Four Santa Cruz Hotels to Put on Your Radar

Every hotel has had to develop new health and safety protocols to make travelers feel comfortable in the post-lockdown era. In Santa Cruz, historic inns and modern lodgings have also reflected their region’s renowned creativity by enticing visitors to overnight with everything from outdoor concerts to in-room spa treatments, breakfast in bed, feasts on the beach and patio movie nights. Here are some of them.

Featured Photo: Dream Inn Santa Cruz

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Photo: Courtesy of Chaminade Resort & Spa

Chaminade Resort & Spa

A 300-acre campus with just 156 guest rooms and 3 miles of hiking trails through the redwood forest already gives Chaminade Resort & Spa an advantage when it comes to offering room to roam. But the historic compound, built in Spanish Revival style in 1930 as a Catholic boys high school, recently completed renovation of all its public spaces that not only enhanced its architectural heritage but also gives guests even more choices for outdoor R&R.

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The resort redesigned Linwood’s Bar & Grill and aptly renamed it the View, greatly expanding its patio seating with vistas of Monterey Bay and, at night, twinkling market lights. Bay Area and local musicians such as Alex Lucero, Ripatti & Rose, 7th Wave and Harpin Johnny — “there are so many great ones here,” noted Connie Hagston, Chaminade’s director of sales and marketing — perform live at the View Sundays from 5 to 8pm and 5:30 to 8:30pm Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evening. Chaminade offers special VIP packages that include a bottle of wine from Alfaro Vineyards, a $100 food and beverage credit, a reserved table and choice of room or suite. 

Resort guests and locals alike are enjoying Wine Down Wednesday Movie Nights on Chaminade’s Courtyard Terrace, according to Hagston. The resort screens classic movies such as the Parent Trap, Jaws, and Erin Brockovich, with food, wine and other beverages for sale. Patrons must register in advance but tickets are free click on “Event Calendar” on the property’s website. 

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Photo: Courtesy of Dream Inn Santa Cruz

Dream Inn Santa Cruz

Down by the beach, the 165-room Dream Inn Santa Cruz is continuing its “vertical concert” series, in which internationally recognized musical acts perform on the iconic hotel’s pool deck while guests take in the show — and views of Monterey Bay — from their private balconies or patios. Big Brother & the Holding Company perform October 30 and Pablo Cruise October 31.

The series debuted last fall with a Halloween concert by Los Lobos, which sold out in three days and also inspired guests to dress up in costumes and decorate their balconies for the holiday, according to Darren Pound, the hotel’s vice president and general manager. Ticket packages include an overnight stay, the concert and access to food and beverage service from Jack’s Patio or room service; prices vary by room category, with concert packages starting at $299.

“The pandemic and the need to socially distance has challenged us with creative with ways to attract guests,” Pound said. “We are fortunate to have the perfect setup for live vertical concerts. Guests are thrilled because it’s like they are in a private suite of an arena, eating burgers or salmon while a band performs below.”

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Both Chaminade and the Dream Inn also have new executive chefs who are busy creating culinary experiences to attract even more guests. Avram Samuels joined Chaminade about six months ago and is working with local wineries on a monthly, five-course dinner series called Vine to View. One recent edition featured Storrs Winery vintages with a four-course locavore meal that featured gazpacho, seared ahi, fried organic chicken thigh with herb Belgian waffle, and roasted organic chicken breast, plus a dessert of olallieberry cobbler and an array of appetizers. Seating is on the patio, with music by Asher Stern. Tickets are $115, including tax and gratuity.

Gustavo Trejo, formerly of Monterey’s acclaimed Esteban Restaurant and Carmel Valley Ranch, became executive chef at Dream Inn in February, overseeing menus at the outdoor Jack’s Patio and beachfront Jack O’Neill Restaurant and Lounge. In September, he began offering Beach Feasts, multi-course meals for groups served right on the sand and featuring locally sourced proteins and produce in dishes like seafood paella. “Great meals begin and end with great ingredients,” Trejo said.

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Photo: Courtesy of Seascape Beach Resort

Seascape Beach Resort

Beach fires with hot and gooey s’mores are a big draw for guests at Seascape Beach Resort in Aptos, which has 283 suites and villas above a 17-mile stretch of beach. By reservation through the concierge, the resort will build a fire on the sand and provide chairs, bottled water and all the necessities for making s’mores for $150 for up to two guests and $15 for each additional guest.

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For those who miss spa treatments but are still worried about going to a communal spa, Seascape also offers in-suite spa services like glycolic facials ($160-$200), personalized Swedish massage ($140-$185 for one person, $260-$340 for a couple), or a reflexology session ($50 as a 30-minute add-on service, or $135 for an hourlong treatment). A 3-hour package that combines a massage, facial, reflexology session and aromatherapy scalp treatment is available for $350. Many rooms also come with two-person whirlpool tubs to add to the sense of a spa getaway.

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Photo: Courtesy of West Cliff Inn

West Cliff Inn

Romantic and restful escapes have always been part of the appeal of Santa Cruz’s West Cliff Inn, built in 1877 on a bluff above Cowell Beach that became known as “Millionaires’ Row.” Extensively remodeled in 2007, it’s now a 10-room Victorian-style bed and breakfast with modern amenities and part of the Four Sisters Collection boutique hotel group. 

Covid has inspired some changes to the inn’s popular buffets for breakfast and afternoon wine and hors d’oeuvres, and its “bottomless cookie jar,” according to Sharon Rooney, director of public relations for Four Sisters Inns. Breakfast is currently a cooked-to-order “breakfast in bed,” she said, with a hot and cold entrée choice that changes daily, along with “myriad” house-baked muffins and breads, fresh fruit, granola and yogurt, delivered directly to guestrooms rather than served in the dining room.

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“Our afternoon complimentary buffet of wine and hors d’oeuvres is now what we are calling our ‘mini picnic,’” she added. “Initially, we didn’t know how this would be received by our return guests who have come to love the afternoon wine hour, but it turns out guests love it because it is portable, and they can take it along on their days’ adventures. The mini picnic is a generous portion of cheese, crackers, those fabulous house-baked cookies, fruit and olives as well as wine, but packed in a to-go bag instead of on a buffet.”

Guests like to enjoy the mini picnic on the beach, their balcony, “or anywhere they want to tote it,” Rooney said. “Necessity is the mother of invention, and this one is a keeper even once we move into a post-virus world.” 

This article previously appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle.

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