Through all the traveling I have done in my life I never fallen prey to the allure of resorts. They struck as bourgeois playgrounds for the wealthy or elderly who wanted to leave home and never encounter the city they are visiting. To me, resorts have always been a man’s way of saying, “look honey, we can go to Thailand and still hang out with white people.” My opinion was vanquished upon my arrival at Hotel Maya, a resort that is thoughtful, inspired and as inclusive to its guests as the community it resides in.
Situated on the waterfront in Long Beach the Hotel Maya is a new name on a long standing location. Formerly Coast, this resort was built in the 1970’s and changed hands a number of times. At one point it was even a Travel Lodge, yeah the company who tried to appeal to you with a sleepwalking bear. Now I’m only poking fun here, because the less than impressive former owners of the property stand in an almost ironic contrast to what exists today.
The two year renovation made me think that they spent a year brainstorming and revising then worked around the clock the following year to implement a multitude of clever design ideas. I frequently found myself noticing little things for the first time after repeated visits to different spots all over the grounds. Like a great subtle comedy, Hotel Maya paired big ideas like the Eternity Deck that gives the feel of a seamless flow of patio to ocean with little things like mirrored portals on the walls facing the ocean. I was constantly noticing amazing details in this respect. Some other favorites I encountered were what looked to be giant rocks in the lobby, that are actually seats…not made of igneous, but of a hard foam, cozy and cool. I also loved the imported Mexican floor tiles in the house restaurant, Fuego.
All this and still haven’t gotten to my room yet. The layout at the resort has separate buildings of guest rooms or pods as they’re called. When walking up to my room I couldn’t help but notice the 70s building style. As impressed as I was with everything so far, I feared that my room might not have lost the feeling of hotel owners past. When I opened my door and said aloud, “there’s no way this was ever a Travel Lodge.” The room made good use of space and the design was very clean, yet indicative of a tribute to a 500 year old Mexican civilization, tricky. Colors were mostly neutral, but some brightly colored accents were added as well. The trapezoid shaped mirror on the wall had the thick wooded frame that came out off the wall about six inches resembling the doorway to a Mayan temple. The wall along the bed had bright colored planters with aloe vera, which I liked. The view of the ocean was nice as I watched the sun setting on Long Beach at the side of my view.
Exploring the grounds I had the sudden realization that I was incredibly relaxed. I felt like I was wearing noise reducing headphones and just had a profound massage. So this is what resorts do. I walked over to a patio on the waterfront and took a seat under a giant magnetically controlled umbrella that shifts to the wind. While there I had a sublime margarita with honey that was so good that I took a sip and ordered another one right away. I also sampled some lobster tacos and steak that I swore was marinated in the very tequila I was drinking.
I took it easy on the appetizers as I knew a meal of grand proportions was headed my way that evening. To be certain I would have the hunger to match what I expected to be a feast, I went on a walk about Long Beach for a bit. I must say the town some refer to as the working man’s beach town is really on the rise.
Just as the sun was setting I took a seat on the patio of Fuego. I opted for the tasting menu when I saw that the menu had the day’s date on it. The first round offered a series of little appetizers. The scallop ceviche with olives was a bit of a surprise, but a pleasant one at that. I don’t think I’ve ever seen olives in ceviche. The salmon and tuna totopos were small in size, but savory and delicious. An interesting offering in this series was the chili-infused corn tortillas. They came to the table hot and I knew they had just been made on site. If you want to know the way to my heart, know how to make wonderful tortillas.
The first course was a lobster cilantro soft taco. This taco was not in a tortilla, but rather a thoughtful and inspired cilantro crepe. The lobster was sweet, succulent and seasoned with a Mole Amarillo that gave a subtle boost in flavor that didn’t dare attempt to upstage the lobster.
Next I had a remarkable chipotle black bean soup with fried corn tortilla. I don’t mind the tortilla in my soup, but in this case I wish they would have abstained. The soup was the consistency of a thick broth as the beans were cooked down completely, the combination of the spicy hot and temperature hot made this soup so fulfilling.
Closing out the dinner was a platter featuring shrimp brouchettes, chicken poblano and guajillo lamb chops. The giant shrimp was skewered and grilled with light seasonings. The roasted chicken poblano was coated in a thick green verde style sauce that brought just the right amount of heat. Best of all was the lamb chops which were marinated in pineapple and spices and blackened on the outside with an almost cool center allowing a crisp coating with a tender juicy inside.
Driving home the next day after an unbelievable brunch at Fuego I wasn’t sure if I needed to go to my car or the airport to get home. I have never felt so blissfully far from home in my own city. At an hour’s drive, I will be returning to this urban retreat on the water very soon.
700 Queensway Dr
Long Beach, CA 90802