Santa Cruz is known for its surf culture, beaches, and laid-back way of life. Whether you are going for the first time or trying to reinvigorate your weekend routine, we have rounded up a full day of adventures that are anything but ordinary.
Head to Verve Coffee Roasters' flagship store on 41st Avenue. While waiting in line for a latte or espresso tonic, take a moment to appreciate the vintage machines that roast the beans, the farmers who grew them, and the magic of Santa Cruz—which inspired the owners to establish Verve in 2007. The incredible coffee roasted here is now sold throughout the state and beyond, powered by a passion for coffee, agriculture, and the ocean waves. Mix up your typical cup with soy milk, or try the daily toast to complement the undertones of perfectly crafted coffee.
Coffee in hand, walk through downtown Santa Cruz toward Main Beach. Watch the waves gently crash along the shore, build a sandcastle, and soak up the sun’s rays from atop your towel. The ocean views and the soothing sounds of the waves are paired with the excitement of the boardwalk and the nervous screams of visitors riding roller coasters. Dip your toes in the water, or go for a quick swim on a nice day before warming up with a good book on the white sand.
After relaxing for a few hours, walk along the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Here you will find dozens of rides, surf shops, food vendors, an arcade, and even mini golf. Ride the iconic Giant Dipper to feel the rush that 60 million visitors have experienced before you, test your skills at laser tag, and grab a souvenir to commemorate your Santa Cruz trip.
Venture off the boardwalk, and head back toward downtown for lunch at the Surfrider Cafe. Order one of the eatery’s signature gourmet burgers and, if you dare, the famous homemade jalapeño poppers for a taste of Santa Cruz you can’t get anywhere else. Eat inside, or take your meal out to the Santa Cruz Riverwalk and overlook the San Lorenzo River for an extra touch of awesome.
Wander up Cedar Street to The Penny Ice Creamery, Santa Cruz’s only ice-cream parlor scooping ice cream made from scratch. The shop sources every ingredient independently and maintains relationships with the local farmers to get seasonal ingredients at their peak of freshness. The shop’s unexpected flavors include everything from meyer lemon, to burnt cinnamon, to crème fraîche persimmon.
After sampling flavors and eating a scoop or two, jump in the car and drive to the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, located inside the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse. The museum overlooks the popular surfing spot Steamer Lane, and contains photographs of surfers from the region as well as boards and artifacts spanning the town’s 100-plus year surfing history. If strolling around inspires you, pick up a book or a postcard to send home from the gift shop.
From the museum, walk along West Cliff Drive to Natural Bridges State Park, or look for a parking spot just outside the park. The rock formations here host a variety of birds and wildlife and are beautiful to capture on film during sunset. Watch the surfers as you wait for the sun to go down, and embrace the Santa Cruz lifestyle.