Looking for where to stay and the best things to do in Capitola with kids? You’re in the right spot!
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 and named a best California beach town by USA Today!
It has so much to offer families because there is something for everyone. Beaches, an adorable downtown, delicious food, cute parks, and stunning views everywhere. And my favorite part is how compact and walkable it is. You can easily park your car and not get back into it until you leave town, if you choose (but there ARE a couple of gems you might want to drive to).
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 what to do in Capitola with kids!
And if you’re heading to neighboring Santa Cruz, read over my weekend guide to Santa Cruz!
Where to Stay in Capitola with Kids
We stayed here and LOVED it. 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.)
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!
There’s a roof-top terrace with a fireplace and gorgeous views too.
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.
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.
15 Best Things to do in Capitola with Kids
1. Capitola Beach
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!
2. 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).
3. Capitola Village
The charming central area of town, the Village, has a quaint, European beach-side community vibe. It’s a few (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, or for people to eat takeout from one of the many restaurants in the area.
After we had dinner, we walked through the Village and sat on a bench overlooking the beach. The boys couldn’t sit still for more than a few minutes and jumped on the beach to run around and play in the sand with the other kids. It was such a great evening!
4. 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! An added bonus is that there are a ton of different dining options next door including a Starbucks if you want to go early when it opens.
5. Capitola Venetian Court
Even if you’re not staying at the Venetian, you must 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. We had so much fun exploring and taking pictures of the buildings in our favorite colors.
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.
6. 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 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. I put both boys in the stroller for our walk, and it was very easy to get it through.
It doesn’t take too long to get through it either. Enter at Stockton Ave and the Esplanade.
7. Anna Jean Cummings County Park
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, a great park!
8. Jude Street Park
Another great option for a park for the kids in Capitola, about a half mile away from the Village. Whether you are looking for a place to let your kids run wild or a place to relax and enjoy the sunshine, Jude Street Park is a great option.
It has a playground with a play structure, slide, sandbox, and swings. It’s not the largest play area, but it does the trick.
There are tennis courts, basketball courts, and a soccer field. They’re open to the public, but also used for sports games and tournaments.
There are open grassy areas too, parents can lay out a blanket or have a picnic while the kids run around.
It’s well-maintained, there is limited parking and restrooms on site.
9. Shadowbrook Restaurant
If you’re looking for a fancier option for dinner (but where kids are still allowed). This is in my dining recs below, but I wanted to call it out separately as well because it’s well known in Capitola.
Its uniqueness starts off by being located on a cliff overlooking Soquel Creek and Monterey Bay, so the views are fire. The dining rooms is divided into different areas, and each has its own vibe.
The COOLEST part of the restaurant is that there is a free retro taxi service that will pick you up within a 3 mile radius! But if you’re driving in yourself, the parking is free.
The restaurant is highly rated, not only for its views and atmosphere, but because the service and food are unmatched. If you’re celebrating something while you’re in Capitola with the kids, or just want to be bougie one night, try out Shadowbrook. Make a reservation here.
10. Rent bikes
Capitola, like most beach towns in California, is a great place to rent bikes. There are many rental shops around town, but more importantly, the town is very bike-friendly.
There are many bike trails, but the most famous one is the Capitola Coastal Trail, which is a paved trail that runs along the coast. Another one is the Santa Cruz River Trail that runs along the river and is good for families.
11. Capitola Wharf (due to storm damages, the Capitola Wharf is temporarily closed)
Who doesn’t like taking a stroll down a long wharf? The Capitola Wharf is 855 feet long and is great for a quiet walk or to sit and appreciate the sounds of the ocean.
If you want to get on the water, there’s a rental shop right on the wharf. You can rent a boat, kayaks or SUPs, fishing gear, boogie boards, or wet suits and life jackets. Fishing is very popular on the wharf, so you’ll see a lot of fishermen trying their luck.
There’s also a restaurant on the pier that services fresh, seasonal seafood called Wharf House. Known as a hidden gem on the water, the views and atmosphere are amazing!
If you want to need some indoor fun while you’re in Capitola with kids, let the kids get their energy out at Giggles-N-Wiggles, an indoor play place in Capitola Mall.
This place has all that a kid could want. There’s an obstacle course, ball pit, climbing structures, trampoline, slides, and a dedicated baby area with toys. There’s even an arcade for bigger kids, and a snack bar.
Plenty of seating available for parents and free Wi-Fi too.
13. June Bugs Gym
Another indoor play area option, but June Bugs is dedicated to gymnastics and fitness! There are gymnastics mats, climbing ropes, trampolines, a balance beam, rings, and a ball pit.
On Friday and Saturday mornings they offer Open Gym for kids from walking to 8 years old. Parents can drop their kids off for unstructured floor time with the supervision of coaches. In addition to open play, the coaches coordinate games for the kids.
There are also a variety of classes offered throughout the week that kids can attend for a drop-in fee. Pre-registration is required for all types of classes. This place is such a treat while in Capitola with kids!
14. Head to Santa Cruz
If Capitola is a little too relaxing for you, try bigger Santa Cruz for some action. It’s packed with family friendly attractions.
Santa Cruz firstly is known for its Beach Boardwalk. It’s a classic amusement park with rides, games, fun foods, and arcades. It’s right on Santa Cruz beach, a huge beach with a great atmosphere.
If you want to take a break from the beach, you can head to Cowell Redwoods Park and admire the forest of redwoods. If you really want to have some fun, Roaring Camp Train is a steam train ride through the forest and up the summit of Bear Mountain.
Read over my weekend guide to Santa Cruz for everything else you can do!
Capitola is a breath of fresh air away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It’s calm and laid-back, and probably the exact opposite of where you are visiting from. So, enjoy it!
Appreciate the slowness of Capitola. Take a leisurely stroll around and take in the beautiful scenery that surrounds you. Take a slow bike ride around town. Get a takeout pizza and enjoy an afternoon at the beach.
My favorite part of our trip to Capitola with kids was all the time we spent at the beach relaxing!
What to Eat in Capitola with Kids
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.
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 food in Capitola Village with an outdoor patio.
Paradise Beach Grille – American cuisine in Capitola Village with an outdoor patio.
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.
Wrapping up: Capitola with Kids
Capitola with kids can be such a fun experience. Not only is the atmosphere addicting, but there’s a variety of experiences and attractions that will keep everyone entertained.
Besides the fun beach, the downtown Village, and beautiful scenery, Capitola has lots of gems for little kids like the Children’s Museum and many indoor play areas.
Be sure to look into the Capitola Venetian for an awesome hotel experience! If they’re booked, try to snag a room at the Capitola Beach Suites.
Have fun in Capitola!
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