Feb21 Road Trip: Santa Cruz



On Tuesday, we packed up and left my house around 8am. We decided to stop by Ash’s house in San Francisco on the way and have breakfast. We hit some traffic and got there a little after 10am, but were on the road again by 11.

We picked up Highway 1 at Pacifica. We couldn’t check into our room until 3pm so decided we’d be good for stops along the way. So we did that in Half Moon Bay. Turns out Ash had never been to the town, just to some of the restaurants closer to the water leading into it, so it was a nice walk for us and Paul.

Compared to what it looks like on a regular weekend pre-pandemic, it was pretty dead. A few things were open but there weren’t that many people about. The most people we saw were standing in line to get into the San Benito Deli. You can see the beginning of the line at the far right but it went a ways down the sidewalk. Most of this photo is of an open seating area where on the far right you can see a guy serenading the crowd.

Half Moon Bay Feed & Fuel - a most boring building with an Alamo type of motif, except it's painted a vivid pink or maybe salmon color.

I just liked the color of this building!

A cute little complex of shops.

Sign with a cartoon whale wearing a mask and read "unless you're a whale, cover your blowhole"

And there you have it. Enough said.

Ash sitting next to a statue of a man sitting on a fence.

Ash made a friend on the way back to the car.

We left Half Moon Bay around 12:30 and ended up getting to our hotel about 1:30. The front desk was staffed by Rachel, who we had several conversations with over the course of the afternoon, and she apologized that they were clearing out a big turnover from Presidents Day weekend and our room wouldn’t be ready until 4pm. She would text us when it was. So we leashed Paul up and went for a walk.

Photo of the Boardwalk main entrance

Ash has been to over 50 countries (so you can anticipate lots of cool travel blogs when this is all over!) yet somehow he’d never been to Santa Cruz, either, and the Santa Cruz Boardwalk took him by complete surprise.

As you can see above and below it was completely dead. The only thing to do were the coin operated games – trying to grab stuffed animals of various sizes. Otherwise, nothing. We’d essentially walked the length of it before a security guard stopped us to say we had to leave due to Paul.

Paul wasn’t welcome on the wharf either, so we took him back to the car and cracked the back windows. We’d had a pretty light breakfast so decided to walk the wharf and see about lunch.

This is the wharf as seen from the Boardwalk. It’s the longest wooden wharf in the country, according to the sign, at 2745 feet. (Just on the west coast according to wiki!) It was built in 1914 and is the only remaining of six built at the time in Santa Cruz.

entrance to restaurant Makai

We passed a lot of eateries, this one towards the end looked the least tourist-trap of any we’d seen yet.

inside the restaurant, a nice tropic theme with lots of bamboo and plam leaves

The inside was rather nice, too bad it couldn’t be used.

They had a nice outside area; our guess is it was always here, as opposed to just due to the pandemic, but we forgot to ask that.

photo of the bay with a nice land silhouette in the middle right half of the photo

The sun wasn’t exactly out. It was after 2pm at this point and temperature probably 55 and a bit windy. That teeny bump at the very center on land is a lighthouse which you’ll see again later.

Lively drinks again to start. On the left was my pick: hibiscus, ginger, coconut and lime. Ash’s is pineapple, coconut, mango and mint. Very different from either other but both very good.

Ash got ahi sliders with macaroni salad, above; below is my ahi seared salad.

As we were walking back, we got a text a little after 3pm that the room was ready.

West Cliff Inn is on West Cliff Drive. It’s a very charming place, built originally in 1877 as the sign below signifies.

Looking back from the front of the hotel, we are essentially across the street from the wharf and the boardwalk.

Our room is a little cottage that’s separate from the house in the back. That’s my Toyota next to it.

Cozy is the word of the day but the price was right. I’m sitting on the floor against the wall at the left edge of the bed as I type. The bathroom is behind me and it’s surprisingly big, running the length of the room and a decent width. See the Keurig in the bottom right – the most important item in the room! Rachel gave us plenty of extra and showed me where I could help myself. Breakfast is served here, but they bring it to your room; the common open seating areas are closed.

We realized in unpacking we’d forgotten some things so went to a CVS about a mile away to fill in the gaps. We came back to rest a bit and enjoyed the lovely little snack box they welcomed us with: 3 kinds of cheese, crackers, 2 kinds of olives, grapes, and 2 cans of Perrier. There were also 2 peanut butter cookies which we saved for dessert after dinner.

We took Paul out for another walk around 6pm along West Cliff Drive.

Looking back at the wharf at dusk, all lit up.

We missed the sunset but it’s still a lovely view.

There’s the lighthouse you (barely) saw earlier.

a nice silhouette of people in the distance against the last stages of sunset

There were still a few people about enjoying the very last of the sunset, despite the cold. It was just about 50 but felt colder with the wind and no sun. (Texans, I understand, are just learning about real cold at this time so I’m not complaining!)

We went to Lillian’s for dinner, an Italian place that was very highly rated and Rachel confirmed was very good. I’d never heard of burrata cheese until Sunday evening at Hook & Ladder in Sacramento, yet here it was again. So we had to get that, on the left. It was served with crostini and prosciutto, but the hit of the plate was really that sweet chili oil sauce that blanketed the bottom of the plate. On the right is roasted beet salad with arugula, glazed walnuts, blue cheese, and balsamic vinegar.

Ash had the salmon special, which was very good. I had a pasta dish called shrimp diavolo – shrimp and fettucine in a spicy red sauce with very fresh tomatoes. It was actually a bit too spicy for me so I ate all of the shrimp and left most of the pasta. I had taken a photo of it but it didn’t turn out.

It was a late dinner for us – 7:30 reservations – just because everything else had been later than usual. We were back a little after 9 and asleep by 10.

Map of Monterey Bay

Santa Cruz is at the very top of Monterey Bay. Today we’re just going to hang out in the neighborhood: do some walking around Monterey and maybe Carmel, and see if we can get into Big Sur a little further south. At least that was the original plan. But it’s not looking good due to a landslide on January 28 that washed away about 150 feet of road. Guess we’ll find out!

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