A Weekend in Silicon Valley’s Backyard

Capitola Beach

Business trips to Silicon Valley rarely include downtime for a day trip or long weekend, but if they do, most visitors head straight to San Francisco or Napa Valley.


But sticking with the familiar means missing out on what’s literally right over the hill. Just an hour’s drive south of Silicon Valley, you will find quaint seaside villages, miles of hiking and biking trails, and local haunts serving famous dishes.


Don Jacinto, general manager at the Joie de Vivre Dream Inn in Santa Cruz, says the area’s small-town charm is often overlooked.


“Those experiences of going to wine country and so on are lovely, but there’s a certain adventure to staying local,” he says.


Jacinto shared with The Financialist his favorite activities in the area. So the next time you’re in Silicon Valley, you don’t have to look far for a good time.


Kayaking at Elkhorn Slough

The Elkhorn Slough is a 1,700-acre coastal wetland reserve located in Watsonville, about an hour south of Silicon Valley. From the seat of a kayak, visitors can watch hundreds of bird species, including brown pelicans, great blue herons, egrets and snowy plovers. Monterey Bay Kayaks offers an all-day guided tour for $120. Afterward, enjoy Phil’s Fish Market’s famous cioppino, an Italian-American stew, in nearby Moss Landing.



Antiquing in Soquel



Soquel, a small town just south of Santa Cruz, is full of treasures for those who love antique and vintage trinkets.  The town’s two-dozen shops are clustered around Soquel Drive and specialize in antiques, specifically New England farmhouse furniture, estate jewelry and decorative glass and pottery. After a day of treasure hunting, you can spend the evening in nearby Capitola, a small, brightly painted town reminiscent of a Mediterranean seaside village.



Hiking in Big Basin State Park


Big Basin State Park’s Skyline to Sea trail is one of the most beautiful stretches of wilderness trails surrounding Silicon Valley. An hour southwest of Palo Alto, the path wanders for 30 miles along ridgelines and through redwood groves before reaching the coast. After an afternoon exploring, drive north to Pescadero for dinner at the landmark Duarte’s Tavern, which opened in 1894.



Mountain Biking at Wilder Ranch State Park



A cyclist’s dream becomes reality at Wilder Ranch State Park, just off Highway 1 and north of Santa Cruz. The 35-mile-long trail overlooks the Pacific and meanders through wetlands and cattle pastures. Both experienced and novice riders will appreciate this trail ride. The Santa Cruz Family Cycling Center offers daily rentals from $50 to $75.



Spend a Day in Santa Cruz


This coastal college town has plenty of low-key enticements. Visitors can rent a bike, pack a picnic and ride along the famous boardwalk to West Cliff Drive to watch surfers catch waves. If you’re feeling adventurous, continue riding to Natural Bridges State Park, where you’ll find a picnic area and tide pools. Then wind down with wine tasting at Surf City Vintners, a collective of a dozen local wineries.



Photos:  Flickr: MiguelVieira,  Franco Folini,  dbaron,  Tané Tachyon