Cali Road Trip: Santa Cruz

After changing our plans due to the mega landslide on the Californian coast at the time of our travels we had one night spare and needed a new destination to visit, we chose Santa Cruz and I’m so glad that we did. Our original plan was to drive down from Monterey to Cambria and then up to Yosemite National Park.  However, with the road damage it was possible to still get to Cambria but it would have meant a 40+ mile diversion in land and no scenic coastal drive for us which would have been a huge shame. It turned out that our hotel booking in Cambria was the only hotel that hadn’t been paid for and we had no problems cancelling it – it was almost like it was meant to be!

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My partner James booked all of the hotels for our Californian road trip and for Santa Cruz he made a particularly good choice, Hotel Paradox – Autograph collection by Marriott. This was definitely one of our favourite hotels on our Californian road trip, we enjoyed it so much that I’m going to write a separate hotel review soon for those of you planning to visit Santa Cruz.


The vibe in Santa Cruz is exactly how I expected with lots of neon lights, an OTT boardwalk with lots of arcades and ride and surf shop upon surf shop. We visited Santa Cruz firstly for lunch on our drive to Monterey and even though it was really busy (memorial weekend again so a lot busier than normal), there was still such a chilled atmosphere around – typical surfer style!

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In the evening we stumbled across a great bar for cocktails, 515 Kitchen & Cocktails – if you can get a space it has a really cute rooftop with only around 4-6 tables where you can choose your drinks from a huge list of cocktails, there is even regular happy hour – always a winner! After our drinks at 515 we ended up having our first ever Hawaiian meal at Hula’s Beach Bar and Grill, which as well as having great (but very strong) cocktails the food menu was great with a wide range of vegetarian and vegan options. Another bar that was recommended to us more than once by locals was The Redroom and even though we didn’t make it this time around it definitely seemed to be the place to go in Santa Cruz.

Even though we only stayed in Santa Cruz for one night it was one of our favourite places to visit on our road trip. What I loved about Santa Cruz is that is was a destination that we didn’t plan to visit and therefore we went with absolutely no expectations so everything was a lovely surprise. Santa Cruz definitely shows off the more fun side of California and I would definitely recommend a visit if you’re planning a trip on the Californian coast anytime soon.  Before leaving of course make sure to buy your ‘Santa Cruz’ tshirt, it’s a must do!

Thanks for reading!

Katie Travels xo


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