This last weekend, I visited Santa Cruz, a city so familiar to me, yet so different every time I go back. The beach city has so much love, soul and character that sets it apart from so many other places in my heart.
October is one of the peak months when monarch butterflies migrate to Santa Cruz’s Natural Bridges State Beach. There’s a small sanctuary a little ways away from the beach, shrouded in Santa Cruz’s famous trees. When you walk carefully through to the clearing, you start to hear small flutters in the air, birds chirping in the trees. Look up, and you’ll see trees covered in monarchs, almost surreally dripping off the branches. They migrate here for only a couple months out of the year to escape winter’s cold, so catch them while they’re here.
If you have access to a car, visit Capitola Beach and the shops that surround it. The beach is lined with bright, colorful buildings that make it feel like a vacation getaway. There are a vast array of small shops next to the beach that make a perfect little afternoon adventure. The shop owners are exceedingly kind and so friendly. I promise you will have an amazing time here.
A mile or so away is a beach that many UC Santa Cruz students and locals frequent, called Pleasure Point. If you enjoy surfing, the waves here are perfect. If you would rather stay out of the water, there’s a nice strip of shops before the beach that you can walk around, connecting to a beautiful walk next to the ocean. If you get hungry, grab a bite at Pleasure Pizza, which has some of the dirtiest (in the best way), cheap pizza around.
One thing I highly recommend while you visit Santa Cruz is to take a city bus and make your way to UC Santa Cruz. There is a clearing in the middle of the redwood forest called The Meadows. The easiest way to access the space is to enter through Porter College. Go at nighttime. On the clearest of days, you can sit in the middle of the meadows, look up and see the milky way. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the city. What better way to spend your night than to sit in the middle of trees and admire the nighttime sky, so often hidden by city lights?
Santa Cruz is accessible from Berkeley via public transportation, though it may take a while. However you choose to get there, make sure not to stay on the boardwalk all day and, instead, take in the incredible nature that inhabits the city. Though Santa Cruz is a small city, remember not to neglect its potential charm, character and all of its wonderful people.