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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Santa Cruz cool

Courtesy Santa Cruz County CVC

No reason to leave
High on a hilltop on the outskirts of Santa Cruz, the 300-acre Chaminade Resort and Spa has spent $15 million in recent years on improvements to its 156 guest rooms and main building, as well as to its restaurant and function space.

With 12 meeting rooms in 12,000 square feet of meeting space, in-house conference planners and on-site team-building services, Chaminade is known for meetings, sales director Sherrie Huneke said.

“The quality of our meeting space has always been top-notch,” she said. “We don’t use the air walls, and 11 of our 12 meeting rooms have windows. So we have solid walls, high ceilings and windows that look out toward Monterey Bay.”

“It’s very conducive to group meetings and freethinking,” Huneke said. “We want people to feel inspired and feel pampered. We provide it all up on this hilltop, so groups don’t even really have to leave the property.”

Down by the sea

The most visible of Santa Cruz’s off-site venues is perhaps not the most obvious: the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, where much of the 1987 movie “Lost Boys” was filmed.

Santa Cruz Seaside Co. owns both the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk amusement park and adjoining Cocoanut Grove meeting facility. Although they’re managed separately, Cocoanut Grove and the boardwalk often are used together for large events.

Founded in 1907, the boardwalk is the state’s oldest oceanfront amusement park. Its 35 rides include the 1924 Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster and the 1911 Looff Carousel, both designated as historic landmarks in 1987.

At the western edge of the boardwalk is the 1907 Cocoanut Grove building, with an elegant 6,900-square-foot ballroom that is original to the building.

Attached to it is the 4,300-square-foot Bay View room, which gives guests “a whole expansive view of Monterey Bay and the beach and the wharf,” said director Sally Sessions.

The Grove’s 6,500-square-foot glass-ceilinged Sun Room was added in the 1980s, although the space doesn’t work well for some events because the room can’t be darkened.

“We’re definitely not set up as a traditional meeting venue; we don’t have some of the high-tech items because we’re over 100 years old. But we have an arcade,” Sessions said. “Our meeting areas aren’t the same as what you may find in some hotels that specialize in conferences, but we do have the advantage of having fun.”

Two adjacent outdoor areas can also be used for meetings and events. The Aloha Terrace is a grassy area with picnic tables for 350; next to it is the Beach Deck — a deck built down on the beach — that can accommodate 500 people, according to Kathie Keeley, director of sales for Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Soon, the Beach Deck will get a redo with new tables and awning and a “surf shack” look with surfboards and vintage signs. Keeley also is working with a local team-building company to create boardwalk-centric activities. She hopes to offer them by January.

“We wanted to do something that was just ours, that was special, that you could only do at the boardwalk,” Keeley said.

The Aloha Terrace and Beach Deck can be booked together or separately, and packages include all-day rides, a barbecue and beach volleyball.

During the off-season, September through the first half of May, the boardwalk’s Casino Arcade and Neptune’s Kingdom, which features a two-story miniature golf course, are available on weekdays for exclusive use, Keeley said.

Everyone wants to come here

The qualities that attracted BPR and the Hotel Paradox to Santa Cruz are much the same as those that attract meetings and events.

“What’s great is that Santa Cruz has a proven track record of popularity,” said Eichers. “Santa Cruz is so close to the Bay Area; everyone still wants to come here because of its proximity to the redwoods, to the ocean, boardwalk, mountains. It’s a popular place.”

Meeting planner Dowdell finds it an easy place to do business and a hard place to leave.
“Santa Cruz is just very interesting; it’s a beautiful location, right on the water, and it’s very much an outdoorsy community,” she said, adding, “It’s hard for me to decide to go on vacation.”