California Hwy 1 Hidden Gems: Half Moon Bay – Watsonville

There are lots of hidden gems located just off Highway 1 on the coast between Half Moon Bay and Watsonville. In addition to the beautiful beaches there are plenty of unexpected discoveries waiting for you on a daylong drive or weekend trip down the coast. Whether you are looking for a great hike, a taco voted one of the best in the USA, a farm visit, a zen retreat or some really great sausages, there is something for everyone sprinkled in along this amazing stretch of California. 

Here are some suggestions that are within easy reach of Hwy 1, listed in order from North to South, starting after Half Moon Bay, and not including a ton of Santa Cruz (there is another blog for that). This is by no means an all-inclusive list, and it does not include beach suggestions. It’s a list of some of my favorite spots which are all easily accessible during a drive down the coast, some of which you may not have heard of. Be sure to check opening hours and any seasonal restrictions. Also, if you are interested in finding out about any live indie music going on in the area, check out FolkYeah (www.folkyeah.com) before you go in case there is a concert in Santa Cruz you want to check out at the end of the day!

SAN GREGORIO

San Gregorio General Store, 7615 Stage Road, San Gregorio

Why not start your day with breakfast at Alice’s on Skyline, then continue down the hill to San Gregorio with the San Gregorio General Store your first stop (or do in reverse and have dinner at Alice’s after a day on the coast). The San Gregorio General Store has everything….from a post office to a bar to fresh sandwiches to live music to western wear to household goods to racoon traps to tee shirts…..and everything in between.

PESCADERO

Duarte’s Tavern, 202 Stage Road, Pescadero

This restaurant opened in 1894, Duarte’s is a must stop for lunch or dinner. Don’t miss their famous artichoke soup (or order the off menu ½ artichoke, ½ green chili soup) and the olallieberry pie. Wander around the nearby galleries and shops as well.

Mercado & Taqueria de Amigos 999 Pescadero Creek Rd, Pescadero

If your budget or time doesn’t allow for Duarte’s then be sure to stop in to the taqueria at the gas station across the street. The New York Times called their tacos ‘some of the best tacos this side of Mexico’.  This unassuming spot inside the gas station serves up great tacos, burritos, quesadillas and more – grab it at the counter and you eat at one of the outdoor picnic tables or take it on the road with you. 

Arcangeli Grocery Co, 287 Stage Road, Pescadero, CA

Founded in 1929, and known for their Garlic Herb & Artichoke bread, they are a must stop for bread and baked goods. 

Downtown Local – 213 Stage Road, Pescadero, CA

Quirky cool cafe/coffee spot. 

Ranch Siempre Verde 

Pumpkins and apples in the fall, xmas trees and wreaths in the winter, organic produce in spring and summer, plus AMAZING swings (these are not your basic playground versions….). Picnic overlooking the Pacific – can’t get better than that. Check site to make sure it’s open before you go.

Ano Nuevo State Park, 1 New Years Creek,  Pescadero

Over 10,000 elephant seals a year are at Ano Nuevo and worth a visit (plus the State Park has a lot more than just the elephant seals). You need a reservation for a guided walk to see them (a 3-4 mile hike) Dec – March, and April – November permits are given out 8:30-3:30 on site. 

Harley Farms Goat Dairy, 205 North Street, Pescadero

This working goat dairy, open 11-4 daily,  is a fun visit to see the baby goats in the spring in particular, but is a fun stop all year round. And the gift shop sells great goat cheese, olive oil and amazing smelling lotions, amongst other things.

Pie Ranch, 9080 Cabrillo Highway, Pescadro

Seasonal produce, fresh pies, heirloom grain and wheat flour….as well as books and locally made pottery – Pie Ranch is another great stop on the coast. Pie Ranch’s mission is to ‘cultivate a healthy and just food system from seed to table through food education, farmer training and regional partnerships. Plus they welcome volunteers to help work at the ranch as well – see their site for more info. Their monthly Barn Dances are currently on hold, but hopefully they will return. 

Costanoa, 2001 Rossi Road, Pescadero

You can camp or glamp at Costanoa, but they also have a restaurant and general store should you want to stop in for a meal.  They have both the fast casual Pine Tent (seasonal spring-fall) and Cascade restaurants. 

DAVENPORT

Swanton Berry Farm, 25 Swanton Road, Davenport

The first certified organic strawberry farm in California, Swanton is worth a stop whether to pick your own berries (check site for timing) or  to pick up some small-batch jam, cider or a fresh pie from their farmstand. 

SANTA CRUZ

Note: Santa Cruz is a big city with lots of choices of places to go and things to do. I’ve only highlighted a few favorites that don’t take you too far off the highway. You can check out another blog for Santa Cruz specific things to do. 

Wilder Ranch State Park, 1401 Coast Road, Santa Cruz

The parking lot is either on the highway (free) or in the paid parking lot on the beach side of the highway, and the park has hikes on both sides of the highway. The coastal cliffside walk takes you by multiple beautiful ocean coves or you can head under the highway for a variety of long, beautiful hikes that take you through a variety of terrains. Great mountain biking trails. 

Companion Bakeshop  2341 Mission St, Santa Cruz, CA

Just as you enter Santa Cruz Companion is on your right in a little strip mall. The bakery is on site, and they also provide baked goods for a number of local stores and restaurants/coffee shops. Fresh out of the oven loaves of bread, sandwiches and chocolate cookies to die for, plus lattes and more.

Fonda Felix, 402 Ingalls Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Just a couple blocks from Companion, Fonda Felix offers fresh baked empanadas. They have a commercial kitchen but you can order at the door (check hours) and get them hot out of the oven (or order to go for a party etc). 

Cameron Marks, 402 Ingalls Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Next door to Fonda Felix, this store has really well curated home goods, jewelry, clothing and more. 

Cat and Cloud Coffee, 719 Swift Street, Santa Cruz

Across the street from Fonda Felix and Cameron Marks (and serving baked goods from Companion Bakeshop), Cat and Cloud offers great coffee from the nicest baristas you’ll ever meet.  

Pogonip, 333 Golf Club Drive, Santa Cruz

https://www.cityofsantacruz.com/government/city-departments/parks-recreation/parks-beaches-open-spaces/open-spaces/pogonip

Another great spot for a hike where not from the highway you find yourself in the middle of beautiful hike options! Also popular for mountain biking.

CAPITOLA

Cheese Shop 831, 3555 Clares St Suite V, Capitola, CA 

A couple blocks off Hwy 1, located in an unassuming strip mall, you’ll be surprised at the quality and knowledge of cheese in this small store that sells local as well as international cheeses.

Gayles Bakery and Roticceria, 504 Bay Ave, Capitola

Wonderful baked goods, sandwiches and more. Eat in or take out.

SOQUEL

Beer 30, 2504 S. Main Street, Soquel, CA

Casual outdoor beer garden for you and your dog (pet friendly!) where you can grab a great beer and a light bite and also play some corn hole while you hang out on a beautiful afternoon or evening.

Pretty Good Advice, 3070 Porter Street, Soquel

Vegetarian fare from their nearby 83 acre farm. Stop by for great food, at a great price. Mike’s Good Morning Deluxe sandwich can’t be beat, as well as the Arnold Palmers. Sourced from his local farm, this Michelein starred chef makes simple, delicious options. Yum. 

Home, 3101 N. Main Street, Soquel

For dinner, this spot is hard to beat. Chef Brad Briske serves up delicious, locally sourced meals. The backyard patio is so welcoming and cozy – we recommend making your reservation for this area if possible. Check for days open/hours. 

Land of Medicine Buddha https://landofmedicinebuddha.org/  5800 Prescott Road, Soquel, CA 95073, USA

This hidden gem (I’m hesitant even to write about it for fear of word getting out…) located 10 minutes off the highway has a beautiful 6 mile hike loop that takes you through redwood forest and shrine gardens. This Buddhist retreat center offers mediation, lodging and classes (check website). You feel transported while here. 

APTOS

The Forest of Nisene Marks

Our favorite local hiking/running spot, Nisene Marks is another local gem. Just minutes off the highway you are transported into huge redwood forests. With over 40 miles of trails, you can opt to walk along the wide main road or peel off on one of the many smaller side trails. Biking is allowed on the main road, as are dogs.

Mentone, 174 Aptos Vlg Way, Aptos, CA

Run by a Michelin-starred chef David Kinch, Mentone offers high-end pizza and other Italian fare for dinner Wed-Fri and brunch and dinner Sat-Sun. Reservations recommended.

Pizza 1, 253 Center Ave Aptos, CA 95003

Totally old-school neighborhood pizza by the slice or the pie, their homemade dough and top ingredients make this causal, delicious pizza at its BEST!

Bamboo Giant Nursery, 5601 Freedom Blvd, Aptos, CA

Looking for bamboo? This is your spot!

MOSS LANDING

Power Plant Coffee, 7990 CA-1, Moss Landing, CA 95039

Located on highway 1 in Moss Landing, Power Plant coffee is such a great addition to the area! As they say, it’s “coffee, plants, pies, good vibes’ here. From the coffee and avo toast to the amazing curated gift shop (hate to even call it that as it’s so beautiful!), the vibe here really is one of local community. The the shop offering local items, amazing books and special gifts underneath it’s bright soaring ceiling is a reason to stop even if you don’t drink coffee!

The Haute Enchilada Cafe, Social Club and Gallery, 702 Moss Landing Road, Moss Landing

Fun lunch or dinner spot (sister restaurant of the Whole Enchilada which is on Hwy 1 a block away). Don’t miss the gallery in back…tons of local artists! 

Elkhourn Slough, Moss Landing, 7902 Moss Landing Road 7902 Moss Landing Road

One of the most important estuaries around, full of a huge variety of bird and sealife. Rent a kayak or take the boat ‘safari’ (google them – one option for each) and come face to face with otters, harbor seals and more! 

CORRALITOS

Blossoms Farmstore and Coffeeshop – 2904 Freedom Blvd, Corralitos

Stop in this cute spot for some local produce, locally produced body oils/sprays/balms (the lavender is my favorite) as well as  coffee/baked goods.

Corralitos Market and Sausage Co. 569 Corralitos Rd, Watsonville

Although officially in Watsonville, this is just down the road from Blossoms, past beautiful apple orchards. Wonderful sausages in all flavors, as well as marinated chicken, great wine selection and more in an old country store setting.  Sausage sandwiches are their top sellers for lunch. 

FREEDOM

Freedom Meat Lockers – https://www.freedommeatlockers.com/  160 Hi Grade Ln, Freedom, CA 95019

Popular Freedom Meat is offered here – all types of sausages and cuts of meat in this little store in a residential area. A small selection of their meats are also now offered in the Pleasure Point area of Santa Cruz at the Pointside Meat Shop on 41st., in case you can’t make it all the way to Watsonville.

WATSONVILLE

Gizdich Ranch: 55 Peckham Road, Watsonville https://www.gizdich-ranch.com/  

Pick and pies!

Cowboy Corner Cafe, 946 Main St, Watsonville, CA 95076, Phone: 831-761-8996

Big breakfasts or lunch. Bring your appetite.

Imura Japanese Restaurant, 1994 Main St, Watsonville, CA 95076

Great sushi and overall japanese food. 

Annie’s Glass, 310 Harvest Drive, Watsonville, CA

Glass is hand blown on the premises, and for sale in the adjacent shop. It’s a very particular style, but if that’s the style you like then this is your spot for blown glass.

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Picture of Chrissie Kremer
Chrissie Kremer

I am a mixed bag traveler - I go the budget route on some things and splurge on others. I love family adventure travel, trips with girlfriends, or solo trips with my kids. I like urban exploration but prefer it coupled with outdoor activity (and when traveling with my kids it's more outdoor activity coupled with a dose of urban). I have been to 62 countries... and counting.

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  • Carolyn

    Carolyn

    July 1, 2021

    So many great ideas! I need to visit so many of these! Thanks, Chrissie!

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Picture of Chrissie Kremer
Chrissie Kremer

I am a mixed bag traveler - I go the budget route on some things and splurge on others. I love family adventure travel, trips with girlfriends, or solo trips with my kids. I like urban exploration but prefer it coupled with outdoor activity (and when traveling with my kids it's more outdoor activity coupled with a dose of urban). I have been to 62 countries... and counting.

JOIN THE COMMUNITY!

and receive the “Carry On Only Packing Guide”, free. 

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