11 July, 2018 This post may contain compensated links. Find more info in my disclaimer.
Our three year old had a week off of school so we decided to escape the city and head to the beach – Santa Cruz! It’s an easy 1.5-2 hour drive from San Francisco.
We’ve heard nothing but great things about the Dream Inn. Unfortunately they were fully booked on our dates, but we were able to book a great AirBnB two and a half blocks from beach access for Seabright State Beach.
Getting caffeinated is a top priority for us in the mornings. We tried both Verve Coffee and Java Junction while we were in town. Verve has great pour over coffee and great pastries but is expensive and has limited food options. Java Junction is more kid-friendly with more food options, but we didn’t think the coffee was that great. We weren’t happy with the cappuccinos at either spot (they were lattes).
We visited this Seabright State Beach three times in four days! It was nice and sandy and not too crowded, even on the 4th of July. There are bathrooms near the main beach access point, a picturesque lighthouse, and poles for beach volleyball. It is a wide beach, with a long walk through sand to the water.
Seabright Beach access
Strong riptides can be present at this beach. Check local surf forecasts before you head out (Surfline and WillyWeather are our favorites) and be familiar with rip current safety. The water can be very cold well into summer, so again check the local forecast before you go!
We were also within walking distance of Ocean View Park which has a killer playground. Great alternative to the beach to burn off some energy!
Slides at Ocean View Park
Part of our trip was during a heat wave, so we decided to drive down the coast to Monterey and go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium one afternoon. The aquarium is a “must see” if you are in the area! They have great exhibits, touch tanks, a kids play area, a beautiful nursing room, a large cafeteria plus picnic space and an amazing location on the waterfront. On top of all of that, your visit supports amazing conservation work! Tickets are somewhat expensive, though. If you think you’ll visit twice you may want to consider a membership depending on the size and ages of your family. Members have a faster side entrance that saves a bit of time because the entrance line can get long. We usually spend half a day here per trip with our three-year-old and one-year-old.
Jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
We had a kitchen in our AirBnB and mostly ate in after stocking up at the nearby Whole Foods. We did try take out from Betty Burgers one evening. We enjoyed our burgers and our preschooler liked his chicken nuggets. We also stopped by the Cruz Creamery one boiling afternoon for a scoop. This space is super kid-friendly, with a kid sized table and chairs and couches in addition to standard tables. We loved it!
Cruz Creamery on a hot day!
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, although we did not visit this time. They have roller coasters, arcade games, food and a lot more! Grade school aged kids and up will love it, but our kids are a tad young still!