Free public fishing pier open from sunrise until 10:30 PM; no fishing license required
Swimming from sunrise to sunset; swim away from Soquel Creek and check with lifeguards that conditions are safe
Lifeguards are on duty a various times, typically during busy times
Volleyball, Surfing, Fishing, Sunbathing, Birdwatching, Kayaking
Volleyball Courts, Fishing Pier, Restrooms, Showers, Shop, Restaurants
Free to visit
Metered street parking
El Matador Beach
Capitola Beach is a quaint coastal town and beach nestled on the north end of Monterey Bay, California. While it's small, it's one of the most vibrant beaches in California. In this guide, you'll learn all about this charming beach, and we'll answer some common questions, too.
The sandy shoreline faces south and boasts beautiful views, a pier, and colorful buildings. It's no wonder you can find lots of people here on sunny days. Capitola Beach is also only a few miles from the popular Santa Cruz, CA and other sandy beaches.
Capitola is among the oldest beach resorts on the United States west coast. The village was originally established as an oceanside tent camp in the late 19th century.
With cliffs at each end, this quiet beach has always had a dynamic vibe – secluded with some energy. Many years ago, the area was known as Soquel Landing and home to a large wharf.
In the late 1860s, a property owner began developing the land as a seaside resort. That development led to what was known as Camp Capitola and eventually gave way to what we know as Capitola Beach today.
Today, the Capitola Village and beach are a beach lover's favorite. During summer, it can get crowded but still offers a small-town beach feel.
How to Get to Capitola Beach
Getting to Capitola State Beach is pretty straightforward. It's about an hour and a half south of San Francisco and only about 15 minutes from downtown Santa Cruz.
You'll drive down Highway 1 and take Wharf Rd. to the ocean. You can cross over Soquel Creek as well. Either way, there's plenty of parking in the area.
Various parking spots can be accessed from Bay Avenue, Monterey Avenue, and Capitola Avenue. Rates vary, but be sure to take lots of quarters. Some street parking meters will also take credit cards.
Note: While there are many parking options, spots can fill up on the weekends and during the summer, so try to arrive early.
There is a courtesy shuttle that's free to ride from beach parking lots to the downtown area during the summer.
Where to Stay in Capitola
If you're planning an extended beach trip, you can find several hotels, inns, and vacation homes in the area. There are several accommodations at Capitola Beach, and there are also many nearby. Many travelers enjoy staying in Santa Cruz County, just a few miles away because it has the most options.
Here are some top recommendations:
- Capitola Venetian Hotel: a Mediterranean-style boutique hotel by the water
- Capitola Beach Suites: a relaxed, waterfront hotel with large suites
- Inn at Depot Hill: an upscale bed and breakfast close to the beach
Things to Do
Capitola State Beach has no shortage of activities to enjoy. From water activities and beach concerts to a lively pier and beautiful views, there's something for everyone!
Many beachgoers appreciate Capitola for its mostly gentle waters. Of course, rip currents are always something to be aware of in California, but overall it's safe to enjoy water activities here.
People enjoy swimming, surfing, paddleboarding, kayaking, and boogie boarding. You can also find beach gear rentals right by the beach at Capitola Beach Company, a local surf shop. You can take surfing and stand-up paddleboarding lessons, too.
Depending on when you visit, you may even get to catch a triathlon or surfing event taking place at the beach. Check out beach activities and events here!
Capitola Wharf is the beach's iconic attraction. This 855-foot fishing pier extends out into the bay and is popular for sightseers and anglers. It offers picturesque scenery over the Pacific Ocean and is the perfect place to catch some fish.
The wharf is also home to several restaurants, food stands, and shops. You can easily stroll and hang out on the wharf for hours.
You can get an excellent view of boats bobbing out in the water or stop into a restaurant right on the wharf itself for food and refreshments.
Esplanade Park is also a great spot to hang out by the beach. It spans from the east end of Monterey Avenue to the intersection of San Jose Avenue at the west end near the creek. You can enjoy picnic areas and stunning ocean views. There are also more shops and restaurants, along with convenient beach access.
At Esplanade Park, you can also find a concert stage. During the summer, live shows and outdoor movies take place here. There aren't many things better than spending a day on the beach, then enjoying a show! There's even a ton of places to enjoy a bite to eat or drink nearby.
Although the beach doesn't allow visitors to bring portable volleyball nets, you can find beach volleyball courts along the beach.
At the beach, visitors enjoy watching out for dolphins and sea otters. Esplanade Park and Soquel Creek are also great places to bird-watch and catch sightings of other wildlife, too. Be sure to bring your camera!