Experience the best of Santa Cruz at the Dream Inn


The Santa Cruz of my youth was one filled with sandy days on the beach and nights strolling the boardwalk. We would drive down to the seaside town famous for the movie The Lost Boys and pack up with the lights of the Big Dipper roller coaster as they would go dim. While those quick trips were fun, we never really got to enjoy all that Santa Cruz had to offer.

Before my daughter had to head back to school, we took a trip down to a place I have always loved but never was able to experience fully. Gone are the days where I’ll eat a sloppy corndog under the boardwalk. I want a bit of luxury in my old age. When I travel, I want delicious food, timely room service, and impeccable amenities.

Naturally, we chose the Dream Inn located right on the beach and just steps from Santa Cruz’s Beach Boardwalk. It really is the best of all worlds.

For me, I was able to enjoy my morning coffee in a cozy Dream Inn robe overlooking the blue Pacific Ocean while my ten-year-old daughter splashed around in the pool with other children her age.

It’s always tricky traveling with children. While parents prefer resorts that offer award-winning cuisine, kids are happy with chicken tenders. What I found so remarkable about the Dream Inn is that they catered to both the parents and the children. First, room service breakfast took care of the frantic morning hustle to get to a restaurant while negotiating what bathing suit to wear. Then, poolside activities included a mimosa bar for mama and a kid’s happy hour for my girl.

Our late mornings and early afternoons were spent poolside. The poolside staff was incredible. Within moments of sitting down, someone was there, ready to take our order. While we were there, they had a street taco cart serving delicious pork, beef, and chicken tacos and delivered right to our lounge chairs.

The Dream Inn has direct access to the pool and starting later this year they will have full beach service for guests. With towels and showers, playing on the beach between cocktails and tacos was a breeze. Seriously, I felt like a kid again.

Traveling with children can be stressful, but I found everything about our stay at the Dream Inn to be…well…a dream. We dined at Jack O’Neill Restaurant & Lounge. The restaurant is located on the property, where the world-famous surfer Jack O’Neill had his first surf shop. The space is filled with fascinating memorabilia and great black-and-white photos of Jack and his surf shop.

Jack O’Neill Restaurant & Lounge

Honestly, I expected the usual beach fare, especially since the namesake wasn’t known for his cooking. But I was blown away by the menu. Both my daughter and I enjoyed an epic meal that was beyond anything I could have expected. First, we feasted the cured meats & cheese platter for our starter. Our waiter explained to us that one of the cheeses featured was from the original Monterey Jack family.

Cured Meats & Cheese Platter

We enjoyed the fascinating story while munching on grilled country bread, duck pate, and picked vegetables. We followed that with the most delicious, seared scallops topped with citrus and olive tamponade. Next, the chef recommended the grilled local sea bass, and my daughter ate every last bite.

During the depths of COVID, Dream Inn created a brilliant vertical concert series. Basically, the ticket to the concert included a room with a view of the pool, where the concert would be performed. The band was socially distanced from the guests, and the guests were all in their own rooms, watching the show from their private balconies. It was such a hit that they continued the vertical concert series, and the next performers and concert dates include:

Dream Inn’s location makes the property a perfect place to stay when visiting Santa Cruz and the surrounding areas. They offer valet parking, which is crucial if you know anything about being in Santa Cruz during the height of the season.

The gentlemen running the valet service were charming and went out of their way to make our arrival and departure worry-free. The hotel is just north of the beach boardwalk and steps from the Santa Cruz Pier. While we only stayed there for a few nights, I really wanted to stay longer. But we had to get back to reality and leave the Dream behind.

Until next time.