The Best of Santa Cruz: Fun Vacation Guide


How we got there

We live in the Central Valley so it's a quick and easy drive for us, under three hours.  However, if you need to fly to Santa Cruz you would want to fly into the Bay Area and then rent a car.

Where we stayed

We've been traveling to Santa Cruz for several years so it's become a Summer tradition for us.  However, up until last year we always STRUGGLED with where to stay.  Santa Cruz does not have a lot to offer in terms of hotels.  Most of them are below average or there is one classic hotel but it is quite expensive.  We've tried staying in the surrounding area and even across the bay to stay in a decent place.  Luckily, last year a brand new hotel opened right in the heart of Santa Cruz.  The Hyatt Place Santa Cruz is now our very favorite spot to stay.  The location is great and the facilities are wonderful.





The rooms are very large and well appointed.  They work so well for us because there are two queen beds and a pull out couch so each of us gets a spot to sleep comfortably.  The amenities at Hyatt Place Santa Cruz are spectacular; our two favorite are the breakfast and the pool.  Each morning a delicious breakfast is provided with options for everyone.  This is not the typical continental breakfast and all of us are more than satisfied.  We also love having the pool even though Santa Cruz is a beach town.  Sometimes you want to skip all the work of the beach and just swim in the pool.  The Hyatt Place Santa Cruz has a heated pool as well as a jacuzzi.  There are also lounge chairs and cabanas for guests.


I even snuck in sometime in the gym that has plenty of equipment for a full workout.  I didn't need to use the business center but a very nice area is provided with computers if guests need.  Lastly, there is convenient valet parking for guests.

Where we ate

We found a great spot last year and it appears that this spot will become a tradition.  Kianti's Pizza and Pasta Bar is a great little spot in Downtown Santa Cruz.  The food is delicious and the atmosphere is laid back and fun.  The girls love it because they get to play with pizza dough while they wait for the food.

We also ate at Gilda's on the wharf and I do not recommend it.  It hasn't been updated in decades and the food was average at best but still quite expensive.

Other than the two spots for dinner we made a picnic lunch for our first day at the beach and then ate at the Boardwalk because you can't go to the Boardwalk and not eat the junk food.

What we did

On the day we arrived we headed to Cowell Beach because it's one of our favorite spots but I think it was our last year here.  For some reason they do not groom the beach any more and it was COVERED in seaweed and flies.  The beach just on the other side of the wharf was groomed but insanely packed.  We did find Seacrest Beach down a little ways that wasn't nearly as packed and was groomed.  This will probably be the spot we head to first in the future.  Also to note, this was our first year coming on a weekend.  We arrived on a Sunday and the down was flooded with people and cars.  It took us one hour to find parking at the beach.  Keep that in mind when booking your trip.

Taking a stroll or drive down Cliff Dr. during sunset is a must when in Santa Cruz.  It's has gorgeous views both of the ocean and of the historic homes across the street.  We decided to drive it on this trip and we made a stop at the light house to get out and look around.




The main reason we head to Santa Cruz every year is the Boardwalk.  The nostalgia can not be beat and it's seriously so much fun.  The rides are not as exciting as Disneyland but it takes you back to a simpler time and just good ole fun.  I recommend purchasing the day wristband and riding all the rides one day.  The next day you can come back to walk the pier, chow down on junk food and play the arcade games.  You can even bowl or play miniature golf on the second day.  We like to break it up this way because it's like two days for the price of one.  Plus my girls are still young so we can't do super long hours trying to get it all done.




The Boardwalk was extra fun this year because Madi's friend was there as well.  We spent the day riding the rides and even a little beach time together.







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