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Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz Review: Family-Friendly Marriott Autograph Collection Property

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Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz

Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz Review

Back in April I took a long weekend getaway with my two sons to Santa Cruz, followed by a brief half-day in San Francisco. Hitting up the famous Santa Cruz Boardwalk was at the top of the list. We also enjoyed the nearby State Park and the natural beauty of the rugged Pacific coast. What was unexpected was how much the kids enjoyed the Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz.

The Marriott Autograph Collection property proved to be an excellent choice for a family getaway. My youngest called it his favorite hotel ever. Granted, he has limited experience with such things. There were a few hiccups and minor issues, but overall, I would at agree that it is a solid choice if traveling with a couple kids.

Booking the Hotel Paradox

I booked our Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz stay using 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. The Category 6 property was pricing at 50,000 points per night, which is high for a property charging around $350 per night after taxes. I wish I had kept my two remaining 50,000-point certificates as part of the sign-up bonus for the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card back in late 2020, as this would have been the better play. Marriott had unexpectedly extended the expiration date in late 2021, which would have allowed me to use them here.

But I’ll gladly spend 100,000 Marriott points instead of $700.

Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz

Arrival and First Impressions

I anticipated that we would be able to check into the Hotel Paradox early, as we made it into Santa Cruz around lunchtime. But the front desk dashed my hopes. They were very booked up during Spring Break week and could not offer anything prior to the standard check-in time. No matter. We’d drop our bags, hit up Pizza My Heart for lunch, and then head over to the lighthouse and beach for a while.

Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz was saving their first impressions for later. When we returned to the hotel, we were greeted warmly by the front desk staff. While I handled check-in, a staff member brought out a small treasure chest with toys in it. My sons each got to pick an item from it, something they were thrilled about. This may have made it the best check-in ever for my youngest. Gifts are his thing.

The hotel lobby is one of the more unique I’ve seen. The front desk is made from a single eucalyptus tree trunk. It was supposedly the third largest known eucalyptus tree when it was cut down. The massive log is just a taste of the subtle arboreal theme found throughout Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz.

Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz Front Desk

The rest of the lobby and hallways continue the arboreal theme, with a tree pattern adorning the walls of the meeting room and squirrels scampering across the hallway walls.

Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz Lobby

While the first-floor rooms with outdoor patios seem nice, I was glad that we didn’t have one. They get a lot of foot traffic passing by. But I can certainly see the appeal of such a space, especially if you have one with a view of the pool so you can enjoy a bit more privacy while keeping an eye on the kids.

Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz Exterior

In keeping with the lobby theme, the outdoor tables are simply log rounds.

The elevator landings and hallways are all open to the elements, and the room doors open to an exterior walkway. Things did get a bit wet outside the day it rained. If you’re one of those who can’t stand the “motel” style exterior-opening doors, I will remark that the Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz didn’t carry that feel. At least from our room, overlooking the pool and building, there was enough separation from the parking lot. There are gates that prevent entry on each side as well, unless you have a key.

Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz Standard Room

The first thing that jumped out at me when we entered our room was the lack of carpet. It had never hit me: hotels, at least the ones I’ve stayed at, almost universally have carpeted rooms. The faux-hardwood floor is a striking change. Our room was nicely styled with wooden headboards and more subtle other forest and timber motifs.

Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz Room

I like the style of the rooms at the Hotel Paradox. It is simple and nice. There’s a nice desk area and a corner chair.

I’d hoped for a couch since the two-bed rooms offer doubles instead of queens. Unfortunately, their standard rooms don’t offer these. This is the one major downside the Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz has when it comes to family travel. There’s a Hyatt Place just down the street, which is my favorite family-friendly brand. But you wouldn’t get the same style.

Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz Room

I loved the bathroom, especially the shower design. It is perfectly in keeping with the hotel’s spirit. From the custom door handle to the unique rock floor, the artistic touches are perfect. Given that it is California, you do have to put up with wall-mounted soap and shampoo, however.

Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz Bathroom

While the room’s style and design are lovely, some specific areas showed wear and tear. Specifically, our chair and ottoman had areas of staining and damage. The desk glass was also ridiculously scratched up. Hard to avoid wear in a hotel, obviously, but at some point things do need to be replaced.

None of the rooms offer great views. We did have a decent view of the pool and if we stepped outside. But the kids would rather be in the pool, even when it was raining.

Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz Pool View

The Pool – A Clear Highlight

If you travel with your kids, you’ll know that the pool is a hotel’s most important feature. No pool? Instant 1-star review. Case in point: on another recent trip, the first question my youngest asked the front desk was, “do you have a pool?”

My boys don’t much care what the room is like, as long as the pool is great. The pool at the Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz did not disappoint them. It’s large, varies in depth, and the hotel even provided several tubes and other toys. On the warm afternoons and evenings, there were a bunch of kids and parents enjoying it. Spring break week turned out to be a great time to come here, as my sons had a very fun time with the other kids they met.

Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz Pool

Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz Poolside

The kids did mob the large hot tub at times. Which is where most of the parents hung out. The pool was way too cold. It’d have to be over 80 degrees out for me to want to get in. None of the kids seemed to care how cold it was.

If the hot tub isn’t your thing, you can also hang out poolside at the outdoor section of the bar.

Restaurant and Breakfast

Solaire is the Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz restaurant. I really liked it. The service great and the food tasty. We were provided vouchers for breakfast each day, up to a value of $24, which corresponds to the continental breakfast for two. You can use it against any of the options, though. In addition, I was given a single $10 food/beverage credit to use during our stay.

Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz Solaire Restaurant

There are some great options on the menu. I got the chilaquiles one day, which were excellent, and much better than the standard Solaire breakfast, which was still decent.

Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz Breakfast Menu

Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz Breakfast

The kids, of course, basically had dessert for breakfast.

There was no room service offered during our stay at the Hotel Paradox. It has been a few months since our trip, though, so maybe this has changed. It’s easy enough to order to go and walk down to the restaurant, however, and this service gap didn’t detract from our stay.

Solaire offered live music during one of the evenings.

Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz Solaire Live Music

Hysterically, the bartender’s name was Rainbow. Talk about fitting the Santa Cruz hippie-town stereotype!

Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz Bar

Other Hotel Features

The ping pong table was probably the saddest part of the hotel. No net, two cracked balls, and paddles with peeling rubber. It’d be so easy to rectify, and would make a huge difference for all the kids playing.

But we made do. No net? Use giant jenga blocks.

There’s also a nice outdoor fire pit area, at least when it’s not raining.

Besides the great pool and nice outdoor space, the Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz offers instruments you can borrow. This is a hotel first for me. I guess I should have learned to play the banjo!

Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz Musical Instruments

The Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz lives up to its name in some interesting ways. For a hotel with a decidedly natural and arboreal theme, the main building is one of the uglier concrete edifices I’ve seen. But don’t let that turn you away from the service and amenities inside!

It’s far more attractive at night. The building has an entirely different feel. It actually looks super cool.

Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz Front Sign Night

Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz Night Views

Final Thoughts on the Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz

The boutique Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz is one of the more unique properties I’ve visited domestically. The name is well chosen. It looks like a standard hotel, yet has some great style choices and touches that made it really stand out. The friendly staff, great service, inviting pool and outdoor area, and quality restaurant made it a great stay. By the time we were leaving, it made me wish I’d booked a third night here.

If I ever have more Marriott 50,000-point free night awards, it’d be high on my list of domestic free night options, although I’d now need to supplement with extra points, sadly.

Disclosure: Miles to Memories has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Miles to Memories and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

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Ian Snyder
Ian Snyder
After igniting his passion for award travel while planning his honeymoon, Ian now enjoys using points and miles to see the world with his wife and three internationally adopted kiddos. He loves dissecting loyalty programs to find maximum value. His goal is to demonstrate that extraordinary travel is possible for the ordinary family.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. I booked at a 35k/nt point saver redemption but canceled once we drove by the property & saw how pitiful it looked from the outside. It needs help but relieved at least the inside works for a family stay. It is also a good 1.5 miles from the Boardwalk/Beach & firmly ensconced among other budget properties & rundown areas near the busy SC city center.

    The “new” Tapestry (Seacliff In. in Aptos is a similar – hard pass after actually seeing its no-water-view location off a very busy intersection & outward state of the property. We opted for driving the extra 45 min to Monterey for better range of choices.

    • Yeah, the exterior isn’t much to look at. I had my worries when we pulled up. But it is quite nice inside.

      The drive to the Boardwalk and ocean wasn’t a hassle for us. I didn’t mind the location.

  2. It’s a fun hotel. I used to stay in that area for business. It used to be an old holiday inn and it’s kinda cool. They added fencing around the outside to keep the homeless from the nearby park from sleeping in the hallways and pool area. The only thing I didn’t like about the hotel is the rooms I always got there had sliding barn doors for the bathroom which would be OK but people tended to let them slam in the middle of the night and it would keep me awake sometimes.

    • I meant to mention the bathroom barn doors. Didn’t have the door slam experience, thankfully.

      I hoped it would be good based on what I read, and it exceeded expectations. Has a few issues, but overall, I’d love to go back. My youngest son has brought the hotel up several times since the trip.


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