8 Hidden Gems You Need To Experience Near Santa Cruz, California
There’s always something to do around Santa Cruz. This California beach town has everything from an oceanside amusement park to the historic Santa Cruz Wharf. But as amazing as they are, sometimes it can be nice to venture from the crowds and check out the equally wonderful hidden gems in the area – like these eight underrated spots.
1. Shark Fin Cove, Davenport
Shark Fin Cove has amazing views and photo opportunities, just off the Pacific Coast Highway south of Davenport. The cove features a small beach area that’s perfect for afternoon picnics and a huge rock off-shore that looks like something straight out of Jaws.
2. Pacific Cookie Company
Family-owned Pacific Cookie Company will draw you in from the door with the aroma of their freshly baked goods. They offer a range of cookie flavors we all know and love – like peanut butter and snickerdoodles – that are soft, chewy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Oh, and did we mention you can also get them dipped in rich chocolate? Pair it with some of their coffee or ice cream (you’ll be glad you did).
3. Swanton Berry Farm, Davenport
You won’t taste fresher berries than ones directly from the farm. Davenport’s charming roadside Swanton Berry Farm is a must-visit off Highway 1 with strawberries, olallieberries, kiwi, and artichokes you can pick yourself during the spring. Even off-season during the winter you can still stop by for homemade berry pies, strawberry shortcakes, hot soup, strawberry lemonade and apple cider.
4. Land of Medicine Buddha
If you just need to get away from all of the chaos that’s going on in the world right now, take a hike and find Zen at Soquel’s Land of Medicine Buddha. Even from the parking lot you’ll feel more relaxed with a nice, big breath of fresh air. Set among forested foothills the property has a hiking trail that’s open to the public for most of the week (except Saturdays) and runs for a decent 6 miles, guided by colorful flags.
5. Hidden Peak Teahouse
A technology-free zone, Hidden Peak Teahouse provides a quiet place downtown to sip on a cup of tea and completely disconnect from your phone, Facebook and e-mail, even if it’s just for a half-hour. It’s a great way to refresh your mind and enjoy the little things in life, like reading a book, playing a board game or just talking with friends in person. As for teas they offer a broad selection of flavors, plus some organic snacks to pair with.
6. Kiva Retreat House
After a long work week, Kiva Retreat has pools and hot tubs you can unwind in among a beautiful garden setting. The day spa had closed for awhile but recently opened this January under new management. They’re open Fridays-Sundays with communal pools, a sauna and personal massages. Keep in mind they are clothing optional, but if you’re not into that they do have private hot tubs also available.
7. The Penny Ice Creamery
Toasted marshmallow fluff isn’t only as amazing as it sounds, but it can be topped on your scoops here at Penny Ice Creamery. They serve frozen treats in three locations across Santa Cruz, and pride themselves as the only shops in town that make their ice cream in small batches completely from scratch and all in-house. Going beyond the regular chocolate and vanilla, they offer a unique selection of flavors that change everyday so there’s always something new to try. Instead of basic cookies ‘n cream, try ones like Brown Butter Spiced Pecan, New Orleans Coffee and Dark Chocolate Sorbet.
8. Greyhound Rock
Greyhound Rock is sandy and secluded, accessible by a short hike down a steep path from the parking lot just off Highway 1. It’s a peaceful spot to lay out and relax by the coast, along with great fishing and surfing opportunities. You can go for a walk north or south along the beach to stretch your legs and take in the calm ocean views. At low tide, you can climb out onto the huge rock at the center of the beach.
Have you been to any of these places before? What are some of your favorite hidden gems around Santa Cruz?