Quirky, wacky, zany, idiosyncratic. Were you to see any of these words used in a detailed review of a hotel, they might strike you as an unpromising indication of the hotel’s overall standards.
But any of these words could be used accurately to describe various aspects of the architecture, fittings, furniture and facilities of the Hotel Maya on the shore of Long Beach Harbor in California – and yet the sum of the parts adds up to one of the most enjoyable, comfortable hotels in which I have stayed in recent years.
In early December 2012 I stayed for two nights at the Hotel Maya, which became part of the DoubleTree by Hilton brand in 2010. Its marketing materials described the hotel as a “boutique resort” hotel and as a “decadent urban playground with a tropical twist”.
It sounded interesting and clearly Hollywood’s television network studios have thought the same. Among the TV series to use the Hotel Maya as a location was the series ‘Savages’, and parts of the final episode of ‘CSI Miami’ – much of which, as a series, was filmed in Long Beach as a West Coast stand-in double for Miami – were shot on the property.
I found that this four-star property wasn’t the grandest hotel I have ever stayed at, but that it certainly was memorably unusual – in a good way. Throughout my stay I kept coming across thoughtful touches and, well, idiosyncrasies of the property which thoroughly charmed me.
The Hotel Maya consists of a main building – containing a foyer and reception area, 10 meeting rooms large and small, and Fuego at the Maya, the hotel’s excellent Latin America-themed restaurant – along with four five-floor towers in which the guestrooms are located.
In all, the pet-friendly Maya has 194 guestrooms and five suites, some of the rooms accessible for mobility- and hearing-impaired guests. Every one of the Maya’s guestrooms has the room number in Braille just next to the door.
Most of the rooms and all of the suites have superb views across Long Beach Harbor to the downtown area and, in many cases, southeast to the nearby RMS Queen Mary as well. All rooms above the ground floor and all suites have balconies, each boasting at least two seats and a small round table.
The residential towers of the Hotel Maya are unusually shaped. Their irregular shapes mean the rooms are shaped irregularly too, but each guestroom has a 15-foot ceiling and a generous floor area.
This combination conveys a sense of airy spaciousness when you are in a Hotel Maya guestroom. It is hard to imagine ever feeling claustrophobic inside one – particularly if it is one of the many which have ocean-facing, rather than garden-facing, views. I stayed in a third-floor king-bed water view room with a balcony, from which there was a bow-on view of the Queen Mary.
Not only are the rooms large, but they are also are well-appointed ‒ each boasting either two queen-size beds or a California king-size bed. Each room has a 37-inch flat screen HDTV offering premium cable channels as well as network channels. All beds are DoubleTree’s trademarked Sweet Dreams beds. The bathrooms are decent-size and offer Crabtree & Evelyn Citron bath products.
Each room also comes with free Wi-Fi broadband; a work desk; a mini-fridge; an in-room safe; a hairdryer; a coffee-maker; a clock radio with an MP3 and iPod adapter; bathrobes for guest use; an iron and ironing board; and remote printing capability. (I’d check with the front desk how to do this.)
Built in the 1970s and now on its third owner, the Maya was renovated at a cost of $20 million a few years ago, not long before current owner Ensemble Real Estate bought the hotel and brought it into the DoubleTree by Hilton brand. Ensemble has carried out further upgrade work since the renovation.
The hotel acquired its current name ‘Maya’ during the major renovation, when the designer overseeing the work realized the hotel’s unusually shaped residential towers resembled Mayan pyramids. So the entire hotel was redecorated to make Mayan themes prominent throughout.
Mayan touches include specially commissioned, highly colorful paintings by the Mexican artist Rob Padilla on the walls throughout the main building; a wall of Mayan hieroglyphics, telling folktales; and Mayan-motif carpeting and Mayan-themed wallpapers and wall prints in each guestroom. All floor tiling throughout the hotel, including the indoor part of the Fuego restaurant, is Mayan-themed.
Noticeable at night are the multicolored light shows that play on the walls of each residential tower, making the Hotel Maya a very visual place to be in the gloaming and the dark.
But the Maya wouldn’t be the Maya without many quirky and definitely non-Mayan details which – somehow – blend well into the whole. The first such detail you come across is the art deco-style glass of the front wall of the foyer.
Next – and part of the same front wall – is a huge, sideways-swinging wooden front door, which is ornately carved and was reclaimed from an old industrial building. There is a glass door right beside it and you don’t even think at first the giant wooden slab you see is a door; but its hinges are well-balanced and when you push the big door it swings sideways easily.
Once you know the secret, it’s fun to go in and out of the main building through the big wooden door – and a practical way to enter and exit, if you have lots of luggage. If you have any guests you’re meeting outside and taking to the restaurant, just watch their faces when you seemingly peel back a big chunk of the front wall of the building.
Reclaimed wood is a major theme in the Maya. The lobby and interior walkways of the main building feature panels made from wood reclaimed from old barns. To provide a natural contrast to the wooden touches throughout the main building, the floor of the foyer is covered with river rock.
The foyer area has another quirky detail which is particularly fun. The bar of the restaurant Fuego is a level above the foyer: you reach the restaurant from the foyer by a ramp, or by stairs. But guests sitting in the couches at the side of the foyer can send drinks orders up to the bar immediately above, and then receive their drinks from the bar, by means of a manually operated dumb-waiter hoist. Unfortunately, this was chained up and unavailable for use when I was there.