Best Health & Fitness

BestOf2012 starHEALTH

Acupuncture:Five  Branches
Aerobics Studio:Santa Cruz Dance Co.
Alternative Health:Five Branches
Bike Trail:Nisense Marks
Botox:Laser Hair & Skin
Day Spa:Caress Day Spa
Facial:L’Atellier Day Spa
Fitness Center:Toadal Fitness
Fitness Trainer:Kyle Haynes (Santa Cruz Strength)
Golf Course:Pasatiempo

Gymnastic Center:Santa Cruz Gymnastics
Hiking Trail:De La Veaga
Kickboxing:Lightspeed Martial Arts
Laser Hair Removal:Laser Hair Solutions     
Martial Arts Studio:Elite Martial Arts
Massage School:Twin Lakes
Outdoor Sports School:Adventure Out
Pilates:Agile Monkey
Place to Get Waxed:European Wax
Retreat:Land of Medicine Budha
Senior Care Services:Dominican Oaks, Lifespan (Tie)
Stand-up Paddle:Coverwater
Surf School:Club Ed
Surfing Spot:Pleasure Point
Swimming  Pool:Simpkin’s Family Swim Center
Women’s Gym:Curves
Yoga Studio:Bikram Yoga Aptos

Acupuncture/Alternative health:Five Branches
A consistent winner in this category, there’s good reason why Five Branches nabs top honors once again. Practioners here are highly skilled and happy to give you the 411 on your body’s “energy flow.” Five Branches is all about the art of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and the mighty “Five” in its moniker refers to acupuncture, energetics, herbal medicine, massage and dietetics. Visit 200 7th Ave., Santa Cruz, 476-8211, fivebranches.edu.
| Charlie Price
Runners-up Communi Qi, Celeste VIllegas (Santa Cruz Core)

bo health danceAerobics Studio:Santa Cruz Dance Company
It has been said that Zumba is like ditching the workout and joining the party and that’s exactly what you’ll find when taking any of the number of Zumba classes at Santa Cruz Dance Company (SCDC). Their adult fitness program (Zumba), coupled with a full youth and teen dance program that incorporates genres of dance that include tap, jazz, contemporary, lyrical, ballet, hip hop, acrobatics and musical theatre, is sure to leave you energized, engaged and entertained. Dedicated and talented owner, Joy Smith, and her highly trained staff have created an environment at SCDC that is encouraging and accessible for all ages and genders. Take note: The first class is always free for Santa Cruz locals. Visit 2800 Porter St., Soquel, 479-4700, santacruzdancecompany.com | Jenny Simeone
Runners-up Santa Cruz Core, Toadal Fitness

Bike Trail:Nisene Marks
This 10,000-acre wooded wonder has more than 30 miles of trails and is a staple of the local mountain biking community. But the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park wasn’t always the peaceful natural hangout it is now; from 1883 to 1923 the land was victim to a logging frenzy and saw much of its trees clear-cut. The forest has been slowly re-growing and healing itself since the loggers left, but remnants of the logging operations remain today in form of mill sites, trestles and more. Call 763-7062 or click parks.ca.gov. | Elizabeth Limbach
Runners-up Wilder Ranch, West Cliff Drive

Botox:Karen Welsh
When people express concerns in maintaining balance in their lives, they are probably not thinking the way Karen Welsh, manager of Laser Hair & Skin Solutions, always seems to be—that is, terms of a person’s face and its symmetry. Karen has specialized in administering Botox, Dysport, and dermal fillers for six years and counting. “We do a facial rejuvenation,” she says. Although these are no doubt medical procedures, Karen admits they are satisfying, in the way she is able to show off her creative side. “It’s fun to make people more balanced, more youthful, more relaxed,” explains Karen, who worked for several years at Santa Cruz Medical Clinic. Thing To Know: Call for an appointment with Karen quick! This beloved Botox specialist is known to work primarily via appointments, rather than walk-ins. Visit 783 Rio Del Mar Blvd. or call 689-9830. | Cynthia E. Orgel
Runners-up Ultraderm, Dr. Alexis Lane

Day Spa:Caress Day Spa
We Santa Cruzans work hard and play hard, but we have also mastered the art of relaxation. It is, after all, imperative to our health. Thanks to places like Caress Day Spa (the town’s crowned favorite), we can relax in style with massages, aromatherapy, water treatments, and so much more. Our favorite? The Aroma-Kur, an anti-stress body treatment that targets the pesky tension-hoarding upper back, neck and shoulders. Visit 911 Capitola Ave., Capitola. Call 462-4422 or click caressdayspa.com. | EL
Runners-up Chaminade, Well Within, Skin Essence Day Spa

bo health facialFacial:L’Atellier Day Spa
One of the most divine experiences around. Truly.  With a fine array of acupuncturists, manicurists, massage and other bodywork therapists, L’Atellier Day Spa continues to expand ever since it opened its doors in 2011—after L’Atellier Salon was such a hit, owner Jenna McClure wanted to offer more to locals. As far as the facials, you’re in the hands of pros here. I recently experienced Kristen Wright—wow, does this lady know her stuff—and was basked in a treatment that included the use of über pure skin product Emminence. Try the Signature Organic Facial ($95—it’s dubbed as a “decadent custom facial that is customized to Clear, Calm or Firm the skin with target-specific organic fruit and healing plant masques, serums and treatments.” Another that stands out: The Blueberry Detox Firming Peel Facial ($120-$150). Enjoy the bliss. 304 Lincoln St., Santa Cruz, latelliesalon.com. | CP
Runners-up Caress Day Spa, Bella Dawna, Trami Skin Care

Fitness Center:Toadal Fitness
When it comes to finding a gym that literally has something for everyone—from the novice exerciser to the triathlon dominator—locals look no further than Toadal Fitness. The Santa Cruz-based chain offers a wide variety of workout machines, relatable trainers, and fun group classes that range from yoga to kickboxing to its newest addition, TXT: a high-energy cross-training session that gives you a full body workout every time. With some of the lowest membership fees around, locations throughout the county, and some of the friendliest faces in the business, Toadal Fitness is near and dear to the hearts of Santa Cruzans. For locations and contact info, visit toadalfitness.com. | Jenna Brogan
Runners-up In Shape, Crossfit West, Santa Cruz Strength

Fitness Trainer:Kyle Haynes (SC Strength)
It’s been just over a year since Kyle Haynes opened Santa Cruz Strength with his wife, Jocelyn Forest, in May 2011, but the small USA Weightlifting Certified gym already has a fiercely loyal following. Given his experience with Olympic weightlifting and background in CrossFit training, it’s no wonder locals flock to Haynes for help getting stronger. Visit 151 Harvey West Blvd., Santa Cruz. Call 334-7273 or click santacruzstrength.com. | EL
Runners-up Demetrius (Toadal Fitness), Jaimi Ellison (Santa Cruz Core)

Golf Course:Pasatiempo
If someone ever tells you to get a hobby, don’t get discouraged. In fact, why not try your luck at Pasatiempo Golf Club? The very name itself is Spanish for “hobby/pastime,” which has possibly caused locals to take it easy on Pasatiempo’s teeing ground. Established by expert golfers in 1929, Pasatiempo has remained a favorite amongst both novice and pro players alike—it is not the least bit surprising that Tiger Woods is quoted on the club’s site for saying, “Pasatiempo is a great track.” Visit 20 Clubhouse Road, Santa Cruz or 459-9155. Click pasatiempo.com. | CEO
Runners-up De Laveaga, Seascape

Gymnastics Center:Santa Cruz Gymnastics Center
Locals appreciate how Santa Cruz Gymnastic Center  embraces the playful, stimulating feeling that is most prevalent in childhood. One of the ways it does that is by hosting party rooms for kids to play in foam pits, exercise on bars and balance beams, show each other the ropes and rings, and trampoline together. Take note of Santa Cruz Gymnastics’ Preschool Gymcamp—craft-time is included. Although your gym may be more selective in terms of who can attend, S.C.G.C. is not. Both you and your child can exercise together during Wee Tumble Time. Visit 2750-B Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Call 462-0655  | CEO
Runners-up Vargas Academy, June Bugs Gym

Hiking Trail:DeLaveaga
DeLaveaga Golf & Lodge has been a long-time winner of best golf course, but now it’s time to pack the clubs away and take a hike—at DeLaveaga Park, off of Branciforte Avenue. Here are eight trails open to both hikers and bicyclists alike, such as the ever-so-alluring “Enchanted Trail,” which is one mile long and ideal for dog owners and mountain cyclists (note: it is advised to keep dogs on leashes for certain portions of the trip—see map). Thing To Know: Also a mile in length is the La Corona Trail—the more you climb, the closer you get to the La Corona viewpoint coined the “Top of the World.”For maps and more information, check out cityofsantacruz.com and delaveagagolf.com. | CEO
Runners-up Wilder Ranch, Fall Creek

Kickboxing:Lightspeed Martial Arts
Obviously kickboxing has benefits other than safely releasing aggression, such as a great workout, more energy, flexibility, and an overall better body. Lightspeed offers classes for every level of Tae Kwon Do—for parents, kids and teens to advanced students. After-school and late classes are also provided. Take note: The first class is always free and there is always a great start up deal for newcomers. Visit 5004 Scotts Valley Dr., Scotts Valley. Call 438-6068 or click lightspeedmartialarts.com. | JS
Runners-up Farley’s Kickboxing, Aptos Martial Arts

Laser Hair Removal:Laser Hair & Skin Solutions
Owned by Dr. James Kojian and managed by Karen Welsh, Laser continues to be a popular pick among readers. Besides her value in relation to Botox, Welsh has specialized in laser hair removal for the last 14 years. This family-owned-and-operated business is all about comfort, safety, and beauty. Customers are provided with laser goggles for protection, there are no side effects, and after five to six treatments, hair will not come back: “It’s 10 times easier,” says Welsh. Visit 783 Rio Del Mar Blvd., Ste 71B, Aptos. Call 689-9830. | CEO
Runners-up UltraDerm, Harbor Laser

Martial Arts Studio:Elite Martial Arts Academy
At Elite Martial Arts Academy, martial arts is more than just a sport—it’s a way of life. Located in the Kmart Shopping Center in Scotts Valley, Elite serves up a martial arts cocktail that is one part Tae Kwon Do and one part Hapkido, with Judo, Kung Fu, and boxing thrown into the mix. Through classes at Elite, children learn fundamental motor, social, and fitness skills they wouldn’t necessarily get with videogames. Martial Arts classes at Elite are also a great outlet for teenage energy and adult stress—not to mention, it’s a fun way to learn self-defense and gain confidence. Visit 266 Mt. Hermon Road, Ste. T, Scotts Valley. Call 438-5425 or click 438kick.com. | JB
Runners-up Lightspeed Martial Arts, Aptos Martial Arts

bo health massageMassage School:Twin Lakes College of the Healing Arts
Specializing in a “client-centered approach to complementary therapy,” Twin Lakes College of the Healing Arts has made a name for itself by teaching massage therapy, hypnotherapy, essential oils therapy, doula studies, and more. Twin Lakes alumni rave about the school’s caring teachers, diverse resources, and knowledge of how the human body works and responds to therapy. A recognized platform for kickstarting a new career, Twin Lakes opens up doors for those who want to learn more about the practice as a hobby or a livelihood. Visit 1525 B Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz. Call 476-2152 or click twinlakescollege.org. | JB
Runners-up Cypress, Five Branches

Outdoor Sports School:Adventure Out
Santa Cruz’s favorite portal for all things outdoors—surfing, rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking trips … you name it, they teach it. The school also offers up some of the best wilderness survival instruction around, lest you find yourself lost in the woods. The school’s mountain man CEO and founder, Cliff Hodges, adds veritable outdoor credibility to the school. Call (800) 509-3954 or click adventureout.com to learn more about the diverse offerings. | EL
Runners-up (Four-way Tie) Santa Cruz Surf School, Santa Cruz Track Club, Santa Cruz Soccer Camp, Club Ed Surf School

Pilates:Agile Monkey
With a studio called Agile Monkey, clearly we envy our ancestors in their ability to obtain optimal fitness and flexibility. If you are interested in strengthening your core muscles and sure-footedness, 12 pilates instructors are available to assist you on this monkey-inspired mission—owner Lisa Graham has been leading her pack of lady pilates instructors since fall of 2007, and before that, she was an inspiration to men and women of all ages at the EHS Pilates Institute, located in San Francisco. Speaking of flexibility, Agile Monkey is all about elasticity in its relation to exercise regimens—choose between private instruction, semi-private small group sessions, sports-related training, and even prenatal pilates. Visit 128-A Pearl Alley, Santa Cruz. Call 458-4125 or click agilemonkey.net. | CEO
Runners-up Joy of Movement, Body in Motion, Breathe Deeply Pilates

Place to Get Waxed:European Wax Center
Having one’s hair ripped out by the roots has got to be one of life’s most unpleasant experiences, yet the process is almost enjoyable when done at European Wax Center in Capitola. This streamlined waxing Mecca is receiving accolades galore due to its “first wax free” special and the fact that at EWC they use a special type of hard wax that sticks to hair only, thus leaving your skin virtually untouched, a godsend for those who dare to go Brazilian. For avid waxing addicts, the virtually painless waxes found at EWC have forever earned the trust of follicles. Find out what you can wax at waxcenter.com. | Leslie Patrick
Runners-up Bella Dawna, L’Atellier Day Spa, Pristine

Retreat:Land of Medicine Buddha
Lined with redwoods and forest foliage, this Buddhist hub is the preferred local place to Zen out or do some much-needed meditating. Most of the center’s classes and workshops take place in the Main Meditation Hall, or “Gompa,” which features eight life-sized Medicine Buddha statues that were blessed by the Dalai Lama. Visit 5800 Prescott Road, Soquel. Call 462-8383 or click medicinebuddha.org.  | EL
Runners-up Chaminade, (Tie) Mt. Madonna, Well Within

Senior Care Services:(Tie) Dominican Oaks, LIfespan
Senior Care services can be a touchy subject for any family, but the variety of senior care options that Dominican Oaks retirement community offers stands out. The beautiful location allows seniors to maintain independent lifestyles and privacy while reaping the benefits of congregate living. Social and cultural activities abound keeping residents active and organized. The staff is always supportive and ready to listen and respond to any and all resident requests. Meanwhile, at Lifespan, seniors are offered a comfortable environment and services specialize in dementia, but are available to treat any other ailment. Home care can include assistance with personal hygiene, meals, errands and light housekeeping. Services can be offered from two to 24 hours a day, and are always performed by aides that are insured and supervised by Geriatric Care Managers. Comprehensive assessments are available to determine how much assistance is needed. Programs also include geriatric care management, friendly visiting, financial management, and mental health services. Dominican Oaks: 3400 Paul Sweet Road, Santa Cruz, 462-6257, dominicanoaks.com. Lifespan professional geriatric senior care: 600 Frederick St., Santa Cruz, 469-4900, lifespancare.com. | JS
Runners-up (Tie) California Grey Bears, Senior Network Services

Swimming Pool: Simpkins Family Swim Center
This swim park opened to the public in the summer of 1998 and still contains one of the largest lap pools in the county. It still garners your top votes, year after year. Locals appreciate the smaller, warm water pool, which is suited for therapy and recreational swimming—it also has a zero-depth entry ramp for easy wheel-chair access. The park’s splash down pools, one with a two story cork screw slide, continue to be a nice draw. That, plus its community center with kitchen and the decent admission price ($6 for adults and $4 for youth and seniors) continue make this place stand out. Take note: 18 50-meter lanes are perfect for lap swimming, water polo and water aerobics. Visit 979 17th Ave., Santa Cruz. Call 454-7946 or click scparks.com. | CEO
Runners-up Adventure Sports, Trout Farm Inn

BestOf2012 star-insideStand Up Paddle:Covewater
For those interested in stand up paddling there is no greater mecca than a trip to Covewater. As one of the largest dedicated stand up paddle board stores in northern California, Covewater’s ability to serve the stand up paddle community of Santa Cruz is unrivaled. They have a huge collection of boards and gear, and—as consecutive winnings of our Best of Awards proves—the support of the local stand up paddle board community. Their staff is friendly and knowledgeable and the store offers a variety of classes ranging from beginner to advanced levels. And if walking on water isn’t challenging enough for you, they even offer floating fitness classes: think you can handle a yoga session while floating on the surface of the Santa Cruz Harbor? You can find more information at  covewatersup.com. | Scott Morley
Runners-up SUP Shack, Kayak Connection

Surf School:Club Ed
Surfing is one of the most difficult sports to master because there is so much to learn. Selecting a suit, board and beach to go to are obstacles that may stop many potential surfers, and for those that do make it past this point, the prospect of getting slammed by a monster wave may seem ominous. Let these worries wash away in the care of Club Ed. Their lessons give you a complete breakdown of surfing from etiquette to riding techniques, and their knowledge of local breaks means that you’ll never be out in a situation that you can’t handle—no matter the weather. Their wide selection of suits and quiver of custom boards means that you’ll have all you need to get in the water and be well on your way to catching your first wave. Take a look at their information online at club-ed.com. | SM
Runners-up (Tie) Richard Schmidt, Surf School Santa Cruz, Adventure Out

Surf Spot:Pleasure Point
Between The Hook, Sewers, and any of the other breaks at Pleasure Point, you’ll find something to ride regardless of your skill level or board preference—which is great because when conditions are perfect, this spot can get real crowded. Often used as a site for competitions, the reef break can throw out some sweet rights which can lead to long rides and sick barrels on good days. And if you’re feeling flashy this is a great place to shred, as crowds often gather to watch the spectacle. As if all of this wasn’t good enough already, the beach also offers spectacular views, especially at sunset. Take your booties, don’t get caught on the reef and bring plenty of respect and you’ll have a great time. Located at East Cliff Drive and Pleasure Point Drive, Santa Cruz. | SM
Runners-up Steamers Lane, Cowell’s, 38th Avenue

Woman’s Gym:Curves
Regardless of your shape or age, Curves is calling all ladies for the workout that will change your life—30 minutes at a time. Their circuit system based in hydraulic resistance machines that are specially formulated for women’s bodies. These machines work every major muscle group, two at a time. Curves is also the place to find affordable and reliable diet information. Motivation is easy to find at Curves, whether it be in the form of your circuit coach, or in the systematically noted progress you’ve made toward your goals. And a Curves membership is good for any location worldwide. Thing To Know: With almost 10,000 locations across the globe, Curves is the largest fitness franchise on the planet. 2724 Soquel Ave., Ste. D, Santa Cruz, 465-8228; 7960 Soquel Dr., Ste. H-1, Aptos, 688-2348; 1058 S. Green Valley Rd., Watsonville, 724-0900, curves.com | JS
Runners-up Santa Cruz Core, Toadal Fitness

Yoga Studio:Bikram Yoga Aptos
It’s cool to be hot—even this hot. The lowdown: 26 poses, 90 minutes and 100-plus degrees. Talk about taking your workout to the next level. Popularized in the early 1970s, Bikram Yoga is a system of yoga that is ideally practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees. These high temperatures are meant to warm the muscles and allow for deeper stretches, a more intense cardio workout and burning more calories. It’s a perfect detox. Those who practice Bikram can reduce stress while improving flexibility, balance, athletic ability and lose weight. Bikram Yoga Aptos is known for its clean facilities, consistently hot room, and friendly and knowledgeable staff. For first-timers, be sure to bring a mat, water bottle, and dress to sweat. Visit 7960 Soquel Dr., Aptos. Call 661-5030 or click bikramyogaaptos.com. | JS
Runners-up Santa Cruz Core, Toadal Fitness

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