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A recent view of the Bayview Hotel

Aptos is a variously-defined unincorporated mid-county community. Aptos Creek flows through it. Cabrillo College is at the western edge. The name carried over from Rancho Aptos, an 1833 Spain/Mexico era land grant to Rafael Castro. The word "Aptos" is a Spanish transliteration of a native village in the area.

To promote transportation and shipping in the area, Castro had a wharf built at the mouth of Aptos Creek. Remains of the old wharf pilings can still sometimes be seen at Rio Del Mar beach. The road built to connect village to wharf survives today as Aptos Wharf Road.

Others who shaped the early development of Aptos include Joseph Arano, Claus Spreckels, and F. A. Hihn. Spreckels and Hihn routed their Santa Cruz Railroad through Aptos in 1875, adjacent to and parallelling the Santa Cruz-Watsonville road, so serve their tourism and timber interests, respectively. Arano's 1878 Bayview Hotel was built near the railroad passenger depot. Today's Aptos village grew up surrounding the depot and hotel. The Bayview is the oldest and most prominent surviving historical structure.

About halfway between the village and the wharf, Spreckels built an expansive resort around his Aptos Hotel, all gone now but remembered by surviving names such as "Deer Park" and "Polo Grounds" (now a county park).