Santa Cruz, California holds a special place in my heart. It’s where I spent my early twenties. I love the many adventurous I had there. My husband also lived in Santa Cruz, and to us, it is our mutual hometown. However, for tourists, the number one thing people do is head to the Boardwalk. I get it, its a theme park by the beach — a perfect place for family. However, if you find yourself in the beach town over the summer, check out these places.

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El Palomar Restaurant: This spacious Mexican restaurant is a great place to fill up after your adventures at the Boardwalk. The plates are significant and will fill you up. Plus, they have amazing margaritas. Because the boardwalk and Santa Cruz can get a bit chilly at night, a warm plate of enchiladas will warm you up.

Hula Island Cafe: A Hawaiana pleasure. You can grab some spicy curry, meat, or rice dishes — another place to fill up for dinner also if you are planning on going with some friends they have a punch bowl, that four or five people can share.

Twin Lakes Beach: This beach doesn’t have the boardwalk, but I love sitting there, in a sweater, looking out into the water, and drinking a beer. It’s a lovely local spot. It does get busy; however, over the summer and parking is a bit tight.

Seacliff Beach: This beach has a special place in my heart. A lot of first dates here. It’s another great local beach. You can also take a picture next to the concrete freighter, SS Palo Alto. You cannot get on the ship, because it’s unsafe, but you can take a beautiful gram photo.

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Rio Del Mar State Beach: This beach is a lovely family beach. It’s small and has an adjunct parking lot. I love this beach, it’s not as busy as the other ones, and you can spend some good quality time there.

Santa Cruz is a lovely beach town with some many great restaurants, bars, and beaches. So I suggest you walk away from the Boardwalk and take in all the sights.