We are taking a road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway 1 from San Francisco to Los Angeles and our first stop is Santa Cruz.
Where To Stay:
Santa Cruz has always conjured up images of nostalgic amusement rides, candy floss and cheesy cliché inns that dot the ocean-front. Or so I thought. Dream Inn is a newly renovated Joie de Vivre hotel and has done a stellar job in setting itself apart: from the sweeping ocean views (all rooms have balconies) to the fun colourful decor and even a "pillow library"! You don't need to be a sleep connoisseur to take advantage of selecting whether you want to get your beauty rest on a soft or firm pillow.
If anything Dream Inn resembles more of a boutique hotel where the rooms are stylishly flamboyant while retaining their retro-chic Californian feel. I loved our King Cloud Suite!
I also have a thing for bathrooms so I was delighted that this one was extra spacious with a rainforest shower. Toiletries were compliments of Lather: mint thyme shampoo, yuzu bergamot conditioner and a lavender lime moisturizer. Somehow all three found their way into my suitcase, wink wink.
Dream Inn racks up Brownie Points for having a heated beach front pool, an outdoor spa, valet parking, free wifi, nightly turn-down service, friendly staff and an unbeatable location! The historic Boardwalk and Wharf are only steps away.
We really appreciated finding these binoculars and chocolates on our pillow! But what topped this whole experience off for us was falling asleep to the sound of crashing waves and waking up to singing sea lions! Sweet dreams at Dream Inn? Definitely.
Dream Inn is fun, trendy and affordable with rates starting at $169. They are located at 175 West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz, CA. Tel: (831) 426-4330.
Where To Play:
The highlight of Santa Cruz is their famous seaside Boardwalk - California's oldest amusement park! Think warm sand, cool surf, hot rides and entertainment. Admission is free but you have to purchase tickets for the rides. Lisa was there last summer so check out her review + pics.
Surfs up dudettes! There is a Surfing Museum nearby with a cool display of vintage surf boards and memorabilia. Admission is by donation.
Join the Santa Cruz and Capitola Food Tours! They are relaxing, non-touristy and delicious! Besides sampling all types of food and desserts, you get to explore the local neighbourhood on foot and learn about the culture and history. If you are vegetarian or vegan, let them know in advance so they can have substitutes ready for you. Cost is $52.50 per person.
Visit the Santa Cruz Community Farmers' Markets. I love Markets and this one showcases some of the best regional organic produce, pasture-raised meats, eggs and dairy in California. You can also find sustainably-harvested seafoods and artisan-made goods here.
And don't forget to visit the giant seals along the Wharf.
Where To Eat:
At the slick Acquarius Restaurant & Bar located beside the Dream Inn, American cuisine is inspired by fresh and local produce, sustainable seafood and regional wines. After a morning jog on Cowell's Beach, Geoff and I enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast of French Toast, berries and granola in our "window box on the sea".
If you've got a sweet tooth for all things flaky and sweet, then you must stop by The Buttery. They also serve traditional breakfast and lunch but in this case, go for their desserts first!
Riva Fish House is located right on the Wharf and offers a stellar view and an extensive menu at value prices. They make wonderful cocktails (order the Bloody Cesar, it's made from scratch) and Happy Hour is everyday from 3-6pm.
We had a great stay in Santa Cruz! Our next stop is Monterey, an old sardine cannery village and Carmel-by-the-Sea, a seascape town with a quaint European charm.