Local Spots

Things to Do in Capitola California

Discover the charm of Capitola, California with our guide to the best activities, attractions, and hidden gems this coastal town has to offer, whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, explore local shops, or enjoy delicious dining.

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Why Visit Capitola

Capitola, California, is the perfect blend of charming village ambiance and picturesque coastal scenery.

As one of the oldest vacation retreats on the Pacific Coast, this quaint town offers numerous activities and experiences catering to various interests.

From relaxing on the beach to exploring local boutiques and indulging in mouth-watering seafood, there’s so much to do and see.

This article will guide you through some of the must-do activities in Capitola to make the most out of your visit.

Take a Stroll Along Capitola Beach

No visit to Capitola is complete without spending some time on its beautiful beach.

With its sandy shores and vibrant atmosphere, it’s a fantastic place to soak up the sun, surf, or just relax and watch the waves come in.

You might find that early mornings or weekdays are the best times to visit if you prefer a quieter experience.

During weekends and summer months, the beach can get quite busy but still provides a lively, enjoyable environment.

Capitola Wharf offers spectacular views and is perfect for a casual stroll or some fishing.

Additionally, beachgoers often praise the clean facilities and family-friendly vibe.

Explore the Capitola Village

Capitola Village is a vibrant hub of activity with its colorful buildings, unique shops, and delightful eateries.

This area is perfect for a leisurely day of shopping and dining.

You’ll find everything from boutique clothing stores to art galleries full of local talent.

Many visitors recommend checking out local favorites like Capitola Mercantile, which houses a variety of small shops offering unique gifts and souvenirs.

The village ambiance is further enhanced by the friendly shopowners and the inviting atmosphere.

Capitola Art and Wine Festival

If you are visiting Capitola in the fall, make sure to attend the Capitola Art and Wine Festival, held every September.

This event brings together talented artists from around the region and offers a superb selection of local wines.

People often remark on the festival’s friendly community atmosphere and the opportunity to purchase exquisite art.

It’s an annual event not to be missed if you appreciate fine art and excellent wine.

Dining in Capitola

Foodies will love the dining options in Capitola.

The town boasts a wide range of restaurants offering various cuisines prepared with fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

If you’re a seafood lover, you must try the clam chowder at Zelda’s on the Beach.

It’s known for its creamy texture and delightful flavor.

For those craving Italian food, Caruso’s Tuscan Cuisine offers mouth-watering pasta dishes and wood-fired pizzas.

Most visitors praise its excellent service and authentic taste.

Nature Walks and Parks

Capitola isn’t just about the beach and the village; it also offers wonderful parks and nature trails.

New Brighton State Beach is just a short drive away and is perfect for hiking and camping.

This beach is praised for its peaceful atmosphere and scenic beauty, making it an excellent spot for a family outing or a solo adventure.

Also, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the nearby Forest of Nisene Marks State Park for a refreshing nature experience.

The park features over 40 miles of hiking trails, where you can witness towering redwoods and even spot some local wildlife.

Where to Stay in Capitola

When it comes to accommodations, Capitola has options to suit various budgets and preferences.

For a luxurious stay, consider the Capitola Hotel, known for its elegant decor and exceptional service.

Many guests praise its convenient location and charming atmosphere.

If you’re looking for something more budget-friendly, the Capitola Venetian Hotel offers beautiful views and comfortable rooms right on the water.

It’s an excellent option for those wanting to stay close to both the beach and the village.

Staying at local bed and breakfasts can also offer a unique and intimate experience.

Many report feeling at home due to the personalized service and cozy settings.

Seasonal Activities and Events

Depending on the time of year, Capitola offers various seasonal activities and events.

For instance, during the summer months, you can enjoy the Capitola Twilight Concerts along the Esplanade, which provide a perfect evening of live music by the beach.

Similarly, the Begonia Festival, held every August, celebrates Capitola’s history with floral floats, sandcastle contests, and other fun activities.

Attendees often appreciate the sense of community and the vibrant festivities.

Shopping for Unique Items

If you love shopping for unique items, Capitola’s array of specialty stores won’t disappoint.

Many visitors recommend Dig Gardens, a boutique garden shop offering everything from rare plants to stylish garden decor.

This shop is highly rated for its knowledgeable staff and delightful products.

Similarly, the Capitola Book Café provides a curated selection of books along with a cozy cafe atmosphere that is hard to resist.

Local Tips for First-Time Visitors

First-time visitors might find these local tips valuable.

Parking can be tight, especially during peak season, so if you’re staying nearby, walking or biking is often more convenient.

Another tip is to make dining reservations in advance, especially for popular spots and during festivals.

Explore the surrounding areas as well, like Santa Cruz, which offers additional attractions such as the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and more extensive hiking trails.

If you’re interested in exploring other charming coastal towns similar to Capitola, take a look at these hidden coastal retreats for more unique experiences.

Best Time to Visit Capitola

The best time to visit Capitola largely depends on your preferences.

Summer offers warm weather and a bustling atmosphere but also attracts larger crowds.

Spring and fall are excellent times to visit due to the milder weather, fewer tourists, and the beautifully blooming landscapes.

During these seasons, you might also find better deals on accommodations and dining.

Enjoy Watersports

Capitola is an excellent destination for water enthusiasts.

Surfing, paddleboarding, and kayaking are popular activities thanks to the gentle waves and calm waters.

If you’re a beginner, Capitola Beach Company offers surfboard and paddleboard rentals along with lessons.

People often highlight the friendly and professional instructors which make learning a new watersport a fantastic experience.

You can also explore the nearby Soquel Creek by kayak for a tranquil and scenic adventure.

Capitola’s Local Breweries

For those who enjoy craft beers, Capitola’s local breweries are a must-visit.

Sante Adairius Rustic Ales is a fan favorite, known for its range of unique and high-quality brews.

Some popular picks include their sours and IPAs, with many visitors praising the friendly atmosphere and knowledgeable staff.

Another great spot is New Bohemia Brewing Co., which offers a variety of German-style beers and a comfortable taproom where you can relax and enjoy your drink.

If you’re interested in exploring more craft beer scenes, check out these essential local breweries for more recommendations.

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Enjoy a Scenic Train Ride

One unique way to experience Capitola and its surrounding areas is by taking a ride on the Roaring Camp Railroads.

This scenic train takes you through the beautiful redwood forests and offers stunning views of the coastline.

It’s said to be a perfect activity for families, couples, or anyone looking to enjoy the natural beauty of the area from a different perspective.

The festive Holiday Lights Train, held during the winter season, is a popular event where the train is beautifully decorated with lights and offers holiday treats and music.

Experienced riders consistently praise the knowledgeable conductors who share interesting histories and facts throughout the journey.

Visit the Capitola Historical Museum

The Capitola Historical Museum offers a rich history of the area with exhibits that include photographs, artifacts, and stories from Capitola’s past.

This small but informative museum is perfect for anyone interested in learning more about the town’s heritage.

Many visitors find it both educational and charming, highlighting the friendly and informative staff who are eager to share their knowledge.

The museum often hosts special events and rotating exhibits, making it worth a visit even if you’ve been before.

Unwind at a Local Spa

If you’re looking to relax and rejuvenate, Capitola has several top-notch spas that offer a range of services.

The Tea House Spa is a local favorite, offering a tranquil environment with options for massages, facials, and hot tub soaks.

Customers frequently mention the serene atmosphere and the professional, attentive staff who make the experience truly special.

Another good option is Capitola’s Cloud 9 Day Spa, known for its personalized service and extensive treatment menu.

People appreciate the relaxing ambiance and the skilled therapists who ensure you leave feeling refreshed and revitalized.

Fishing and Boating

Capitola Wharf is not just for sightseeing; it’s also a popular spot for fishing.

If you enjoy fishing, Capitola Boat & Bait offers rentals and gear right on the wharf.

The calm waters and abundance of fish species make it an excellent location for both amateur and experienced fishermen.

People often commend the friendly staff who are more than willing to provide tips and assistance.

For boating enthusiasts, renting a boat provides another fantastic way to explore the waters around Capitola.

Attend a Yoga Class

Interested in keeping up with your fitness routine while on vacation? Try joining a yoga class at Village Yoga.

This studio offers various classes suitable for all levels, from beginners to experienced yogis.

The welcoming atmosphere and the knowledgeable instructors are frequently praised by those who participate.

Practicing yoga with the soothing sound of the nearby ocean is an exceptional way to relax and rejuvenate.

If you’re into holistic health, you might find similar experiences at one of the leading yoga retreats in Rhode Island.

Day Trip to Nearby Attractions

Capitola is an ideal base for exploring nearby attractions as well.

Taking a short drive to Santa Cruz offers a variety of additional activities, including visiting the famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Another nearby attraction is the Monterey Bay Aquarium, renowned for its impressive displays of marine life and interactive exhibits.

Many visitors suggest taking the scenic coastal route for beautiful ocean views along the way.

Farmers Market

If you love fresh produce and locally made goods, visiting the Capitola Farmers Market should be on your list.

Held every Sunday, this market offers a variety of fruits, vegetables, artisanal products, and more.

Many attendees enjoy the friendly community atmosphere and the opportunity to support local farmers and vendors.

It’s also a great place to pick up unique gifts and souvenirs to take home.

For those interested in exploring more markets, there are excellent farmers markets in Rhode Island you might want to check out.

Explore Hidden Gems Around Capitola

While Capitola itself is full of fun activities, sometimes finding less-known spots can be equally rewarding.

One such hidden gem is the Capitola Venetian Passages, a series of hidden passageways that offer a secluded and scenic walk through the town.

Visitors often appreciate the quieter, more intimate experience compared to the busier main streets.

Another hidden spot is the Hook, a lesser-known surf spot that offers great waves without the large crowds.

It’s perfect if you’re looking to catch some waves but avoid the more tourist-heavy areas.

Wildlife Watching

For nature and wildlife enthusiasts, Capitola offers several spots where you can observe local wildlife.

One popular activity is birdwatching at New Brighton State Beach, where you can spot a variety of bird species including pelicans and cormorants.

Another great place for wildlife watching is the nearby Elkhorn Slough Reserve, where you can see otters, seals, and countless bird species in their natural habitat.

Taking a guided tour can provide more insights and enhance your experience, and many people highlight the knowledgeable guides who make the tours both educational and enjoyable.

Photography Spots

Capitola’s picturesque landscapes make it a haven for photographers.

The Capitola Wharf provides excellent vantage points for capturing sunset photos and the colorful houses along the beach.

Many photographers also recommend the views from Depot Hill, which offers panoramic shots of the coastline.

The serene environment and the natural beauty of Capitola make it an ideal location for both amateur and professional photographers.

For those looking to expand their portfolio, exploring unique and unexplored spots can provide additional inspiration.

Attend Local Workshops

If you enjoy learning new skills or hobbies, Capitola offers a variety of workshops catered to different interests.

One popular option is the Santa Cruz Art League, where you can join classes in painting, pottery, and other art forms.

The league is known for its experienced instructors and welcoming atmosphere.

Similarly, the Capitola Seashell Shop offers fun, beach-themed craft workshops for all ages.

Discover Local Music and Theater

Capitola has a growing arts scene with plenty to offer music and theater enthusiasts.

The Capitola Esplanade often hosts live music performances, especially during the summer, creating a lively atmosphere by the beach.

The Capitola Performing Arts Center is another excellent venue that features a variety of performances, including theater productions, musical acts, and comedy shows.

Visitors frequently highlight the quality of the performances and the cozy, intimate setting of the venue.

Book a Wine Tasting Tour

The Santa Cruz Mountains, just a short distance from Capitola, are renowned for their vineyards and wineries.

Booking a wine tasting tour can be an enjoyable way to spend a day, sampling excellent local wines while taking in stunning vineyard views.

Many tours also include behind-the-scenes looks at the winemaking process and often come highly recommended for their informative guides and delightful tastings.

Visit Capitola Library

Book lovers will enjoy a visit to the Capitola Branch Library.

This recently renovated library offers a tranquil environment perfect for reading or simply relaxing.

The library also offers various programs and events, such as book clubs and children’s storytimes, making it a great stop for families.

Its modern design and extensive collection are frequently praised by visitors.

Cooking Classes

Capitola also offers cooking enthusiasts the chance to enhance their culinary skills.

New Leaf Community Markets frequently host cooking classes focused on everything from farm-to-table cuisine to international dishes.

These classes are great for both beginners and seasoned cooks.

Participants often mention the knowledgeable instructors and the fun, hands-on experience.

Explore Local Art Galleries

For those who appreciate visual arts, Capitola’s local art galleries are a must-visit.

The Thomas Kinkade Gallery features works by the famous “Painter of Light” and offers a serene environment for art viewing.

Many visitors recommend visiting during one of the gallery’s special events or exhibitions.

Another popular spot is the 41st Avenue Gallery, which showcases a variety of contemporary and classic artworks, often highlighting local artists.

Participate in a Beach Cleanup

If you’re environmentally conscious, participating in a beach cleanup can be a rewarding way to give back to the Capitola community.

Local organizations like Save Our Shores frequently organize cleanup events where volunteers can help keep the beaches pristine.

Volunteers often talk about the sense of community and accomplishment they feel from participating in these cleanups.

Family-Friendly Activities

Capitola is a fantastic destination for families with kids.

The Capitola Children’s Museum provides hands-on exhibits and interactive play areas that children adore.

The museum is continuously praised for its educational and entertaining programs.

Another great family activity is paddle boating on the Soquel Creek, where you can enjoy calm waters and beautiful scenery.

Rentals are available nearby, and it’s typically a hit with both kids and adults.

Experience Local Nightlife

While Capitola may be a laid-back coastal town, it still offers a variety of nightlife options.

The Sand Bar is known for its beachfront location and lively atmosphere, making it a great spot for a fun night out.

If you prefer a more relaxed setting, check out Margaritaville Capitola, which offers delicious tropical drinks and beautiful views of the Capitola Beach.

Explore Capitola’s Enchanting Gardens

For garden enthusiasts, Capitola offers several beautiful gardens to explore.

One notable location is the Monarch Community Garden, where you can walk among lush plants and even spot some butterflies if you’re lucky.

Visitors often praise the peaceful atmosphere and the educational information available about the various plant species.

Another hidden gem is the Flower Festival, a small but charming garden often filled with seasonal blooms and known for its vibrant colors and tranquil setting.

Attend a Surfing Contest

If you’re in town during the right season, attending a surfing contest can be a thrilling experience.

The famous Surfing America Prime events take place at Steamer Lane, just a short drive from Capitola, and attract some of the best amateur surfers in the nation.

These events are well-organized and provide a great opportunity to watch skilled surfers ride impressive waves.

Indulge in a Food Truck Feast

Capitola hosts several food truck events throughout the year, offering a diverse range of cuisines and treats.

One popular event is the Food Truck Thursday, held every first Thursday of the month at Esplanade Park.

You’ll find everything from gourmet burgers to artisanal ice cream, making it a fantastic way to explore local flavors.

Many people appreciate the variety and quality of food, as well as the lively community vibe.

Explore the Capitola Wharf at Night

Capitola Wharf transforms into a serene and picturesque spot at night.

Taking a leisurely stroll along the wharf in the evening provides a peaceful way to end your day.

The twinkling lights and the sound of waves create a magical ambiance that’s perfect for relaxation or a romantic walk.

Visitors often mention how the wharf offers a different but equally beautiful experience after sunset.

Where to Find Local Souvenirs

Picking up a few souvenirs can help you remember your visit to Capitola.

The Esplanade features several shops where you can find unique local items, such as Capitola Seashell Shop for beach-themed gifts and the Village Mouse for charming collectibles and toys.

Both stores are frequently praised for their friendly staff and well-curated selections.

Join a Guided Tour

If you prefer a structured way to explore Capitola, joining a guided tour can be an excellent option.

Several local companies offer walking tours that cover the town’s rich history and cultural landmarks.

Many participants enjoy the insights and stories shared by knowledgeable guides, which add a deeper layer to their Capitola experience.

Biking Around Capitola

Biking is a popular way to get around Capitola, thanks to its scenic bike trails and well-maintained paths.

Renting a bike from a local shop like Epicenter Cycling allows you to explore at your own pace.

It’s also an eco-friendly way to visit different parts of the town without worrying about parking.

Enjoy Fireworks by the Beach

If you plan to visit Capitola during the 4th of July, you’re in for a treat.

The town hosts a spectacular fireworks display at the beach, attracting both locals and tourists.

It’s said that finding a good spot on the beach early ensures the best views, and the festive atmosphere makes it a memorable experience for all ages.

Attending Craft Fairs

Capitola hosts several craft fairs throughout the year where local artisans showcase their handmade goods.

The Capitola Art & Craft Fair is a popular event that takes place in Esplanade Park, offering everything from handmade jewelry to home decor.

Visitors highlight the variety and quality of the items available, making it a must-visit for anyone interested in unique, artisanal products.

Horseback Riding Adventures

For a more adventurous activity, consider going horseback riding through the nearby redwood forests and coastal trails.

Monterey Bay Equestrian offers guided trail rides suitable for all experience levels, allowing you to enjoy Capitola’s natural beauty from a unique perspective.

Many riders praise the friendly staff and well-cared-for horses, making it a highly recommended experience.

Kayaking in Monterey Bay

Monterey Bay, just a short drive from Capitola, offers excellent kayaking opportunities.

Renting a kayak and paddling through the bay allows you to get up close with marine life, including sea otters, seals, and various bird species.

It’s said that early mornings offer the calmest waters and the best chances to see wildlife.

For more details and locations for kayaking, check out must-see historical landmarks in Rhode Island for added travel ideas.

Final Thoughts

Capitola, California, offers a delightful mix of activities, from relaxing beach days to cultural experiences and outdoor adventures.

Whether you’re visiting for a weekend getaway or an extended stay, there’s something here for everyone to enjoy.

Plan your trip around your interests and take advantage of the local tips to make the most of your visit to this charming coastal town.

Check out one of the finest fish and chips joints in Rhode Island for more coastal culinary experiences.

Avery Ingram

Avery Ingram


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