, way back when we were still in college and they’ve kept it up very nicely. We usually rent a hot tub/sauna room for an hour (reservations are recommended), and haven’t tried their other spa services. The rooms are clean, the hot tub is heavenly, and you definitely leave feeling relaxed. The complimentary tea, the view to the bamboo garden, the wonderful shampoos/conditioner/body wash (for your shower), robes, and soothing music all contribute to the whole experience of “getting away from it all.”
After leaving Tea House Spa and feeling like jell-o, we decided we were hungry for lunch, but also impatient to see the ocean. Santa Cruz has many restaurants with an ocean view, but in the spirit of staying relaxed, we made our way (away from the busy downtown and boardwalk) to the Santa Cruz Harbor to The Crow’s Nest Restaurant. On a weekday getting around Santa Cruz is a breeze, but weekends are a different story. A heads up on weekends for the Crow’s Nest Parking lot, finding parking is difficult, but you can park in the secondary parking lot if you can find an attendant who may or may not be sitting in his vehicle… somewhere 🙂 The restaurant is divided into a more formal restaurant dining downstairs and a casual bar and grill upstairs. Although I’m sure the dining downstairs is wonderful, we always end up preferring to eat upstairs outside on their patio to enjoy the weather. Oh, and the crab cakes are delicious!
The beach behind the Crow’s Nest restaurant, Twin Lakes State Beach, has volleyball courts and about a mile of sandy beach to take a nice stroll after lunch. It’s also fun to sit on the rocks and watch the sailboats leave the harbor. Across the entrance to the harbor is Sea Bright Beach, one of our favorite beaches because it seems to feel more spacious, it has room for everyone without feeling too crowded. In contrast, the beach just west of Sea Bright beach (across the San Lorenzo River), the Santa Cruz boardwalk Main Beach, is a very popular beach.
A blast from the past experience we look forward to is sharing a Chocolate Madness at Saturn Cafe, like we did when we were college students. Of course back then, Saturn Cafe was located on Mission St. and had a different ‘collegy’ vibe, but the taste of Chocolate Madness brings us back to those late night study breaks when we’d make our way there to savor every chocolatey bite.
We returned home before the rush hour traffic got too bad, but if you can stay and watch the sunset on the Pacific Ocean, either in Santa Cruz or along the coast on Hwy 1 as you leave Santa Cruz, it is another perfect way to relax and slow things down.