As the sun rises above the brightly painted cottages on Capitola's sandy beach, you may feel like you're waking up in a coastal village in Italy. This laid-back town has an air of endless summer; couples linger over espresso in waterfront cafés while bronzed beach-goers stroll past Mediterranean-style bungalows on their way to the sea.
One of California's oldest resort towns, Capitola began as a destination for people from Silicon Valley wanting to escape to the coast. While the city still lures day-trippers today, its nearly 10,000 residents find it second nature to balance work with play—especially when it comes to surfing. The primo waves here even inspired wet suit manufacturer O'Neill to build its headquarters in adjacent Santa Cruz.
Left: Vibrant buildings lining the waterfront