San Francisco to Santa Cruz: California Coast Road Trip
Welcome back to the California Coast Road Trip series! I’ve had so much fun going through all of the photos and editing the vlog for this trip. I’m most excited about sharing that with you. You’ll be able to see more of the real-life ups and downs of the trip. Today, I’ll be sharing our journey from Calistoga to Santa Cruz. This day was supposed to have a few more stops, but we got hit with an unexpected hiccup. No matter how detailed your itinerary is, expect the unexpected. Luckily, we still saw some fantastic views, had delicious food, and stayed at a cool spot in Santa Cruz! & like all my travel guides, don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end!
After getting smoothies at a cute cafe in Calistoga, California, we continued our trip and headed to San Francisco to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge! If you missed my other blogs from the California trip, make sure to read those first! Here’s post #1 and post #2!
I had been to San Francisco before but never saw the Golden Gate Bridge. I was there for a quick work trip, so being able to drive across it was so surreal. It’s very foggy in June and July, but I think it adds more character to the bridge.
I don’t know what it is about road trips, but they are always so much better when you have coffee! Actually, I think most things in life are better with coffee. We decided to stop at Home Cafe for a bite to eat, and a hot cup of coffee to take with us on our trip. I was blown away with how cold it was in downtown San Francisco! It had my southern blood shivering, so a hot coffee sounded perfect.
Even though they are known for their fun and colorful coffee art, I decided to go with a plain black coffee, and treat myself to a few of their baked goods. I had their gluten-free mochi muffin and a gluten-free matcha mochi donut. I loved everything about these treats! Now, I need to figure out how to recreate a similar recipe. How was the coffee? Perfection. If I ever revisit SF, I’ll definitely be back.
Before leaving San Francisco, we drove down to Baker Beach to get another glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge. When there’s no fog, this is one of the best spots to see the bridge. I have to warn you though, it’s a nude beach, but they usually stay closer to the bridge.
Don’t let my outfit fool you; I was freezing! It was only 58-degrees that morning. If you plan on taking a walk, definitely dress warmer. As you can see, this is a very pet-friendly spot.
They call the summer months in the bay area “Gray May, Gloom June, and No Sky July.”
After leaving San Francisco, we made it onto the pacific coast highway. We pulled over to stop at Pacifica State Beach because the views were breathtaking from the road.
This was a very popular surf spot. If I lived in one of those houses, having my morning coffee while watching the surfers would be my dream morning.
Next stop was the Gray Whale Cove! This was probably one of the most breathtaking beaches I’ve ever walked on.
You can see the bay area fog in the distance, but it’s a purple color which adds more beauty to the sky. The name “Gray Whale” comes from exactly what you’d think it’d be. Sometimes you can spot gray whales close to the shore.
Look how bright and clear that water is! Luckily, it was a bit colder, and we didn’t run into any of the nude beach go-ers.
There are trails all around this area for hiking. The views are stunning! The pictures do not do it justice. If we weren’t on a timed-schedule, this would have been a great place to have lunch and watch for whales.
Now, I don’t want to dive too deep into the incident because I’d like to keep these California posts uplifting and happy, but it’s my responsibility to warn any travelers who may be stopping here.
There is a parking lot across from the gorgeous beach, and it can be very hard to cross over the highway. It’s basically a game of Frogger, so be careful! The parking lot also has zero cell service, so when something bad happens, it’s hard to reach help. When we got back from walking the beach, I saw glass all over the parking lot by our car. I figured we had hit something and the window shattered, but when all of my bags (minus the luggage) had been stolen, we realized someone had broken into the car. We were gone for fifteen minutes, and this happened early in the morning in a busy parking lot. It didn’t only happen to us, but six more cars in the lot as well. I’ll have more about it in my travel vlog, but make sure you TAKE EVERYTHING with you or lock it into the trunk. These grab and go thieves are targeting tourist because they know they’ll be able to find valuables in the rental cars. Over 70 car break-ins happen a day in the San Francisco area, and almost anyone who lives there has expierenced it.
It really was unfortunate because they took many of my valuables. I know things like that can get replaced, but when your I.D. and other information about you is in the hands of criminals, you get a bit uneasy about it.
Even though this happened, I would revisit Gray Whale Cove. It’s an amazing place, and I don’t want this incident to scare you off. Just be smart about it, and take precautions.
We had to make a detour that took up half of our planned day. We headed back to the San Francisco Airport to return our rental car for a new one. It took a while to get all of the glass out of our stuff, and days later, I was still finding glass in my shoes. The rental place said they see this multiple times a day, and as soon as we pulled up, they knew exactly what had happened. They were very kind about it and put us in a new car within minutes.
It was way late in the afternoon, and we were there hours behind schedule. We decided to drive to our next destination, Santa Cruz. We got hungry while waiting in traffic, so we pulled off to a little restaurant that seemed to be a hot spot in the area, Old Port Lobster Shack. We got lucky to find a gem like this because the food was outstanding, and the inside of the restaurant was super fun. We were looking for anything at this point to turn our moods around. It can be hard to snap out of something upsetting, but we did not want to have a bad experience while out on this trip.
I ordered a delicious salmon salad and a side of sweet potato fries. Caitlin had their lobster, and all of our food was super delicious and fresh. I’m kind of happy we missed our reservation a ta trendy spot because we found this place!
An hour later, we made it to our hotel for the night! We stayed at the beautiful Chaminade Resort & Spa in Santa Cruz. This resort was such a dream spot. 💜 It was a calming spot with so much nature surrounding you. We stayed in the Executive Suite, which was so awesome! We had our own living room with a couch and wet bar. After such a stressful day, it was kind of nice to have a place that felt cozy and homely.
When they heard about our stressful day traveling, they sent us a charcuterie board and bottle of wine to our room. Honestly, how sweet is that? That was incredibly sweet, and it put a smile on our faces. The staff, the rooms, the gorgeous amenities, and OMG THE SPA, was stunning. 10/10 would recommend staying here while visiting Santa Cruz.
We had dinner reservations at Jack O’Neill’s restaurant. It’s attached to the Dream Inn Hotel on the beach, and it had all the surfer vibes. The food is very fresh, and all the seafood is sustainably sourced.
I decided to order a warm cup of tea to have with dinner. I didn’t plan for the colder California weather, so it really hit the spot. Plus, there’s nothing better than hot tea after a stressful day. Oh, and a view like that to go with it!
We started with the seacliff sprouts, which are pan-fried Brussel sprouts with pickled onions, garlic, preserved lemons, and a balsamic glaze. I was still full from lunch, so I decided to order the soup of the day, which was veggie, and a side salad for my meal. For Caitlin’s entree, she ordered the halibut, which she highly recommended!
Apparently, I wasn’t too full for dessert, because when he said “dairy-free sorbet,” I was all about it. It also came with roasted pears and fresh fruit. This dessert was refreshing and hit the spot. Caitlin ordered heir grain-free chocolate cake, and it looked divine!
I was up bright and early in the morning. I wanted to fit in a three-mile run, and strength training workout to kickstart my day. Working out always makes me feel good, and I was determined to have a better day of traveling.
The Chaminade had an impressive gym and outdoor areas to workout! One of the running trails looked like something out of a movie. They also had the perfect pool to swim laps, a tennis court (YAS!!), and all the open areas you need for yoga. This place was amazing!
After packing up the car and getting ready for day three, we decided to stop at Windmill Cafe for coffee and breakfast before heading out on the road. Day three was going to be our longest travel day, so we wanted a good breakfast to start the day with.
Windmill Cafe serves in-season meals with tons of vegetarian options. They also had the largest selection of gluten-free and vegan baked goods. We ended up buying a ton to take with us on our trip. I ordered a spirulina smoothie (the einstein smoothie) without apple-juice. It was SUPER green, but a good choice. Caitlin had their egg & veggie scramble with fresh veggies from their garden.
The Windmill Cafe is a charming spot, especially for enjoying breakfast on the patio!
We had to stop at Mr. Toots Coffeehouse after seeing the photos on yelp! Look how cute those little buildings are, oh, and the coffee was fantastic!
You can find Mr. Toots Coffee House minutes outside of Santa Cruz as you’re making your way to Monterey. It’s worth the stop for sure! 😊
In my next California blog, you’ll get to see all of our photos from our trip from Santa Cruz to Pismo Beach! We hit up Monterey, Carmel By The Sea, the 17-Mile Drive, Big Sur, and more! 😃 And I cannot WAIT for you to see the video!!! I may do a premiere day and live chat with you in the comments if that’s something you’re interested in. xo
Questions for you!
- Have you ever been to the Golden Gate Bridge?
- What do you do to help turn around a bad day?
- What is the name of the last coffee shop you visited?
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