The quaint seaside village of Capitola began as a humble tent camp along the shore of the Monterey Bay. Camp Capitola, as it was known, welcomed its first guests in 1874 making it the first beach resort in California. A few years later, it premiered a magnificent wood-frame Victorian hotel — Hotel Capitola — that echoed grand contemporaries like the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego and San Francisco’s original Cliff House. The hotel succumbed to fire in 1929, but the romance of the original beach resort still exists in the colorful, seaside shops and restaurants tucked into a hillside along Soquel Creek. Wandering the village and its bay front promenade — window shopping and snacking along the way — is a quintessential part of any Santa Cruz experience.
It’s all about the bustling scene at Capitola Beach and the bench-filled Esplanade Park that fronts it. Beach goers perch themselves on a wide sea wall lined with colorful tiles painted by community members and take in the panoramic beach scene. Get in the water for a swim, surf, boogie board session, or for some stand up paddle boarding on the Bay.
Walk onto the Capitola Wharf and drop a line (no fishing permit required when fishing off the pier) or rent a boat with Capitola Boat and Bait. Also look out for the frequent flowers left on the wharf’s railing that add an additional pop of color to the vibrant village scene.
You know summer has officially arrived when the Capitola Beach Company rolls out its rental trailer stocked with everything you need for a fun day at the beach including boogie boards, beach chairs and sun umbrellas. Don’t miss their boutique down the street that’s filled with men’s and women’s beach apparel individually selected by owners Jill and Matt. Around the corner, Nubia Swimwear offers an exhaustive selection of stylish women’s and girl’s swimwear from designers across the globe.
Zelda’s On The Beach is a fun spot for live music and drinks enjoyed on a huge deck set right on the beach. A few doors down, Paradise Beach Grille boasts a comfortable dining room, a lively lounge and a killer torch-lit patio overlooking Soquel Creek and the beach. Pair tropical-imbued seafood dishes like Coconut Prawns or an Ahi Tuna Salad with a glass of wine from their large selection of local labels. The Sand Bar & Grill is another village favorite known for its fun atmosphere, scenic location and views, great breakfast and famous Bloody Mary’s.
Two more absolute-favorites in the Capitola Village are a short walk from the oceanfront, but are definitely not-to-miss. Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticceria is a local and visitor favorite – delicious pastries, cookies, cakes, and top-notch breakfast, lunch, and dinner grab and go meals. Everything on the menu is worth a try, but you’re bound to find your own favorites that you’ll order again and again. And no Capitola visit is complete without a trip on the cable car – more specifically – Shadowbrook’s cable car! Shadowbrook is an experience in itself with its dreamy red trolley, lush landscape, and expansive riverfront restaurant – and we haven’t even mentioned the award winning food and drinks yet. A place for celebrations and memories, Shadowbrook’s menu, service and atmosphere will be the highlight of any Capitola Village visit.
An unmistakable part of the seaside landscape is the complex of colorful houses that line Capitola Beach. They were built as condominiums in 1925 and were intended to bring Venice’s charm to Capitola. The brown houses within the same complex now comprise the atmospheric Capitola Venetian Hotel. Snag a multi-bedroom room with kitchen and living area and be walking distance to everything! Another village favorite is the Capitola Hotel in the heart of the Capitola Village, just steps from the beach. This boutique hotel offers luxury rooms dressed in crisp white cotton linens and the most comfortable beds you’ve ever slept in.
Want to get a little higher up in the village? Capitola Beach Suites is still right in the village, but boasts jaw-dropping panoramic views and offers newly remodeled rooms, fully equipped kitchens, balconies, and a fantastic rooftop terrace. Plus, you can’t miss their iconic mural created by Manuel Cruz in 2017. The Inn at Depot Hill is a great little B&B that offers guestrooms and suites decorated in the style of famous travel destinations. From the romance of Paris to the serenity of Kyoto, each guestroom boasts feather beds, luxury linens, and a crackling fireplace.
For more great hotels, motels, vacation rentals, and bed and breakfasts that are just a hop and a skip to the Capitola Village, check our Capitola destination page here.
Capitola has a fascinating history and even the most casual glimpse lends fun insight into America’s captivation with recreation and leisure. If you have an interest in the events and forces that shaped the local landscape, drop by the Capitola Historical Museum for a peek into the town’s rich history.