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10 Best Coffee Shops in Santa Cruz

A gray salty sea mist blankets the city. It’s a moody day. You’ve just awakened inside one of the best centrally located vacation rentals in Santa Cruz. Nothing calls to you more than a steaming, aromatic cup of coffee. Fortunately, this stretch of California coast might just take its coffee culture as seriously as the Pacific Northwest and the San Francisco Bay Area. Whether you need a cup on the go, a proper co-working cafe, or you’re seeking the cozy respite arms of friendly staff and a hot mug of Joe with a book in hand to wait out a stormy afternoon, this list has you covered.

This is your definitive guide to Santa Cruz’s best cafes and cups of coffee so that you can get your day started the right way!

1. Verve Coffee Roasters

Photo Credit: The Image Party
  • Address: 104 Bronson St #19, Santa Cruz, CA (There are multiple locations within the city, but we love the Seabright location!)
  • Price Point: $$
  • Ambiance: Bright + Minimalist

Ask any local, and you’ll be sent here. Yes, it’s a chain, but it’s so much more than that. They have numerous Santa Cruz locations as well as more scattered throughout SoCal and one in Japan!

Verve Coffee is so much more than simply fair trade. They go above and beyond when it comes to eco-friendliness and sustainability by ensuring fair wages for farmers. As for the coffee, every drink is prepared to perfection. This is a lovely spot to grab a bite and get some work done.

2. Cat & Cloud Coffee

Photo Credit: Kevin Cameron
  • Address: 3600 Portola Dr, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Price Point: $$
  • Ambiance: Bright + Quirky

Another local chain success story with multiple locations in the Santa Cruz area, Cat & Cloud Coffee, draws you in with a more artistic and creative side to the coffee experience. Opened by three friends who had a vision and expertise in the field of coffee, they’ve expanded to 4 locations as well as a roaster that distributes their beans around the country.

Grab a famously delicious mocha and the wifi password to strike that work/caffeine balance just right. Or hang out and take in the inviting ambiance one comes to crave from a cafe— over a delicious pastry, of course!

3. 11th Hour Coffee

Photo Credit: Seaway Inn
  • Address: 1001 Center St #1, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Price Point: $-$$
  • Ambiance: Cozy Greenery Focused Space with Outdoor Seating

11th Hour Coffee believes that serving the community goes beyond the cup. Harboring creativity and art during the day while serving delicious espresso and hosting comedy evenings with a full bar by night. Their specials change by the season and are always a local favorite. The coffees themselves are a barista’s work of art you won’t want to ruin by taking that first sip. The plants and warm, cozy, creative atmosphere will have you hanging out here for hours. They also boast one of the best gluten-free breakfast sandwiches in the city.

4. Mariposa

Photo Credit: Mariposa Coffee Bar
  • Address: 1010 Pacific Ave Suite E, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Price Point: $
  • Ambiance: Cozy pop-up

What do you get when you combine two of the world’s biggest coffee cultures— Cuba and Vietnam? You get Mariposa. Mariposa offers a full vegetarian menu and a unique cultural experience you won’t find anywhere else.

The focus here is to slow down the coffee experience and savor the process of creating communities through coffee. The Vietnamese iced coffee personifies this with its time-intensive preparation. Order it yourself and see. Want something a little more specialty? Satisfy your sweet tooth with a Cuban Bella Bon Bon macchiato that packs a sweetened and caffeinated punch.

5. Firefly Coffee House

Photo Credit: Heather Smith
  • Address: 131A Front St, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Price Point: $$
  • Ambiance: Hole in the wall, a local favorite

If you’re looking for a funky hang-out with good coffee, exceptional chai, and amazing food, then look no further. Firefly is the hidden gem of Santa Cruz. You better arrive on an empty stomach because their bagel sandwiches and breakfast burritos are the talk of the town.

With cozy wood decor and a small outside dining area, this place can be a good place to hang out if the weather permits. But don’t worry, you can always take it to go!

6. Peoples Cafe

Photo Credit: Dennis Parker Kamoen
  • Address: 1200 17th Ave #126, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Price Point: $
  • Ambiance: Eclectic and Homey

Funky. Eclectic. Everything you’d expect in a local coffee joint in a central California surf town. Dog-friendly, couches comfy, and solid wifi. It’s a place you could curl up in for hours. The food menu is limited, but if coffee and a fun atmosphere are what you’re seeking, People’s Cafe has you covered.

7. The Abbey Coffee Lounge

Photo Credit: Evelyn Meganm Silvernail
  • Address: 350 Mission St, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Price Point: $-$$
  • Ambiance: Chic, artsy, and outdoor.

Communal, creative, open floorplan, and full espresso bar. The Abbey is a local favorite in downtown Santa Cruz. When the atmosphere is right, the free Wi-Fi is flying, and like-minded creatives surround you, you can easily spend the morning or afternoon here. Try the famous Honey Badger and snack on a hot panini in the shaded back patio of their outdoor seating area.

8. Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company

Photo Credit: Karyna Davis
  • Address: 1330 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Price Point: $
  • Ambiance: Classic

For over 40 years, this institution has served downtown Santa Cruz with the fuel it needs to get through the day. Roasting and brewing locally, this establishment cuts out the middle man and will have you feeling like you are enjoying a cup of coffee straight from the source because, frankly, you almost are. They’ve been making delicious coffee since before small batch roasting was cool. The fresh aromas, friendly and knowledgeable staff, and jars upon jars of beans here make the Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company a must-drink experience.

9. Lulu Carpenter’s

Photo Credit: Julia R
  • Address: 1545 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Price Point: $$
  • Ambiance: Artisan Pastry and coffee

This beautiful old-world cafe is famed for its vegan and gluten-free options, delicious coffee, and great cakes. Grab yourself a latte and take a seat in the welcoming atmosphere you want in a cafe. Unpretentious but skilled in every way.

10. Companion Bakeshop

Photo Credit: Luis Calderon
  • Address: 2341 Mission St, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Price Point: $$
  • Ambiance: French Bakery meets Cafe

For a casual brunch, come pick up a mocha or classic cappuccino paired with the deliciously fresh-baked goods from the best bake shop in Santa Cruz. There is a reason other cafes and coffee bars supply their customers with Companion. While the pastries and breads (not to mention their quiche), speak for themselves the coffee may be basic. But it’s always done right. They offer a full espresso menu, drip coffee & tea, hot chocolate, and au laits.

Wake Up With Us In Santa Cruz!

Santa Cruz has no shortage of cafes, roasteries, and coffee houses. Many local spots here have killer specialty coffee, American classics, and cups to-go. So skip the Starbucks and have a truly excellent coffee just a stone’s throw from our lovely vacation rentals in the heart of Santa Cruz. From midtown to Pacific Avenue, these ten West Coast coffee shops put Santa Cruz on the map for great coffee!