.Best of Santa Cruz County 2021: Community Life

Find out what readers voted as the best among community life.



  1. Seabright Beach is a gorgeous half-mile stretch of pristine sand nestled between the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
  2. The beach and surrounding area were once known as “Castle Beach”—in honor of a now-demolished landmark, the Castle. James Pilkington built the Castle, a popular bathhouse, around the turn of the 20th century.
  3. Before you spend your day in the warm California sun, make sure to stop by the Museum of Natural History, located on Pilkington Street, just a block from the Seabright Beach entrance. You’ll find over 16,000 items including minerals, gems, and artifacts from native groups like the Ohlone Indians.
  4. Seabright Beach is the perfect spot to watch fireworks on the Fourth of July. It is also an amazing vantage point for the weekly Wednesday night sailboat races, which take place beginning with the start of daylight saving time.
  5. At low tide, walk through the sandstone arch and cave leading to the mouth of the San Lorenzo River and the Boardwalk. HUGH MCCORMICK



  1. Way back in 1976, a tiny but tight group of farmers came together to sell their produce to the local community. Their grassroots effort gave birth to the Aptos Farmers Market—one of the grandest farmers markets in the county.
  2. Each week, the Aptos Farmers Market at Cabrillo College boasts over 90 vendors offering everything from meats, cheeses, honey, plants, flowers, to artisanal breads and baked goods.
  3. The Aptos Farmers Market is held at Cabrillo College each Saturday morning from 8am to noon year-round, rain or shine. Make sure to arrive early for the best selection. Vendors close and pack up shop at noon.
  4. Farmers markets like Aptos’ are recognized as essential food outlets during the Covid-19 pandemic. Visitors are encouraged to do their shopping and go, without congregating too much. Handwashing and hand sanitizer stations are carefully placed throughout the marketplace.
  5. Coastal Living Magazine named it one of the “Central Coast’s Best Farmers Markets.” HUGH MCCORMICK



  1. The CZU Lightning Complex fire was sparked on Aug. 16, 2020, when more than 12,000 dry lightning strikes hit Northern and Central California.
  2. Despite warnings and evacuation orders from law enforcement and fire officials a group of Bonny Doon locals—volunteer firefighters—refused to back down and fought valiantly to save their (and their neighbors’) homes.
  3. With the state’s firefighting resources stretched dangerously thin, 50 or so Bonny Doon residents basically created their own tiny fire department.
  4. With their own bulldozers, water tanks and chainsaws, the Bonny Doon Neighborhood Brigade used local knowledge to save dozens of homes, earning the respect of Cal Fire crews.
  5. Borrowing a friend’s ancient fire truck, Bonny Doon residents Mark Kuchler and Glenn Hanson were able to save over 10 homes themselves—filling up the hose and dousing flames throughout the area. Most of the homes they saved lacked fire insurance. HUGH MCCORMICK

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Seabright Beach

East Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz

RUNNERS-UP Seacliff State Beach, Capitola Beach

Bike Ride

West Cliff Drive

RUNNERS-UP Wilder Ranch, East Cliff Drive

Boardwalk Ride

Giant Dipper

400 Beach St., Santa Cruz 

423-5590, beachboardwalk.com

RUNNERS-UP Carousel, Log Ride

Derby Girl

Eileen Hill

RUNNERS-UP Unleashed, Aisha Storm Brown 

Dog Park

Frederick Street

168 Frederick St., Santa Cruz

RUNNERS-UP Aptos Polo Grounds, Chanticleer 

Farmers Market 

Aptos Farmers Market at Cabrillo College  

6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos, 728-5060

RUNNERS-UP Downtown, Live Oak 

Local Athlete (non-Derby)

Carina Reid

RUNNERS-UP Nat Young, Rohanna Shultz

Local Hero

Bonny Doon Neighborhood Brigades

RUNNERS-UP Our Firefighters, Carina Reid



RUNNERS-UP Westside, Pleasure Point

Nonprofit Group

Romero Institute

210 High St., Santa Cruz

459-6135, romeroinstitute.org

RUNNERS-UP Second Harvest, Jacob’s Heart

Place of Worship

Twin Lakes Church

2701 Cabrillo College Drive, Aptos, 465-3300, tlc.org

RUNNERS-UP Temple Beth El, Holy Cross Catholic Church

Place to Walk/Jog/Hike

West Cliff Drive

RUNNERS-UP Nisene Marks, Henry Cowell Redwoods

Retreat Center

Land of Medicine Buddha Retreat Center 

5800 Prescott Road, Soquel, 462-8383, landofmedicinebuddha.org

RUNNERS-UP 1440 Multiversity, Mount Madonna Institute

Wedding Venue

Chaminade Resort & Spa

1 Chaminade Ln., Santa Cruz, 475-5600, chaminade.com

RUNNERS-UP Shadowbrook Restaurant, Hollins House


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