Santa Cruz, California Visit

Sleep in the mountains, visit the ocean.

I will start this post with a preface that my husband and I were born in Santa Cruz, and all of our family currently lives there. We had been locals there for 25 years, until we moved to Texas. Beach Boardwalk? We only ever went when we had company visiting. The Mystery Spot? Only have to do it once. Now when we visit Santa Cruz, we visit our favorite places to eat and let the kids have fun in the mountains and a quick trip to the ocean.

Where we eat

When we visit, it is usually only for a couple days. However, there are two places that we absolutely have to eat at.

If you are visiting Santa Cruz, try out two these places.

  1. Manuels, Aptos 

I have been eating at Manuels since before I can remember. My Dad has eaten at Manuels since before he can remember. “Mannies” is our favorite Mexican Restaurant. It is the Mexican restaurant that we gauge every other Mexican restaurant against. Texas just doesn’t have Mexican food I am used to- Texmex is a class all on its own, one that I am not particularly used to. So, if you are from Texas, make sure to get an enchilada. My favorite is the number 9 or the Friday fish special. Be sure to call ahead for reservations because its always packed.

2. Cafe Brasil, Santa Cruz

We stumbled upon this little breakfast/lunch place when we were running errands. It was the best decision because we go back every chance we get.  I always get the shrimp Muquecas: Freshly made tomato sauce with coconut milk, palm oil, green pepper with your choice of simmered meat. The acai bowls are also very popular. Parking is really limited. We usually park on a neighboring street and walk over.

Where we stay

My parents run an Airbnb in Aptos- Juju Paradise.

 This 1200 sq ft dodecahedron (12 sided) duplex house is in the Santa Cruz redwoods. Enjoy the entire second story 2 bed/1 bath unit that is only 15 min away from Rio Del Mar State beach. You get the best of both worlds- land & sea. You get to take in spectacular views of the redwoods on the 30 acre property with over 50 meyer lemon trees.

Breathe in the redwoods. Soak in the California sun. Immerse yourself in Santa Cruz culture. A true paradise.

We look forward to your stay.

-Cal & Zara


We stay there when we visit. It is up in the mountains for the true Santa Cruz Mountains experience.

When visiting Santa Cruz there is a lot of hype about the beach. We do love the beach and spend an afternoon there if the fog isn’t banked in. However, the mountains are a little more underrated. When we moved to the suburbs of Texas, we immediately missed the open spaces and the quiet.

Can you spot the round house in the woods?

There is something breathtaking about being immersed in the redwoods with the sound of the wind blowing through the trees and birds singing. It’s grounding. Cathartic. If you have a chance to stay in the redwoods, even for a night, you’ll understand the majesty of California. Plus you can always drive to the beach 15 Min away.

Have you ever visited Santa Cruz? Are you planning a trip? I would love to answer any questions you have.

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