Located on the north end of Monterey Bay, Capitola is the perfect getaway within easy reach of San Francisco. It's just right for a day trip but offers more than enough to stretch your stay, so bring a toothbrush.
Capitola is stacked with history, arts, and culture. It's relatively quiet compared to its neighbor Santa Cruz but close enough to enjoy the best of both worlds. Stroll the beach, jump onto a boogie board or plan your trip for a film or wine festival.
The drive to Capitola is a quick one at less than two hours' drive from San Francisco. Head inland toward San Jose via US-101 S or I-280 S. You'll bend southwest around San Jose to pass through Cupertino and turn onto CA-17 S at Los Gatos. That will carry you all the way into Santa Cruz. When you see CA-1, hang a left to go southward and you'll find yourself in Capitola before you can blink.
For another route, consider taking CA-1 all the way down the coast from San Francisco to Capitola. It's the stuff of roadtripping legend. There are countless photo-worthy, leg-stretching stops along the way. You'll no doubt know them when you see them.
The Quality Inn & Suites Capitola is a great budget-friendly place to stay in Capitola. It's just a 10-minute walk from Capitola beach and wharf, has free Wi-Fi and a daily hot breakfast. There's a seasonal outdoor swimming pool, and there's a guest laundromat available. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is only a 10-minute drive. Quality Inn offers the comforts and amenities you need without the expensive frills, and the location keeps you central to action along the bay.
The Dream Inn in nearby Santa Cruz knows its in a cool beach town with character and makes that clear to all its guests, too, with surf boards hanging like wall art and, well, every other amazing touch throughout the place. The vibe in this place is fresh, fun and couldn't be beachier-keen. You can practically fall out your door onto the beach, and rooms have views of the wharf, seagulls and salty ocean horizon. The price is steeper than other places, but for great reasons.
The Inn at Depot Hill is plush with quiet comfort and gives you the location you want to reach all that matters. This B&B is only five minutes' walk from the beach and 10 minutes from Capitola Wharf. There is an evening wine reception with apps, and a full, hot quiche and pancake breakfast is served daily. Wi-Fi is free and so are the spa-quality bath salts. The danger here is that you might not want to leave your room to explore what's out your door.
The Crow's Nest might well be the most reviewed restaurant in town, and because locals and travelers alike love to rave about it. It's open 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., so hit it up when the time feels right. You can start with the shrimp and crab omellete and boat watch, move through lunch into happy hour and watch the sun set. It's a pricier spot than, say, the pub or taco cart, true enough. But this "flagship restaurant of California" is worth a look, if you've got a special meal in mind.
Pizza My Heart is beachside in downtown Capitola Village, so this is the spot for a quick, tasty bite when you're out and on the go. Grab a slice and keep on strollin' if that's what you feel like, or take a load off in the shade watch the waves. Pizza My Heart has the hookup for whoever is asking, from meat-loaded to vegetarian.
Breakfast in Capitola has never been sweeter than at Sweet Pea's Cafe. The crepes are to drool for and they collect fans from near and far. The variety of crepe action is wide and wild, and there are veg and gluten-free options. Crepes might be the hot item here, but it's far from being all Sweet Pea's offers. It's a cafe with a full menu of American cuisine, something for everyone. Top it off with a staff of lively and friendly characters and spot-on prices.
Capitola Beach is the spot for surfing, watching surfers, listening to the surf ... you get it. The beach here is smaller and cozier than more known spots like just up the way in Santa Cruz. It's a fantastic little stretch to stroll, take a break for an ice cream or lunch, to shop and to take in the colorful architecture.
Nothing brings out the kid in us like strolling a boardwalk with cotton candy in hand and playing carnival games. And the people watching on the Santa Cruz Boardwalk is pretty fun, too. Hop onto some rides, drop some quarters in the 1980s video game arcade, munch on powdery funnel cake. This is old-school seaside amusement park thrills at its best. And when it's done, you can pull back and unwind in calmer Capitola.
The Capitola Historical Museum displays a deep collection of photographs and artifacts that shine on Capitola's history. It also shows off art inspired, created and highlighting the area, giving creative perspectives on what Capitola has been, is now and why it matters. The museum grounds include a reconstructed cottage from the early 20th century beach resort, and a wash house. The museum is located next to Capitola City Hall, easy to find in the heart of it all.
The Surfing Museum in Santa Cruz is perfect, because it's small enough to let you pop in, get the gist of some cool and iconic history and not feel like you have to spend the day to make your admission fee worthwhile. And it's in a lighthouse, which adds some weird and awesome appeal. Hit up the museum, learn how surfing came to be the thing it is, check out the lighthouse and view of the sea. Well worth part of a morning.
Stagnaro Sport Fishing Charters and Whale Watching Cruises in nearby Santa Cruz is the top crew on the seas for riding the swells and spotting sea life in the Santa Cruz end of Monterey Bay. Getting on one of these boats is a fantastic way to experience the seas without having to do any of the work. If you're prone to motion sickness, ready yourself and take the plunge. This is a unique experience you won't want to miss.