The perfect weekend with kids in Santa Cruz, California

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Dream Inn Santa Cruz - pool


When we are in California, we always try to fit in a couple of nights in Santa Cruz, a local beach town nestled in the most northern end of Monterey Bay. It’s just a 30-minute drive from where we stay in San Jose, you can literally be in the middle of Silicon Valley and then sipping cocktails in Santa Cruz in less than an hour.

Dream Inn Santa Cruz - joie de vivre


Our favourite place to stay, and in my opinion the best option for families, is Joie De Vivre’s Dream Inn. Each of its 165 room has an Ocean view, and it’s adjacent to the wharf and Boardwalk, and right on Cowell’s Beach. My favourite bit is there is a swimming pool that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. We usually get one of the poolside rooms, so we can get in and out to the pool easily, and grab some of the lounge chairs that overlook Cowell’s Beach. Then we can read and sip cocktails, while still keeping an eye on the girls who rotate between the swimming pool, hot tub, and playing in the sand. The also love body boarding, and we’ll go down to the beach and watch them ride the waves!

I keep promising them surf lessons from the Club Ed International Surf School. The school usually have a set up right on the beach near the hotel (look for the blue “Learn to Surf” trailer). They have all kinds of rentals to: Softboards, long boards, paddle boards, and wetsuits in all sizes. Next time!

Note: Sometimes after a heavy rain, the pollution level in the Ocean on Cowell’s Beach can be high and you are advised not to go in the water. If  this is the case, the hotel knows and it is sign posted on entrance to the beach.

Dream Inn Santa Cruz body boarding


The girls love body boarding! We keep a few boards at my parent’s house and they get lots of use when we visit.

Dream Inn Santa Cruz walk on beach


After an afternoon of “beaching it” we take an early morning stroll to collect sea shells. My youngest found a rupee in the sand, and made up a story about how it go on the beach in California.

Dream Inn Santa Cruz walk under Wharf


Here’s the other side of the Cowell’s Beach, the wharf. You can view it from the swimming pool, beach and even your room.

Dream Inn Santa Cruz - Boardwalk

Other other main activity for our break is visiting The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.  It’s just a five-minute walk away from the Dream Inn. Founded in 1907, the Boardwalk is California’s oldest surviving amusement park. The 1924 Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster and Looff Carousel’s unique ring toss are National Historic Landmarks. Plus, it’s FREE to enter.

Dream Inn Santa Cruz hotel pic


If you go:

Dream Inn 175 W Cliff Dr  Santa Cruz, CA 95060 +1 (831) 426-4330 The best beach experience in Santa Cruz! 

Cowell’s Beach/ Main Beach 109 Beach St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060 Cowell’s Beach is right in front of The Dream Inn, it s top spot for beginner surfers. It’s neighbour, Main Beach’s neighbor, is just on the left side of the wharf and is home to beach volleyball, Friday night concerts, and lots of tourists.

Club Ed International Surf School and Camps Often set up in front of the Dream Inn on Cowel’s beach.

Gilda’s 37 Municipal Wharf  Santa Cruz, CA 95060 +1 (831) 423-2010 A combo seafood restaurant and diner. We don’t miss it for breakfast, and are often there for our evening meal too.

Aldo’s Harbor Restaurant 616 Atlantic Ave  Santa Cruz, CA 95062 +1 (831) 426-3736 Known for its Eggs Benedict, calamari, fresh salmon, and ocean and harbour views, this reasonable priced Italian seafood restaurant is one of our favourites.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk 400 Beach St  Santa Cruz, CA 95060 +1 (831) 423-5590 Founded in 1907, the Boardwalk is California’s oldest surviving amusement park. The 1924 Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster and Looff Carousel’s unique ring toss are National Historic Landmarks. FREE to enter.

Marianne’s Ice Cream 1020 Ocean St  Santa Cruz, CA 95060 +1 (831) 458-1447 You have to stop here. A landmark for more than 50 years, the ice cream parlour serves 70 flavors of ice cream, from classics like “Old Fashioned Vanilla” to Marianne’s signature flavour, “10-20” (caramel ice cream, fudge, Oreo cookies) “Horchata” and “Mexican Chocolate”.

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  1. 10/12/2013 / 09:10

    Photos so lovely

  2. 10/12/2013 / 06:31

    I went to Santa Monica in the summer and loved it. Must try Santa Cruz next time.

  3. 05/12/2013 / 09:55

    That looks and sounds idyllic! 🙂

  4. 04/12/2013 / 17:58

    Nothing better than having a pool and beach nearby so you can alternate between the two. Agree with other comments, your photos are very atmospheric.

  5. 04/12/2013 / 09:14

    Oh noting this one down, we really want to go to Calafornia next. Fab pics!

  6. 03/12/2013 / 20:44

    This looks AMAZING and your photos are fabulous!
    My OH loves to surf and can’t wait to take our girls ….. he would definitely like to do it in Santa Cruz rather than the cold British sea!!

  7. 03/12/2013 / 20:34

    ‘If you go’…hmmm I am dreaming of it now. Looks fab and my husband keeps saying we should move to California (silicon valley, he makes video games)

  8. 03/12/2013 / 19:31

    i was born in Santa Cruz not this one though, but just a sunny. i think i need to demand that we go to visit simply on that fact! looks great x

  9. 03/12/2013 / 19:26

    What gorgeous photos, you make me want to be there right now x x

  10. Mari
    03/12/2013 / 15:08

    It looks beautiful, all of it and makes me wish I could be there right now. Love that boardwalk too

  11. allyouneedisloveandcake
    03/12/2013 / 12:54

    Sounds and looks amazing!

  12. Liz Burton
    03/12/2013 / 11:54

    Fabulous pictures! What an awesome sounding place. I reckon my daughter would love to surf of boby board when she’s a bit bigger, she adores the water.

  13. 03/12/2013 / 11:29

    Take me there now! I could so do with a lovely calm and fun break!!

  14. Pinkoddy
    03/12/2013 / 11:07

    That looks amazing. Bet my boys would really love to surf and seems a great place to go. Your photography is stunning.

  15. Mammasaurus
    03/12/2013 / 10:32

    I crave for sunshine like this! California is somewhere we’d love to go but sadly it won’t happen next year as we have all manner of house extension things happening. Maybe the year after though – it all looks so good!

  16. 03/12/2013 / 10:13

    Posting this when I woke up to frost on my car is just cruel 😉

    Can I go now, please please please please?!

  17. 03/12/2013 / 10:10

    Ooh it looks so lovely! Can someone move it a bit closer? Not sure I am ready for a flight that long with a toddler, maybe in a couple of years!

  18. 03/12/2013 / 08:23

    This looks like a wonderful place to go. I love the photo of the Boardwalk ride, It’s taken from a brilliant angle.

  19. 03/12/2013 / 07:50

    I’ve never been to Santa Cruz but this looks fantastic. Surfing is such a great activity to do with kids, and I love a boardwalk. Great pics.