2013 Winter Destinations: Santa Cruz, California

Winter is great, except when you’re holed up with no sun all day. Take your weekends back with one of these fresh, easy adventures.

The Santa Cruz commute.     Photo: Chris Burkard

Winter is the best time to hit Santa Cruz’s 10 miles of famous breaks, for a few simple reasons: between November and March, storms produce consistent swells, from two-foot rolling waves to barrelling 10-footers; the 50-degree air keeps summer crowds away; and flights from most major cities to San Jose (just 35 minutes to the north) fall to around $300. Drop your bags at the eco-chic Hotel Paradox (doubles from $165) and head to the Freeline Design Surf Shop for a four-millimeter wetsuit ($10) and six-foot shortboard ($25), ideal for these conditions. Then make your way to two-to-four-foot waves at the Hook, a point break located at the end of 41st Avenue. To tackle larger swells, head to Steamer Lane (where winter waves average six feet) or get a lesson from Club Ed ($85 per person). When you’re done, treat yourself with a lobster quesadilla at Olitas Cantina and Grille, and chase it down with one of the legendary margaritas.

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