The 4-Hour Rule: Santa Cruz

Tattoos by the pool, sunset kayaking and surfing with the pros

By Diane Rommel

The Dream Inn Santa Cruz Is a Surfing and SUPing Xanadu
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05 June 2018

As of press time, Santa Cruz is looking at 10 straights days of sun and 70 degrees.

If you’re dreaming of experiencing a beach without fog, we found your destination.

Set nav systems for the wholly renovated Dream Inn in Santa Cruz — and then schedule a season’s-best weekend filled with surfing, SUPing, and tattoos and tacos by the pool.

Preferably in that order. Tattooist’s orders.


WHERE TO STAY

The oceanfront Dream Inn was one of our favorite hotels in California even before its extremely full-on renovation. First opened in 1963, it’s beautifully channeled that mid-century coastal California vibe for decades — but it now comes with of-the-moment amenities like poolside yoga (and tattoos, on the weekend). Our ideal path would lead directly from our private, oceanview patio to the Jack O’Neill Lounge, offering photos and memorabilia from the golden age of surfing (plus mimosas).

WHAT TO DO

Plan to spend your entire weekend on Monterey Bay. Sunset kayaking tours glide past otters, seals, and more aquatic wildlife. Learn to stand-up paddleboard in a humiliation-free zone (read: alone, with your instructor) during a private lesson. Or up your surfing skills in a one-on-one with former pro surfer Bud Freitas.

WHAT TO SEE

Got a kid on board? Even if they haven’t seen The Lost Boys lately, the boardwalk amusement park is worth a visit. Significant other? Take her horseback riding across Wilder Ranch State Park, just north of the city.

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WHERE TO EAT

For breakfast, the Seabreeze, with tasty food, and lots of it (the portions are ridiculous). For lunch, try the Cali-inflected Afghan menu at Laili, named for a Persian epic romance and the result of many years of hard work by its Afghan-born founder, Wafi Amin, a U.S. transplant since 1975. And for dinner, make a rez at Oswald, with hearty West Coast fare (wild Alaskan halibut with sweet potatoes, Dungeness crab with avocado) and killer craft cocktails (like the Violet Femme with tequila, hibiscus and ginger).

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