Santa Cruz Icon Gets a Do Over: New Hotel Cruises Into Town Wowing Everybody
By Kathy Chin Leong
The Dream Inn is no longer a dream. It is a reality. The newest Bay Area boutique slumber pad by Joie de Vivre is a joyous, resurrected and upscale version of a declining hotel property with the benefit of being the only beachfront hotel in Santa Cruz.
This summer, if you are planning a staycation, and you are super ready to experience what’s fresh and innovative, get on those flip flops and leap immediately into the car with kids in tow. This is one fun and kicky homestay where you will never hear the words, “I’m bored!” Hey, you are walking distance to the pier, to the historic Santa Cruz Boardwalk, and steps from the ocean where you can surf and paddle board all day.
From the minute you walk through the glass doors, a wall of zingy surfboards all lined up vertically welcome you into the building. There is a communal table made of salvaged wood festooned with a line of tiny potted succulents. There’s a teal check-in counter with friendly hotel associates. A jukebox. A teal cruiser bike in the corner. Whoa! I’m feeling happy already.
Each room is decorated with a vivid color palette anchored in blue-green aqua, canary yellow, and pumpkin orange. Get groovin’ as you bask in your retro-inspired room among the mid-century modern elements such as globe lamps, oak armoires, and tables made from pieces of surfboard. In our room, we had pillows, window shutters, and small couch all decked in matching teal. In the bathroom, orange and yellow subway tiles screamed, “Aren’t you happy?”
The complimentary bottled waters feature the Dream Inn logo with a young surfer cresting a wave. On the balcony an aluminum round side table and simple metal chairs with horizontal yellow and white plastic straps were the perfect set, allowing us to sit and enjoy the vista of the shoreline and pool below.
Every single domain has a view of the ocean, so you can book the cheapest one you can if you are on a budget. On this tenth floor, we woke to barking seals and crashing waves and the warmth of the hot white sun. Our sumptuous pillow top bed with white coverlet and white sheets beckoned me to linger.
The beach theme is unmistakable in the artwork and décor. Each door number is mounted on a mini surf board among the 165 air-conditioned rooms. There are ocean and surf themed pictures on the room walls. A blue green wave carpet blankets the many hallways, and you get the feeling that this carpet can transform into a real ocean at any moment.
The kids need to get out, for sure. My favorite feature is the hotel’s private exit that leads right to Cowell Beach. Be sure to bring your blankets, beach toys, and picnic gear along with you. You end up right on the sand within seconds. It feels very private since it is on the curved end of the line of beaches, and used mainly for surf lessons. Enjoy the sunset right here. Don’t leave Santa Cruz without checking SUNSET off your To Do list.
And if you don’t want to get your toes gritty and sandy, use your room key to get in through the private gate to get to the gorgeous pool. Here’s a tip: even after you check out at 11 a.m., you can get a pool key card from the front desk, and you attain blissful access to the exquisite pool patio all day long. This revamped area is so gorgeous, it says FINE RESORT all over it. Yellow umbrellas and plenty of lounge chairs are open to you, but do go early to nab one or two. There’s a hot tub, food service, and a bar, so you won’t go hungry, thirsty, or get cranky. An outside shower is available so you can rinse off after you hit the beach also. Lounge in the giant circular covered cabanas, large enough for two or four, depending on your size.
At the pool, you are not allowed to bring your own grub, and they will check your bags. Be polite! In addition to outdoor showers, you have the convenience of men and women's restrooms near the pool for changing and whatnot. Come evening tide, outdoor fire pits are available for cozy sitting and relaxation.
Turns out that the downstairs Aquarius restaurant has already been a local favorite, but the new chef from San Diego, Ken Drew, is looking forward to kicking up the reputation a few notches.
Well, one bite of anything on the menu, and you'll be sold. You’ll be telling yourself you will return. And I will. Definitely. The new chef sticks it good with seasonal menus loaded with Central Coast seafood and fruits and veggies from farmers not far away. House favorites include cioppino, flat iron steak, and a scallop entree with day boat giant scallops. The margarita of the day may include a blended mango or grapefruit. There is a kid’s menu for all three meals. Dinner fare for children includes chicken breast, quesadillas, and burgers, and grilled cheese and pasta. Everything is $10 and under.
Doing dinner? Get reservations a week ahead if possible. The place fills up fast.
These are the little things that do count, and I don’t take them for granted. Know that you can borrow the hotel cruiser bikes on a first come first serve basis. And you can get in on a complimentary group yoga class that is offered by the pool daily.
Need to warm something up? You’ll find a public microwave on the fourth level. You do have a personal refrigerator in your room along with a Keurig coffee machine with coffee and tea. If you are too lazy to make your own coffee, in the morning there is a coffee bar serving Verve coffee and also pastries for $4. (Sorry, lobby coffee is not free).
You can rediscover Santa Cruz with this experience for you are walking distance to the pier, the boardwalk, and the surfing waters. Visit Natural Bridges State Park, famous for its monarch sanctuary, up the road. Not far is Pacific Avenue, the outdoor shopping street with a host of retailers, including the independent Santa Cruz Bookstore, cupcake, coffee and tea shops, and surf stores.
Your staycation can be the envy of your buddy huddle. Rediscover an old friend in Santa Cruz, and make a new one at the Dream Inn.
175 W. Cliff Dr.
Rates start at $219