180 Miles: Unplugged in Capitola
Living in the Bay Area, you hear a lot about frequent trips to Sonoma, Napa, and Monterey. But we’re here to share a lesser-known getaway. Capitola is a small, impossibly charming village about 80 miles south of San Francisco, and California’s oldest seaside resort. The people are kind, the views are breathtaking, and the vibe is definitely relaxed
ROADTRIPPING WITH A VIEW
Rule #1 of driving in California is always make the time to take Highway 1. There’s nothing like driving down the California coast on a sunny Saturday, with nowhere to be and not a care in the world. On the way down, stop for a quick lobster roll lunch at the infamous Sam’s Chowder House (4210 North Cabrillo Highway, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019; 650-712-0245; samschowderhouse.com) in Half Moon Bay.
COFFEE AND SEA
By the time you arrive in Capitola, you will be more than ready for a cup of java. Fortunately, Mr. Toots (231 Esplanade, Capitola, CA 95010; 831-475-3679; tootscoffee.com) appears as you roll into town and the ocean view will have you hooked. It is the second-oldest coffee shop in all of Santa Cruz County, so you will experience a bit of history with your coffee. The honey lavender latte is like heaven in a cup, especially when paired with the house-made coffee cake exploding with delicious cinnamon crumbs.
When your energy level is restored, head straight for Capitola City Beach. This is a great spot for surfing (especially for beginners, as the waves are smaller than neighboring Santa Cruz’s). Capitola is nestled into an alcove of the coast and feels tucked into a cozy little beach pocket. So if hitting the waves isn’t your thing, find a nesting spot and enjoy watching some of the locals grab a few waves.
SNACKS AND KNICK-KNACKS
After a bit of sun, check out Capitola’s charming boutiques on Capitola Avenue, especially Panache (110 Capitola Avenue, Capitola, CA 95010; 831-476-0493; panachelotions.com), a cute little beauty and skincare shop that smells like heaven when you walk in. Stop in Carousel Taffy (115 San Jose Avenue, Capitola, CA 95010; 831-465-1145; carouseltaffy.com), where delicious and unique sassy sour taffies await.
The locals all agree, the best place to find a souvenir is Buck’s (312-B Capitola Avenue, Capitola, CA 95010; 831-476-1962), a quirky little shop just off the beaten path. It’s the fun mix of knickknacks (globes, games, magnets, flags) that makes a great spot to pick something up for just about anyone.
After shopping around town for hours, you’ll be ready for a bite to eat. Cava Wine Bar (115 San Jose Avenue, Capitola, CA 95010; 831-476-2282; cavacapitola.com) has both delicious cheese plates and wine flights. The Salmetto Piccante (dry Italian chorizo) is the perfect complement for a crisp white, while the chocolate truffles make the spicy red come alive. Appoint a designated Zipster on the way there so you can enjoy responsibly.
LEARNING IS FUN
Next it’s onto the Capitola Historical Museum (410 Capitola Avenue, Capitola, CA 95010; 831-464-0322; capitolamuseum.org), which offers a glimpse into the town’s history and is staffed by incredibly friendly locals. The current exhibit is a look into “The Life and Times of Harry Hooper,” an ex-Boston Red Sox player who became the president of Capitola’s Chamber of Commerce and played a large role in the city’s history from the 1920s-1960s.
DINING A LA CABLE CAR(TE)
Shadowbrook Restaurant (1750 Wharf Road, Capitola, CA 95010; 831-475-1511; shadowbrook-capitola.com) is like eating in an enchanted shire. To get to the restaurant you have to ride a quaint cable car down the steep terrace. The bar hasn’t been changed since 1947, and the classic building feels like it’s part of the forest.
Sit in the lounge, where a grizzled old-time folk singer brings the house down with his rich, raspy voice and an acoustic guitar. Be sure to start with the baked Brie with jalapeño jelly. The soy, turmeric, and lemongrass-marinated flank steak with Chimichurri sauce is a must. Bring you’re a loved one with you because Shadowbrook is one of the most romantic places you’ll ever visit in the Bay Area.
BE BACK SOON
If you want to stay a while, rent a beach cottage and come on down for their infamous Art & Wine Festival this September.
Your only regret will be not spending longer in Capitola. Grab a Zipcar and head here when you need to unplug and go back to a simpler, less tech-y time.
This city guide is part of our series: 180 Miles. We’re highlighting enticing and accessible day trips Zipsters can embark upon with the 180 miles included in every Zipcar reservation. Good eats? Scenic views? Hidden gems? From the Pacific Northwest to New York’s Hudson Valley, and all the sights and sounds in between, we’ve got your itinerary. Who’s got shotgun?