The best places to eat and drink in Santa Cruz, California

Famous for its thirty-nine miles of beaches, Santa Cruz draws visitors in with surf, sun, and a stroll on Coney Island Beach. Yet at mealtime you’re not limited to fried calamari and corn dogs. In recent years, Santa Cruz has improved its food and drink offering while maintaining its touching culture of surfing and the outdoors. Translation: you can enjoy gourmet Neapolitan pizzas in swim shorts, and sip craft cocktails in flip flops.

The area is swallowed up by farmland – close to Watsonville, the frozen food packaging hub for much of the 20th century – and fresh, organic produce fill local menus. Plus, a recent explosion of craft breweries makes it one of California’s most exciting (albeit often underrated) beer destinations. You’ll even find local craft beers next to the cotton candy on the beach promenade.

Next time you’re heading to the birthplace of continental surfing, here’s where you can get inspired by the latest in Santa Cruz’s contemporary food scene.

Health experts regard restaurant meals as a high risk activity for the unvaccinated; the latest data on the delta variant indicate that it may pose a low to moderate risk for vaccinees, especially in high transmission areas. The latest directive from the CDC is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

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To note: The restaurants on this map are listed geographically.


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