Originally published in GPS.OutTraveler.com
Story by Louise Rafkin
Ask anyone in the know about Santa Cruz: a laid-back California beach town with cool Victorian houses, with a wild boardwalk and a fantastic roller coaster, populated by beaded hippies, sun-bleached surfers, and an earnest population of students majoring in Alternative Studies. This is all true.
But there is another Santa Cruz, just up the road. A Santa Cruz of oak and redwood forests, tumbling down into the valley that is the town. The Santa Cruz Mountains offer endless adventures for hiking, birding, and all forms of getting away from it all.
Enter Chaminade Resort and Spa, set on a mountain ridge literally minutes from the main highway which snakes through town. A former monastery, Chaminade is perched on 300 acres at the end of a private tree-lined road. Well-marked hiking trails circle the eco-friendly lodge and out buildings, and the smell of eucalyptus literally floats on the sea air.
While my girlfriend and I enjoyed morning coffee in our King Junior Suite, a deer and her fawn emerged from the underbrush to stare at us from our patio with an equal intensity to ours before moving down the path.
Our suite, with flat screen TV, premium cable, cozy sofa, and dinette, was replete with luxury sheets and a feather-topped bed. Most rooms open to outdoor patios outfitted with table and chairs. Just a short walk from the lodge buildings, is an outdoor swimming pool, lighted tennis courts, and a beach volleyball court. Nearby, the large, equipped fitness center has everything: a full cardio theater, free weights, kettle balls, yoga space, and Cybex equipment. After working out, dip into the spa. Offering a range of massages, facials, body scrubs, wraps, beauty and waxing services, as well as mani-pedi’s, the spa also sports a private outdoor Jacuzzi and Koi pond. After an hour of deep-tissue massage, the excellent sauna and steam rooms left me as relaxed as a wet noodle.
And hungry. Luckily, Chaminade has various eating options in the main lodge, where outdoor tables with sweeping views provide the perfect place to start or end the day. With signature cocktails, regional wines, and a menu built around fresh, local ingredients, menu choices abound, from fresh seafood from the bay, to vegetarian specials. Room service assures you’ll never go hungry; the Sunday brunch repeatedly wins a “best of” prize voted on by locals.
Chaminade provides exactly what is unique about the California coastal experience: a perfect blend of mountains and seashore. With golf and wineries nearby, miles of beaches and the some of the world’s best waves to surf, the challenge of Chaminade might be in getting yourself to leave.
Rooms run $149-$309, and some welcome pooches. The gay-friendly resort regularly hosts weddings, conferences and reunions and can accommodate parties of up to 230 guests.
Reservations: 1 800-283-6569/Direct: 831-475-5600