Travel Blog

Where to Unplug in Santa Cruz County

All Photos by Garrick Ramirez

We love checking our likes and texting pals, too, but sometimes you need to cut the cord. In Santa Cruz County, you can swap the news alerts for quiet redwood groves, restorative spas, and the soothing sound of the sloshing tide. So, ditch the phone, shut the laptop, and find tranquility and well being at the following rejuvenating spots.


The only sounds you’re likely to hear at this magnificent, sprawling arboretum tucked into a quiet corner of the UCSC campus are rustling leaves and the gentle fluttering of hummingbirds. Budding botanists will find plenty of rare plants and dazzling blooms to enjoy, but most visitors will be content to get lost amidst the many lush, Mediterranean gardens. Don’t miss a stroll through the mesmerizing cacti and succulent garden.


This wondrous rock garden is an unexpected discovery within the Pogonip, as the small path west of the historic lime kilns (along the Lime Kiln Trail) gives way to a moss-blanketed quarry filled with a seemingly endless series of individual rock piles. A pad of paper and pen invites visitors to scribble personal messages or reflections and tuck them in between the crevices of balanced rocks.


Jangled nerves don’t stand a chance at this quiet downtown refuge. A warm Japanese interior with trickling fountains sets a calming tone for a relaxing soak, massage, or a yes-I-deserve-it combo. Reserve in advance to nab one of the back spa rooms that look onto a pristine zen garden with koi pond. Be sure to check their site for regular weekday specials!


Perched on a forested hillside, the recently-remodeled Chaminade Resort & Spa feels pleasantly removed from the hustle and bustle below. The resort’s 1,700-sq. ft. spa is the only full-service spa facility in town and features a host of contemporary body treatments, a state of the art fitness center, and a dreamy zen-garden like patio with scenic hilltop views.


The undulating waves of the Monterey Bay will cast a calming spell over any stressed out soul, but for the most solitude, head north to the wild and rugged Pacific coastline in Davenport. Stroll the dramatic bluffs across the road from the small town’s eateries, or scramble down to one of the many secluded coves such as Panther Beach during the early morning, and you’ll feel like a castaway.


Stick close to the entrance kiosk and you’ll share trails with happy, day hikers who come to marvel at a ravine of old-growth redwoods. Yet, venture a little further into the moss-shrouded forest, and you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported to the Jurassic era. Choose from full-day hikes such as the 13-mile roundtrip trek to the remote Five Finger Falls, or simply follow the short path down from George’s Picnic Area to Aptos Creek, and soak up the serenity.

Updated June 2020

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