The bustling Westside neighborhood has come a long way since its Brussels sprouts packing days. While you may have heard about the hip coffee shops, stylish boutiques, and small-batch wine, beer, and spirits producers that have made it a local hot spot, the area is also home to some of the most striking natural wonders in Santa Cruz County. Here’s your guide on where to hit the Westside’s trails, sales, and pale ales.
At Natural Bridges State Beach, gorgeous sandy shores and creature-filled tidepools lure beachgoers while a lush eucalyptus grove draws thousands of migrating Monarch butterflies each fall and winter. Leading to and from Natural Bridges is stunning West Cliff Drive, a multi-use, waterfront trail that teems with joggers, cyclists, and pedestrians basking in the glory of the Monterey Bay. Go at sundown for the real show! The historic dairy grounds of Wilder Ranch State Park features miles of singletrack trails for mountain bikers as well as the outrageously scenic Old Cove Landing Trail which ambles along dramatic coastal bluffs. The beautiful Natural Bridges Farm invites visitors to wander its bloom-filled grounds and fill a basket with fresh veggies, fruits, and flowers plucked directly from the soil.
Much of Westside’s shops can be found in the always-hopping Swift Street Courtyard. Cameron Marks features stylish women’s wear, modern jewelry, and an irresistible collection of chic home decor. On Saturday mornings, the Westside Farmers Market transforms a parking lot into a bustling plaza with vibrant local fruits and veggies. After your tote is full, linger over destination-worthy brunch dishes such as egg-topped carnitas from Burn Hot Sauce and roasted cauliflower and queso breakfast tacos at Gordo Gustavo’s.
From pour-overs to pinots, the Westside is guaranteed to slake your thirst. At Verve Coffee Roasters, the Instagrammable boho interiors are nearly as much of a draw as their delicious, third wave brew. For coffee, and arguably one of the best breakfast burritos in town, the Westside Cat & Cloud location is the only one with a full kitchen, along with their full coffee and espresso bar. The high ceilings, cozy chairs, outdoor seating, and aesthetics make this spot easy on the eyes and the IG feed.
For oenophiles, the Westside is the next best thing to the vineyards thanks to a cluster of tasting rooms pouring local wine. You can’t miss the organically-grown, handcrafted, and award-winning wines of Silver Mountain Vineyard. At Bottle Jack, you’ll find great wine – winemaker, John Ritchey, has worked on winemaking teams for a number of favorite Santa Cruz Mountain wineries – and he takes pride in creating delicious wines that you can share over laughs with family and friends. You’ll find rare Spanish and Portuguese varietals at Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, refillable bottles of easy-drinking red table wine at Sones Cellars, and robust cabs and aloha spirit on the patio of MJA Vineyards.
At Venus Spirits Cocktails & Kitchen, enjoy handcrafted cocktails and food right next door to the distillery where our spirits are produced. If beer’s your thing, don’t miss the hazy, New England style IPAs and light-strung patio at Humble Sea, or the buzzing organic beer garden featuring seven flagship ales, seasonal ales, organic sodas and a full food menu at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing.
At Companion Bakeshop, a line forms early each morning for a countertop filled with flaky, buttery pastries and Cat & Cloud coffee. Avanti Restaurant has been holding it down on the Westside for thirty years with their rustic, farm-to-table fare and seasonal cocktails. You can also snag expert cocktails at Bantam where a wood-burning oven churns out blistered Neapolitan pizzas and seasonal, organic plates. West End Tap & Kitchen is another favorite. Their Farmer’s Market Salad, flatbreads, and popcorn with lemon and basil infused duck fat are just a few things you should put on your must-order list. See more not-to-miss Westside Eateries inluding Copal, Iveta, and Vim.
The Westside’s got a lot going on, probably more than you can pack into one day. If you need more time-or another beer-make it an overnighter at one of the following properties, each within close proximity or walking distance to the featured spots above. The Mission Inn has a loyal following thanks to its tidy rooms, comfy beds, and personable staff. Newly built in 2016, the sleek Fairfield Inn & Suites is a stone fruit’s throw from the Westside Farmer’s Market, and earns rave reviews with free wi-fi, clean modern interiors, and a hearty complimentary breakfast. And newest to the Westside scene is the Hampton Inn – Santa Cruz West which has all the amenities and convenience, plus it’s pup-friendly.