At 2,600 feet up in the Santa Cruz Mountains, one might expect to find sprawling views of the ocean and surrounding forest and not flourishing vineyards. Yet there are more than 70 wineries dappling the hills at various altitudes, privy to the dewy, cooling breezes of the sea and the richness of the rocky soil. The San Francisco Chronicle speaks to their scattered presence, deeming them "less a cohesive wine region than a patchwork of vineyards." Still, this characteristic isolation has resulted in "a perfect laboratory for winemaking not held hostage to fashion"—no one style dominates in this rustic setting.
Pinot noirs and chardonnays populate the western front, and the east yields cabernets, merlots, and zinfandels. The majority of the vineyards are small and family owned—a fact reflected in their meticulously bottled libations and the matching sweaters of their holiday photos—but though they exist in chosen hermitage, many of them welcome visitors to their scenic sites. They host weddings, festivals, and open events such as Pathway to Pinot Paradise, a self-guided tour of the pinot noir hotspots.
Tucked into the hills of Rancho Corral de Tierra lies Ocean View Farms, where sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean combine with the expertise of Agnes Sadeghi, an instructor accredited by the Certified Horsemanship Association, to attract equine enthusiasts for lessons and trail rides. Agnes brings a lifetime of experience to the farm, as she began to ride at the age of 6 and went on to master British horsemanship exams as a teen—earlier than most riders and just after most centaurs. Her goal for students is to turn them into independent riders through dressage and jumping lessons conducted atop palomino paint horses and arabian thoroughbreds. Beginning riders can show off advancing skills on Two for Trail rides through the hills of Rancho Corral de Tierra and McNee Ranch State Park, whereas more advanced riders can take on longer, more difficult routes.
A round of putting ($5 per person) at Kings and Knights' always-seasonable indoor course sends golf balls through 18 labyrinthine holes of props, traps, and vibrant décor. After braving nine holes of train crossings and piratical perils, golfers arrive at the black-light room, where ghosts and cobwebs glow amid a neon loop-the-loop and fluorescent barriers that illuminate the putting path. Open seven days a week, Kings and Knights allows the busiest of friends and familiars to navigate miniature fairways, keep score with miniature pencils, and high-five with regular-size hands.
The sky is overcast, and an instructor stands off to the side of the riding area with a camera in hand. Chance, a leather-brown horse, stands poised, ready to jump over an x-rail. Moments later, Chance gallops toward the hurdle, throwing its front legs into the air and gracefully arcing over the lofty obstacle.
This is just another day at Aspire Equestrian, where passionate trainers lead private and group riding lessons for students of all ages and levels of expertise. With a community-like feel, the instructors at Aspire hope students riders gain a comfortable atmosphere to learn and enjoy their new skills. The equine enthusiasts also board horses and lease select animals to people who want to hit the trails on their own or secure better lawn seats at the next outdoor music festival.
As the head surfing instructor at Sea, Surf & Fun, Frenchman Fabien passes on board-riding expertise he has picked up on world travels. He has cut through the mist-veiled trenches of waves in Sri Lanka, Madagascar, and Brazil. Armed with certifications in CPR and basic first aid, Fabien heads to Half Moon Bay to conduct surfing lessons that emphasize safety. He works toward this end by keeping a low student-to-teacher ratio and only surfing one ocean at a time.
Students practice patience and respect for both nature and their fellow boarders, understanding that the ocean can prove dangerous when taken for granted. In addition to group lessons, the hang-ten outfit conducts all-day surf camps that may also include beach volleyball, soccer, and walking tours.
Each winter, professional surfers migrate to Half Moon Bay to try their luck at riding the massive waves of the Mavericks area. During the competition, the coastline waters are dotted with bobbing surfers and spectator boats. For an up-close look at the waves, Huli Cat Sportfishing & Charter Boat, located at nearby Pillar Point Harbor, transports guests aboard its 53-foot-long vessel, the Huli Cat. The staff captain organizes boat trips to snap photos of jumping humpback whales or to fish for salmon and rockfish. Guests can also schedule coastal tours of Half Moon Bay?s wetlands, which are home to more than 200 species of birds and at least 10 kinds of water.