Santa Cruz! The time had come to visit the famed Surf City. After 24 years, سبحانه و تعالى had granted me my wish of finally seeing my father and my extended family in the US. I was apprehensive but excited to take this quick pause in my chaotic work/family schedule. I was sad that I had to leave my wife and 2 kids behind for 2 weeks – the longest we have ever been apart as a family – but it was now or now never. The stars aligned, and everything fell into place. It was time to go back to California.
Known for its surfing, perfect California weather and picturesque Highway 1, Santa Cruz is a Broadway production filled with inspiring natural beauty, captivating characters and a wild dance of life that makes you want to enthusiastically demand an encore.
Santa Cruz is the quintessential California beach town and is aptly named Surf City. Whether you just want to get your feet wet or have the cojones to ride the huge surf, Santa Cruz’s waves are great for all levels of surfers.
Santa Cruz is where surfing began in the mainland United States. In 1885, three Hawaiian teenagers were the first to introduce surfing in the mainland when they rode the waves of the mouth of the San Lorenzo River.
It’s where Chasing Mavericks, starring Gerard Butler and Jonny Weston, was filmed in tribute to the local surf legend, Jay Moriarity.
It’s where O’Neill’s started selling their first one-piece wetsuits for surfers back in the ’70s.
Unfortunately, I was not able to experience the legendary waves of Santa Cruz because it was freezing, and I was too chicken shit to go in. The last shark attack happened a few months ago (July 2017), and I happen to REALLY like my limbs so yeah, but no.
Other interesting facts about Santa Cruz:
- In 1769, Santa Cruz got its name from Don Gaspar de Portola, the first known European to visit the place.
- In 1793, the Quiroste Indian tribe attacked and burned Mission Santa Cruz.
- In 1850, Santa Cruz was officially designated as a county of the state of California.
- In 1876, Santa Cruz became a city.
- In 1907, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk opened. It is the oldest surviving boardwalk in California.
- Clint Eastwood’s Sudden Impact was set in Santa Cruz in 1983.
- In 1987, one of the best vampire movies of all time, The Lost Boys, was filmed here.
- January 2018 – Santa Cruz may become one of the first California cities to approve adult-use cannabis sales for recreational use. Yup, definitely coming back.
Manila to Guangzhou to San Francisco
It took 17 hours of travel time to get to San Francisco. Santa Cruz has no international airport, and San Francisco was the nearest and cheapest international airport that was close to the place. I had a quick layover in Guangzhou, China, and 13 uneventful hours flying to the San Francisco International Airport.
I safely landed, and as I walked out of the plane, a swarm of Filipino airport personnel came rushing to assist us. I passed through a group of them, who I guess were on their break, happily eating and chatting in Filipino. I was awakened from my jet-lagged daydream when one of them screamed, “Kunin mo yung bagahe dun! Hinahanap ni ser!” (Get the passenger’s luggage because he’s looking for it!)
Before this guy left to do his job, I just had to ask, “Pre, San Francisco International Airport na’to, diba?” (Hey man, this IS the San Francisco International Airport, right?)
“Yes sir,” he said. “Welcome to San Francisco!”
I smiled, said my thanks, and shook my head as I made my way out of Manila, I mean San Francisco.
I saw my dad waiting for me wearing his cowboy hat. He’s more American than most Americans having been there for so long. This guy just suffered a brain aneurysm a few years back and seeing him now, you wouldn’t believe he did.
He is as tough as they come. He told me a story about how he would ask the Filipino nurses (surprise, surprise) who cared for him if he could go to the gym 2 hours before his scheduled physical therapy session so that he could get a head start at working out. The nurses allowed him and admired him for his determination. He was out of his wheelchair in no time.
I am definitely a fan of his, and I am very thankful that he was given a 2nd chance at life.
After a quick bite at In-N-Out Burger, it was time to take the 1 ½ hour drive to Santa Cruz. Time to settle in at St. George Residences – my home for the next 2 weeks.
St. George Residences
St. George Residences is an apartment building in downtown Santa Cruz. The staff are awesome people. I’m going to miss them, and I hope to see them soon. Miguel, thank you for introducing me to real Mexican food! ¡Que viva México!
Downtown Santa Cruz
Downtown Santa Cruz has your usual clothing shops, cinemas, bars, and restaurants. The food is really good and reasonably priced, but the beer was kind of expensive at almost $7 a bottle. If you’re ever in downtown Santa Cruz, check out Poet & Patriot Irish Pub which is a great dive bar and Rosie McCann’s Irish Pub & Restaurant. They were introduced to me by my brother, and I definitely give those places a two thumbs up.
The downtown area also has a lot of homeless people. WAY too many homeless people if you ask me. Santa Cruz is becoming a sanctuary for the homeless in the U.S., if not one already. One would think that everyone would have a job here because of the numerous employment opportunities in the city.
From my tourist’s point of view, Santa Cruz is way too easy on the homeless. They are taking advantage of the hardworking, tax-paying and welcoming people of Santa Cruz since employed Santa Cruzians pay for their meal services, the public parks that they sleep in, public restrooms, substance abuse treatments and so much more.
I know you’ve got a big heart Santa Cruz, but you gotta make them go to work for you. Time to toughen up. Be a positive contributor to society, or get out.
Halloween in Santa Cruz 2017
I think these videos that I took will pretty much give you a picture of how much fun and crazy Halloween is in this town. The afternoon is for the kiddies, but the night time is for the freaks! I think my Dad and I got a little high with all that weed smoke in the air.
My afternoon walkabout in the downtown area during Halloween.
Awesome Street Performances at night.
The next day, my dad decided to take me to Monterey to get away from the downtown area for a little while and see where John Steinbeck lived and breathed. Mom was a huge fan of his and also got my dad hooked on him back in the day. This is for you ma.
I’ve heard good things, and I promise to read one of his books starting with Cannery Row. Thanks to my Dad, he gave me a copy, and now I have something to read on the plane back to Manila, and during my 7-hour layover in Wuhan, China. Should be fun.
Monterey is a beautiful place. We got to see and talk with a few kababayans (countrymen) which was nice. I think the only Filipinos in downtown Santa Cruz are my dad and bro which is a refreshing surprise in this golden state.
Santa Cruz – I came, I saw, and I’ll be back
I have nothing but beautiful memories of Santa Cruz. Sadly, I wasn’t able to see all that Santa Cruz had to offer. I still have a lot of sightseeing to do. Hopefully, the redwoods and the mountains will still be here when I get back. They’re pretty high on my bucket list. People from all over the world have come here and have never left, and it’s so tempting to do that in a beautiful city like this. Much love Santa Cruz. Hope to see you soon.
Thanks for everything, Dad. Keep on spreading salaam (peace) through your music and poetry. I love you.