Capitola: Color by the Sea
I am one of those persons who pays attention to road signs when driving around. That habit gets a little bit more intense when I am on a road trip.
After an unhealthy dose of fried artichokes (so good!), we continued moving north along CA-1.
The gloomy skies started to open up just when I spotted the “Santa Cruz County Line” sign.
I felt beyond excited since I was officially on new territory.
My first stop had to do with a cement ship (yes, such a thing exists) but I will leave that story for later.
Since I love colorful places, the first post published in this blog about Santa Cruz County should be about Capitola By-the-Sea.
The village presents an interesting mix of prettiness and history (more proof that California’s beach towns rock).
Now, get ready to get a tour of this multicolored village.
Frederick A. Hihn, a German immigrant, acquired an area known as Soquel Landing (from a family who owned the land by a Mexican grant) and paid for the first wharf in 1857. The wharf was supposed to serve as an outlet for produce and lumber from the interior.
Today, the wharf is used for fishing, boat renting and other recreational activities.
A walk around the structure is a necessity because of the views.
To one side, it is possible to admire the rocky, chalky cliffs that are so common in the Monterey Bay. Gorgeous houses hang from the cliffs with charm.
To the other side, you have Capitola’s beach and town (which is an a depression among the cliffs). This is where the views explode with color.
In one of the previous photos, you probably noticed a row of colorful apartments. Almost everybody called then “TheVenetians” and they happened to be one of the symbols of Capitola.
The historical references are confusing (at least to me). Some say the wharf wasn’t as successful as Hinh wanted it to be. Others say he was just too ambitious (a businessman after all) and wanted to make more money of his property.
In 1869, he approved a ten-year lease agreement to Samuel Alonzo Hall (known for helping to establish the nearby town of Soquel). Hall wanted to farm the land but found himself letting beach visitors camp in his leased property.
His daughter convinced him to open a camp. After investing in sturdy tents and other amenities, he called the development Camp Capitola. It is believed Capitola refers to the main character of a book loved by Hall’s daughter.
The Camp was a success. People from the interior kept coming to cool themselves during the summer.
Once it was time to renew the lease, Hinh raised the price. Hall had to leave but Hihn kept exploding the land for tourism purposes.
There was some sort of hotel development while Hihn was still alive. However, construction of the Venetian Court, in the Mediterranean Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival, and Mission Revival architecture styles, began in 1924 and continued for several years.
They are inscribed in the National Register of Historic Places as one of the first condominium seaside developments in California (others claim it is the FIRST of such developments in the state).
The two rows of colorful units nearest to the beach are privately owned condos (many of which are available as vacation rentals by owner). The large brown building in the back row (nearest to the street) is now operated as the Capitola Venetian Hotel.
Since the structures are private property you cannot walk freely around. Pictures have to be taken from the beach, wharf or from other points.
The Soquel Creek’s headwaters are located in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It flows through Capitola before it empties in the Soquel Cove (in the Monterey Bay).
I have discussed at length Capitola’s resort past. As you can imagine, people have built vacation houses along the stream.
These houses have more of a beach cottage feeling and come in bright colors too.
The most peculiar house is the one built to resemble a windmill.
A bridge, once used for a train, crosses the Soquel Creek. According to what I have read, the bridge can be crossed by pedestrians (sounds crazy, have you seen that altitude?).
An infamous restaurant called Shadowbrook is located next to the creek and can be reached via cable car.
The charm of Capitola goes back to its origins. Hinh made sure his property had a hint of his native Germany. He planted trees and gardens and built parks and walking paths.
When we got out of the main road and drove around town looking for a parking lot, my husband said “Let’s stay here all day.”
That is how Capitola makes you feel. The town is so cute and alive that by instinct you want to stay there for a long time.
I recommend paying a visit to Lumen Gallery. There are hand-crafted jewelry, blown glass, ceramics, small paintings, mobiles, clocks and much more. Pay a visit. You are going to thank me later.
For more gallery hopping, you can stop by Art Inspired, Craft Gallery, Pacific Gallery, Sea Breeze Gallery and /or Thomas Kincade Gallery.
Other unique stores are Capitola Seashells and Phoebe’s.
If you are into clothes or accessories shopping, there are a lot of stores selling all sorts of goods with the characteristic hippie / surfer Santa Cruz vibe.
There are a lot of options to eat. I am not going to make recommendations since I didn’t like what I ate in town. I was mislead by Yelp (once again). Therefore, research properly before visiting or ask the locals for their recommendations.
Based on what I observed (long lines), people like Pizza My Heart, Avenue Café and Zelda’s.
The food I had wasn’t good but the ice cream was divine. The Village Grill & Creamery has fun flavors such as Salty Bear, Heaven and Choco PB. Ask for samples if you do not what to order.
History lovers can visit the village’s museum.
- Use Bay Porter exit on CA-1 to go directly to the heart of town.
- There are multiple parking lots in town.
- Visit this page for more info: http://www.capitolavillage.com/
What do you think about the colors of Capitola?
Pin it for later?