Make Beach Dreams Come True at the Dream Inn
By Kathy Chin Leong
Breakfast on the beach. A run to the boardwalk. A bike ride into town.Then a dip in the pool. You’re definitely living the quintessential California dream at the Dream Inn in Santa Cruz .
Like snorting bulls behind a barrier, you and thousands of other families are ready to bolt from home now that Zoom school is out. As you flee, opt for natural places with fresh air and sunshine. The outdoors is tantamount to preventative medicine that fortifies your body with Vitamin D.
Enter the Dream Inn that merges luxury with location. And, as we are all sensitive to being inside a sanitized, clean, and healthy place, a vacation at the Dream Inn focusing on fitness and well-being is easy to curate. Complimentary cruiser bikes are a bonus especially since the hotel is situated on a coastal bike trail. You can ride with the kiddos to the butterfly sanctuary at Natural Bridges. Amp up your energy with Santa Cruz’s Verve coffee at the coffee station in the lobby. And the hotel pool is open daily for individuals and families. The hotel restaurant dubbed O’Neills specializes in New American fare under a new chef who loves to do the farm-to-table thing. If you come with a group, you can even book a dinner on the beach.
HOTEL & PANDEMIC
The 1963 oceanfront lodge with 165 rooms never closed during the pandemic, but ran with a skeleton crew for months. It housed essential workers. Then during last year’s horrific fires, it housed local evacuees together with their cats dogs, and a pet falcon.
With all of that in the recent past, the ten-story hotel which was refurbished and brought under new ownership six years ago is readying itself for a summer season under our new normal.Masks are still required indoors in public spaces. That restriction, we all hope, will soon be lifted. To date, full occupancy is back on the rise according to its general manager Darren Pound.
The hotel’s gorgeous pool area is completely alluring. This glamorous pool patio fronts the ocean only separated by panes of glass. Blue and orange umbrellas, shaded turquoise outdoor beds, fire pits, light blue lounge chairs facing the sea, and food/beverage kiosks add to guest comfort. Even the sand is machine swept smooth each morning for visual restfulness.
To the left of the inn, you can see and hear peels of excitement and laughter from the historic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. I savor memories of its merry-go-round and playing the dime-a-dish carnival game with my mom who had gathered all sorts of mismatched saucers and cigarette holders over the years. I recall the rumbling of the roller coaster, the Big Dipper, which always makes me crack a fearful smile. A more sedate vibe comes from long fishing pier adjacent to the boardwalk where sea lions bark to their hearts’ content. On the right, tree-lined cliffs call out to surfers.
You do pay for this slice of paradise at $400-$700 per night. As everyone knows in the hotel world, rates are always seasonal. This is the nicest hotel in the city, and for a treat this summer, I find it well worth a stay. By the way, I poked my head into the lobby of a property nearby that rents its rooms for $100 less respectively. It was dark and dingy, so I would gladly pay the extra money to stay at the Dream Inn when you consider all the amenities and beautiful rooms.
“Vertical” Concerts at the pool are a new package with national bands such as Los Lobos leading the way. On the special nights bands play at the pool, guests pay an extra fee and can listen from their rooms. This summer, the hotel will project the bands on a giant wall as people watch from their balconies.
As I was told by Mr. Pound, most of the guests are local and California visitors. Vacationers living outside the state will find this a hidden treasure because of its upscale comfort and easy access to the beach, restaurants, and shopping, and outdoor excursions.
Anyone wanting that retro beach feeling will get it in joyous spades. The lobby boasts a wall of shiny surfboards. The carpet features an ocean wave print. Even the elevator interiors are splashed with floor to ceiling murals of water and snorkeling flippers.
Guest rooms in the palette of mango, yellow, and teal are generously sized from 350 to 600 square feet with contemporary water-themed artwork. How can anyone be sad with such a punchy color scheme and clever design ideas? Even the doors feature tiny surfboards with the room numbers attached to them.
The small tabletop that looks like a section of surfboard was quite charming alongside an L-shaped teal couch. It was also a practical breakfast table. If you are in a king room, expect to have a wide wood headboard with two built-in reading lights, one on each end. Side tables have plugs for USB ports.
Practical things like a mini refrigerator, free bottled water, and a coffee maker are a plus, especially for families who like to bring their own munchies or keep leftovers for the next day.
The bathrooms are laden with orange and teal tiles; showers include the trendy rain shower heads and lengthy shower wands. The Fresh brand of bath products is only fitting for such a high-end hotel.
How do you know you are in Santa Cruz? In the morning you wake to barking seals. At night when you are resting, the waves will either lull you to sleep or keep you awake. Foghorns in the distance also are a romantic sound which make me think of being on a cruiseship.
It’s not hard to relax here. Just put on your waffle weave robe in your closet and enjoy a morning coffee as you sit on the balcony. The leading luxury property in town is the only one that sits by the water with every room facing the sea.
A perfect place to go for a run, take in a surf or paddle board lesson, Dream Inn could not be more centrally located. Connected to the Dream Inn is the O’Neills restaurant, an enterprise by the O’Neill family, famous for wetsuits for surfing and other water activities.
Meanwhile, Gustavo Trejo has signed on as its new executive chef who brings his farm fresh flair literally to the table. While we were there, he demonstrated how to make corn bisque from ears of corn picked hours earlier. The taste is a culinary sensation, and diners can expect to see many delectable ingredients on their plates as a result of his connections with regional farmers.
When you are done eating and ready for action, several outfitters will pick you up at the hotel for a true locals experience. The Brew Cruz tour takes guests out in a refurbished Volkswagen van affectionately named Slowboy. The public tour is slated for beer tasting to capitalize on the regions burgeoning industry. However, you can book a private tour and have the guide take you wine tasting, a shopping excursion, or whatever activity is to your liking. It’s up to you.
Meanwhile, joining a group ride with Santa Cruz Bike Tours is an ideal way to enjoy Santa Cruz and see new things, even though you have lived in the Bay Area your whole life. The owner will bring the bikes to the hotel and provide snacks, water, and helmets. The perfect ride for able-bodied kids is the two-hour coastal excursion that leads to the Seymour Marine Discovery Center, famous for its a blue whale skeleton.
Want to get on the water? The family-friendly Chardonnay Sailing Charters is only a five-minute drive, and it takes guests out for any number of its themed excursions. The sunset cruise, Hawaiian food cruise, wine and cheese cruise, pizza cruise, and others are excellent opportunities to expose your family to the joys of sailing.
THE BOTTOM LINE
A visit makes for an extremely luxurious weekend, and with the wonderful amenities and location and views, even the most Eeyore-ish person in your group won’t be disappointed. You don’t have to dream about this place; you can come here and make it your dream come true.
175 W. Cliff Drive