If you are traveling to Long Beach for its annual pride event or just an affordable weekend by the ocean, your options were pretty much limited to chain hotels widely out of step with the modern aesthetic. But recently Long Beach has seen some new boutique venues popping up along its shores, including the Hotel Maya. Situated on the bay side, the Hotel Maya looks at first glance like fresh paint over old wounds. In fact, the buildings used to be the Coast Hotel, with four trapezoid-shaped, concrete structures stretching down the shore from the main building. In a $20 million overhaul, Maya's designers embraced the shape of the structures -- Mayans did build pyramids, after all -- and focused on the aesthetics of the interiors instead.
Rooms are rather large and offer access to remarkable scenery if you get one with a bay view, and almost all have private balconies. The Mayan theme, or rather the Latin fusion theme, continues here, with the rooms relying heavily on deep browns against bright oranges and reds. Flat-screen TVs, quality linens, and completely remodeled bathrooms round out the space. Room entrances are from a central courtyard in each building; the courtyards have been filled with lava rocks and mirrored pieces. Down at the pool, raised cabanas surrounded by moats of water look inviting, with billowing white drapes that can be pulled back for privacy. A hot tub and gym can be found there as well. The high-end idea is sometimes lost with the addition of things like chintzy plastic water lilies floating around the cabanas, but for under $150 a night I was not complaining.
The main building of the hotel features numerous conference and banquet rooms perfect for a company retreat or a wedding. An outdoor garden even has a raised platform for speaking or vows, a circular wall of waterfalls, and an impressive variety of tropical plants. A bike path lines the outside of the hotel, and a quick walk down it will lead you to a dock with water taxis that can take you across the bay to the city for a few bucks.
The real gem of this property, though, is its restaurant Fuego, run by executive chef Jesse Perez, who studied extensively in Mexico and was recently named 2009's Top Latino Chef in the United States by the Flavors of Passion Awards. The restaurant is a spacious two-story room with walls that peel back completely to reveal the large deck area of the dining room and bay views. A tequila-based bar is tucked off in the corner with cozy nooks to sample the extensive collection. Perez's food is one of the best examples of Latin fusion I have had in a long time; it actually works on the plate and not just in the advertisements. Duck al pastor tacos with chile California and roasted pina make an inspired starter, and Perez has perfected mole sauce. The drink menu is equally enticing, with a fine selection of wines and original cocktails -- I stuck most closely to the El Diablo, which consists of Corzo silver tequila, Chambord, ginger beer, and lime on the rocks. Food, like the rooms, is reasonable here.
Hotel Maya is part of the Joie de Vivre hotel group, the San Francisco-based chain whose founder and CEO is gay businessman, speaker, and author Chip Conley. The corporation gives to LGBT causes, so staying at the Hotel Maya keeps money flowing back to the gay community. If you tire of the great food and peaceful nights, you can walk to the Queen Mary
down the street or take a cab or water taxi into the city. All in all, Hotel Maya offers the best of relaxation and convenience in the heart of Long Beach, whatever your idea of a good time is.