Capitola, CA — Best Things To Do
a great little historic seaside resort
Here are some best things to do in Capitola, California. This is a superb place to relax for a day or to retire for decades. See map.
Capitola has unusually pleasant weather, beauty and overall atmosphere. In 1869 it was laid out as a resort called Camp Capitola and is considered to be the oldest seaside resort on the Pacific Coast. Today, this well-put-together combination of weather-beauty-atmosphere continues to make Capitola, CA, one of the nicest up-scale beach towns in Northern California. See pictures below and the live Capitola surf camera.
The Coastal Drive getting there
Drive down the coast, rather than inland, to put yourself in a good mood. The best portion of this trip is on Cabrillo Hwy (Hwy 1) between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz. This stretch qualifies as an outstanding Sunday drive in itself. Quickly stop by Pescadero and at Pebble & Bean Hollow beaches if you have time.
- If you are in a hurry go inland and take Hwy 280 to Hwy 85 to Hwy 17 to Hwy 1 to Capitola. We often drive down via coastal Hwy 1 and return via the inland route to avoid traffic coming back inland from Half Moon Bay on Hwy 92.
- If you are starting in SF take Hwy 1 and, beginning in Pacifica, head down the coast.
- From near San Mateo take Hwy 92 to Half Moon Bay. Then head on down to Capitola via Hwy 1.
- On weekends Hwy 92, between San Mateo & Half Moon Bay, can get packed going to Half Moon Bay after 10 am weekends and gets busy coming back on weekends after about 3:30 pm.
This pretty little sheltered beach has great weather and multi-color beach cottages which give a pleasing Mediterranean feeling. The beach is right in the town itself. We Bay Area locals also appreciate the fact that Capitola is not an international tourist destination like Carmel. It’s a local secret. :)
We usually park right at the beach itself (bring plenty of change – parking meters in Capitola run until 8 pm including weekends). Then we take a stroll along the beach and visit the nearby small art galleries, botiques, coffee shops, and restaurants for a few hours.
The beach itself is rarely crowded. There are usually some middle aged couples who can be found walking along the beach or sitting on the beach front benches. You will also see a few families playing on the beach sand. The far south end of the beach, around the corner, is popular with beginning to intermediate surfers when the mild surf is up. You can check out real time surfing action at surf camera. More energetic hippies, surfers and teenagers usually head to the Santa Cruz beach scene instead for more action, bigger surf, and less quiet beauty.
Sunsets are often spectacular, even for the coast. After admiring the sunset from the beach front walk up the steps at the far north end. There you can look back at the beach, bathed in sunlight, from the West Bluff benches just north of the beach. We often drive by there and park for a few minutes on our way home.
There are several local craft galleries, eating places, and woman’s botiques in the pleasant shopping area just inland from the Capitola beach front. Checking them out is a nice thing to do in combination with a beach walk.
About eight blocks inland there is Gayle’s Bakery, 504 Bay Ave/ Capitola Ave, recognized as the best bakery and rotisserie in town attracting over 1500 customers/day. Gayle Ortiz is a self-taught baker who used to fill in for the pastry chef at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse; she also wrote The Village Baker’s Wife: The Desserts and Pastries That Made Gayle’s Bakery Famous.
Another nearby Capitola landmark is Shadowbrook Restaurant, 1750 Wharf Rd/Capitola Rd. The unique construction is very entertaining. It lies on a very steep terrace featuring a small quaint cable car to ride down to the entrance, Swiss chalet decor, the original 1947 bar, and an outside deck overlooking Soquel Creek. Open for dinner only.
The fantastic beach view from the little balcony here is what makes this Mr Toots one of my very favorite coffee shops in the entire San Francisco Bay area. We always go here when visiting Capitola!
Mr Toots is quaint, old-fashioned (having been at the same second floor location for 26 years), comfortable, usually uncrowded, and has decent organic coffee. Their local pastries (e.g., coffee cake) are good too although sometimes they run out later in the day.
Mr. Toots can be found right on the beach, on the second floor up the steps over Margaritaville, at 231 Esplanade, Capitola.
At the far north end of Capitola beach is a nice long 855 foot wharf built in 1857. This is a pleasant walking destination and has a great view of the beach, especially at sunset. Another good view is from the stairs up the bluff nearby.
At the end of the wharf you can drink and eat at the Wharf House Restaurant or rent a kayak. The wharf also features FREE pier fishing and the Capitola Boat & Boat Shop, a well run bait shop whose employees will educate and outfit you for pier fishing.
For over night trips there is a variety of small old beach cottages quite close to the beach. The neatest looking, outside at least, are the multi-colored Capitola Venetian Hotel cottages immediately on the north end of the beach. Built in 1924, this Venetian Court resort is in a U.S. Historic district and is described in the Register of National Historic Places (site 87000574) as one of the first condominium seaside developments in California.
If you are looking a great day at the beach, check out Capitola, CA. It is the oldest and still one of the best beach resorts for adults on the Pacific Coast!