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Capitola, CA Weekend Beach Escape

A charming coastal town near Santa Cruz offers shopping, sunshine, and dining with a view. 

The vibrant houses that line Capitola City Beach.
Photo caption
The vibrant houses that line Capitola City Beach.

California’s first beach resort is all smiles. The picturesque town of Capitola lies just east of Santa Cruz, where Soquel Creek meets Monterey Bay. Plenty of seaside activities, an eclectic array of shops, and a bounty of restaurants conspire to make the two-square-mile town the perfect coastal escape.

What to do in Capitola, CA

Capitola City Beach, a broad deck of golden sand, is the main attraction, drawing sunbathers and volleyball players. Kids with bodyboards enjoy the calm waters of the adjacent lagoon. On the nearby wharf, anglers cast for halibut and white croaker.

A quiet counterpoint to Capitola’s popular esplanade, New Brighton State Beach lies at the base of a bluff studded with Monterey pine and coast live oak. The sandy shore beckons to those looking for a meditative seaside stroll or stunning sunset views.

The streets at the center of town are lined with relaxed boutiques filled with handmade and local finds. Peppermint- and bergamot-scented Lady Grey, a handmade soap, is one of the distinctive wares on display at Sweet Asylum. This small boutique also carries soft cotton beach blankets with muted pastel stripes and bikinis and other clothes. 120 San Jose Ave.

Nearby: Hidden Nature Spots in Santa Cruz, CA

Where to Eat

Perusing the seemingly endless display cases filled with sweets and savories is half the fun at classic Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticceria. The other half is enjoying your picks, such as a perfectly creamy éclair or a tender croissant stuffed with almond-tarragon chicken salad. 504 Bay Ave.

At Sante Adairius Rustic Ales, you may sample excellent small-batch creations such as a trendy, slightly sour blend of barrel-aged beers and IPAs rooted in the West Coast. 103 Kennedy Dr.

Read more: Dining Out In Santa Cruz County

Well over half a century old, popular Shadowbrook Restaurant and its lush hillside gardens seem to go on forever. Order a drink from the bar and you can gaze at the indoor waterfalls and marvel at the evening mist gliding up the creek. For dinner, try dishes such as blackened lamb with foraged-mushroom bread pudding. 1750 Wharf Rd.

It’s worth the effort to snag one of the seven tables at Caruso’s Tuscan Cuisine. The restaurant makes its own lasagna noodles. For an authentic Italian experience, order the homemade gnocchi Bolognese. 115 San Jose Ave. 

Photography by Helynn Ospina

Up Next: Santa Cruz’s New Abbott Square Market and 9 Reasons to Visit Santa Cruz's West Side

This article was first published in Spring 2015 and updated in Fall 2018. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.