36 Hours on the California Coast (from San Francisco to Santa Cruz)

The coast of California from San Francisco to Santa Cruz is particularly gorgeous in the spring when the hills are still green and the weather tends to be better. In just a quick overnight trip, you can eat well, spend time at the beach, take a hike, and visit a farm.


Saturday Morning

Ferry Building Farmers Market, San Francisco

Start at the Saturday farmers market at the Ferry Building. Go early so you can shop for shelling peas, fava beans and tiny artichokes without dealing with tourist crowds. Pick up some provisions for your road trip, like Della Fattoria’s fig-and-walnut baguette and Andante’s herbed goat cheese. Buy a few of Blue Bottle’s new, adorably packaged iced-coffees (god knows when you’ll have good coffee again). Have breakfast at Primavera and take in the view of the sparkling bay and the Bay Bridge while you eat.


Ocean Beach, San Francisco

Hopefully you’ve remembered to dress in layers because there’s a cold wind blowing at Ocean Beach. Stick to the north side of the beach so you can walk your dog off leash. If you happen to be at the beach around 10am on Saturday mornings, you’ll see the weekly small dog beach walk (less upsetting than expected).


Saturday Afternoon

Downtown Santa Cruz

There are now a handful of casual restaurants in Santa Cruz that are taking advantage of their proximity to terrific local farms. Have lunch at Assembly on Pacific Avenue downtown. It’s a more modern space than you’ll usually find in Santa Cruz, but the menu has broad appeal, with more typical lunch options like a burger and an enormous fried chicken sandwich, as well as less common options, like a wheatberry salad with kale, feta, and dates.

Walk down Pacific Avenue and take in the usual Santa Cruz mix of crazies and surfers. Pop into Bookshop Santa Cruz for something good to read (or to use the restroom). Stop at Verve, another relatively new (and essential) addition to downtown Santa Cruz, for a coffee, or opt for a milkshake at The Penny kiosk in front of Bookshop.


From Santa Cruz, it’s a spectacular 30-minute drive up the coast to Costanoa, one of the few lodging options between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay (and one that doesn’t require a two-night stay).


Costanoa has a few lodging options, including rooms in the two-story lodge, cabins, tent cabins, and RV camping. There’s also a general store, a restaurant and a garden.

Stay in a Doug Fir cabin, which are farther from the general store and restaurant. Sit on the porch swing while the lodge’s handyman fixes the door knob that came off in your hand and take in the view of the green coastal hills and, in the distance, the ocean. When the door is fixed, head out on an easy 3-mile loop hike down to the beach.


Take a Hike

There’s a fair amount of poison oak near the trail, but the views are extraordinary. To the north, you can see the Pigeon Point Lighthouse and to the south, the gorgeous and rugged Northern California coast.


You’ll be back at your cabin in time to open a bottle of wine (there’s a wine opener and two wine glasses in the cabin) and snack on the bread and cheese you bought in San Francisco. You’ll want snacks since the Costanoa restaurant isn’t particularly special. Hit the hot tub early if you can; it gets crowded after dark.


Farm Tour

It only takes about 15 minutes to drive from Costanoa to Harley Farms in Pescadero. Sign up for a tour before hand (they usually fill up quickly, especially in the spring when there are baby goats to see) or just show up to enjoy the scenery, peek in at the goats and buy some of the cheese in the farm’s shop.


You’ll be back in the city before dinner, but it will feel like you’ve been far away.


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