We’re now living in Monterey, CA. We had never been to Santa Cruz and with it being only about an hour North, this was a great day to go. We figured we’d just make a day trip out of it since the ride home wouldn’t be too long. After researching things to do in Santa Cruz, here is how we decided to structure our day:
Coffee @ Castle Rock Coffee
Hiking @ the Byrne-Milliron Forest
Head to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Walk along the Santa Cruz Wharf
Take W Cliff Drive to Natural Bridges State Beach
Cool off with some beers from Humble Sea Brewing
Have more beer and dinner @ Santa Cruz Aleworks
Enjoy the sunset @ Cliff Drive Vista Point
We did everything on the list! It was an awesome day. At the bottom of this page, I will share some restaurants and hiking areas that were on the list as potential places to go that we just didn’t get to this time.
Castle Rock Coffee: From where we live, this place is about a 2 minute drive and we had been driving by it every day heading to work and wanted to try it. It’s a nice little coffee shopwith indoor and outdoor and patio seating and a typical menu of coffee, lattes, cappuccinos, chai’s, etc. We typically go for the Chai’s for Leslie and I’ll go for a latte. Being autumn, I pumpkin spiced it up and both drinks were delicious.
Byrne-Milliron Forest: Why did we choose this place? It was really between here and the Forest of Nisene Marks and the decision was made because of the cost and the amount of time we’d be spending hiking! The Byrne-Milliron Forest is a little hidden gem that was quite unpopulated. It is owned and managed by the Land Trust and when the website says it takes pride it making it available to members and the public, it was very clear to see. Hiking provided very nice forest and some excellent views from the top. I thought the coolest part was the bathtub.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: This was a must-see in coming to Santa Cruz for the day. It has everything a tourist could ask for with a theme park, shopping, restaurants, mini-golf, an arcade, and plenty more. Not to mention, it runs along the coast so if you need a break from the crowds, step right off and head over to the beach. That’s what we did with our burritos!
Santa Cruz Wharf: The wharf is right next to the boardwalk so we walked to the end of the beach to it. [There were public bathrooms at the start of the wharf, too!] We walked to the end of the wharf and there were more stops for shopping and eating. Lots of folks fishing. At the end, there were many sea lions barking away. This was a nice spot to walk along to end the time in this area. By this point, it was about 2pm and we had one more outdoorsy stop before going to get some beer.
Natural Bridges State Beach: In my opinion, this beach is a little over-rated. At the time we went at least, it was very crowded and it’s very small. Don’t get me wrong – it’s nice. And the natural bridge that it is named after is pretty cool. We didn’t spend a lot of time here…just enough time for me to get a photo of the bridge (that didn’t turn out into anything special). Okay, now it’s time for some beer.
Humble Sea Brewing: There are a lot of breweries in Santa Cruz but we chose this one because of its unique concept. On their website they state they “brew small, experimental batches of beer and new recipes weekly. The best way to check out current lineup is on our Instagram.” Go check them out! I ordered a Saison and Leslie went with a watermelon-mint cider. I was very impressed and definitely enjoyed my Saison. It was $7 (a little pricey) but it seems understandable for the type of brewery they’re running…and for what it must cost to run a shop in Santa Cruz!
Santa Cruz Ale Works: This was where we had dinner and it was a good choice [if you go for dinner, keep in mind they close at 6PM]. We knew they closed early going in so we got there about 5:15. They have really good and reasonably priced sandwiches. I went with the reuben and ordered the wheat beer and was happy with the selections. It’s a small place, a little out of the way from downtown but it was nice to get away from the crowds.
That was it for our day. After that spot, we drove back home. We came very close to going to New Bohemia Brewery from 7-9p for free live music and to try their Pineapple Express Hefeweizen but we were just ready to crash by that point.
Feel free to contact me at if you’d like to chat about your trip up the Santa Cruz!