A couple walks to their room aboard a boat at Dockside Boat & Bed at Dock 5 in Rainbow Harbor in Downtown Long Beach Thursday, May 26, 2022. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

One of the biggest perks that comes with Long Beach is in the name: being on the beach. For tourists who are looking for the full waterfront experience, there are several hotel options in the city, each providing its own vibe for guests.

Whether you want a comfortable luxury hotel or something unique and adventurous, there are several choices around Long Beach’s coast. Here’s a look at three different hotels on the water and how their owners try to stand out from the crowd.

Dockside Boat and Bed, Dock 5, Rainbow Harbor, $260-$495 per night

Dockside Boat and Bed has been a resident of the city’s Rainbow Harbor for over 20 years, giving people the opportunity to spend their nights sleeping on a yacht floating in the harbor.

The business was initially brought to Long Beach by Kimberly Harris-Ryskamp, whose father Rob Harris found success with a similar model in Northern California. She made her way down to Southern California to go to school at Cal State Long Beach, and she eventually decided to start her father’s business in Long Beach in March 1999.

Since then, the business has had its boats docked at Pier 5 on Rainbow Harbor. The team currently has four boats as part of its fleet, but the company does not actually own most of them. Three of them are owned by private individuals, who allow Harris-Ryskamp to use their boats in exchange for continued monitoring of the boats and a portion of the bed and breakfast proceeds from stays.

“Boats are like toys, people use them fanatically at first, and then they kind of sort of put them up on a shelf,” Harris-Ryskamp said. “The boat’s biggest enemy is neglect…so we’re there 365 days of the year.”

Dockside Boat and Bed provides a similar level of service to what one would expect from a traditional hotel, from having a check-in service to greet people at the start of their stay to the fluffy white towels with the showers and daily housekeeping to keep the boats clean and fresh.

While there is no room service, the business is able to provide a continental breakfast for its guests thanks to a kitchen on its houseboat, where Harris-Ryskamp and her staff control the operation of the hotel.

“It’s about giving them the authentic boat experience, but also making sure it’s very similar to a hotel experience,” Harris-Ryskamp said.

Comfort is an important part of supplementing the overall experience at Dockside Boat and Bed, but it’s capturing the feeling of being on the water that attracts people to the hotel. Once people stay for the first time, Harris-Ryskamp says 70% return within three years.

“They can smell the sea air, they can hear the seagulls,” Harris-Ryskamp said. “They love that experience.”

A guests exits The Belmont Shore Inn after checking out Friday, May 27, 2022. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

Belmont Shore Inn, 3946 E. Ocean Blvd., $179-$409 per night

One of Belmont Shore Inn’s defining characteristics is its proximity to the beach, even compared to other hotels in a city with “beach” in its name. General manager Karan Patel says that they are not able to technically call it a “beachfront property,” but being within spitting distance of the sand is enough for such a technicality to not matter.

“It’s literally a one-minute walk,” Patel said of the inn’s distance to the beachfront.

Patel and his parents began managing the property at 3946 E. Ocean Blvd. when it opened in  March 2019, helping to convert the former motel building into a boutique hotel that could leverage its location to create a pathway to success.

With the control to turn the building into a place that fits their image of what a hotel could be, planners opted for a design that takes advantage of their location and provides the type of experience one would expect so close to the beach.

“This is an outdoor property, so it really opens up with exterior lighting during the daytime,” Patel said.

It is not “outdoor” in the traditional sense, but it has a very modern feel with a bright color scheme that Patel says focuses on taking advantage of the natural light in a unique way. Drawing on the beach, the rooms feature white walls and large glass windows to utilize sunlight to create the Belmont Shore Inn environment. Potted plants and beach-inspired decor in the room are also placed in rooms to supplement that feeling.

“It’s a little bit different and unusual, kind of a unique experience for the customers and for travelers,” he said. “It has a ‘beachy vibes’ feeling to it.”

Creating a modern design that utilizes the sun to capture a beachside boutique feel is a key part of the identity that Patel and his family hope to project. He said that one of the inn’s most important goals is to provide a comforting and welcoming feel to their guest rooms.

“We can say that this is a home away from home,” he said, “and everyone has a home here in Long Beach.”

The Hotel Maya’s Fuego restaurant and bar overlooks Queensway Bay near Downtown Long Beach. Thursday, May 26, 2022. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

Hotel Maya, 700 Queensway Dr., $224-$423 per night

As a Hilton resort with more space and resources, Hotel Maya can go to greater lengths to promote its image. Unlike many boutique hotel experiences like Dockside Boat and Board and the Belmont Shore Inn, Hotel Maya can take measures beyond the amenities it provides to show its identity to the world.

“We strive to celebrate the Mayan culture … with things that we do and entertainment that honors the Mayan people,” Hotel Maya Director of Sales and Marketing Allison Lesser said by phone.

The hotel puts on an overarching campaign each year to help craft and establish this image in the public eye. This year’s campaign has a series of animals coming into the hotel for both hotel guests and local visitors to enjoy. Animals play a key role in Mayan culture, and the hotel has worked to bring in several of the most revered species in the culture every month, including a monkey, a hawk, a parrot and a macaw.

Having the resources to put on these kinds of events is a feature generally reserved for the biggest hotels, and Hotel Maya takes full advantage of that ability. This event is hosted alongside a meal provided by one of the hotel’s other identity-defining features and the one Lesser and her team may be the most proud of: its restaurant.

Fuego is the restaurant at Hotel Maya, which serves Latin-style food and hosts a full-service bar at the hotel. Lesser says that Fuego was built not just to complement the hotel, but to serve as a place to attract people all on its own.

“For the most part, people don’t go to a hotel for food unless it’s an outsourced restaurant with a top chef,” Lesser said. “We happen to have a restaurant that is a destination itself, and it is a critical part of the hotel.”

The concept behind Fuego, Lesser said, was designed to tie into the Mayan theme of the hotel.

“It was conceptually created that way [to be] one of the largest amenities that we do have within the hotel that we’re able to market to customers and guests as well as to locals,” Lesser said.

Even as one of the larger hotels in the city, Lesser says she knows that there are plenty of people that still don’t even know of Hotel Maya or Fuego’s existence.

“It’s very interesting that, you know, even people that live and work in Long Beach haven’t been or don’t really know about the Maya,” Lesser said. “They may have heard about it or seen it, but even within parts of Long Beach, people have never been here.”

It’s evidence that even the largest hotel brands need to get creative to attract guests—and Hotel Maya has shown how that work can succeed.

“It creates the buzz and a reason for them to come over and check us out,” Lesser said of Hotel Maya’s various efforts to craft their identity.

“Once they’re here, and they see the beautiful views and taste the food and experience the service—that keeps them coming back.”

Christian May-Suzuki

Christian May-Suzuki is a reporter at the Long Beach Business Journal.