Travel Blog


It’s that time of year again! Don’t let the hustle, bustle and those hard-to-shop-for people on your list get you down! Think outside the big box and take a look at this Holiday Gift Guide with 20+ Santa Cruz ideas that are easy, fun, and totally unique!


Salty Surf Culture
Santa Cruz has surf culture pumping through its veins. Give someone a little taste of the Santa Cruz vibe with some surf ware. O’Neill is iconic in Santa Cruz and the surf world and places like Surf City Santa CruzFreeline Surf ShopNolands on the WharfCapitola Beach Company, carry some O’Neill brand and much, much more. Also on the Wharf is Made in Santa Cruz, a store with an awesome collection of Santa Cruz items such as shirts, stickers, souvenirs and more. And if wearing some surf culture isn’t enough, consider some surf lessons with a local guru!  

Photo by Garrick Ramirez

Give Some Excitement with Games and Rides
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is kinda a big deal. And if you’re a kid, it’s a really big deal! Grab season passes for the little ones on your list (or anyone who loves the Boardwalk’s seaside rides) and they’ll be thanking you all year for the fun! Don’t forget there’s the arcade, bowling, and mini golf at Neptune’s Kingdom too! And treat those basketball fans on your list to a game at the KP Arena to watch the Santa Cruz Warriors. The SC Warriors sure know how to entertain and the venue is known in the G-League to have the best, most pumped fans! And don’t forget the golf gamers! A round at PasatiempoBoulder Creek Golf and County Club, or DeLaveaga is a big hole-in-one in the gift giving department.

A Rush in the Redwoods
Mount Hermon Adventures has been thrilling visitors since 2010 with canopy tours – some as high as 150 feet up in the trees! Zip lining through the redwoods is a must, and over the years they continue to expand their tours, always offering an awe-inspiring experience.


Grab a Custom Mix at Nut Kreations
Pop into Nut Kreations, taste a few things, and find the perfect mix for those on your list. Sweet, savory, traditional, unique, and totally delicious, chances are you’ll leave with a little something for yourself too. But they’re more than just nuts, try this holiday must – White Chocolate Peppermint Bark Dark Chocolate Caramel Covered Popcorn…it’s like everything delicious about the holidays wrapped into one incredible bite!

Gourmet Drinking Chocolate at Mutari
The folks at Mutari Chocolate are hot cocoa perfectionists, connoisseurs, and enthusiasts. Specializing in ethically sourced, single origin drinking chocolate, one sip and you’ll taste the crafted difference. Have fun picking out the perfectly packed gourmet hot chocolates, and be sure to ask about private tours and tastings – a great outing during the holidays!

100% Handmade Treats at Ashby Confections
These aren’t your average candies! Ashby Confections are as much art as they are delicious. Chocolates, Caramels, Fruit Confections, Tortoises, Truffles and more, Ashby knocks them all out of the park! Just look at those beauties! 

Cookies Aren’t Just for Santa
Whether your giving, receiving, or just stopping in for a cookie between your Downtown holiday shopping, Pacific Cookie Company is a season must! And this year they are offering the Surf City Sweets Cookie Tower with a dozen delicious cookies that is sure to give people a taste of Santa Cruz!

Truly Delicious Olive Oils and Balsamics
The True Olive Connection is a family-owned local favorite. They have 35 of the freshest, extra virgin, first cold extracted olive oils from around the world and 25 balsamic vinegars from Modena, Italy. A foodie or chef will especially appreciate these delicious gifts that are top quality and made with passion. And shopping for a gift is an experience in itself, sample flavors and find the perfect selection for those on your list! 

Photo by Garrick Ramirez

Signature Santa Cruz Dining
Chances are someone (or everyone) on your list can appreciate some great food and drink! Consider a gift card to a fine dinner out – ShadowbrookLailiSoifEl PalomarCafe CruzCrow’s NestHollins HouseLinwood’sGabriella CafeCafe Mare, and Paradise Beach Grille are just a handful of date night favorites! And don’t forget some locals’ favorites like Charlie Hong KongPacific ThaiSurf City SandwichLas Palmas Taco BarHom Korean Kitchen, and more!

Photo by Garrick Ramirez

Craft Brew + Local Wine
Get on board with the craft brew buzz and hop over to Lupulo Craft Beer and oogle at their impressive selection of bottles and cans available for purchase. Take a shopping break and treat yourself to a pint at 99 BottlesPour Taproom, or Seabright Brewery and grab a gift card for the brew lover on your list. And for the beer “wow factor,” book a tour with the Brew Cruz where you can experience Santa Cruz beer in the comfort of a 1989 Thomas International bus. Got some wine drinkers? Choose a unique and local bottle of wine from one of the dozens of Santa Cruz County wineries and vineyards. Another perfectly festive gift is a variety of sparkling ciders from Martinelli’s in Watsonville. Make your shopping a fun outing by stopping in their tasting room where you can sample some of the many flavors of the beloved, locally-made ciders.


Be a Friend to Our State Parks + Environment
Nature gifts, history themes, and tons of uniquely Santa Cruz gifts! Stop by one of the Friends ParkStores located at Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park, Natural Bridges State Beach, New Brighton State Beach, Seacliff State Beach, Wilder Ranch State Park or online, and know that all the proceeds benefit local state parks and beaches. A gift the nature lovers are sure to appreciate! And the little environmentalists on your list will love a gift from the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History or Seymour Center! Field guides, educational toys, and other science, marine and nature themed gifts are sure to be uniquely fun for the little ones! 

 Photo by Lisa Fay Larson

Experience the Monterey Bay
Winter months happen to be a crescendo of wildlife in Santa Cruz County. Monarchs, elephant seals, birds, otters and WHALES! Book a whale watching excursion in the Monterey Bay with Stagnaro Whale Watching and you’re sure to please the adventurous nature lover on your list. Opt for a relaxing sail or charter with the experienced crews of Chardonnay Sailing or O’Neill Yacht Charters. Want a bit more of a hands on experience in the water? Gear up and get out on the Bay with a kayaks or stand up paddle boards! Capitola Beach CompanyCapitola Surf and PaddleCovewaterKayak ConnectionSUP Shack, and Venture Quest are just a few of the companies that can help organize an unforgettable experience out on the water.


Organic Aesthetic and Garden Delights 
One step into Dig Gardens and you will know you’re in the right place for some holiday shopping! With their flawles boho and modern style, Dig has a great mix of houseplants, terrariums, contemporary home and gift items, gardening supplies, art, and more. Get inspired, pick out some gifts, and don’t forget to take a couple photos – this place is Instagram gold!

Contemporary Home Goods
Stop by Home/Work Santa Cruz located in the Seabright area. One walk through their store and you will appreciate their carefully curated housewares and gifts – just take a peek at their Instagram page – lost of gift inspiration! For those stylish folks on your list, you could pretty much pick anything out at these stores!

Childish Treasures
Have a few little ones on your gift list? Stop into Childish Santa Cruz for some unique and eco-friendly, toys that are sure to spark imagination and creativity.

Photo by Molly Lautamo

Fashionable Finds at Pacific Trading
Pacific Trading Co. is an independently and locally owned boutique has been gracing Santa Cruz with its curated finds since 1972. Collections from Michael Stars, Eileen Fisher, Splendid, Citizens of Humanity and more make it a no-brainer for the fashionista on your list. And their knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful staff make it easy for the gift givers who need a little style direction.

Lots of Local at these Galleries
Artisans & Agency is a collection of American made art, with an emphasis on local. Crafted jewelry, glassware, mobiles, decor, wall art, and stationery are just a sampling of the items found. The Craft Gallery in the Capitola Village sometimes sways a bit beachier (perhaps given their location) and offers pottery, art glass, jewelry, jewelry boxes, garden decor, clocks, candles, sea glass, and sandcastles. Another favorite is Michaelangelo Gallery and Art Studios, a venue where artists are able to sell their work during monthly exhibits. These gifts tell a story and are perfect for the artist on your list.

Impress with Artisan Glassware
Well known handcrafted glassware by Annieglass is made right in Watsonville, California. These gorgeous pieces are individually crafted and revered for their beauty and elegance. Stop into Dell Williams where you can find Annieglass items as well as fine jewelry for those extra special gifts! For more jewelry finds Downtown, stop by Stephan’s and Super Silver.

Holiday Cheer at Bookshop Santa Cruz
We’re going to go ahead and put Bookshop Santa Cruz under the stylish category and if you step foot in there over the next month you’ll definitely see why. They have tons of ornaments (hands-down the coolest, most unique selection around), holiday-themed gifts, fun toys, and oh, BOOKS!

Top Off Your List with a Hat from Head ‘N Home Hats
This is so unique and a perfect gift for someone who appreciates craftsmanship, quality, and American made products. Head’n Home Hats delivers everything you expect in premium leather products with each piece being made from 100% American raised and tanned leather. A gift that is sure to show a whole lot of thought!