Santa Cruz is a quirky little city full of eccentric locals and hounds of tourists. It can be difficult to navigate — especially if you are carrying mounds of school work and need a place away from your roommates to focus. Thankfully, I like to consider myself an expert in being able to study anywhere from a cousin’s wedding to Taco Bell.
Caffe Pergolesi, or Perg, as it’s more often lovingly referred to, is a local coffeehouse set in an old Victorian house in downtown Santa Cruz. The house has four different rooms meaning that while you are studying, others may be playing games or reconnecting.
Because the shop is an old house, the atmosphere is cozy and welcoming. The prices are fairly reasonable, and they don’t require a purchase for Wi-Fi. They don’t offer much in terms of food, so it may be in your best interest to grab a bite to eat before.
Java Junction is a local company with shops throughout Santa Cruz — in Twin Lakes right along the ocean, in Seabright next to the brewery and on River Street next to Highway 1.
All three have large patios, free Wi-Fi and menu full of healthy sandwiches and smoothies to ensure that you aren’t just surviving on coffee during finals week. But the coffee is all organic, fair trade and roasted weekly. Every Saturday, the Santa Cruz Ukulele Club plays right in front of the Twin Lakes location, which is fun and calming to have in the background of a study sesh.
The Ugly Mug
If you live on campus, The Ugly Mug in Soquel may be a little out of your way, but it’s my personal favorite. The vibe is cool, local friendly and very welcoming. The shop is decorated with local theater posters and rainbow flags, and they even have a little rack where frequent customers can hang their own coffee mugs with a small name label, so they don’t have to bring in one every time. In addition to serving coffee and tea, The Ugly Mug also has food, beer and ice cream with a ton of seating.
The Physical and Marine Sciences Building
If you want to beat the crowds at the Science and Engineering Library (S+E) but still remain on Science Hill, try either the Physical Sciences or Marine Science buildings. The atmosphere of these spaces is definitely one of research and innovation.
The Marine Science building has a geology collection on display and bulletin boards displaying professors’ and graduate students’ research projects. Both buildings feature a Perk coffee cart and a bathroom, studying essentials — but do close earlier than S+E. The Physical Sciences building is only a space to work in if you are okay with other people around. The building isn’t packed, but there are still professors and students walking by going to classes or offices, whereas the Marine Sciences building still has some stirring but is quieter and has more tables if you aren’t as comfortable working from a couch.
If you are a person who needs absolute silence when you are working, the Stevenson Library may be for you. The library is open 24/7, and the mixture of old books and the fact that it is a little off the beaten track of campus makes it a quiet and studious atmosphere. This isn’t a library just for Stevenson students though, students come here because it is known for its quiet studious atmosphere — and hell if you don’t leave feeling more productive, smarter and like those students loans have all been worth it.
Another one of my personal favorite places to study is at Saturn Cafe. Though it may seem a little out of the ordinary at first because of its restaurant-style seating but, Saturn is a great place to get work done. The tables are large, it has Wi-Fi and the servers are incredibly kind. Not to mention they are open until midnight and the vegan friendly food is actually really yummy. Now this isn’t a coffee shop where you will find oodles of hipsters working on screenplays, it is still a restaurant. So it is important to order food, and it’s also usually a better choice to go on slower nights so you both don’t have to wait for an empty table, but also won’t feel bad for taking over one.
My freshman year, at least once a week, I would hop on a bus with some dormmates and head to the beach to lay out and watch the waves. I found that Cowell and Main Beach are fantastic places to study once the tourist season dies down. These beaches are the most accessible to UC Santa Cruz students via bus, because the 19 and 20 both drop off right in front of the sand so you don’t have to worry about parking. Beach studying can’t be essay writing or anything that requires a laptop, but if you have a ton of reading and need to unplug in order to focus, it’s perfect. A couple things to keep in mind beforehand though: wear sunscreen (for obvious reasons), if you have polarized sunglasses bring them because it makes reading easier and bring a bag with a towel and change of clothes just in case.