The Paradox hotel in Santa Cruz has only been open a few months, so I thought I should write a review after staying there this last weekend. This property was previously called the UCSD Hotel. I never stayed there, so can’t compare. But I think a huge amount of changes have been put in place. I was really stunned, since most if not all of the hotels in Santa Cruz tend to be dated and a bit moldy around the edges.
On the plus side, the lobby, restaurant, bar, and pool area are great. The pool is especially wonderful – cabanas, fire pits, a large spa, large pool, an outdoor bar, and snack/beverage service at the pool and spa! You had me right there, when I get someone to bring me munchies and wine while I loll in the hot tub.
The rooms are spotless, modern, with a large shower (I liked the pebbly shower floor, my sister didn’t), guest fridge, etc. The beds were comfortable. The rooms, though standard size, were fine for 2-4 people, I thought. There is free wi-fi. Parking isn’t free, but is only $5.
Overall, I loved having such a modern, attractive hotel to plan to visit for future overnights in Santa Cruz, esp. when the weather allows lounging by the pool.
But, a few downsides. The location isn’t great, meaning mainly you won't be walking to the beach. On the other side of the river from the Pacific Garden Mall (downtown Santa Cruz), it’s next to government buildings, which is fine, though there’s a tattoo/piercing parlor across the street. (But this IS Santa Cruz.) It's a short drive to the beach and boardwalk (but then you have to deal with parking). You'll probably also drive to downtown, though that’s more walkable.
One big problem for my sister and me was the hot tub full of little kids. At one point I think there were just my sister and me, and 9 kids unrelated to us, playing Marco Polo, tossing a beach ball, and splashing chlorinated spa water into my glass of wine. There were fully clothed adults letting their three-year-old go into the spa! It was a noisy and inappropriate setting. Other parents may have been at the bar, I don’t know. The kids needed to be in the pool, not the spa, and the parents of small children need to be in with them or at least in bathing suits. I didn’t see any spa rules posted. The hotel staff saw all this because they were around serving drinks. I’ve taken a child into a spa but I always insist on “spa behavior.”
The layout of the hotel is a little odd. After you check in, you exit the lobby/restaurant building and then the rooms are in the building next door. If you have a room overlooking the pool, nice. The other side overlooks the parking lot and government building. The first floor porches are nice on the pool side, but pretty pointless on the parking lot side (see photo).
The front desk is presumably inexperienced because they didn’t seem to know how to print a receipt for our expenses while there, showing the $20 Groupon meal credit. They just provided individual receipts for meals, drinks, etc. But that might be just the one person who checked us out. And they were all very pleasant.
We ate dinner at the onsite restaurant, right next to (in the same building as) the lobby. It was very attractive, had a fireplace, and open cooking area. But the menu was fairly limited, and seemed pretty pretentious. LOTS of words that we had no clue about, and we eat out quite a bit, both in this country and internationally. The risotto I had wasn’t particularly memorable. But again, they are very new and no doubt things will improve. And the atmosphere was nice.
All that said (quibble quibble) I definitely plan to return. The outdoor/pool area alone (esp. with the food and drink service) would be enough to bring me back, and the hotel’s attractive décor, new rooms, and overall luxuriousness compared to most other Santa Cruz hotels (along with a reasonable room rate) makes it a standout, in my opinion.