• Heidi Nicolle

Santa Cruz & San Fran: Fun for the Whole Family


After two years apart from Ryan’s family due to the pandemic, we finally were able to get together and have a fun for the whole family trip! We started our trip in Santa Cruz. This Surf City, USA town has so much offer and we loved exploring! Some of the things we did on our vacation were:


  1. Redwoods

  2. Mystery Spot

  3. Biking around Santa Cruz to the Boardwalk

  4. Surfing

  5. Capitola

  6. Davenport (yes this is where the abandoned swing is- no we didn’t hike down)

  7. Monterey Bay Aquarium

Let’s jump into the Redwoods first! You can head up to the Redwoods by driving or taking the train from the Santa Cruz Pier. Driving it’s about 20-25 minutes from Santa Cruz to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park or you can take the Santa Cruz Beach Train (get on at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk) to Roaring Camp (located right next to the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park). It is about a 1 hour train ride from the Pier to the Redwoods.

Once at Roaring Camp, I highly recommend booking the Redwoods Forrest Steam Train (sit on the trains with no roof for an ariel effect through the Redwoods). This train will run about 75 minutes through a guided tour with all the history of the Redwoods! It is such an experience! If you drive you can park either at the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park or Roaring Camp. Each cost apx. $10.

We drove our car to Roaring Camp and had so much fun on the Redwoods Forrest Steam Train. Once back to base at Roaring Camp there are numerous selections for lunch all with picnic tables and places to sit out to enjoy. After lunch, we did an easy walk at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park to explore a little more!

On the way home from the Redwoods, we stopped at The Mystery Spot! This is a must for kids or giant kids like ME! This spot is a gravitational anomaly where you can walk up walls, water flows upward and heights of your friends can change. It takes about 1 hour for the $8 per person guided tour and will leave you laughing and feeling like a kid again!

After a full day of fun, we headed back to our beautiful Airbnb at Pleasure Point which has some of the best surfing in all of California. So many of these homes feature bikes, surfboards and more for the whole Santa Cruz experience. We loved taking the electric bikes to the Boardwalk and going out for morning and evening surfing & paddle-boarding. Also at low tide, there are tons of tidal pools filled with sea life. We spent so many nights walking the beach and exploring.

Day Two we headed down to Monterey Bay to check out the Aquarium. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a little over an hour from Santa Cruz. The aquarium is stunning! It was built into the ocean with fresh sea water flowing through most of the exhibits.

We learned so much about the ocean environment and animals. After a fun filled morning, we headed to Fisherman’s Wharf to grab some yummy sea food! The Wharf has so many restaurants all with ocean side views.

We did a little searching at lunch and found two beaches known for having sea glass. So we headed to Lovers Beach and found so many pieces of green & turquoise sea glass. It is best to go at low tide. If you have time the best way to wind down after a fun day in Monterey is at the Refuge Spa in Carmel. With plunge pools and top notch massages this is one of my favorite spots to visit.

Day Three in Santa Cruz, we did a quick 15 min drive to Capitola for shopping and exploring. This is also where you will find the picturesque multi-colored beach houses. After getting our fill of shopping, we took about a 30 minute drive north to Davenport.

Davenport is where you will find the abandoned beach swing although we didn’t do the hike down (very, very steep). I have heard rumors of an easier way to get down so we did a little searching. Although we didn’t find the alternative route, we did find a beautiful beach packed with sea glass and another swing! We also met some new friends a real wolf and his owner 💕

After four magical nights in Santa Cruz, we headed about an hour and a half north to San Francisco. I used to live in San Fran and had been missing my favorite drinks from The Buena Vista. We stayed at what I consider one of the best places to stay at in San Francisco: The Fairmont in Ghirardelli Square.

It was Fleet Week when we visited, which takes place on the Marina Green but has stunning private views from the Mustard Deck at Ghirardelli Square especially for the air show. This location is in the heart of San Francisco but set back from the super touristy Fisherman’s Wharf. You can also quickly walk to the Marina Green, Palace of Fine Arts, Lombard St and so many locations in Ghirardelli Square & Fisherman’s Wharf. We had a 2 bed/ 2.5 bath condo with a full kitchen and a fire-placed living-room.

Don’t forget to grab a treat from Ghirardelli & stop by SF Brewing Company for some food and drinks!

Be back soon my ISMS family! Where should we explore next? Comment Below 👇🏼


xoxo Heidiisms 💋

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