Beach Weekend in Capitola, California

A charming coastal town near Santa Cruz offers shopping, sunshine, and dining with a view.

picture of the bright houses on the beach in Capitola
The vibrant houses that line Capitola City Beach.
Lux Blue / Shutterstock

California’s first beach resort is all smiles. The picturesque town of Capitola lies just east of Santa Cruz, where Soquel Creek meets Monterey Bay. Plenty of seaside activities, an eclectic array of shops, and a bounty of restaurants conspire to make the two-square-mile town the perfect coastal escape.

Things to Do

Capitola City Beach, a broad deck of golden sand, is the main attraction, drawing sunbathers and volleyball players. Kids with bodyboards enjoy the calm waters of the adjacent lagoon. On the nearby wharf, anglers cast for halibut and white croaker.

A quiet counterpoint to Capitola’s popular esplanade, New Brighton State Beach lies at the base of a bluff studded with Monterey pine and coast live oak. The sandy shore beckons to those looking for a meditative seaside stroll or stunning sunset views.

The streets at the center of town are lined with relaxed boutiques filled with handmade and local finds. Sweet Asylum is a small boutique carrying a distinctive line of jewelry and accessories. 


Where to Eat

Perusing the seemingly endless display cases filled with sweets and savories is half the fun at classic Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticceria. The other half is enjoying your picks, such as a perfectly creamy éclair or a tender croissant stuffed with almond-tarragon chicken salad. 

At Sante Adairius Rustic Ales, you may sample excellent small-batch creations such as a trendy, slightly sour blend of barrel-aged beers and IPAs rooted in the West Coast. 

Well over half a century old, popular Shadowbrook Restaurant and its lush hillside gardens seem to go on forever. Order a drink from the bar and you can gaze at the indoor waterfalls and marvel at the evening mist gliding up the creek. For dinner, try dishes such as blackened lamb with foraged-mushroom bread pudding. 

It’s worth the effort to snag one of the seven tables at Caruso’s Tuscan Cuisine. The restaurant makes its own lasagna noodles. For an authentic Italian experience, order the homemade gnocchi Bolognese. 

This article was first published in March 20215 and last updated in June 2021.