Santa Cruz, Calif Weekend

Santa Cruz, Calif Weekend Claimed

2 Days | Summer | Family | Active

Average Reviews

Trip Overview

Santa Cruz is a great place for a day visit, couple day trip or a longer visit. This is a recommendation of some of my favorite things to do if spending a couple days in the area.

Full Itinerary

Instead of writing a formal day to day itinerary I thought it more useful to describe by category things to do in Santa Cruz that are good for a family (as times depend on tides/weather etc).

There are different areas of Santa Cruz and our time there is usually spent in the Pleasure Point area (edge of Santa Cruz bordering Capitola) so the suggestions are skewed a bit more towards that area.


There is surfing in different parts of Santa Cruz, with Steamer Lane being the area on West Cliff Drive near downtown that’s best known (for viewing as well). In Pleasure Point there are a number of breaks which can be seen from the promenade on East Cliff, with access to the beach via different stairways. The size of the beach depends on the tides. There are various surf lessons available that provide boards and you can also rent boards on 41st Ave in Pleasure Point.  If you are a beginner be careful of the waves and of the crowds.


Great hiking/running/mountain biking at 

  1. Wilder Ranch on Highway 1 north of Santa Cruz along the coast. There is a great 5ish mile trail along the bluff that winds above various coves and is spectacular to walk/run/bike. On the other side of highway 1 Wilder has lots of beautiful trails for hiking/mountain biking. 
  2. Nicene Marks Park (in Aptos, south of Santa Cruz) has beautiful redwoods. Bikes are allowed on the main fire road (as are dogs), and there are lots of side trails for running/hiking.  During the summer months you can drive further back into the forest past the winter gate which takes off a few miles of hiking, as desired, to get further back into the redwoods. When leaving Nicene Marks if it’s breakfast time take a right as you exit the park and head to Soquel for a breakfast sandwich at Pretty Good Advice, if it’s lunchtime take a left and grab some great bbq at Aptos St. BBQ or a coffee at Cat & Cloud, and if it’s dinner time head to Mentone for a gourmet pizza or head down to Pizza 1 for super delicious casual pizza. 

Amusement Park:

The Boardwalk is Santa Cruz’s famed amusement park which is right on the beach. Visit the boardwalk and then head down to the water for a picnic and a (potentially chilly!) swim. Good evening activity as well (check opening hours). The pier has restaurant options as well. 


  1. Downtown Santa Cruz (Pacific Ave) has lots of stores and restaurants. Best to just park and wander, but be sure not to miss Bookshop Santa Cruz for reading options, the Patagonia Outlet for potential deals, Pacific Wave for surf stuff, Berdels for cool clothing and then grab a coffee at 11th Hour Coffee. Home/Work is a little drive away but also has great curated housewares and gifts.
  2. 41st ave in Pleasure Point is more limited for general shopping but there are some good surf shops like O’Neils (surf pioneer Jack O’Neil lived in Pleasure Point) and the O’Neils Outlet Store, and The Boardroom. Be sure to drop in to browse books at Two Birds, browse beautiful homewares at Patine, snag a great lunch at Zameen and grab a coffee at Verve or Cat & Cloud. 
  3. West Side: If you are coming down Highway 1 towards Santa Cruz, take a right on Swift Street and you’ll pass Humble Bay Brewing Co on your left (good place to grab a beer), and see Cat & Cloud on your right (coffe spot). Turn left into the Swift Street Courtyard which used to be a brussel sprout packing plant and now has a bunch of shops and eateries. 11th Hour Coffee is a great place to start, and then be sure to go to Cameron Marks for super curated gifts, homewares, fashion and jewlery. When leaving, stop by the Companion Bakery on Highway 1 just a block down for fresh baked bread and more.


Will focus primarily on Pleasure Point and other spots that are our favorites. Tons in downtown area as well but I don’t know those as well (but don’t miss 11th Hour Coffee in downtown for coffee stop)…

In Pleasure Point 

  1. Great Mediterranean salads and dishes at Zameen (huge salads!). Grab a salad here, a coffee across the street at Verve, and walk down to the water to watch the surfers do their stuff. 
  2. If you just want to grab a breakfast burrito or quick lunch then head to The Point market (cash only) at the corner of East Cliff Drive at 32nd and walk 10 steps over to the overview to watch the surfers. 
  3. For dinner in Pleasure Point Suda is great for brunch or dinner – has great food, cocktails and a good sunday brunch. Not the most scenic setting….but food is good!   
  4. For amazing raman, head to Kaito in the mall. Don’t be put off by it being located in this ‘mall that time forgot’….the raman is delicious. Just get it to go for sure!
  5. East End Gastropub for good lunch/dinner options
  6. Cafe Cruz for dinner – I like it but others really love it. So you can decide.
  7. Discretion Brewing – local beer on tap and dinner options

Other Areas/Our Top Choices:

  1. Home is our favorite dinner spot – located in a home in Aptos with an amazing chef. Be sure to request seating in the back patio. Reservations needed. 
  2. Harbor Cafe is a great choice for breakfast/brunch(and you can eat outside and dogs are allowed). 
  3. Beer 30 in Aptos for beer, cornhole, casual outdoor vibe/food.
  4. Pretty Good Advice in Aptos has amazing breakfast sandwiches – very reasonably priced, vegetarian and just SO GOOD. Lunch options as well. 
  5. Pizza 1 in Aptos is a neighborhood spot that serves good pizza with local fresh ingredients – don’t miss the sausage one.



Time of year


Type of Trip



quick getaway/weekend

Who Went

Family with teen kids, Family with adult kids

Accommodation Type



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