Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Capitola, CA

  • Published 2022/07/28

Nestled on the coast of Monterey Bay, Capitola is a lovely city just two hours away from San Francisco.

The small city is a popular tourist destination, and people from all over come to experience its sandy beaches and lovely parks.

However, Capitola has a lot more to it than just beaches; it’s home to an assortment of eateries, shops, museums, and entertainment.

The city’s close-knit community also hosts several festivals throughout the year.

One thing is for sure—the city has plenty for tourists to enjoy and explore.

These are the best things to do in Capitola, California:

Explore the Charming City of Capitola on Foot

View of Capitola sunset

yhelfman /

California is known for its bright, golden sunshine.

Capitola’s weather is usually pleasant, which makes it perfect for exploring by just walking around.

This delightful city is easy on the eyes and serves incredible views of the ocean and sandy beaches.

Entryway of Capitola wharf pier

Michael Vi /

You can discover new shops and cafes along your way and try some Californian street food while you’re at it.

Long walks on the palm-lined streets while soaking in the golden sunlight will make you love this gorgeous city even more.

People walking along capitola's beachfront trail

christopher babcock /

Learn about the Local History at the Capitola Historical Museum

The Capitola Historical Museum offers ever-changing displays and exhibitions about the history of the city and its lovely coastal community.

Its displays include artifacts and old memorabilia that beautifully describe the local history.

Located on Capitola Avenue, the museum is next to Capitola City Hall.

Visit the Capitola Historical Museum to learn more about this incredible city and appreciate its history.

Sunrise or Sunset at Capitola Beach

Sands and water of Capitola Beach

Lux Blue /

Perched along the northern end of Monterey Bay, Capitola City Beach is a well-liked sandy urban beach.

It is perfect for enjoying the central coast weather while relishing breathtaking ocean views.

The beach offers volleyball courts, showers, shops, restaurants, restrooms, a fishing pier, and much more.

Sunset over Capitola Beach

Larry Satterberg /

Surfing is pretty popular here, and you will find many surfers enjoying the ocean waves.

The beach is also frequently visited by birdwatchers.

There are benches over the beach where you can sit and enjoy the view.

Don’t forget to catch the magnificent view of sunset or sunrise from Capitola City Beach.

Visit the Thomas Kinkade Signature Gold Gallery of Capitola

Do you know that every one in 20 houses in America possesses at least one copy of Thomas Kinkade’s work?

The beautiful Thomas Kinkade Signature Gold Gallery displays American artist Thomas Kinkade’s paintings.

The legendary artist was also known as the “Painter of Light” and painted many portraits of pastoral settings and idyllic subjects.

He was also known for his collage art.

You can see Kinkade’s original work in the gallery, including signed proofs and Master Edition works.

Visit the lovely Thomas Kinkade Signature Gold Gallery to view the work of this venerable American artist.

Shop until You Drop at the Capitola Mall

Santa Cruz’s only indoor mall, Capitola Mall, has been operating since 1977.

Located along 41st Avenue, the mall has over 80 stores, eateries, and entertainment avenues.

It boasts a perfect blend of local artisan stores and major department stores.

The mall has every American staple store, including Target, Macy’s, Kohl’s, and much more.

Along with stores, it has various eating establishments, including Olive Garden, Five Guys Burger and Fries, Subway, and Starbucks.

Stroll around Capitola Mall to best explore what it has to offer and experience the quintessential American mall.

Spend a Relaxing Day at New Brighton State Beach

The waters of New Brighton State Beach

Jim Feliciano /

New Brighton State Beach, situated east of Santa Cruz’s Monterey Bay, is a beach park in Capitola.

It covers an area of about 95 acres and offers sweeping views of the Californian coast.

It’s famous for offering visitors the opportunity to enjoy recreational activities such as camping, hiking, fishing, surfing, and swimming.

View of New Brighton State Beach from a hill

Richard Masoner, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Its shores and waters provide a home to a lot of wildlife, including rock crabs, sea stars, dolphins, sea lions, sea otters, pelicans, and so many more.

New Brighton State Beach also has designated areas where you can have a picnic while enjoying the stunning view and the sound of waves crashing.

The beach’s main entrance also has a gift shop in the Pacific Migrations Visitor Center where you can buy souvenirs to commemorate your visit to Capitola.

Participate in the Annual Capitola Art & Wine Festival

People at Capitola Art & Wine Festival

David A. Litman /

The Capitola Art & Wine Festival is a fun weekend event where you can drink exceptional wines and artisanal food while admiring locally made crafts.

The annual festival is held in mid-September and provides the last hurrah of the summer.

It showcases the art of more than 160 talented artists, exceptional wines from over 222 wineries in Santa Cruz, and more.

Musical performers during the Annual Capitola Art & Wine Festival

David A Litman /

There are many exciting options to choose from when it comes to food, from Hawaiian poke to falafels.

Along with incredible food, wine, and art, the festival also provides entertainment with live music, local dance, street performers, and more.

Attend the Capitola Art & Eine Festival to satisfy your inner gastronome while enjoying gorgeous art and fantastic entertainment.

Go Fishing at the Capitola Wharf

Night view of Capitola Wharf

yhelfman /

Located on Wharf Road, the Capitola Wharf is a pier perched over the Pacific Ocean.

There are various condominiums and vacation homes situated near the dock.

Nearby, there are also several restaurants where you can enjoy the view of the pier while dining.

The pier provides breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the blue sky.

Signage of Capitola Wharf

Francis XT /

You can enjoy fishing while appreciating the beauty of the area.

The Capitola Wharf is only about 260 meters in length and is never jam-packed.

You can enjoy long and peaceful walks here while relishing the beauty of the dotted shoreline and pastel buildings.

Watch the stunning sunset or sunrise at the Capitol Wharf, and you’ll thank yourself later.

People on Capitola Wharf

Afia Naaz /

Learn to Ride the Waves with Capitola Beach Company

People surfing on the waters of Capitola

Michael Barajas /

Capitola is a fantastic place to catch a wave, so don’t forget your surfboard.

If you’re interested in surfing, check out Capitola Beach Company, a fantastic surfside beach boutique that offers surfing and paddleboarding lessons.

If you don’t know how to surf, their experienced and well-trained instructors will take good care of you.

A surfboard on the shore of Capitola

Michael Barajas /

Situated along Monterey Avenue, Capitola Beach Company provides all the necessary gear with the lessons, so you don’t have to buy or rent anything.

If you already know how to surf, you can rent surfboards and other such things from this surf shop at a reasonable price.

Sample Wines at the Armida Winery Tasting Room

Exterior of Armida Winery

jejim /

Santa Cruz boasts some of the best wineries in the region.

Their exceptional wines are made with grapes grown and harvested in the country’s mountainous region.

The Armida Winery Tasting Room offers exquisite wines and breathtaking views.

It is nestled in a picturesque location with the mountains of Santa Cruz on one side and Monterey Bay on the other.

The tasting room offers an impressive collection of handcrafted, vineyard-designated wines.

It provides wines from some of the most renowned wineries in the region, including Durell Vineyard, Maple Vineyards, and more.

You can taste different varieties of Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, Zinfandel, and many more at the Armida Winery Tasting Room.

Dine While Gazing at the Ocean at Paradise Beach Grille

Exterior of Paradise Beach Grille

jejim /

The fantastic Paradise Beach Grille has been serving delicious American food and fresh seafood since 1998.

It has been voted the best restaurant in the city for seven years.

This restaurant in Capitola Village is the perfect place to have lunch while enjoying the stunning ocean view.

The menu boasts a wide variety of delicious food, from salads to steaks, along with vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options.

It also provides an extensive collection of wines to pair with your meal.

Satisfy your hunger at Paradise Beach Grille and enjoy mouth-watering dishes and stunning ocean views.

Have a Lovely Meal at Shadowbrook Restaurant

Founded in 1947, Shadowbrook Restaurant provides a unique dining experience and offers indoor, outdoor, and rooftop options.

The diverse menu provides delicious American cuisine with a twist.

Some of its most famous dishes are Thai-style game hen, hazelnut-crusted brook trout, and honey-glazed pork chops.

The eatery also provides vegan and vegetarian options, some of the best being their sunflower seed risotto, black truffle gnocchi, stuffed portobello, and soba noodle medley.

Located on Wharf Road, Shadowbrook Restaurant also offers complimentary shuttle services to everyone within a three-mile radius.

So if you are near the restaurant, you can call them, and they will pick you up and drop you off at the restaurant for free.

Drink Crafted Ales at Sante Adairius Rustic Ales

Sante Adairius Rustic Ales is a small but charming brewery that serves old-world-style ales and other types of brilliant beers.

This brewery focuses on the quality and the craft to ensure that the end product is extraordinary.

It serves the best craft beer in the city.

Some of its best-selling brews are the Four Legs Good Blond Quad, American Wild Ale, Saison Bernice, Love’s Armor, Maiden Fields Berliner Weisse, and Deaf Stewart Witbier.

Situated on Kennedy Drive, Sante Adairius Rustic Ales is a perfect place for you if you love beers.

Satisfy Your Sweet and Savory Cravings at Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticceria

Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticceria serves delicious desserts and pastries along with deli sandwiches, salads, and breakfast food.

Enjoy scrumptious cakes and pastries to satisfy your sweet tooth.

The bakery’s signature cakes include blackberry bramble, orange chiffon, multi-fruit tart, chocolate mousse, salted caramel cake, and old-fashioned chocolate cake.

Apart from their mouth-watering menu items, diners also love coming to this bakery for its cozy ambiance.

Gayle’s Bakery is located on Bay Avenue.

Treat Yourself to a Unique Stay at the Capitola Venetian Hotel

Exterior of the Venetian Hotel

Jon Bilous /

Located on Capitola City Beach, the Capitola Venetian Hotel is a boutique hotel that offers several amenities and sweeping views.

It has been voted one of the best hotels on the coast of California.

Designed in a Mediterranean style, the hotel features hand-carved doors like those in Venice.

Entrance to the Capitola Venetian Hotel

Afia Naaz /

The Capitola Venetian Hotel offers different types of suites to cater to its guests’ varying preferences.

Book a stay at this hotel on Wharf Road, enjoy ocean views from your room, and have a pleasant time.

Order Pizza at Caruso’s Tuscan Cuisine

Caruso’s Tuscan Cuisine is situated inside the Capitola Mercantile, a retail complex fashioned like traditional indoor European bazaars.

This family-run restaurant offers excellent authentic Italian food.

Its menu features 12-inch wood-fired pizzas and classic pasta meals and appetizers.

Every dish is made fresh on-site and is served for lunch and dinner seven days a week.

At Caruso’s Tuscan Cuisine, reservations can be made for parties of six or more.

De-Stress at Sage Float Spa

Located on 41st Avenue, Sage Float Spa offers a peaceful environment that will give you the chance to inwardly address any difficulties you might be experiencing.

Reduce stress, improve your sleep, inspire your creativity, and strengthen your connection to intuition.

Float soundlessly in an Epsom salt solution that has been highly concentrated.

The float pods’ silence and darkness make them ideal for complete relaxation.

Your float session will leave you feeling completely unwinded, de-stressed, and re-energized.

Sage Float Spa provides float treatment in addition to having a sauna and a massage selection to round off your day of pampering.

Enjoy Margaritas and Mexican Dishes at Margaritaville

Building sign of Margaritaville

jejim /

Since its recent renovation and refurbishment in 2015, Margaritaville has been a Capitola institution for gourmet dining for more than three decades.

Despite having the same name as the well-known Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville national casual dining chain, the restaurant is a standalone, independent establishment run by the Santa Cruz business Sunset Hospitality Group.

It offers a wide selection of exquisite, freshly made Mexican meals, concentrating on seafood delicacies.

In addition to handcrafted margaritas, Margaritaville offers traditional Mexican classics like chicken mole enchiladas.

The establishment also has a dog-friendly patio area that sits right on the water.

Margaritaville is located in Capitola Village.

Bring Your Kids to the Santa Cruz Children’s Museum of Discovery

The Santa Cruz Children’s Museum of Discovery, perfectly situated inside Capitola Mall, is a well-liked destination for entertainment and early education.

All the youngsters who come to the museum are encouraged to develop an infinite curiosity and a passion for learning.

Children will experience the world people live in via interactive play while also developing their motor skills.

Young kids will surely have a ton of fun in a clean and safe setting.

In addition, the Santa Cruz Children’s Museum of Discovery also hosts special play dates and birthday celebrations.

Stay the Night at Monarch Cove Inn

You’ll find Monarch Cove Inn on Capitola’s famous Depot Hill.

The hotel, perched on a sea cliff, offers stunning views of Monterey Bay’s sweeping curve.

Accommodations are carefully tucked away in a paradise for monarch butterflies and flower-filled meadows.

Enjoy a delightful stay on Monarch Cove Inn’s 2.5-acre estate, which features individually designed Victorian bedrooms and cottages that thoughtfully fuse the past with the present.

Appreciate their stunning facility and the tranquil, perfect location for a wedding or vacation in the neighborhood.

Final Thoughts

Capitola, which boasts a large selection of beachside shops, eateries, and tourist activities, is one of the most popular destinations on the West Coast.

It’s an excellent place to consider if you’re interested in art galleries, surfing, and top-notch breweries.

For an incredible experience, start planning your trip and refer to this list of things to do in Capitola, California!

Best Hotels in Capitola

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