It’d be hard to find two students who study in exactly the same way. Some enjoy the structure and silence that characterizes McHenry Library on a mid-week morning. Others require the nighttime bustle and caffeination offered up by the numerous downtown coffee shops. No matter how we like to get the job done, though, every UCSC student needs an occasional escape from the ordinary study routine. Thankfully, Santa Cruz has several supreme study spots to offer — many of which you may not have discovered just yet. So the next time you’re itching for some inspiration or just need something to look at besides your desk for a few hours, check out a few of our favorites places for getting educated.


Natural Bridges Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary

The Santa Cruz coastline is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in the world, but few realize that tucked behind Natural Bridges State Park’s rugged shoreline, enveloped by shady eucalypti, a mesmerizing phenomenon takes place every fall and creates a most surreal scene in which to study. Monarch butterflies, a rather durable species within the delicate breed, stop off for the winter at the state park to rest and lay eggs before continuing on their continental migration. Studiers looking for a rejuvenating sea breeze can meander down the sanctuary’s paths and post up on the numerous oversized wooden benches located deep within the eucalyptus grove. Bring a picnic lunch and a jacket to fold beneath your cranium, cradling it while you read and catch glimpses of orange and black in the drizzling sunlight. Butterflies will flit around you. Tranquility will settle your pre-midterm jitters. And you can gloat to your friends, as they bemoan the previous day’s six-hour stint in the library, that you brushed up for finals in a fairy forest.

Natural Bridges is located at 2531 West Cliff Drive. You can bike into the park from Delaware Ave., or drive in and park by the visitor’s center. Parking is $8 for the day. The park is open every day from sunrise to sunset. Monarch migration typically occurs mid-October thru December. Call 831.423.4609 for up-to-date information on butterfly patterns and park hours.

The Abbey

On crisp fall evenings and foggy Santa Cruz mornings, there’s nothing better than the feeling you get when you open the doors of The Abbey, a quaint, cozy coffee shop located at Vintage Faith Church on Mission Street. Setting The Abbey apart from the innumerable other coffeehouses in Santa Cruz is its intimately intricate décor, divine fair-trade coffee selections and the feeling of warmth and laidback luxury it evokes. The interior is rich and moody with unique pieces of art hanging on the walls, a stage and piano at the back of the spacious main room and beautiful pieces of well-worn furniture beckoning all who enter to let their creative and academic juices start flowing. This is an ideal oasis for churning out papers, reading or doing research of any kind since they offer free wireless internet and desktop computer access and are quipped with tons of tables, big and small, and ample places to plug-in. The Abbey also offers up delicious locally-made baked goods, like doughy spiced scones and big flaky croissants, and features a new outdoor patio with the same ambience as inside plus an added level of study-time serenity under the Santa Cruz sky.

The Abbey is located at 350 Mission Street and is open Mon.-Thurs. 7am-8pm, Fri. 7am-9pm, and Sat.-Sun. 8:30am-10:30 pm.

The Owl’s Nest

The newest edition to the list of cafes and food-stops located on the UCSC campus, the Owl’s Nest, located at Kresge College, is a great place to grab a bite to eat and people watch — and it makes an equally decent spot to cram in a quick study session or crank out a few paragraphs of an essay between classes due to its convenient location and ample seating. Since renovations began on the Porter/Kresge dining hall (with construction expected to continue into the winter 2010 quarter), students housed in the nearby dorms or taking classes on the west side of campus have flowed steadily in and out of The Owl’s Nest to pick up brain food on the fly. For students who want to re-fuel while utilizing an hour or two between classes, The Owl’s Nest is equipped with lots of seating and tables to spread out on, as well as tasty tummy-fillers for every time of day. Think breakfast burritos, heaping made-to-order sandwiches, salad “nests” and steaming rice bowls. And if you wait out the rush that sometimes ensues immediately after classes get out, you’ll be able to sit back, put up your feet and enjoy a few moments of reading and relaxation in the middle of a hectic school day.

The Owl’s Nest serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and is open from Mon.-Thurs. 7:30am-8:30pm and Fri. 7:30am-5pm. It is located next to the Kresge town hall building and accepts cash, credit, debit and flexi-dollars.

Swanton Berry Farm

Do you ever get the sensation, whether highlighting your way through a reader or solving equation after equation, that you’ve looked over the same material over and over without really retaining any of it? Instead of turning to study-buddy medications, maybe all you need is a change of scenery. If you’re willing to make the drive, Swanton Berry Farm could be just the thing to de-fuddle your brain and send you soaring towards that coveted “A+”. Study munchies? The Farm Stand at Swanton, found just off Highway 1, is full of sweet and savory digestible fuels, not to mention plenty of coffee. Comfy couches invite you to curl up and get working, and the Farm’s free wi-fi keeps you connected to the greater world, though you’ll feel like you’ve escaped to a perfect, private study sanctuary.

To get to Swanton Berry Farm, drive north on Highway 1 for about 12.5 miles and turn right when you see the farm stand and signs. If you get lost, you can call the farm at 831.469.8804. Swanton Berry Farm is open every day from 8am-6pm.