Oh, the places you’ll go! Santa Cruz has something for everyone, but as an incoming student in a new city, you might be wondering where to begin.
Have no fear — our editors are here to provide you with a non-exhaustive list of our favorite spots around town. From donut shops to beautiful beaches, get out there and explore to your heart’s content!
Sean Nguyen, Production Manager
Taqueria Jalapeños on Laurel St.
My landlord actually recommended this taqueria to my roommate and I on a night when we didn’t know what to get for dinner. So, if there’s a silver lining to the rent I pay in Santa Cruz, it’s that I was blessed with the best taqueria in the city. Everybody has their favorite taqueria — it’s a very personal and subjective topic. Some would even say it’s sacred. These taquerias become our favorite because they’re hinged on memory. I can recount many, many nights where my roommate and I decided to call it quits on dinner, or when I needed some reprieve after an emotionally taxing day of lectures. Jalapeños is a good friend, a sweet lover, a shoulder to cry on, a mentor, a guardian angel, but most importantly, it’s a condiment you put on nachos.
Maya Becker, News Editor
The true gem of Santa Cruz is hidden in plain sight. As you cruise down Heller Drive past the sprawling lawns near Family Student Housing, I implore you to take a right out of campus onto Empire Grade and prepare for the drive of a lifetime. You’ll know you’re on the right track when you cruise over a small wooden bridge — The Portal, as I like to call it — that marks the entrance to an unappreciated oasis. Music is a vital component to the experience, so as you make your way down weaving roads through forests and fields, past llama ranches, and run-down barns, ensure you’re playing your favorite woodsy-folk songs to keep the magic alive.
Sofia Ruster, Co-Editor in Chief
Picture this — it’s nighttime after a long day of classes and deadlines, and you’re craving a pick-me-up. Suddenly, the smell of sweet dough and sugary frosting fills your nose. You close your eyes and the Ferrell’s Donuts sign flashes urgently in your mind. For a whole month, this exact phenomenon happened to me like clockwork. Santa Cruz is home to several Ferrell’s Donuts; fluffy donuts are their specialty, of course. My go-to pastry is the OG glazed, but I’ll grab a maple bar if I’m feeling adventurous. So stop by — you’ll probably see me floating toward the decadent scent of pastries like a cartoon character. (Fun fact: My dad went to the original Ferrell’s Donuts on his prom night in 1978. It’s a family legacy.)
Gwenyth Rodriguez, Copy Lead
Natural Bridges State Beach
Santa Cruz has countless beautiful beaches to offer, but to me, Natural Bridges takes the cake. There are few pleasures as simple as sitting on a big rock, trying to avoid mussel shells beneath your feet, and listening to the waves crash. Get there in the afternoon to watch the sun melt into the sea. When life seems to be nothing but chaos, the sway of the ocean always seems to mellow the world out.
Mia Pabros, Co-Editor in Chief
Garden of Eden
My true favorite spot in Santa Cruz will be spared, and I offer you instead the Garden of Eden. Tucked away alongside Highway 17, this is the perfect place for a peaceful walk or secluded swim. The winding drive takes 20 minutes from campus, or about a two hour hike for the ambitious. While the beguiling Garden of Eden is worth the trek, the San Lorenzo River is twenty-nine miles long, and boasts dozens of similar spots waiting to be found.
Alison Sun, Opinion Editor
Boba tea-loving slugs, many of us Asian Americans, rejoiced this year upon the opening of Ume Tea, a bunny-themed Bay Area bubble tea chain that made its way over the hill to set up shop in a small, violently hot-pink storefront just a stone’s throw away from Santa Cruz Wharf. Enjoy a Thai tea with a crème brûlée topping or a lychee and peach tea slushie, or pay a few dollars extra for the novelty of a “surprise cup,” which includes a pastel-colored mini plush toy or keychain with your drink. The shop consists only of a kitchen and an order window with no official seating area, leaving you to wander down to the beach, admiring the ocean while sipping your milk tea and tapioca pearls through a thick straw.
Prema Reyes, Illustration Editor
Get a Scrambagel, walk home over the San Lorenzo River bridge, lean over, and stare into the green water. But try not to drop any of your everything bagel seeds into the river lest you accidentally cause an everything bagel tree to grow. They’re an invasive species, you know.
Cassie Kim, Fact Lead
Tucked behind Stevenson’s Lower Quad, the Stevenson Knoll is one of my favorite places to sit down with a good book. It offers incredible views of Monterey Bay, the East Field, and the Stevenson Garden. Stop by during an event hosted by Cowell or Stevenson, sunbathe on the cool grass, or explore the lovingly tended Stevenson Garden. After a long day of classes, there is nothing better than settling down on the Knoll; if you stay long enough, you can even watch the sunset transform into starry skies.
Kyle Keller, News Editor
Old Cabin Trail, Wilder Ranch State Park
One of the best parts about the UC Santa Cruz campus is that it’s running distance from Wilder Ranch State Park. A lot of folks know the place for its coastal trails and iconic sea cliffs, but you don’t really “get” Wilder Ranch until you’ve explored its nearly 7,000 acres of backcountry. That’s where Old Cabin comes in. The thing is a pure marvel: a roving, rambling single track that darts down into a lush, redwood-filled gully before re-emerging, amid oyster mushrooms and resplendent ferns, onto the iconic Long Meadow Trail. For a wonderful run/ride/hike via Twin Gates, I recommend starting on Chinquapin Road, grabbing the eastside portion of Eucalyptus Loop, and stacking on Old Cabin and Long Meadow for a lengthy, satisfying return route.