Style with a dash of whimsy at the new Hotel Paradox
Is Hotel Paradox actually paradoxical, as its name would suggest? It does contain some notable contradictions: for one, it butts up to bustling Downtown Santa Cruz and is situated on busy Ocean Street, but feels peaceful and private from within the fenced-in, tree-lined grounds. It is also a nice hotel in the heart of Santa Cruz, and some may say that that, itself, is a contradiction, although one that’s (hopefully) becoming passé.
But the moniker mostly speaks to the fact that the new 170-room hotel is intriguing. It's slick, hip and classy, with a good dose of quirk. The latter is embodied by the hotel's pervasive forest theme, which is executed with décor aimed at bringing the woods inside. Trees, with their beautiful bark and greenery, spruce up the sleek, modern, mostly white space and drive home a uniquely Santa Cruz vibe. “We have this white, contemporary box, boutique hotel with an organic feel,” explains General Manager Tony Eichers.
The first thing I noticed upon entering the establishment was the 15,000-pound eucalyptus trunk-turned-front desk that Eichers says took six hours and two forklifts to get into place. The valet stand and restaurant desk hail from the same chunk of tree, and smaller eucalyptus stumps are scattered throughout the lobby in place of coffee tables. The tree motif even spreads to the walls and ceilings, themselves: The Grove Room, an 80-person event space, is enclosed by four translucent walls depicting Santa Cruz’s own redwood forest. (The effect—the most enchanting of all Paradox’s peculiarities—was achieved with sequential photos taken in the Santa Cruz Mountains.) Look up in the hotel’s restaurant, Solaire, and you’ll notice a serene canopy of oaks and blue sky.
It wouldn’t be a forest without some squirrels—or at least I’m guessing that was the decorator’s thinking, because, in a rather surreal and humorous touch, there are white statues of the furry tree-climbers sporadically mounted high along the walls. (Although not forest-related, another of the lobby’s décor choices struck me as funny: massive bookshelves are lined with countless books, each covered in blank white paper. As a devout bibliophile, I found this cover-up a bit sacrilegious, but was reassured that guests can still peruse and read them—it’s just “surprise reading,” says Eichers. “You never know what you’re going to get.”)
The guestrooms also have a chic-with-a-touch-of-nature style. Framed photos of breathtaking redwoods, lamps made of branches, and more tree stump tables bring the clean, modern rooms to life. One of my favorite parts of staying in a hotel is trying out the pint-size toiletries, and eco-friendly folks will be happy to know that Paradox stocks 99sixty products, which are green and sustainable.
My room overlooked San Lorenzo Park, which is surprisingly pleasant in the fall. A combination of chilly weather and the giant, plush bed made curling up in the supple hotel robe and ordering room service seem like the way to go. As I noshed on Marcona almonds and Mediterranean olives and sipped a Santa Cruz 75 (a delightfully crisp cocktail of champagne, elderflower syrup and lemon), the thought of deadlines, bills and my growing to-do list began to melt away. After a dip in the heated pool, a soak in the hot tub and a sweet Soju cocktail in the bar, those mundane worries were nowhere to be seen—the sign of a successful staycation.
While locals who choose to indulge in a nice getaway at Paradox may prefer to do what I did (relax and unplug), the hotel is also perfectly positioned for visitors looking to see as much of Santa Cruz as possible. (And we locals can rest assured that this is a hotel we can feel good about recommending to visiting family and friends.)
But Hotel Paradox has more to offer Cruzans than being a classy place to stay. Solaire is already making its mark on the local culinary map, thanks to the lure of Executive Chef Ross McKee (formerly of Shadowbrook Restaurant and Aquarius at the Dream Inn) and the farm fresh ingredients sourced from nearby Happy Boy Farms and Dirty Girl Produce. Santa Cruz wines and beers populate the libations menu, adding to the restaurant’s locavore appeal. Thirsty 9-to-5ers will enjoy what Eicher calls the bar’s “unofficial” happy hour, where beverages and menu items are $5 at 5 p.m.
The 400-seat Sequoia Ballroom and the other conference rooms are ripe for gatherings—good news for the city, which has long been yearning for decent conference space and the economic boosts conferences bring. But in my opinion, Santa Cruz should be most excited about the locals day pass Eichers says is in the works. This ticket would allow Santa Cruz residents to hang out by the pool, lounge in the poolside cabanas and sit around the firepit. A nice, big pool with an indoor/outdoor bar is just what we need for those sweltering Indian summer days.
“I really want the local community to feel like they can embrace this hotel, as well,” Eichers says.
Whether it’s a day at the pool, a drink in the bar, a nice dinner at Solaire, or a special occasion staycation, a trip to Paradox is a great way to have fun in our own backyard.
Hotel Paradox, 611 Ocean St., Santa Cruz, 425-7100, thehotelparadox.com.
Photos by Chris Schmauch with GoodEye Photography + Design.