There are beach cities like Santa Cruz, bursting with excitement, energy, and lots to do. And then there are beach cities like Capitola.
In a stark contrast to Santa Cruz’s bustling beach boardwalk, Capitola is what California beach cities used to be: laid-back, slightly quirky, and oh so charming.
We spent the second half of our Santa Cruz adventure in Capitola, a city I actually much preferred over the busier Santa Cruz side of town.
Though it doesn’t attract nearly the size of crowds the boardwalk does, the word about Capitola is getting out (fast), especially after popping up on lists like Coastal Living’s Happiest Seaside Towns in America.
With parking being pretty scarce, the city offers free shuttle buses down to the beach. Evelyn was taking an afternoon nap in the car (a common mid-day travel break for us), so we weren’t in a hurry to find a spot and instead we drove around a bit to check things out first.
We ended up parking up the street (or cliff, rather), about a 20 minute walk from the wharf. Once Evelyn woke from her nap, we took one of the most gorgeous walks ever to the main part of town.
At the bottom of the hill was the Capitola Wharf…much smaller and far more unassuming than its neighbor over in Santa Cruz.
The wharf overlooks Capitola Beach and those colorful Venetian Court beachfront condos. The homes have attracted quite a following of amateur photographers snapping pics in front of their bright and funky stucco exteriors. Did you think I would be any different?? Of course not!
Over the Soquel Creek Bridge is Capitola Village, anchored by the Esplanade (home to several waterfront restaurants) and Capitola Avenue, the main street filled with small shops selling a range of goods from kitschy collectibles (The Village Mouse) to upscale coastal home decor (Zen Island).
Fresh off our recent Napa Valley wine kick, we contemplated stopping into the Armida Winery Tasting Room, but instead took the trail that passed alongside it and led down to the banks along Soquel Creek.
We couldn’t get over how cool it would be to live here (all of the homes along the creek include some outdoor space along the water) and were starting to understand why this was such a happy place. When we saw that one of the homes was actually a vacation rental, we immediately added it to our never-ending bucket list!
Before we said goodbye to Capitola for good, we made one final stop at Sante Adairius Rustic Ales. Trying some locally-brewed beers sounded right up Matt’s alley, even if it wasn’t the most appropriate place for a baby. Matt tried the oak barrel-aged Lady in Grey, while I (not much of a beer drinker) was impressed with the tart Capitola Breezes.
Outside, a huge mural was painted across the parking lot behind the brewery, and Evelyn just had to say hello to the puppy.
It was the perfect end to our day, and we had tons of fun uncovering the unexpected charm of Capitola.
Have you been to this fantastic beach town? What spots do we need to add to the list for our next adventure?
Read Next: Fall Fun in Half Moon Bay, California