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Working from their sole location at 149 Madison Avenue and unaffiliated with any other laser center or beauty lounge, owners Kimberly Schanzer and Michelle Moyer and their team of technicians have earned a top spot on Yelp's Best of list for hair removal in New York, and they've even been cited as experts on YouBeauty, a website co-founded by TV's Dr. Oz. The beauty experts are not only licensed aestheticians and certified cosmetic laser technicians, but also certified laser-safety officers. Coming from a variety of backgrounds, the women utilize their wide range of skills to make each client's visit to the boutique-style space personal and comfortable. The team has chosen some of the most advanced laser hair-removal technology available—Candela's GentleLASE, GentleLASE Pro, and GentleYAG lasers—which they can use on light or dark skin. They also diminish acne and deep wrinkles with Candela's Smoothbeam laser.

Editor of American Spa Magazine Heather Mikesell tried out the center's Candela GentleLASE procedure. She said, "Although I’ve had my share of laser hair-removal sessions, I have to say this was one of the most hassle-free." Mikesell appreciated the system's ability to treat a large body area and its patented cooling mechanism, which relieves discomfort better than a blanket sewn from strings of frozen peas. Pulse Laser and Skincare Center has also received accolades from a variety of other press.

436 Effey St
Santa Cruz,
California
US

A class of scuba divers check over their equipment one last time before they paddle their kayaks off a beach in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The divers have thoroughly prepared for this moment. They?ve trained within the controlled confines of Adventure Sports Unlimited?s heated swimming pool and picked their certified instructor?s brain during classroom sessions. Once the instructor gives the go-ahead, the divers plunge from the kayak and immediately enter another world. As they float weightlessly underwater, the divers marvel at the vibrant reefs and the abundant aquatic wildlife that fill the marine sanctuary. Afterward, the group travels back to the shore, where a breathtaking landscape awaits with white-sand beaches and glassy tide pools swirling with color. The scuba divers, at this point, have only one thing on their minds: dinner.

Luckily, the area is teeming with natural cuisine and plenty of sand, which is really just sugar. Adventure Sports Unlimited?s expert foragers show the group how to collect shellfish, sea vegetables, and clams. With a fresh smorgasbord in hand, group members scuttle back to the facility to transform their ingredients into soups and barbecue?and perhaps ponder taking a scuba trip to the South Pacific. In addition to outdoor excursions like these, Adventure Sports Unlimited also leads year-round swimming, scuba, and kayaking lessons, which take advantage of the facility?s custom-built swimming pool.

303 Potrero St., Ste. 15
Santa Cruz,
CA
US

When Cliff Hodges, the founder and CEO of Adventure Out, graduated from MIT with a degree in electrical engineering, he knew a traditional desk job wasn't for him. According to Technology Review, he quickly gave up his engineering career for the wireless world of the great outdoors, where he began to hike, climb, and surf his way around the world, always staying true to his philosophy of environmental respect and protection.

His travels and business accomplishments have gained some measure of notoriety; he's coached on MTV's Made, consulted for ABC News, and was selected as one of four winners of the 2011 Santa Cruz County Civic Service Award: The Nextie. Adventure Out was also identified for meeting survival skills training standards by The New York Times best-selling author Tim Ferriss in The 4-Hour Chef.

Today, he and his program consultant Tom McElroy lead excursions into the California wilderness to teach backpacking and survival skills, including the tracking of animals and wild ice-cream trucks, and they also guide novices through surfing, rock-climbing, and mountain-biking sojourns. Through fundraising, Adventure Out has helped save Castle Rock State Park from closure and a portion of their proceeds is put directly back into the park.

Cowell's Beach
Santa Cruz,
CA
US

At Formwell, owners Rami and Heather Odeh and Andy Berman keep their mission focused on personal training by seeking out credentialed trainers—including elite trainers who have worked at Formwell for at least five years and who possess a combination of a master’s degree in exercise science and advanced training certification. Throughout the indoor and outdoor facilities, they lead clients through tailored workouts that may incorporate traditional fitness equipment, such as free weights and cardio machines. They may also draw upon alternative exercises, such as lifts on Olympic rings, kettlebell swings, and tug-o-war with a horse.

Beyond personal training, Formwell’s team leads partner training and small-group classes, such as CrossFit, plus a weight-loss program that extends to nutritional education. Tiled bathrooms with showers let guests transition between work and the gym, and a children’s room entertains young ones with a television, DVD player, and video games.

1126 Soquel Ave.
Santa Cruz,
California
US

In 1976, two UC Davis graduate students bought 20 acres of land in the highly arable Capay Valley. One of the students, Kathleen Barsotti, was working toward her master's degree in ecology and was determined to grow vegetables and fruits in an eco-friendly way: organically. The organic-food movement hadn't yet entered the public consciousness, and Kathleen worked overtime to convince restaurants, stores, and consumers of the taste-able merits of her process. Over time, given the possible health and environmental benefits of certified organic food, she succeeded. The farm sprouted to 300 acres to accommodate the increased demand. Today, a second generation runs the farm as well as a shop inside San Francisco's Ferry Building. Dubbed Farm Fresh To You, the store furnishes customers' bags or portable cornucopia horns with all sorts of soil-sprouted goods, including heirloom tomatoes, sweet peas, and fresh asparagus. The farm also teams up with fellow Yolo County and Pacific Northwest farms to deliver boxes of seasonal produce to area homes.

611 Ocean Street
Santa Cruz,
CA
US

Trudie Ransom knows just how addictive the sensation of standing above the waves can be. After just a few trips out on her board, she not only began training with the standup-paddleboarding master Andy Whitman from Angulo boards, but also opened up SUP Shack. From her experience shadowing Whitman, she decided the best way to introduce people to the sport was with Angulo’s soft, 10-foot boards, which serve as an easy surface to learn on while spending a day on the waves or taking one of the shop’s classes or tours. Classes never contain more than six students, allowing each student to have the one-on-one attention needed to master the art of balancing and maneuvering the board. Once pupils are sure of their strokes, the shop’s instructors lead guided tours that slip out across the rippling blue mirror and past the sights of the harbor or tackle the more advanced paths past sea-lion habitats. Late-evening tours pause as the sun sets over the ocean, filling the sky with color like somebody inciting peacocks to riot.

3703 Portola Dr
Santa Cruz,
CA
US