On the northern coast of California, Capitola is a small, charming town that somehow gives off both vintage California and European vibes. That’s probably why it’s one of the most visited towns in the state!
The calm nature of the town is so comforting and friendly that it’s hard to leave. We were all pretty bummed the day we left.
So, if you’re looking for a relaxing, small town beach getaway or extending a trip to the Bay Area- read below on my best tips for Capitola!
How to Get to Capitola
SJC: The closest airport to Capitola is San Jose International Airport, it’s a little over 30 miles away and about 45 minutes without traffic. SJC is a small-ish, easily manageable airport.
SFO: San Francisco International Airport is roughly 60 miles north of Capitola and about an hour away without traffic. SFO is a beast of an airport. You’ll most likely find more direct options for flights at a cheaper price, but you’ll have to deal with the craziness.
OAK: Oakland International Airport is about 65 miles away from Capitola. Unless you’re starting your trip in the Bay Area and then heading to the beach, I wouldn’t recommend flying into Oakland for a Capitola trip. But if you’re staying in the Bay first, I prefer it because it’s smaller than SFO.
Read over my expert tips for flying with kids here. If you’re traveling with teeny tiny ones, read my tips for flying with newborns here.
Where to Stay in Capitola with Kids
Capitola Venetian. LOVE. A funky, all-suite, boutique hotel right on the beach. Each suite is different, some are studios while others offer 2 bedrooms, some have beach views and balconies too. It’s in the perfect location, right on the beach and right next to the bridge to walk over to the Village. It also offers free parking. It’s a little pricey and they book up fast, but it’s SO worth it. (Note that the colorful houses are privately owned, and some are available for rent. The hotel rooms are the lighter brown houses behind them.)
Capitola Beach Suites. Just steps behind the Venetian, this all-suite boutique hotel has studio and 1-bedroom options, all with full kitchens. Almost all rooms have ocean views too! There’s a roof-top terrace with a fireplace and gorgeous views too.
Best Western Plus Capitola Inn. Less than a mile away from Capitola Beach and the Village, BW offers many types of rooms including 1-bedroom suites with a mini-fridge and microwave. There’s an outdoor pool and hot tub, free breakfast, free parking, and laundry facilities. Short walk to Hopper’s Beach or less than a mile away from Capitola Beach.
Fairfield Inn. A very family-friendly hotel at a reasonable price. Offers King or Queen suites that have a seating area and kitchenette. It has all of the amenities you would want in a hotel—pool and hot tub, free breakfast, free parking, laundry facilities, even beach chairs. It’s a short walk to Hopper’s Beach.
What to Do in Capitola with Kids
A popular beach in the area, Capitola Beach offers you everything you need for a fun beach day.
There are volleyball courts, showers, lifeguards, restrooms, and a fishing pier. You’ll see people playing in the water, boogie boarding, kite flying, or even kayaking away from the shore. (The Wharf has rental shops).
It’s also a short walk in the sand over to the Village, where there are plenty of restaurants and shops. The beach is also host to many different family-friendly events all summer, like movie nights, art shows, or outdoor music. Parking (try parking at the Village and walk over) to find so come early!
New Brighton Beach
If you want less crowds, this is your beach. It’s a little secluded and offers a quieter, more relaxing atmosphere. It’s wide with plenty of room to spread out but you do have to go downhill (ramp or stairs, not super stroller or wagon friendly though). There are bathrooms and showers next to the parking lot ($10 to park).
The charming central area of town, the Village has a quaint, European beach-side community vibe. It’s a couple of (stroller friendly) blocks of restaurants, boutiques, galleries, candy and ice cream shops, even breweries and wine tasting rooms. It’s right on the beach and all of the restaurants along the water have large patios— the perfect spot for a meal. There are plenty of benches along the beach as well for parents to relax on while the kids run around in the sand.
Santa Cruz Children’s Museum of Discovery
In the Capitola Mall (which is random, but at least parking is easy), it’s a little over a mile from the center of town but WELL worth the drive. There are multiple rooms jam packed with a range of hands-on activities. A play pizza shop, train area, rock climbing wall, a playhouse with a garden, musical instrument area, kinetic sand box, a race car track…the list goes on. There’s also a gated baby area too. This place is incredible and definitely a must see when in Capitola!
Even if you’re not staying at the Venetian, you have to walk over to take some fun pictures! It’s a few rows of brightly colored Mediterranean-style buildings, right on the beach. Walk around and find your favorite colors for a background, or go on the beach side and use the rows of houses as the backdrop. Wander around and take shots from every angle!
Remember that people ARE in those houses though, so be respectful when you’re walking through.
Note: the best time to get pictures without shadows is between 2pm-4pm. They’ll still look good no matter what time, but I realized that was the time the sunlight was perfect.
Soquel Creek Walk
Right across the street from the Village is a walking path along the Soquel Creek. It’s a quiet and relaxing walk (stroller friendly) with views of the Creek, lots of beautiful flowers and trees, and ducks enjoying the water. The path has the water on one side and houses on the other, but the homeowners are very friendly as you walk by. Enter at Stockton Ave and the Esplanade.
Less than a 10-minute drive from the Village is Cummings Park. It’s actually in neighboring Soquel, but worth getting out of the area to visit. It’s a large park with two different play areas, one for 5+ years, the other for 2-5 years. The highlight of the park is two extra steep wavy slides. The stairway to the slides also leads you to a huge field with a running track around it. Nearby are pavilions with a few picnic tables. there are bathrooms and a medium sized parking lot. Overall, one of the best parks we’ve ever been to!
What to Eat in Capitola with Kids
No matter where I’ve eaten in Capitola, it’s been great! Here are a few suggestions from places that we have visited and enjoyed:
Lunch options – perfect for a meal that you can take to the beach.
Mijo’s Taqueria – Low-key Mexican fare in Capitola Village. Counter service.
Pizza my Heart – Pizza and salads in Capitola Village. Take out only.
Castagnola Deli – Custom sandwiches and beach boxes in Capitola Village.
Avenue Café – Classic American fare a few blocks from Capitola Village.
Dinner options –
Shadowbrook – Very well-known around town for an awesome dining experience. Cliff side with beautiful views and lush scenary. Best place to visit if you’re celebrating something.
Caruso’s Tuscan Cuisine – Classic Italian fare in Capitola Village.
Zelda’s on the Beach – Beachfront in Capitola Village with a huge outdoor patio.
Margaritaville – Mexican cuisine in Capitola Village with an outdoor patio overlooking Soquel Creek.
Paradise Beach Grille – American cuisine in Capitola Village with an outdoor patio overlooking Soquel Creek.
Have you been to Capitola? What’s your favorite part? Let me know in the comments!