Mucho Maya

Joie de Vivre’s Hotel Maya delivers plenty of flair and function

By: By Deanna Ting

The Details

Hotel Maya
Commission: 10 percent

Room rates start at $139 per night. As part of the Joie de Vivre portfolio of California boutique hotels, the Hotel Maya also offers special perks for members of its guest loyalty and rewards program, the Joy of Life Club.

The hotel’s Park & Sail Package, in conjunction with Carnival Cruise Lines, includes breakfast, self-parking, transportation to and from the Carnival Cruise terminal at the Port of Long Beach and taxes. Overnight stay rates vary depending on the season.

Through April 30, 2010, Hotel Maya is offering a Mayan Journey Package for $149 per person, per night, based on double occupancy. The package includes full American breakfast; a three-course chef’s choice dinner menu at Fuego; Mexicali chocolate at check-in; one AquaBus ticket per person for use on Fridays and Saturdays; and free overnight parking for a maximum of 10 nights.

When the owners of the Coast Long Beach hotel in Long Beach, Calif., first began making some adjustments to their 34-year-old property in November 2008, they figured the makeover would consist of just a few new furnishings and treatments — a light fixture here, a new wall color there.

Instead, what they got was an entirely different property.

Today, the former Coast hotel is now the Hotel Maya, a Joie de Vivre-managed property with a distinctly Latin American-inspired design and decor. Splashes of rich fuchsia accent the entire property, melding with rich textures and ambient lighting for a uniquely Old-World-meets-new look and feel. The 197-room property recently opened in May 2009 after an extensive, multimillion-dollar renovation, and its restaurant, Fuego at the Maya, opened in July.

During a recent October stay, I was surprised at just how large the hotel grounds were. Because of the hotel’s boutique description, I naturally assumed it would be small, not sprawling, but I was mistaken. The 11-acre property encompasses five different buildings, four of which house guestrooms and a main structure that includes the front desk, lobby, restaurant, bar and meeting/event space.

The night I arrived, the hotel was packed, playing host to both a wedding and a high school reunion. While that might be a tall order for some properties to fill, this didn’t appear to be the case at the Hotel Maya. The hotel has more than 20,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor meeting and event space that ranges from a waterfront ballroom and an executive boardroom to a romantic garden, complete with a waterfall and glowing chandelier.

The Hotel Maya lobby lounge is the site of weekday complimentary sangria tastings. // © Deanna Ting 2009 I

 The Hotel Maya lobby lounge is the site of weekday complimentary sangria tastings.
// © Deanna Ting 2009

As I explored the property, I continued to find all sorts of spaces that seemed to invite guests to linger. A beautifully draped Balinese daybed, located near the front entrance, but hidden by foliage, made for a romantic setting. Out on the Fuego Outdoor Terrace, a festive covered tent was the site of a lively get-together, as friends gathered to feast on small plates and cocktails. In the very front of the main building, adjacent to the front desk, a lobby lounge area welcomed guests to kick back and relax. Every Monday through Friday from 5 to 6 p.m., that same lounge is the site of a complimentary sangria happy hour.

Another complimentary feature of the hotel includes the use of beautifully draped cabanas (unless pre-reserved) that line the narrow heated pool, offering a front-row view of Long Beach Harbor. Poolside, guests lounged lazily, sipping on cocktails from the bar and watching the sunset.

A stone’s throw away from the pool, in building four, two converted guestrooms serve as an extensive fitness center. Equipment includes two treadmills, one elliptical and one bicycle, each with its own personal entertainment system; various weight machines; free weights; and exercise balls. While I loved using the gym’s high-end equipment, I wished there were an available drinking water dispenser for exercising guests to use.

During my visit, revelers gathered in an outdoor tent on the Fuego Outdoor Terrace. // © Deanna Ting 2009

During my visit, revelers gathered in an
outdoor tent on the Fuego Outdoor Terrace.
// © Deanna Ting 2009

After working out, I retreated to my guestroom, eager to try out its amenities. I stayed in a Bay View King With Sofa Sleeper, which offered a partial view of the ocean as well as my own private balcony overlooking the Fuego restaurant. Feeling a little tired, I made a beeline straight for the Lavazza Coffee Maker, which brewed a perfectly piping hot cup of green tea. (Coffee and decaffeinated coffee were also available.)

Guests who wish to relax and unwind in the comforts of their guestroom will probably find themselves perched on their pillow-top mattresses or sofas, watching television from a 37-inch high-definition flat-screen television (complimentary HBO included), or sitting outside on their balcony (most rooms have one), reading a good novel.

Room categories differ between bay views and garden views, and there are a total of two suites on property. All rooms feature a clock/stereo with Mp3/iPod adapters; a hairdryer; a safe; an ironing board and iron; plush cotton robes; and a fully stocked minibar. Clients who consider their pets as part of the family will be pleased to know that pets of any size are welcome to stay inside their guestroom, as part of Joie de Vivre’s pet-friendly policy. The hotel’s free high-speed Internet and Wi-Fi access is also a plus. However, I wished its walls were a little more soundproof at times, especially when nighttime crowds got a little raucous at Fuego.

The Guajillo-Glazed Lamb Chops from Fuego at the Maya were delectable. //© Deanna Ting 2009

The Guajillo-Glazed Lamb Chops from Fuego at the Maya were delectable. //© Deanna Ting 2009

If your clients have a chance to dine or drink at Fuego, they won’t be disappointed. Here, executive chef Jesse Perez has put together an eclectic menu that makes a fiery display of the best of Latin American flavors and techniques. While the menu changes seasonally, I hope he’ll keep his Sweet Corn ‘Elote’ Soup and Guajillo-Glazed Lamb Chops year-round. The sweet and spicy soup was so unique and unexpected, and the lamb chops were perfectly tender and seasoned. Tequila lovers will delight in the bar menu, too, which offers an extensive array of tequilas as well as other libations. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers a Fiesta Domingo brunch on Sundays.

Sunday is a busy day at the Hotel Maya, with guests checking in and out of the hotel in droves. That’s because the hotel is so ideally situated next to the Carnival Cruise Line terminal, as well as the Port of Long Beach, the Queen Mary, the Long Beach Convention Center and the Aquarium of the Pacific.

For cruisers, I think the hotel is a good choice for clients who want a unique boutique stay, either pre- or post-cruise. Carnival Cruise Lines passengers can arrange to leave their cars at the hotel while they cruise as part of a Park & Sail Package. Or they can take advantage of Long Beach public transportation to get around and explore the city. It’s as easy as hopping aboard a free Passport bus to visit downtown — a stop is located in the Hotel Maya parking lot. The hotel also has a pick-up/drop-off point for The AquaBus water taxi, which charges a $2 fare.

All in all, I think there’s much to be admired at the Hotel Maya, both for its convenience and thoughtful amenities. And as more travelers rediscover this newly renovated property — and its stellar restaurant — I think its reputation will only grow.