I Need Restaurant / Activity Recommendations for Santa Cruz

Good afternoon everyone.  This coming Monday is Columbus Day and I am taking my girlfriend to Santa Cruz for the long weekend.  I’ve been to Santa Cruz a handful of times, but not in the last couple of years, and not with my girlfriend. I did some research on hotel options in Santa Cruz, but there are not a ton of great options.  There are a handful of Marriott properties charging 35K Marriott points / night, but I decided to stay at the Hyatt Place Santa Cruz instead. Paid rates are $300+ as of today (they were a little cheaper a week ago), but the points rate is a bargain, by comparison.

The Hyatt Place Santa Cruz only costs 15K Hyatt points / night, resulting in a 2.15 CPP valuation.  After transferring Chase Ultimate Reward Points to Hyatt, I booked the hotel.  If I had a Hyatt Free Night Certificate, this would be a great place to use it since the certificate is only good for Hyatt categories 1-4 (Hyatt properties costing up to 15K Hyatt points / night) and this hotel costs exactly 15K Hyatt points / night.

Despite the less than stellar Yelp rating, the Seabright Brewery has always had great food and beers.  I think I had a jalapeno burger last time that was delicious.  What other restaurants do you recommend for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or dessert?  I am open to trying anything you recommend.

After checking Trip Advisor and Groupon, we decided to book the Sea Spirit Ocean Safari to see whales and/or sea life.  Groupon usually runs sales for Local Deals, so if you do not see a sale, wait a few days and check back.

We also booked the Roaring Camp Steam Train Through Santa Cruz Redwoods on Groupon.  If you purchase Groupon GCs / eGCs when they are on sale, plus wait until Groupon runs a sale, plus stack cash back with Ebates, you can save a ton of money when you buy from Groupon.

My girlfriend is a 4th grade teacher and teaches her students about the California Missions.  We’ve been to missions in San Diego, San Juan Capistrano, Carmel, and Sonoma, so we will visit the Santa Cruz Mission too.

It is a short walk from the Hyatt Place to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, so we will walk there and walk around the rides and attractions.

We are also considering checking out the Mystery Spot.  Do we need to purchase tour tickets in advance or can you just walk around for free?

Did we miss anything super cool?  If you have any restaurant or activity recommendations, please let me know.  Have a great Columbus Day Weekend everyone!

15 thoughts on “I Need Restaurant / Activity Recommendations for Santa Cruz

  1. Wade

    Skip the Mystery Spot, it’s honestly pretty lame, super crowded and not worth the $ in my opinion. Have never taken that specific charter, but we really enjoy the Chardonnay II Sailing charter. Have seen Whales/Otters/Dolphins/Seals/Sea Lions, etc the times we’ve been out around the wharf, etc. Roaring Camp is cool enough but way better with younger kids. While you are there, I’d recommend crossing the tracks in to Henry Cowell Redwood State Park (right next door so you could do both) for a nice hike. Also Big Basin State Park is also not too far away is pretty amazing Tree’s, some nice trails, etc. If you are looking for more “adventure”, the Mount Hermon Adventures Redwood Canopy Tours are an amazing (although a bit pricey) zipline experience through the redwoods.

    Lots of better restaurants than Seabright Brewery (which is OK but if you’ve been before a lot better options). The Cremer House in Felton (just down the road from Roaring Camp/Henry Cowell) is one of my absolute favorites, great beer and wine selection, good food, etc. West End Tap & Kitchen is excellent as is Shadowbrook in Capitola (if looking for a nicer/$$$ dinner). Aptos St or Mission St. BBQ (2 locations/same menu) are both very good BBQ (by California standards at least). Lillian’s Italian Kitchen is also support to be amazing, but we haven’t been yet.
    Have Fun!

    1. Grant Post author

      Hi Wade, thank you for all the recommendations. I will share them with my girlfriend and see what she wants to do. I was thinking of visiting the state park next to Roaring Camp, just couldn’t remember the name. If you think of anything else, please let me know :)

  2. askmrlee

    I still enjoy strawberry picking up the coast at Swanton Berry Farm.
    While the main coastal U-Pick is closed, their farm stand and it’s U-Pick should still be open. It’s a nice stop on a scenic drive north of Santa Cruz.

    1. Grant Post author

      We are driving down PCH (Highway 1), so we will drive right by it. Might be a nice place to stop and pick some strawberries :)

  3. james

    October is one of the best months weatherwise for the central coast! Sunset walk or jog along West Cliff Drive from the Lighthouse to Natural Bridges. If surf’s up, check out Steamer Lane from the Lighthouse. If you’re downtown, Happy hour at Hula’s Island Grill is fun, and I second lillians if you can get in. If your train ride is late afternoon, there’s a great German place in Ben Lomond and Octoberfest may be just the time to grab a liter or 2.

    If you like a real scenic drive with, go up highway 9 to Boulder Creek.

    1. Grant Post author

      Thank you for those great suggestions. I think the weather will be pretty nice :)

      We will be in Roaring Camp Monday morning and then drive up Highway 9 through Boulder Creek. Is there anything you recommend in Boulder Creek?

  4. Bryan

    I second the suggestion for walking or jogging along West Cliff drive near the lighthouse. I enjoy Pizza My Heart and Erik’s Deli. Shadowbrook is very good and Capitola Village and beach is nice to walk around if you can find parking. Kelly’s French Bakery on the west side is also delicious.

    1. Grant Post author

      So many great suggestions, I don’t know if I can fit them all into my schedule. I will do my best. Thanks for the ideas :)

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