The Chocolate Lover’s Guide to Santa Cruz – from A to Mackenzies

Chocolate Santa Cruz: Chocolate Lover's Guide to Santa CruzIf you’re a chocolate lover, chances are you have a well hidden stash somewhere in your house.

So let us help you keep it fully stocked with the best chocolate confections Santa Cruz has to offer.

From guilty pleasures like chocolate-covered bacon to superfood chocolate made with maca and turmeric, your cravings are no match for our local chocolate artisans.

It’s time to take a self-guided tour of the top chocolate destinations in Santa Cruz.

Ashby Confections 179763_991862724185937_2335491616561255550_n

Image: Ashby Confections

Let’s see…2015 Santa Cruz Chocolate Festival Winner of Best Caramel, Best Truffle, Best in Show, and Most Unique Use of Chocolate AND a finalist for the prestigious 2016 Good Food Awards…

Yeah, we’d say Jennifer Ashby of Ashby Confections knows a thing or two about chocolate.

UPDATE: 2016 Santa Cruz Chocolate Festival Winner of Best Use of Caramel, Healthiest Use of Chocolate, and Best in Show!

Ashby takes great pride in using only the best, natural ingredients which often means locally sourced, organic fruits and herbs straight from the farmers market.

An ever-expanding menu of craft chocolates and sweet tooth delights fills her charming Scotts Valley shop and a cozy sitting corner invites you to savor every bite.

Best Seller: Fresh Orange Truffle made with Twin Girls Farms oranges
Must Try: Salty Desert Heat aka Ghost Pepper Agave Caramel
Kids and Kids at Heart: Will love the Shooting Stars which contain a crunchy surprise…pop rocks!
Brittle Bliss: Elvis brittle is made with Fogline Farm bacon and beer brittles feature local brews.

What: Ashby Confections
Location: 16C Victor Square, Scotts Valley
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Marini’s Candies

Marini’s has been making candy in Santa Cruz for over a century!

While their claim to fame may have started with salt water taffy, there’s something to be said about a more recent creation.

Move over bacon! There’s something richer…chocolate-covered bacon! Oh yes, it’s sweet, it’s salty, it’s crunchy, it’s BACON and it comes in Milk, Dark, Maple, and Spicy chocolate.

Vegetarians, not to worry. Marini’s also makes chocolate-covered potato chips and strawberries when in season.

Best Seller: Chocolate-covered Bacon
Most Popular Fudge Flavors: Peanut Butter and Salted Caramel
Must Try: Loaded Oreos—a peanut butter cup sandwiched in an Oreo cookie and dipped in chocolate
Check Out: Marini’s newest location on the Westside

What: Marini’s Candies
Location: Downtown, Westside, Wharf, Boardwalk

Chocolate the Restaurantpatio3

Image: Chocolate the Restaurant

No chocolate lover’s guide to Santa Cruz would be complete without mentioning Chocolate on Pacific.

Ten hot chocolates on the menu require multiple return visits, not to mention Chocolate Mousse Truffles, a Big Warm Chocolate Cupcake, and a Chocolate Ecstasy Cake—just to name a few of the sweet indulgences that await.

Chocolate even serves a Spicy Chocolate Chicken Mole using Venezuelan bittersweet chocolate!

Indecisive: The Dessert Orgy—a sampler platter of sweets
Vegan-friendly: The Coca—rich dark hot cocoa made with coconut milk
Best Hot Chocolate for Kids: The Lena—creamy and smooth milk chocolate
No Room for Dessert: The Tina—a very tiny glass of strong dark hot cocoa

What: Chocolate the Restaurant
Location: 1522 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz

Donnelly Chocolates

Santa Cruz is known for world-class waves, but world famous chocolate? Not so much.

And yet, right on Mission and Bay sits a small, though newly expanded, chocolate shop named one of the world’s 10 best by National Geographic.

Let that sink in as you bite into a Donnelly Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel.

Friendly small talk with brothers Richard and Henry Donnelly will leave you with a smile on your face, a sample or two, and an ice pack for your chocolates. They are as invested in their customers’ sweet tooth satisfaction as they are in ensuring their small-batch chocolates arrive safely to their final destination.

Not to be overlooked are Donnelly hot chocolate kits and baking kits including cookies, cakes, and brownies. Whip up a world-class treat at home in between visits to the shop!

Best Sellers: Liquor Bombs and Sea Salt Caramels
Be Adventurous: Try the Chai Tea or Chipotle Dark Chocolate Truffles
Cool Off on a Hot Day: Gourmet chocolate-dipped ice cream bars
Coming Soon: Coffee, tea, and hot chocolate served on site along with chocolate baked goods

What: Donnelly Fine Chocolates
Location: 1509 Mission St., Santa Cruz

Mutari Chocolate


Ethically-sourced, stone ground, from bean to bottle and bar…the folks at Mutari (pronouced moo-dari) Chocolate are the only chocolate makers in Santa Cruz County. The result: a habit-forming, rich cup of sipping chocolate perfection and craft chocolate bars ranging from 60% to 100% cacao.

Gourmet Flavors: Himalayan Pink Salt Hot Chocolate, Spicy Mexican, and Single Origin Dark Hot Chocolate

What: Mutari Hot Chocolate
Location: 504 A Front St., Santa Cruz

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Image: Chocolate Visions

Chocolate Visions is the perfect name for a candy shop whose owner lives, breathes, and probably dreams chocolate when she finally gets the chance to sleep.

After the former owners retired, Patti Le Day hit the ground running last fall as the new owner of Chocolate Visions, just as holiday sales were ramping up. It’s no wonder her favorite truffle is the Espresso Presto!

In addition to fine chocolates, Chocolate Visions offers an array of confections including peanut brittle, toffee, fudge, and marshmallows, plus gelato.

Soon, Patti will marry her expert baking skills with her love of chocolate to bring even more sweet treats to Chocolate Visions.

Most Popular: Salted Caramels
Support Local: Try the Lavender Truffle made with olive oil and lavender from Valencia Creek Farm in Aptos
Forget flowers: Surprise your sweetheart with a box of Rose Truffles
Wine Tasting: Chocolates made with wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains Appellation are a match made in heaven!

What: Chocolate Visions
Location: 224 C Mount Hermon Road,  Scotts Valley

Mackenzies Chocolates

How does the old saying go? When life hands you traffic on Soquel, stop at Mackenzies for a chocolate fix?

For over thirty years, the Mackenzies have been making delicious chocolates in a variety of unique flavors and shapes.

The shapes, or chocolate moldings, have earned them a loyal following among chocolate lovers eager to see their favorite hobby, animal, astrological sign, letters of their name, or anything else they can dream up in chocolate.

And what’s better than a box of chocolates? Why, a box made of chocolate filled with chocolates, of course.

At Mackenzies Chocolates you can fill chocolate-shaped boxes, sea shells, musical instruments, shoes, hearts, soccer balls, books, and that’s just the beginning!

The charming English cottage exterior surrounding a tempting chocolate showroom that offers behind-the-scenes peeks of chocolate-making magic in progress makes Mackenzies a must-stop destination on your chocolate tour of Santa Cruz.

Motto: Chocolates Worth Their Calories
Beach Town Best Seller: Chocolate Sea Shells
Must Try: Cruz Crunch – a combination of chocolate, peanuts, Rice Krispies, and caramel
Bucket List: Every single truffle flavor from Champagne to Tiramisu
Locals Know: Mackenzies carries a good assortment of sugar-free chocolates.

What: Mackenzies Chocolates
Location: 1492 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz

Annual Santa Cruz Events Celebrating Chocolate

  • The Santa Cruz Chocolate Festival takes place at the Cocoanut Grove each January (on hiatus in 2017) and benefits re-entry students at UC Santa Cruz.
  • The Santa Cruz Mole & Mariachi Festival (there’s chocolate in mole!) takes place in the fall (September 9, 2017) as a benefit for nonprofit Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks in support of Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park.

Mouthwatering Mentions

  • Dark Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar from The True Olive Connection…pour it over your favorite vanilla gelato, strawberries, cheesecake or in chicken mole…endless options!
  • CaCoCo Superfood Drinking Chocolate is locally-made and can be found at New Leaf on the Westside.
  • Verve Espresso Truffles from Pure Heart Chocolatean organic chocolate company based out of Santa Cruz. Check the bakery case at your local New Leaf.
  • Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Cookies at Companion Bakeshop can also be found at Pie Ranch if you’re taking a road trip up Highway 1.
  • Late night chocolate cravings? All Nighter Cookies to the rescue with Chocolate Chip and Chocolate Mint Chip delivered fresh to your door 9PM to 2 AM Wednesday-Saturday.
  • Your turn! Where do you satisfy your chocolate cravings in Santa Cruz? Chime in below.
About Christine Candelaria

Christine Candelaria is a local mom of four who enjoys sharing her Santa Cruz adventures. You can follow her #santacruzlife on Instagram at @theaumsmama.

  • Robin says:

    Great article, though I’m trying to forget that I just learned about All Nighter Cookes! Wanted to mention that Mackenzie’s carries a good assortment of sugar-free chocolates. While not at all low calorie, they make a thoughtful gift for diabetic chocolate lovers. As my father-in-law puts it, “NO Christmas presents for me…but if you happen to go by Mackenzie’s, I wouldn’t mind a box of those chocolates.”

    • Thank you, Robin! You’re right about those sugar-free chocolates…that would be a good thing to mention. I think everyone should try All Nighter Cookies at least once, just for the fun of having warm cookies and milk delivered to your door.

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