USAFamily Travel

Surf's up at Santa Cruz's Dream Inn

Santa Cruz’s beachside Dream Inn is a stone’s throw from the city’s famous boardwalk.
Santa Cruz’s beachside Dream Inn is a stone’s throw from the city’s famous boardwalk.

Santa Cruz's recently renovated Dream Inn has a lot going for it, but probably its most killer selling point is its location right on the sand in the heart of this quintessential Northern California surf town, something no other hotel here can claim.

Between its unbeatable beachfront locale, a pool that overlooks the ocean and the more than 100-year-old Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, complete with rides, games and guilty-pleasure carnival treats (deep-fried Twinkies, anyone?) being a short walk away, a trip to the Dream Inn with the kids offers more than enough to keep the whole family happy and busy for at least two or three days, if not longer.

Having recently experienced the property with my husband and our almost-2-year-old son, I can attest that not only was our son having a blast (the pool, the boardwalk and the nearby Seymour Marine Discovery Center were the highlights) but so were the countless other kiddos who were hanging around the pool area.

Last year, the property completed an extensive, multimillion-dollar renovation, which saw all 165 guestrooms and suites as well as the hotel's lobby and pool area get a total makeover. The result is a resort-style property that feels refreshingly new and hip, with decor that shamelessly bows down to Santa Cruz's legendary surf culture and furniture that embraces both bright pops of color and midcentury modern design.

The writer’s son, Niko, relaxes in the lobby, with its surf-themed decor.
The writer’s son, Niko, relaxes in the lobby, with its surf-themed decor. Photo Credit: TW photo by Michelle Baran

There are different room categories for different needs. Families with pool-obsessed kids might want to book one of the poolside rooms. Those who prefer the idea of having ocean views for days would be smart to opt for the top floors in the hotel tower. Regardless of the room category, the rooms are spacious; king rooms can accommodate up to three guests, and queen rooms accommodate up to four. Rollaway beds are available for an additional $30, and cribs and portable playpens are also available upon request. Many of the rooms feature a convenient dining area that families can use for in-room meals and snacks, for which the included (and empty) minifridge also helps.

In the public areas, the vibe exudes surf city fun. The walls in the lobby are flanked by surfboards, and artwork throughout the hotel showcases classic photos and images of the beach, waves and surfers. Adjacent to the check-in counter is a coffee station that serves Santa Cruz's well-known Verve Coffee.

The pool and whirlpool area feature a combination of traditional lounge chair and padded, cabana-style loungers. Pool-goers can order food and refreshments from a stand in the pool area, and they will be delivered when ready.

The property's signature Aquarius restaurant offers plenty of local seafood as well as steak, chicken, pork and vegetarian options. It also serves breakfast, brunch (on the weekends) and lunch and has a dedicated kids menu. The venue is both sophisticated and relaxed and offers the chance to experience those priceless, unobstructed views of the beach.

Rates for the Dream Inn start at $299 per night. See

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