A Day in Santa Cruz

Hello, loves, and welcome back to a new week! I hope you had a wonderful weekend. The weather was absolutely amazing, so we spent much of it outside. We’re in that perfect window where it’s sunny and warm, but we’re not sweating our faces off! September through November is truly our reward for living through Texas in August!

A few weeks ago we escaped for a long weekend in California, with a couple of nights camping in Big Sur with friends (catch that HERE), and finishing off with 24 hours in Santa Cruz… a nostalgic little beach town perched between Big Sur and San Francisco. We flew out of San Jose, so Santa Cruz was a great halfway point, and the perfect spot for a day.

Santa Cruz Beach

Jersey Knit Pajama Set | Silk Sleep Mask

Dream Inn Santa Cruz

Softest Crewneck Sweater (40% off!) | Jean Shorts | Sneakers (on sale!)

Lightweight Sweatshirt (50% off!) | Jean Shorts | Sneakers (on sale!)

Santa Cruz Surfing Museum

Lightweight Sweatshirt (50% off!) | Jean Shorts | Sneakers (on sale!)

Shrine Coffee

Lightweight Sweatshirt (50% off!) | Jean Shorts | Sneakers (on sale!)

Santa Cruz Pier

Henley Tee | Lightweight Sweatshirt (50% off!) | Jean Shorts | Sneakers (on sale!)

Santa Cruz Pier

Sea Lions at the Pier

Henley Tee | Lightweight Sweatshirt (50% off!) | Jean Shorts | Sneakers (on sale!)

Henley Tee | Lightweight Sweatshirt (50% off!) | Jean Shorts

Lunch at Steamer Lane Supply

The Boardwalk

Drinks at Dream Inn

Capitola Village

Historic Capitola Wharf

What We Did in Santa Cruz //

Our hotel had cruiser bikes, so we hopped on early and spent much of the day meandering the coastline.

West Cliff Drive / A scenic, three mile walking and biking path along the Pacific Ocean with epic views of the Monterey Bay. You’ll see many of the great spots in Santa Cruz, including Natural Bridges State Beach and Santa Cruz Surfing Museum. Stop near the museum and watch the surfers on the point!

Santa Cruz Wharf / An iconic seaside pier full of shops, restaurants, fishing boats, and the orneriest herd of sea lions. It was built in 1914 and is the longest pier on the West Coast.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk /  An oceanfront amusement park, it dates back to 1907! Chock full of rides, games, and fried food. Remember the movie Lost Boys? It was filmed here!

Santa Cruz Beach / Right outside our hotel, it’s wide with relatively calm waters, with great people watching!

Capitola Village / A must-see in Santa Cruz, Capitola Village is reminiscent of a European Village on the Mediterranean, with colorful homes, shops, and restaurants dotting the shoreline.


Homes in Capitola Village

Where We Ate In Santa Cruz //

Shrine Coffee / A non-profit community coffee house nestled in the gardens of the Shrine of St. Joseph, it’s a peaceful spot to stop along West Cliff Drive.

Steamer Lane Supply / An unassuming lunch spot tucked next to the public restrooms, it has delicious quesadillas, bowls, and tacos. Perfect spot to stop with your bike and eat at the outdoor picnic tables. It is a favorite of Santa Cruz locals.

Dream Inn Pool Bar / Our hotel had a lively pool scene, with a full food and bar menu. We grabbed drinks to go and walked the beach.

Shadowbrook Capitola / Voted one of the most romantic restaurants in the US, Shadowbrook makes up for mediocre service with an amazing setting. It’s multiple levels built in to the lush cliffs along Soquel Creek… you can take the many stairs to the bottom, or take the cable car! Reservations book up early, but the bar and patio tables are first-come and fairly easy to snag.


Capitola Village

Where We Stayed In Santa Cruz //

Dream Inn Santa Cruz / The only beachfront hotel in town, it sits directly on the sand with views of Monterey Bay and the Pier. The rooms and lobby are decorated with a colorful, retro-chic style that felt like stepping back in time. All the rooms are oceanfront with balconies, and it has an onsite coffee bar, restaurant, and room service.

Cruiser bikes are available on a first-come basis, and it sits directly on the West Cliff bike path.

Jean Jacket (50% off!) | Bodysuit

What I Packed for Santa Cruz //

Layers, layers, layers! The morning started out chilly, with a thick fog, giving way to clear skies and warm sunshine in the afternoon. The dress code was California casual most everywhere, so this cozy sweater (on sale!) and henley tee were perfect.

I’ve been living in these sneakers, the most comfortable non-athletic shoes I’ve ever worn! I love the streamline shape, too, for pairing with shorts, jeans, and even skirts and dresses. Bonus, they’re on sale at Nordstrom!

Softest Crewneck Sweater (40% off!) | Jean Shorts | Sneakers (on sale!)


Built as the ‘Coney Island of the West,’ Santa Cruz has everything from beachside boardwalks to redwood forests, and is a great spot to stop on your West Coast road trip! We had the perfect California day, full of sunshine, fresh air, and good food. Have you been to Santa Cruz? Which California beach towns do you love?


*All photos taken on my iPhone. This post is created in collaboration with Nordstrom and ShopStyle, but all product selections, styling, and saddle soreness are my own. Thank you for supporting Hi Sugarplum and it’s sponsors!*

Leave a Comment


  1. Patricia wrote:

    Childhood memories of growing up in Sacramento and going to Santa Cruz on long weekends with my family. Is the roller coaster still there? It was incredibly rickety back in the day. I can only assume it’s been replaced and much safer now.
    Still, we survived and so has Santa Cruz. When you talk about ‘beach town’, this is what comes to mind. It was a lot shabbier then but still perfect in its own way.
    Happy memories. Thank you for bringing them back.

    Posted 9.20.21 Reply
    • Cassie wrote:

      The coaster is still there! Mr. SP and I didn’t brave it, but it’s still such a landmark there! xo, C

      Posted 9.20.21 Reply
  2. Sandy wrote:

    Soooooo luv this! Have met Cali natives who have never been. Whaaat??? Thank you!

    Posted 9.20.21 Reply
    • Cassie wrote:

      They definitely need to go, it was such a darling town!!! xo, C

      Posted 9.20.21 Reply
  3. Maureen wrote:

    I grew up going to a small town south of Santa Cruz for summers and different holidays –my grandfather lived in the town of Aptos. My family would go visit and we would spend days exploring the areas around North and South. Santa Cruz is a darling town. The pier and the UC Santa Cruz campus. The Shadowbrook Restaurant is where we held a few family gatherings. There are a few B & Bs in the area that are just wonderful. My husband and I spent our second anniversary at one–Babbling Brook.
    If you go back I hope that you can explore more and enjoy the area.

    Posted 9.20.21 Reply
    • Cassie wrote:

      Maureen we absolutely loved it there!!! Such a special place! xo, C

      Posted 9.20.21 Reply
  4. Jen wrote:

    My family, along with 3 other families from Sacramento , have spent a week each summer in Capitola together for years. Between us, we have stayed in most of the colored houses. It started when we had to be down at the waterline with the kids all day to playing corn hole and drinking beer on the walkway in front of the houses now that our kids are in college. A trip always includes a visit to Shadowbrook, Pizza My Heart and the Boardwalk. So many great memories here…glad you and Mr. SP got to experience it!

    Posted 9.21.21 Reply
    • Cassie wrote:

      That sounds absolutely amazing, Jen! We so enjoyed our time there!

      Posted 9.21.21 Reply
  5. Tiffany Vorse wrote:

    Hey Cassie! Where is the super cute skirt from? The white with black dots (?) paired with black bodysuit and denim jacket?

    Posted 9.23.21 Reply
  6. Aimee wrote:

    Our family moved to Texas from San Jose and my husband went to UCSC. We spent many summer nights at the boardwalk! I grew up in Santa Barbara but my mom now lives in Carpinteria. If you ever want a small beach town getaway I highly recommend! Really enjoyed this post and the memories.

    Posted 10.3.21 Reply
    • Cassie wrote:

      So sweet, Aimee! I’m always on the hunt for a small beach town getaway, ha! xo, C

      Posted 10.3.21 Reply
  7. Sylvia Howard wrote:

    Hello! Where is the crossbody bag from in your photos?

    Posted 1.11.22 Reply