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Five Reasons to Escape to Santa Cruz in Winter

Santa Cruz Surfer

Santa Cruz, Photos by Dana Rebmann

It doesn't matter whether it's summer or winter, a walk on the beach in Santa Cruz will make your cheeks rosy. Summer may be when bigger crowds appear, but seasoned veterans will tell you winter at the beach can't be beat.

Natural Bridges State Beach

After about an hour and a half in the car, you’ll be ready to do some walking. Make your first stop Natural Bridges State Beach. You’ll know why when you get your first glimpse of the coast. The sandstone arch is the last of what was once three connecting arches. During low tide, you can hunt for sea stars and anemones. Watch for snowy egrets playing in the surf and pelicans resting atop the arch. During the winter, a eucalyptus grove in the park is home to monarch butterflies. From the beach, it’s a short walk inland to the Monarch Boardwalk.

Natural Bridges State Beach

Natural Bridges State Beach

Lighthouse Field State Beach

Take West Cliff Drive and head south. There’s a good chance you’ll see a crowd at Lighthouse Field State Beach. If you don’t want to get sandy again, park at the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse and take in the view from above. Check out the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum housed inside, open Thursday through Sunday, 12 to 4 pm. Just off the point, surfers put on a show at popular surf spot Steamer Lane.

Santa Cruz Wharf

So close to the boardwalk, but unknown to many visitors, think about making the Santa Cruz Wharf one of your weekend stops. Park on the Wharf if you’re starting to feel tired. One side is lined with restaurants and shops, but if you’re not in the mood just cross to the other side and enjoy the often sea lion filled watery view. Whatever route you take, make it to the end of the pier, where open sections of the wharf allow for great views of sea lions hanging out on pilings below.

Santa Cruz Wharf

Santa Cruz Wharf

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

It’ll take just minutes to walk to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Skip the corn dog and cotton candy and make a quick stop at The Picnic Basket. This small eatery is all about connecting the local food scene without being snooty. Order at the counter and then you can pretty much watch your food being prepared from any of the 20 or so seats in the place. Save room for a scoop of small batch homemade from The Penny Ice Creamery.

Summer never really ends on the Boardwalk. Weekends and holidays throughout winter, the seaside amusement park opens limited rides for thrill seekers. Expect five or so major rides and at least one kiddie ride to be open.

 

Hotel Paradox

Decorative squirrels headed for Hotel Paradox front desk

Hotel Paradox

The pampering part of your getaway begins when you arrive at the Hotel Paradox. This new boutique hotel has the perfect balance of cozy and contemporary. The front desk is a eucalyptus trunk from Sonoma that sets the theme for the decor of the guest rooms. Even on a cold winter night, the pool and hot tub offer a warm escape.

Dana’s trip was hosted by the Santa Cruz County Conference & Visitors Council, but as always her thoughts and opinions are her own.