Bay Bar and Grill
209 Esplanade, Capitola, CA
Aside from a laid-back atmosphere and above-average bar fare, the main attraction at Bay Bar and Grill is the set of pool tables. The younger crowd that frequents this spot is here for the pool and the standard pitchers of relatively cheap beer needed to maintain a not-so-steady hand with the cue stick.
110 Monterey Avenue, Capitola, CA
If you're torn between watching the sun set over the ocean or the Warriors rout the Cavaliers, head over to the Bluewater Steak House down in Capitola Village and have both. Happy hour is from 4-7pm Monday through Thursday at this casually cosmopolitan bar and steakhouse, where they serve up surf and turf with style against the backdrop of the mighty Pacific Ccean.
2621 41st Ave., Soquel, CA
This epicurean gem is hidden in plain sight, in a banal commercial strip on 41st Avenue. When the front door closes behind you, blotting out the fluorescent glare and traffic, it's almost a shock to find a woody, casually elegant dining room. The bar in the back with its cozy fireplace is a hangout for locals in the know, and beyond that is a perfect patio for after-cocktail alfresco dining.
Fast Eddy's Pool Hall
4300 Capitola Rd, Capitola, CA
This all-ages pool joint has fun for the whole family. A copious selection of pool tables (obviously), pinball machines, sports games on TV, and video games lets everyone in a party find their niche entertainment selection. No liquor is served here, but the modest beer and wine selection keeps players properly lubed for carnally understanding vector physics.
Fog Bank Bar & Grille
211 Esplanade, Capitola, CA
The frequent live music brings in a mixed crowd, with younger people on the patio overlooking the beach smoking and drinking, while the decidedly older crowd inside boogies, either with someone or solo, channeling their past festival dance performances, all flailing arms and flowing skirts. A fun place to watch people and hear live tunes, with ample bar offerings.
4714 Soquel Dr., Soquel, CA
Back in the day, JJ's gave away matchbooks emblazoned with that great old saw: “You're only a stranger once.” In fact, settling in for a couple of cocktails here generally means making some friends. Still a classic neighborhood sports bar, JJ's has caught on with the retro- hipsters, but they haven't ruined the place—it's a friendly bunch. Bonus: shuffleboard table.
221 Esplanade, Capitola, CA
One of the few places in the area with live DJs on the weekend, Margaritaville attracts a wide range of people looking for stiff drinks and a good view by day and loud music and a good time by night. The actual bar is on the small side, but once tables are moved, there is plenty of room for dancing.
655 Capitola Rd., Santa Cruz, CA
Named after our Italian seaside sister city, Sestri offers a convenient midtown respite from the day's labors. Happy hour is every night from 5-7pm, and hump day is Wine Down Wednesday. For just $10 you get all the featured wine you care to drink, plus live music and sweet deals on appetizers.
1750 Wharf Road, Capitola, CA
Happy hour is short and sweet (Friday, 4-6pm) here at this decades-old Capitola institution, but it appears there's a happy crew here every night. Don't miss the Wednesday night wine tastings from 5-8pm, which include perfectly paired hors d'oeuvres and great discounts on featured vintner's bottles.
Sir Froggy's Pub
4771 Soquel Dr, Soquel, CA
Like a cabin in the woods, Sir Froggy's takes you in and warms you up with a crackling fireplace, full bar and even a vacation house-style bookcase. Pool, pinball and the ever-popular Karaoke Thursdays keep patrons well entertained at this rustic haunt in charming Soquel.
The Wharf House
1400 Wharf Rd., Capitola, CA
Located at the end of the Capitola Wharf, The Wharf House enjoys a hearty bar ambiance and live music on the top deck during summers that make it a perennially popular place with locals. Good seafood is available, and the nightly bar crowd skews a bit older.
203 Esplanade, Capitola, CA
The only beachfront deck in Capitola hosts live music outside in the summer that moves inside once the weather turns cold. Along with good food and a great breakfast, Zelda's has a dependable bar crowd and plenty of space, despite not having beer on draft. DJs are the norm for Friday nights. Saturdays are usually live bands.