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.
Martial-arts master Francis Farley conquered his childhood timidity by studiously practicing martial arts. He went on to win the North American middleweight title in 1989, and by 1993, he had won the International Sport Karate Association middleweight championship, holding on to that title for five years. He decided to open Farley's Kickboxing Academy, a dojo with a full weight room and boxing ring, in order to teach others various kicks and jabs gleaned from his successful 27-win, 2-loss career, which featured 17 knockouts and one intimidating finger wag. Francis's passion for martial arts—and fitness in general—led him to pair up with instructors such as Joey Thomas, a professional surfer and black belt in Brazilian jujitsu; Willow Brown, the facility's yoga expert, who has more than 10 years of teaching experience; and MMA coach Mike Roberts. These gurus help fitness seekers of all levels blast calories, learn self defense, or gain spiritual tranquility, and they adhere to the motto, "You don't have to be a fighter to train like one," as opposed to, "Once a couch potato, always a couch potato."
The team at Tropical Adventures Scuba and Travel teaches classes, repairs equipment, and plans diving trips, all with a focus on building an active scuba community. Seasoned instructors with NAUI and PADI certification lead beginners from the classroom to the ocean, where they meander through kelp forests and master the art of underwater basket weaving. Experts coordinate travel to premier international and local dive sites such as Catalina Island, aiming to make the three to five yearly trips affordable and fun. The crew also recommends new and used gear for purchase or rental, including Oceanic booties, Tusa masks, and radar equipment that helps divers avoid traveling mermaid salesmen.
In the heart of Aptos Village, Joy of Movement Pilates & Gyrotonic Studio fosters physical and emotional health through personal Pilates sessions, mat classes, and machine-based workouts. As one of 100 Pilates Method Alliance Gold-Certified Pilates instructors worldwide, owner Jennifer Balboni leads the studio's team to utilize their unique backgrounds in dance, massage therapy, and yoga to motivate students as they execute total-body toning moves. Reformer classes feature a low 3:1 student-to-teacher ratio to ensure each reformer receives the attention they need. In addition to strengthening mind and body in tandem, the green-certified studio supports sustainable living with green practices such as recycling, efficient lighting, and water conservation.
Capitola Surf and Paddle sends adventurists of all ages out along the coast of Capitola Village, an intimate area known for its family-friendly beaches, shops, and restaurants. The business provides both private and group paddleboarding lessons, during which seasoned standup paddleboarders share the tricks of the trade while teaching fundamental techniques. Whether taking a lesson or cruising across the tides, visitors enjoy scenic marine views and waters that, barring a whale mosh pit, usually remain pleasantly calm.
When Forest Roberts was 9 years old, he built a boat in his backyard with money saved from his paper route. Since 1989, Roberts has participated more officially in the maritime industry, working water-related jobs from commercial diving to boat building—and often living aboard boats—before opening his sailing-charter company in 2006. Today, California Classic Sail operates from Santa Cruz on the shores of Monterey Bay, earning praises from previous passengers and a Santa Cruz Sentinel feature story.
Roberts’s background in the building industry helped him recognize the superb craftsmanship in his current yacht, Sarah. The builder, William Garvie—who named the vessel after his granddaughter—constructed the 52-foot-long boat based on a line drawing published in an early 20th-century yachting-magazine spread. Made of wood instead of the fiberglass many modern boats are made of, its vintage style and wood hull set it apart from other Santa Cruz charter vessels. Dubbed a “Sharpie” for its long, narrow shape, rather than an ability to leave permanent wakes, the graceful yacht zips through the bay waters on chartered trips for groups of up to six. Passengers can relax onboard as Roberts steers, or choose to learn basic sailing maneuvers through hands-on instruction. Roberts can also tailor trips to special occasions such as engagements and birthdays, and can sail during many times of day, including more-scenic mornings and sunsets.