While Santa Cruz is quite a health-conscious community, the city has their fair share of tempting sweet treats. From ice cream and cookies to crepes and even chocolate-covered bacon, the options are plentiful for when that sweet tooth strikes. Tickle your taste buds with our picks for top sweet treats and desserts in Santa Cruz. Pictured: Assortment of carmel apples via Shutterstock.
Penny Ice Creamery
Downtown Santa Cruz; Pleasure Point
The indulgent trifecta of freshly fried and still warm donut holes, natural ice cream churned in-house and house-made marshmallow fluff toasted with a blow torch is every dessert lover’s fantasy—one that’s made into a reality at The Penny Ice Creamery. Founded in 2010 by Kendra Baker, Manresa’s Executive Pastry Chef at the time, and Zachary Davis, The Penny Ice Creamery is a favorite among residents and visitors for its hyper-local, artisanal approach to ice cream and sorbets. Pictured: Kendra Baker via Facebook/thepennyicecreamery
Downtown; Santa Cruz Wharf; Westside Santa Cruz
A haven for anyone with a sweet tooth, Marini’s offers a seemingly endless array of fudge, candy and other desserts. Their specialties are chocolate-covered bacon, carmel apples, salt water taffy and a decadent hot chocolate garnished with a substantial chunk of fudge. Marini’s originally started as a popcorn stand in 1915, but quickly expanded to include taffy, English toffee and candied apples. The Santa Cruz favorite celebrated its 100th anniversary with a new location on Ingalls Street in Westside Santa Cruz. Pictured: Candy via mariniscandies.com.
Westside Santa Cruz; Aptos
Our favorite childhood treat gets an adults-only makeover at Burger, where their beers are spun with Double Rainbow ice cream and topped with whipped cream. If you’re going to treat yourself to Burger.’s grass-fed beef creations and crispy tater tots, you might as well go all in with a beer float or shake. For purists who want a classic version, Burger. also offers non-alcoholic shakes in unique flavors like cinnamon, oatmeal raisin cookie dough and peanut butter.
The Crepe Place
Midtown Santa Cruz
A Santa Cruz mainstay since 1973, the Crepe Place is an eclectic restaurant and venue serving up a large menu of crepes both savory and sweet in addition to a daily helping of live music. Although the restaurant has changed many locations before settling into its romantic 100-year-old building, the mission has stayed the same: to provide the community with unique entertainment and food, in particular their Bananarama dessert crepe filled with ripe bananas and Nutella then topped with vanilla ice cream.
Marianne’s Ice Cream
Santa Cruz; Aptos
Everyone has their favorite flavor at Marianne’s Ice Cream, a local institution established in 1947. Some swear by a scoop of coconut and macadamia nut. Others won’t eat anything but the 1020, an intense combination of caramel ice cream, fudge swirls and Oreo cookies. Yet another, more experimental camp tries something different every time, whether that’s the horchata, Kahlua Krunch, Northern Oregon blackberry, or pistachio nut with cardamom. No matter your ice cream ideology, Marianne’s 70 flavors are sure to satisfy. Pictured: Ice cream scoops via mariannesicecream.com.
Pacific Cookie Company
Downtown Santa Cruz
Old-fashioned cookies made with quality ingredients are the specialties at Pacific Cookie Company. In addition to the classic chocolate chip, Snickerdoodle and oatmeal raisin, this bakery offers unique and irresistible flavors. Try the Almond Joe, the Guittard (chocolate and coconut), the Lemon Drop, a traditional sugar cookie zinged up with lemon extract, and the Mr. Midnight, with chocolate chips, chocolate syrup and cocoa powder. Any of their cookie creations can be enjoyed with locally roasted coffee or with a scoop of Marianne’s ice cream. Pictured: Fresh batch of cookies via Facebook/PacificCookieCompany.
Downtown Santa Cruz; Farmers Markets
Speaking of cookies, the ones with dark chocolate and sea salt at Companion Bakeshop are a must-try. But don’t stop there—splurge on the bakeshop’s scones, tartlets and croissants which are all unbelievably delicious. The pastries at Companion are so luxurious and perfectly executed that it might come as a surprise to learn that they started out making bread for the farmer’s market. Check out their Pie Bar, offering whole pies and slices at local Farmers Markets this fall. Pictured: Apple Pies via Facebook/companionbakeshop
Soif Wine Bar
Downtown Santa Cruz
Although the main draw to Soif Wine Bar is their curated selection of local and international whites and reds, this classy spot also offers an impressive menu of desserts. Visitors can either enjoy dessert and wine only or stay for a complete meal starting with a cheese plate, anchored by a grass-fed beef burger and finished off with either pillowy ricotta beignets with plum compote, Damsom plum clafoutis with elderflower and lemon verbena ice cream or a rich, creamy triple chocolate pot de crème with salted caramel. Pictured: Luxurious dessert via Facebook/Soif-Wine-Bar-Merchants.