Aside from the Village, the other main draws to Capitola are its beach and wharf. Since they overlap, I include the two of these in here as the same.
There's been a wharf here in Capitola since the 1850s, and it was the main draw for the first immigrants to the town as they busied themselves with the fishing industry. The beach later became the main source of revenue and tourism to Capitola; its soft sand and quaint surroundings being a prime draw.
The modern Capitola Wharf is fairly new. Much of it was rebuilt in the 1980s. It was threatened to be destroyed in the late 1990s as state funds ran dry, but the wharf thankfully survived. You can stroll out onto the wharf to get a great view of the town and the (hopefully clear) Monterey Bay. There, you'll find fisherman doing the same thing that their forebearers were doing nearly 150 years ago--spending hours on end fishing off the pier, or docking or departing boats to do fishing further away from the shore. There's a also a seafood restaurant at the end of the wharf.
Nearby is Capitola Beach. The beach runs right against the Village, and attracts many each year to catch some rays. The beach itself is split in two by the Soquel River, which divides the beach by eastern and western parts. Be aware that the beach can get quite crowded in the summer, and in the winter, is a big place for washed-up drywood to come ashore after storms. On a clear day (if there's no fog) you'll be able to see right across to Monterey 40 miles away.
Capitola is wonderful because you can walk from the beach to the village, and oh what a lovely village it is. Great restaurants, coffeehouses, galleries, and shops. All with a nice, California laidback vibe which tends to the tourists and locals alike. Since this is right off the beach, there are several surf shops as well, all lending to a true California beachtown experience. But with a bit more class than it's Santa Cruz counterpart.
After all this is mainly a beachtown, and what a wonderful, unspoiled beach this is. The sand seems much softer than it's counter part in Santa Cruz. Much more of a laidback vibe with friendly locals here for the summer knowing the true meaning of relaxation. I found this to be more of a family destination than party beach.
Capitola City Beach is one of the most convenient beaches around. There are shops to the right of it, restrooms and outdoor shower to the left, lots of benches to beach gaze right near the sea wall and available parking throughout the city.
It's perfect when you just want to be at the beach but close to everything. The parking meters take ALL coins (nickels, dimes & quarters) plus there's a Coin Change Machine located on the Esplanade, about 2 blocks from the beach restrooms.
The sand is great for kids who want to dig in. They dredged up a channel so that there's a wide river bisecting the sand and kids can splash around in ankle deep water to their heart's content.
Even though it's the beach, it is still a Northern California beach so the water is cold (at least until you get acclimatized to it) and the wind may make you shiver a bit. Dress in layers so you don't get too cold. If you have wetsuits for the kids, bring it or have them wear it if they plan to be in the water. In late April, with the sun shining, the kids were happy to be splashing around in the water in their swimshorts and to the left of the rock breakwater, I saw some kids in full length wetsuits paddling out to the sea on their surfboards.
But around sunset, the horizon is just so pretty.
Dogs are welcome to walk around the walkways near the beach as do most restarants/shops along the Esplanade.
Capitola Beach is one of the most popular destinations in the greater Santa Cruz area. Because of its location, the area is often warmer and calmer that other parts of the coast. The beach, therefore, is popular with families as well as locals and tourists. People flock here in the summer also because of the fun and interesting shops just off the beach, as well as restaurants and bars. During the summer months there is a shuttle service that takes visitors to the beach since parking is limited.
Just to the north is Pleasure Point, a great surfing destination. There is surfing at the south end of Capitola Beach, but Pleasure Point is bigger and more challenging.
Overall, it is a great place to be - unless you don't like crowds. Then you may prefer one of the extensive State beaches nearby: New Brighton, Seascape, or Sunset. Further south is Manressa, even less visited.
As you can see, Capitola is very kid-friendly and fun. It's like any typical beach scene, but it is more enjoyable due to a favorable location that has less wind and fog than elsewhere along the coast.
Capitola's beach Boardwalk is a fun little bay area getaway with decent restaurants, a healthy/active lifestyle, an ok beach (cold water) and a very picturesque scene. A walk out onto the pier is de rigeur.
I recently spent a day there, which is just about a perfect amount of time. You can combine a Capitola trip with a visit to the Aquarium in Monterey or an extended weekend in Santa Cruz.
Located in the Village of Capitola. California's oldest seaside resort is a charming, eclectic coastal town. The beach is enclosed between two bluffs, and reminds one of a Mediterranean resort. Capitola Beach is bordered by the Esplanade, lined with shops, galleries & dozens of restaurants.
The Village acts essentially as Capitola's downtown and major tourist, business and population center. Tucked between two flat bluffs directly next to the shoreline, as well as running next to the slow Soquel River, the Village looks like a small cream-colored Mediterranean town, except it isn't in Italy. Down in the Village, you'll find plenty of small shops, tucked away cafes, palm trees, restaurants, a wharf, and beaches: each one of them using the Monterey Bay as a backdrop. The Village is a must for visiting the town.
This small but really charming museum showcases the history of the town, from its early Native American inhabitants, its Mexican ranchero owners, its first Italian immigrants, its first resorts in the late 19th century, to the town's present. Capitola, along with Santa Cruz, was one of the West Coast's first true beach towns. It's a cute, tucked away place to explore.
A great way to spend the day out on the water!
built in 1857 and newly refurbished,
the pier is open daily, sunrise to sunset
ppier fishinfg, boat rentals, seasonal moorings.