Find your vibe in this coastal gem.

Welcome to Santa Cruz, California! This isn’t your average surf town, these locs (or locals) are known for being weird. With great food, beautiful beaches, and unique eats, this town has everything you’d want for a day of fun or in a vacation spot. 

Santa Cruz is known for its laid-back, surfy vibes and unique surf town style. If you’re looking to get the most out of your trip to the Cruz, look no further than Vibe Map’s Santa Cruz edition! We’ll share some of the locals’ favorite hidden gems, including tea ceremony bathhouses, surfing spots/instruction, places to just plain chill, and spots to get weeeird.

Surf’s Up! Vibe

The surf’s up vibe isn't just about “hanging loose brah” but is for the avid adventurer and child-at-heart! Our Surf’s Up Vibe is a culmination of gorgeous beach spots where you can watch surfers, grab a quick snack by the cliffside, or even take a lesson yourself!

Are you a thrill-seeker? An active, outdoor enthusiast? Catch your first wave with the help of a surf instructor at Club Ed Surf School! Give them a call at (831-464-0177) to book a surf lesson for you and your friends! No worries about gear or boards, they’ve got you covered. Please note, you’ll have to call a few days in advance to book a lesson. 

Cowells Cove is home to surfers and seals alike! Come dig your toes in the sand and relax at the beach at Cowells. There are places to rent surfboards, boogie boards, and other gear from trailers located right on the beach. There’s also the Santa Cruz Beach Pier, located within walking distance from Cowells.

If you’d rather watch surfers than hop in, head over to The Hook, located on Westcliff Dr. There’s parking in the day lot, bathrooms, and picnic tables if you want to munch a sandwich while you watch! 

Avid walkers and dog petters unite! If you’re looking for a way to enjoy the coastline, walk down either Westcliff or Eastcliff and watch surfers, seals, and dogs play in the water. There are benches along both coasts so if you get tired you can always take a load off.  

If you’re walking along East Cliff Dr. you might want to stop at The Point Market. Known for feeding hungry surfers, the Point Market offers large portioned breakfast burritos, sandwiches, and also boasts really cool stickers, made by the famous local artist -- Tim Ward! (Almost everyone has his stickers on the back of their cars!)

All Hale Kale! Vibe

All hale the great kale! This vibe is all about great vegan bites located all over Santa Cruz. These spots partner with local vendors just outside of town, ensuring that you’re getting the best in-season produce! If you’re looking for a quick bite or a sit-down place, these local favorites have you covered.

If you’re looking for a quick bite, Cafe Delmarette has got you covered, with both vegan open-faced sandwiches and non-vegan options. Since they’re located on the Downtown Santa Cruz strip, you can also do your fair share of people watching with their outdoor picnic chair, seating setup too! 

Get deliciously thick, shakes, and hearty sandwiches with a side of good karma at Dharmas! You wouldn’t believe most of their dishes are vegan -- even their take on “The Ruben” with dairy-free cheese! 

A Santa Cruz Staple-- Betty’s! Only found in SC, Betty’s offers hearty burgers, stringy garlic fries, and with a side of their secret “lube” you’ll be fully nourished after that surf class or ready for a nice nap at the beach! 

Get grateful at Cafe Gratitude. A beloved cafe for locals and tourists alike. This Cafe specializes in a variety.

Highly Caffeinated Vibe

Who doesn’t run on caffeine? This vibe is all about putting a pep in your step while you head from one activity to the next. The best part? These spots are some of the most unique, picturesque places here in the ‘Cruz. If you’re a sucker for an oat milk latte, this vibe is for you.

You may come for the coffee but you’ll stay for the plants! 11th Hour is covered head to toe in plants, plants, and yes you guessed it -- more plants. The best part? They’re all up for sale! 11th Hour also has its own unique coffee mugs, merch, and really cool coffee makers. This spot is perfect for the avid foodie or person who just likes to post cool spots on Instagram! 

Writers note --  this is also one of my favorite spots to work, hang out with friends, and of course, drink coffee.

Craving a bite after your first surf lesson? Come chill out at the Chillout Cafe. Offering a variety of breakfast burritos, coffee, and pastries you’ll be one happy camper.

If you’re looking for a place to regroup, look no further than Verve. With their delicious open-faced avocado toast, extremely caffeinated missiles, freshly made pastries, and ample indoor seating, hours might just feel like minutes! 

Another local favorite, and for good reason! Cat & Cloud is a small Mom and Pop with lots of local color. Whether it’s poetry readings or protest signs, Cat & Cloud always has something to say (in a good way!). 

Check out the coziest coffee shop in Capitola! We chose to include Mr. Toots because of its prime location and great coffee. Mr. Toots is located just down the street from the beach on the second floor, making it the perfect spot to get a hot drink and watch the sunset over the famous “colored houses”. You can often see sailboats coming in at dusk as well!

Woah, That's Wierd! Vibes

Weird might as well be Santa Cruz’s middle name. This vibe is all about trying new things (like Kava) or checking out local stores that will make you feel like you’ve gone down the rabbit hole. If you’re looking for something weird and new, this vibe is for you!

For the 18+ crowd only, Kava is a healing root that is found primarily in Tehiti. At the Kava bar you can try a variety of kava drinks and cheer “BULA” (boo-laaaah) with the crowd, which roughly translates to “fuck yes! I’m alive!” Please note, your mouth may go a bit numb… No worries, it’s normal.

Looking to read your tea leaves? Try The Hidden Peak Teahouse! They offer full tea ceremonies, have a public library for you to browse while you enjoy your tea, and you can even “feed” the Buddha at your table (he loves drops of hot tea!). Please note, this experience is a no phone zone, and they don’t allow you to use electronics within the teahouse.  

Want to go down the rabbit hole? Step into the wonderland that’s Go Ask Alice. They offer a variety of dried herbs, sage, tarot card readings, tapestries, clothes, and unique trinkets you wouldn’t find anywhere but Santa Cruz, made by local artists.

Take a nice relaxing soak at the Tea House Spa by booking one of their private spa and sauna rooms! It’s traditionally Japanese and each room overlooks the bamboo garden. You can also book massages and order tea, direct to your spa room!

About the Author:

Kaileigh Otsuka

Kaileigh Otsuka is an avid surfer, skateboarder, and freelance writer in Santa Cruz, California. When she’s not out surfing, she loves doing yoga and serenading her plants on her ukulele. Want to connect with Kaileigh? Shoot her an email at: