Last weekend we made the 2 and half hour drive to the beach to spend some time with family while they were in from out of state. We originally planned on going to Monterey but the hotels were already booked due to it being the weekend before Christmas so we decided on Santa Cruz instead. Famously known for being part of the Lost Boys filming location, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and one of a kind views of the Pacific Ocean. We went with my in laws as well as my dad who met us down there so we decided on staying at the Salt Air Lodge since I got a killer deal on a three bed room. However, I will later explain why I don’t recommend staying there because it was one of the worst hotels we have stayed in. We dropped off our fur baby at his dog boarders and we were off! We luckily didn’t hit much traffic on our way and arrived right around lunch time.
Our first stop was at the Santa Cruz Lighthouse. This has been one of my favorites since I was younger. We explored in the small surf museum and continued walking along the beach. There are dog friendly beaches scattered around as well as many surfers waiting to catch a wave. Afterwards we headed to the warf. Parking is free if you don’t mind a walk but in order to park in the warf it is a $1 an hour during this time of year. We walked around, grabbed some salt water taffy from the famous Marini’s candy store, and enjoyed lunch at the Dolphin. I recommend a clam chowder bread bowl. As we had our food you can hear the seals talking and the birds fly around in the salty breeze. Since we were traveling with the kids, lunch was fast and after we headed the “Cement Ship” aka the S.S. Palo Alto in Aptos along with the beach there. The beach is easy to access and fairly quiet this time of year. Great for building sand castles or searching for shells, we had a blast spending some down time at the beach. As the light of day began to draw closer to the end, we headed back to the hotel.
Now, let me just start by saying I’m not super picky. But I do have a few things I have that are just “must haves” when staying in hotels. One of those is a heater. Yes, you read that correct. Our hotel did not have a heater! Although not terribly cold since we are on the west coast, still chilly. The beds weren’t overly comfortable and the room wasn’t entirely clean. So for the first time, I am not recommending the Salt Air Lodge in Santa Cruz. I try to keep it real and honest, this hotel is affordable but not worth the $200 we spent. It worked for the night but we won’t be back!
That evening we walked down to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The lights during Christmas time are so pretty and even though they only had two rides going, they have ice skating, an arcade, fair style games, food, and other fun things to do for the whole family. For dinner we grabbed food from The Habit and boy was it good! That night after we went to bed it rained but that made for a beautiful coastal view. Palm tree debris on the roads had many driving on the wrong side but the waves crashing down and the clouds scattered left a jaw dropping view that captivated me. It made me want to pack up our house and move! After seeing the ocean one last time, we headed back home. It was a quick trip but fun and the kids finally enjoyed the beach. We are already planning another day trip(reason 71691820 I love living in California, the beach and mountains are easily accessible) and I am excited to show you more must see spots on the California coast!