The folks at Kayak Connection outfit visitors with sea kayaks and standup paddleboards before leading them on guided tours or sending them out to explore Santa Cruz Harbor and Elkhorn Slough on their own. Tours vary from romantic sunset paddles to trips designed for families and include one tailored to getting glimpses of local birds. Intermediate and advanced paddlers can head out onto open waters to paddle past the Golden Gate Bridge, Point Lobos State Marine Reserve, and Monterey Bay Crossing.
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Blue Water Ventures owner and naturalist Kim Powell and her trained staff of naturalists lead adventurous groups on tours of trails and waterways from the East Bay of California to Monterey's Elkhorn Slough, exploring caves, forests, and wildlife-rich areas on the way. On protected Elkhorn Slough, groups of up to 22 make their way on stable kayaks as their attentive tour guides give rich history of the area and point out wildlife including seals and sea otters. In Florida's Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, groups snorkel and canoe to observe wild west indian manatees and their notorious poker habits.
The company also does specialty tours for school groups that include tide-pooling adventures and trekking through a redwood forest to see some of the country's oldest trees. Tours for women-only groups include private cruises where ladies can spy whales and a variety of seaborne wildlife, including fish, dolphins, and long-lost swim fins.
Pristine fairways gently rise and fall across 6,664 yards of undulating terrain at Pajaro Valley Golf Club's 18-hole course. Located a mere Goliath's drive from the Pacific Ocean, golfers can smell the crisp sea air and hear the hushed whispers of heist-planning pelicans throughout the picturesque par 72, once the verdant kingdom of 1930s golf legend Olin Dutra. The club’s E-Z-Go golf carts ferry about the arsenal of woods and irons needed to triumph over the transition from shorter par 3s and 4s to the lengthy fairways at the 1st, 4th, 15th, and 17th holes, all par 5.
After looping the horticultural haven, golfers can retreat to the club's full-service restaurant, where frothy beers and hamburgers refuel weary bodies and famished 9-irons. Spiky-shoed journeymen can place their order ahead of time at the 9th or 18th tees, ensuring their meal will be ready for them at the turn or shortly after the round.
Dave Bruno School of Golf's trio of talented teachers enhances stances and spruces swings with in-depth one-on-one how-tos. Each golf guru targets the lesson to the player's skill level, whether they need a comprehensive overview of golfing basics or focused refinement of their long game, short game, putting, or fending off of were-caddies during full moons. Each lesson comes with an equipment evaluation to ensure golfers have the appropriate gear to suit their physique and playing style, sparing newbies the frustration of trying to escape a sand trap with a plastic wiffle bat.
Born and raised in the Santa Cruz Mountains region, winemaker Mica Raas spent his childhood soaking up knowledge of the hills around his home—many of which were speckled with vineyards and small wineries. After working for years in wineries up and down the spine of California’s wine country, Mica returned to those familiar hills to make his own wine.
Today, all grapes used in Mica Cellars’ wines come from small, family-run vineyards around Monterey Bay. In order to instill each wine with character and a “sense of place,” the winemakers only blend grapes that grew together in a single vineyard. Mica describes his approach to creating wine as “careful management of microbial chaos,” treating it as an art that requires him to be attuned to the strengths of the grapes as well as their common weaknesses, such as chocolate and men in cowboy boots.
Mica Cellars keeps production small—no fermentor is larger than one ton—and blends techniques from Old and New World winemaking to craft each vintage. The winery use oak barrels for aging, which allows for a light touch of the wood’s personality to enter the grapes, and they steer clear of the 1980s experiments that led to raisins coming to life and starting their own musical groups. Among their current wines is a 2009 cabernet franc from Babcock Winery in the Suisun Valley, with a nose of stone fruits that leads into a full-bodied dance of chocolate and coconut and a finish with hints of allspice and licorice.
Practice is only beneficial if a player is disciplined. In other words, sloppy practice produces sloppy performance on the course, while true gains are only realized by concerted effort and repetition. The same goes for practice facilities: lots of experience hitting off of dirt or putting on shag carpeting isn't going to do much good when it comes to playing on a well-tended course.
Recognizing this, Pacific Golf Centers tends to its 9.5 acres with the same precision and care as would an exclusive country club. It keeps its 15 grass tees laser leveled at 5/16" and equips 17 of its 43 synthetic tees with TrackTee monitors, which provide immediate feedback on shot parameters such as ball speed and overall distance. Three putting greens, meanwhile, let players get their fill of practice rolls and no-look chips, and teaching pro Bruce Vieira is always ready to step in when players are in need of some extra help. Once hooks have been straightened and iron accuracy calibrated, players should head into the Tap House for a well-deserved beer while enjoying sports programming on HD televisions.