Quick Take:

Santa Cruz’s Hotel Paradox recently completed a multimillion-dollar refresh and an ambitious overhaul of its in-house restaurant, Solaire. The Ocean Street property joins a growing list of Santa Cruz County hotels that have opened or undergone renovations in the past two years as the region experiences a rebound in tourism.

Walk into the lobby of the Hotel Paradox today and the first thing you now see is the expansive restaurant and bar area, leading straight back to the pool and deck. It’s a dramatic transformation for the hotel, which first opened in 2012. The massive redwood tree-turned-concierge desk still greets visitors as they walk in the door, but that’s about all that remains the same in the public-facing areas.

The Ocean Street hotel, which has been part of Marriott International’s Autograph Collection of hotels since 2016, has just completed a multimillion-dollar renovation that will be officially unveiled to the public later this week. The glow-up has been done in tandem with an overhaul of the hotel’s in-house restaurant, Solaire, complete with a new menu and approach led by its ambitious new head chef, Stefen Shatto, who comes to the Paradox with Michelin dreams.

The changes come as the local tourism economy continues its recovery from the impacts of the pandemic, though Hotel Paradox officials say the renovation was a regularly scheduled upgrade.

While many hotels in the area take their design inspiration from the beach, Hotel Paradox has gone all-in on what spokesperson Kevinie Woo refers to as the “urban forest storyline.”

inside the remodeled Hotel Paradox on Ocean Street in Santa Cruz
Inside the remodeled Hotel Paradox on Ocean Street in Santa Cruz. Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

Tall tree trunks stretch from floor to ceiling in the lobby, interspersed with tables and benches adorned with nature-inspired elements like squirrel-shaped lamps, a gold animal skull and a large burl bench. Art by local artists like Jim Phillips and Jon and Julie Rawls is featured on the walls leading to the restaurant and bar area, where large moss-covered copper light fixtures are intersected with two eye-catching human-shaped chandeliers constructed of copper wire. It’s a lot to take in at once, with an array of design elements that continue to pop out as you explore the space.

The redesign, led by Miami-based EoA, is focused solely on the public-facing areas; it doesn’t include the guest rooms. It’s a big change from Paradox’s previous look. For those who remember the location’s previous life as an overflow dormitory for UC Santa Cruz, it’s especially dramatic.

“If you’ve seen the hotel or restaurant before, and you return now, it’s a whole new place,” said Julie Ramey, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing. “Everywhere you look, there is something new, interesting and unique, and the design inspires conversation.”

Hotel renovations and new openings in Santa Cruz County in 2022-23

La Quinta by Wyndham Santa Cruz at 550 Second St. in Santa Cruz: Opened in March 2022 with 60 guest rooms.
Courtyard by Marriott Santa Cruz at 313 Riverside Ave. in Santa Cruz: Opened in October 2022 with 151 guest rooms.
Marea Sol Hotel at 301 Beach St. in Santa Cruz: Opened in May 2023 with 35 guest rooms.

Best Western All-Suites at 500 Ocean St. in Santa Cruz: Added three new guest rooms after full property renovation in May 2023, for a total of 80 rooms.
Sea Side Inn & Suites at 525 Ocean St. in Santa Cruz: The former Oceana Inn closed in 2020 and reopened under a new name with 55 guest rooms.
Motel 6 at 1015 Ocean St. in Santa Cruz: Formerly known as the Ocean Lodge, Motel 6 Santa Cruz was fully renovated and reopened with 29 rooms.
Chaminade Resort and Spa: The resort renovated its pool area to include enhanced cabanas, outdoor fire pits and a new food truck.
The Seacliff Inn in Aptos reopened as a Tapestry Collection by Hilton after a renovation and rebranding.
The Hilton Santa Cruz/Scotts Valley renovated its guest rooms and onsite restaurant.

The Hotel Paradox renovation is just one of the many new developments among local hotels in the past 12 months or so, according to Christina Glynn, communications director for Visit Santa Cruz County, the official visitor marketing entity for the county.

That includes renovations at the Hilton Santa Cruz/Scotts Valley and Chaminade Resort & Spa, as well as the opening of three new hotels near the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

“To add 10 new builds or renovations in the past year [approximately] is significant,” she said.

Not only are there more hotel rooms available now, but this summer saw an uptick in the occupancy rate, which was at 77.3% in July, compared to 74.3% in July 2022. Currently, the county has about 4% more available hotel rooms than it did in 2022, said Glynn. That’s a gain of 333 guest rooms from the prior year.

The expanded hotel space comes as Visit Santa Cruz County is reactivating its marketing efforts geared toward the business and corporate travel sector, an area where Glynn said they are starting to see more traction again. The tourism organization is also ramping up its outreach to bring in international tourists and visitors from other parts of the United States. Expanded and updated lodging options are core to these efforts, she said.

The renovations at Hotel Paradox have been designed to appeal to both leisure and business travelers, but hotel executives are also focused on bringing in more locals as well.

The public will be able to access the hotel’s pool and hot tubs Sundays-Thursdays by purchasing a day pass that’s $20 for adults and $15 for children, which includes pool access, free WiFi and discounted parking. The hotel also plans to continue hosting weekly events including “silent book club night,” live music and game night, with the first Wednesday of each month hosted by Santa Cruz City Councilmember Sonja Brunner.

inside the remodeled Hotel Paradox on Ocean Street in Santa Cruz
Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

Have something to say? Lookout welcomes letters to the editor, within our policies, from readers. Guidelines here.

Jessica M. Pasko has been writing professionally for almost two decades.She cut her teeth in journalism as a reporter for the Associated Press in her native Albany, NY, where she covered everything from...