Capitola is a picturesque little beach town, located approximately 4 miles to the southeast of Santa Cruz. It has the distinction of being the oldest seaside village in California, dating from 1880. Its principal attraction is of course the beach, where there is also a freshwater lagoon, an ancient, 150-year-old wharf that is now a designated fishing pier, and a marina where you can rent fishing boats. In September each year the wharf area provides the setting for some of the events in Capitola’s colorful Begonia Festival, including the “Begonia Boat Races” that end in the lagoon. Also, directly above Capitola Beach is the Esplanade, skirting the waterfront for the most part, and dotted with several good bars and restaurants. Additionally, Capitola has a fine collection of restored Victorians and smaller, brightly-colored oceanfront cottages, all of which go to add to the flavor of the oceanside village.
Two other beach areas of interest here, lying just to the east of Capitola, a mile or two distant, are New Brighton and Seacliff. Both have good sandy beaches, as well as picnicking and camping facilities. Seacliff also has a unique pier comprised of a 435-foot-long cement ship, the Palo Alto.
East still, lies Aptos, also with a sandy beach— which actually adjoins Seacliff State Beach—and two golf courses. Of particular interest here, a little over 2 miles to the north of Aptos, is the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, a splendid, 10,000-acre redwood park. where you can view the remnants of an ancient Chinese labor camp, and where also the epicenter of the Loma Prieta earthquake—which, on October 17, 1989, devasted parts of Santa Cruz and caused significant damage in the San Francisco Bay Area—is located. There are several miles of scenic hiking trails in the park, including a 1 1/2-mile trail that leads to the epicenter area. The park can be reached by way of Soquel Drive, which runs parallel to Highway 1 along the north, then Aptos Creek Road northward, directly into the park.
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