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Posted by on Jun 15, 2015 | 53 comments

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.

The Wharf

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.

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

A walk around the structure is a necessity because of the views.

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

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.

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

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.

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

Venetian Court

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.

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

The historical references are confusing (at least to me).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.

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

The Camp was a success.  People from the interior kept coming to cool themselves during the summer.

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

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.

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

Since the structures are private property you cannot walk freely around.  Pictures have to be taken from the beach, wharf or from other points.

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

Soquel Creek

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).

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

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.

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

The most peculiar house is the one built to resemble a windmill.

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

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?).

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

An infamous restaurant called Shadowbrook is located next to the creek and can be reached via cable car.

The Village

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.

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

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.”

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

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.

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

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.

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

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.

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

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.

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

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.

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

History lovers can visit the village’s museum.

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California


  • 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:

What do you think about the colors of Capitola?

Pin it for later?

Capitola By-the-Sea is the oldest, and arguably the most colorful, resort in California's Coast.  This amazing spot has a village, wharf and creek.


  1. LOVE these photos! Esp the one of the pier and the colorful beach bungalows. cheers from

    • Thanks Lana. The bungalows beautify the entire landscape.

    • Ahhhh Lauren! Thanks for your kind words. California never disappoints. And, when I think of all the places I have never been on the state, I think about how much more i can blog about.

    • I would like to stay in one too! I wonder how much is the rent for a week.

    • Heidi, that is a perfect way to describe this village.

  2. What a cool looking place. So colourful and bright, it puts a smile on my face. Lovely blue skies too.
    Adam Jones recently posted..GannetsMy Profile

    • The morning of that day was gloomy and cold. The skies opened up around 12:00 p.m. It is a phenomenon we call June Gloom.

  3. What a gorgeous beach town. I love the cute colorful houses. And the beach is awesome. Looks like a wonderful place to visit or live! Great shots, enjoy your weekend!
    Eileen recently posted..Ocean City, MarylandMy Profile

    • Thanks Eileen. California’s beach towns are very livable places (I live very close to the beach). And, there is always a new beach gown to discover!

  4. What a cute and colorful town! It would be great to visit or live there. I love the beach and the cute houses. Great post and images. Have a happy weekend!
    Eileen recently posted..Ocean City, MarylandMy Profile

  5. Oh wow, I love all of the different colours and the sunshine in these photos! Soquel Creek looks lovely too – such a pretty place. Your posts always put a smile on my face! – Tasha
    Natasha recently posted..Photo Friday: SunsetsMy Profile

    • I think the beach is very beautiful in here but I really liked the houses next to the creek. There are a lot of trees and flowers. It is the perfect place to chill out afar from the crowds.

    • Thanks for stopping by. I love colorful places too. THis town was on my radar for a long time.

  6. Beautiful colors and a beautiful place. I’ve never been so going to have to add it to my list. Need to do a Cali trip soon!
    Jill recently posted..Chimney RockMy Profile

    • Jill, it would be cool to have you here in California. Now, I warn you (happy kind of warning). The state is big and it is difficult to chose what places to visit. But, I know you’ll enjoy it.

  7. This looks like a fun place that I have only faintly heard of, and knew nothing about. Thanks for sharing this! It is definitely going in the plan book.
    Arnie recently posted..Viking Walk York UKMy Profile

    • I noticing this place is not as known as I thought it will be. The are a lot of places along the Central Coast that are virtually unknown even to state residents. I visited Capitola during a long holiday weekend and I didn’t fill it full.

  8. What a cute beach down! Those two rows of colorful houses are really unique! I would like to spend all day there too!
    Anna recently posted..Foodie’s guide to MontrealMy Profile

    • Yes, they are really pretty. The architecture is very interesting. I wanted to get inside the complex (not permitted since it is private property) and take a closer look.

    • The fried artichokes are the bomb. Now, I am craving them all the time. I even saw a food truck dedicated to sell them.

    • Where do you live in Florida? I am assuming it is not that far from the beach.

  9. Love those wonderful bright colors. Does seem like a charming place to visit.

    • Glad you liked “The Venetians.” It is a great place to visit because it is easy to walk around and there are plenty of parking spaces.

    • Paula, we are in the same boat. I love color too. I think that is why I felt so attracted to this village.

    • Thanks Lyn. Glad you liked Capitola.

    • I hope I can keep discovering. There is still a long part of the coast I have not explored.

  10. Who knew that so much color existed on California’s coastline? It certainly is a surprise to me. Makes a very nice change from all the glitz and glamour that I normally associate the state with.

    Really enjoyed your photos, too.
    Linda Bibb recently posted..#TheWeeklyPostcard: Layover in SingaporeMy Profile

    • Like I have mentioned to other commenters, the Central Coast is very relaxed. It does not gets a lot of attention but I think it works better that way. Some of my favorite towns in the state are located in the area.

    • Yeah, I would love to stay and have long walks along the beach.

    • Thanks a lot Victoria. I like to post tons of photos but I also like to put some time writing the article. I try to provide as much information as possible.

    • I very surprised with the places I visited in Santa Cruz. Stay tuned because I have more posts lined up.

  11. Hi Ruth. What a fabulous area, and thanks for the great tour. I love the explosion of color. I wonder if any of the properties on the beach are rentals. Thanks for linking up. #TPThursday
    Nancie recently posted..Korea: A Coffee Quote To Make You GiggleMy Profile

    • Yes, the front two rows are rentals. Now, I do not know how easy / difficult is to secure a spot.

  12. The colorful houses make it look like Candy Town… so pretty! 🙂 I would love to live in one of those houses on the ‘cliff’ overlooking the water.
    Buckeroomama recently posted..Just Things…My Profile

    • Like your “Candy Town” description. I would love to live (or at least vacation) in one of those houses.

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