One of the many lures to the San Jose area and Santa Clara County generally is the fairly close proximity of the beach at Santa Cruz, Capitola, Rio del Mar, and other scenic places that line the Monterey Bay. From most of Santa Clara County, it’s under a one hour drive. If you live in Los Gatos, it could be just half of that. That said, not all days are created equally when it comes to beach traffic. Go on a regular weekday in summer and it’s pretty much a piece of cake. Go on a weekend or holiday and it’s a whole other matter.
Most of the locals know this about holidays or weekends and the shore: go early or don’t go.
How early is early enough?
If you want to get over the hill before it’s stop and go traffic, I suggest 9:30am or earlier. It can be backed up as early as 9:30 or 10. Coming home from the coast, the line of cars may move sluggishly as early as 3 or 4pm if the fog rolls in early.
If you go early, you can enjoy breakfast with a bay view in Capitola on the esplanade. Or hit wonderful Gayle’s Bakery in that same town with some piping hot coffee before taking in a walk at the coast. Sometimes there may be a marine layer (fog), but it usually burns off by late morning. The beach will be fairly quiet if you arrive before the crowds. Or go a little later and have an early lunch at the Crow’s Nest at the harbor. Play in the surf and sand and return around 3:30 or so, and it will be a lot easier than a 5pm trek across the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Related reading on MPH’s other sites:
Spending Summer Days In Santa Cruz? Some Tips & Favorite Places to Share (Valley of Heart’s Delight blog)
Beach towns in Santa Cruz County (from popehandy.com)