Making the most of the coast: a teen’s guide

An aerial view of Manresa State Beach.

It’s summer! After spending 10 months stuck in school, dreaming
of being at the beach, it’s finally time to grab some friends, a
couple of good books and head to the ocean.
Here is a review of three beaches in the area we think are
especially cool.
It’s summer! After spending 10 months stuck in school, dreaming of being at the beach, it’s finally time to grab some friends, a couple of good books and head to the ocean.

Here is a review of three beaches in the area we think are especially cool.

Manresa State Beach

By Robby Valderrama

• How to get there

Take Highway 101 south and make a slight right onto San Juan Drive. Turn right on Porter Drive. Turn left on Riverside Drive and merge onto Highway 1 north, toward Santa Cruz. Exit San Andreas Road (south of Aptos) and turn left. Head southwest and continue for several miles to Manresa, the first beach on your right.

Manresa Beach is approximately 45 minutes to an hour from Gilroy or Hollister.

• Must-stops along the way

Although it’s not quite on the way, Elkhorn Slough is worth a stop. The slough provides habitat for plants, animals and more than 340 species of birds and is a major fish nursery for the region. It’s also a great place to kayak. To get to the slough, take Highway 1 south to Moss Landing. Go east on Dolan Road and turn left on Elkhorn Road.

• Cost of parking

$6

• Estimated time from car to towel

About 4 minutes.

• Good eats

Palapas Restaurant and Cantina, 21 Seascape Village in Aptos. The restaurant dishes up creative variations of Mexican seafood fused with California influence. Menu items include nachos, flautas and fresh salsa, and most meals are moderately priced.

• Things that were smashing

The best thing about this beach is that it’s a vast expanse of sand and sun, which is what the beach is all about, right? Also, it’s a great place to spot marine life, including dolphins and whales.

• Things that were crashing

Whether you take the massive stairway or the ramp, the trek from the parking lot to the beach can be a long one.

Natural Bridges State Beach

By nick haskell

• How to get there

Natural Bridges is located in northern Santa Cruz. Take Highway 152 west through Hecker Pass. Turn right on Holohan Road, which becomes Airport Boulevard. Turn right on Freedom Boulevard. Turn right on Soquel Drive, which becomes Soquel Avenue. Stay straight onto Water Street, which becomes Mission Street. Turn left on Swift Street. Turn right on West Cliff Drive and follow signs to Natural Bridges.

The beach is approximately 45 minutes to an hour from Gilroy or Hollister.

• Must-stops along the way

Gizdich Ranch, located just after you emerge from Hecker Pass on Highway 152, offers some of the best pie I’ve ever tasted. A series of signs direct drivers towards their cafe, where you can buy affordable pies from 9am to 5pm, seven days a week.

The farm also sells fresh-picked fruit and other items such as jam and gift baskets.

• Cost of parking

$6

• Estimated time from car to towel

Extremely short. We arrived at noon on a Saturday and were able to find a parking spot with no effort whatsoever. From there, it took us less than three minutes to start enjoying the beach.

• Good eats

In addition to the pie mentioned above, the beach is only a hop, skip and jump away from the amazingly diverse Santa Cruz downtown area.

During my expedition, my friends and I dined at Kianti’s Pasta and Pizza Bar, located about 10 minutes away from the beach at 1100 Pacific Ave., and it was delicious – especially the garlic cheese bread.

• Things that were smashing

Honestly, this is one of the better beaches I’ve been to in California. The sand is wonderfully soft; there’s very little of that beach detritus that makes walking around on the beach such a pain.

Another aspect of the shore I enjoyed was the expansive tidepool network that extends north from the beach. Easily navigable even in bare feet, the tidepools contain microcosms of the ocean teeming with life.

Finally, the beach boasts an extensive picnic facility and, shockingly enough, the bathrooms are so clean, I didn’t feel uncomfortable walking around in them in bare feet.

• Things that were crashing

To be honest, this beach has no downsides that I determined during my visit. I give it my full recommendation.

Rio Del Mar Beach

By Michael Stevens

• How to get there

Take Highway 152 west through Hecker Pass. Make a right at the first light, which is Airport Drive. Stay on Airport until you reach Highway 1.

Enter freeway heading north and exit on Rio Del Mar Boulevard. Make a left at the light and continue west until you reach the beach parking area.

Rio Del Mar is approximately 45 minutes to an hour from Gilroy or Hollister.

• Must-stops along the way

Nisene Marks State Park is a hidden Santa Cruz County gem and only minutes from Rio Del Mar Beach. Eighteen miles of pristine redwood trails meander through the Santa Cruz mountains.

The park is a great side trip before or after the beach and the location of the epicenter of the devastating 1989 earthquake that toppled the Nimitz Freeway in Oakland.

• Cost of parking

If you arrive early, parking is free.

Otherwise, there is a day use fee of $6.

• Estimated time from car to towel

Less than a few minutes.

• Good eats

Deluxe Market, located in the Deer Park Center on Rio Del Mar Boulevard, right off the freeway on the way to the beach. Deluxe is a gourmet grocery store with a great deli that will supply all you need for a fantastic lunch and more.

After the beach, enjoy some delicious mandarin cuisine at the Panda Inn, also located in the same shopping center.

• Things that were smashing

Rio Del Mar is a great walking beach with lots of open space for playing Frisbee and tossing a football.

• Things that were crashing

The beach is very popular with families, so you may have to navigate your way around little kids.

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