Hanging suspended over verdant valleys in the foothills of the Andes, Cannúa’s luxurious rooms and cloud-forest cabanas blend seamlessly into their remote mountain location deep in the Colombian countryside. Here, days are spent gorging on colourful plates of French-Colombian cuisine dressed in rainbows of edible flowers, unleashing your inner Attenborough on tropical-bird-spotting expeditions and going ga-ga over Colombian coffee, chocolate or rum at tasting sessions with expert local producers. Heck, you’re on vacation: why not pig out on all three? And if that doesn’t leave you in a contented stupor, those widescreen valley views – accompanied by a boozy signature Dr Cannúa cocktail – surely will.
11am. Check-in, 3pm. Guests arriving early can store luggage at reception and make use of the resort if rooms are not ready. You’re also welcome to stick around into the evening at the end of your stay if your room isn’t needed for new guests.
Double rooms from £73.88 ($91). Please note the hotel charges an additional government tax of 19% per booking on check-out.
Rates include breakfast between 7am and 10am in the restaurant, where the selection of tropical fruits, homemade breads, jams and cheeses, house granola, eggs with arepas, juices, teas, and Colombian coffee is sure to set you up for the day.
That feeling of being at one with nature? You’re not imagining it. The architecture of Cannúa is based around the mathematical principles of the golden ratio, which also occurs in the geometric spiral arrangements of some plants and leaves.
At the hotel
Free WiFi. In rooms: tea and coffee set, free bottled water, umbrella, flashlight, games, bathrobes, and organic Piel de Semilla toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
There’s no such thing as a bad view at Cannúa, where all 18 rooms and cabanas overlook the rolling San Nicolás Valley below. That feeling of being close to nature is further enhanced by sustainable design features that include exposed earthen bricks, reclaimed woods and handmade lamps. Widescreen wraparound windows give standalone cabanas the edge. Once inside, you might imagine yourself descending over an alien landscape in your own private spacecraft, especially after that second rum punch, sipped in your hammock at sundown, just as the forest frog chorus cranks up into full melodious song.
Massage, facials and other treatments such as coffee scrubs are available in the spa.
Take along a decent set of binoculars and a guide to Colombian wildlife – essential reading for hikers and hammock-bound twitchers alike. Even though most of the hikes you’ll go on here will be guided, there’s no satisfaction greater than identifying this poison dart frog or that three-toed sloth yourself, or wowing fellow travellers as you confidently point out a colourful emerald toucanet or Andean motmot on the wing. A natural repellent for the less photogenic, ankle-biting critters is also recommended here. Respect the Cannúa ethos by opting for plant-based oils and patches over synthetic chemical sprays.
Facilities for guests with reduced mobility include one fully wheelchair-accessible deluxe room, plus two cabanas located close to the main building. An elevator makes for easy movement between the restaurant and the spa and bar deck on the floor below.
Little Smiths are welcome but the vibe at Cannúa is pretty grown up and there are no specific facilities for kids.
Cannúa’s eco credentials are written into its fabric. That’s no hollow cliché either: the 100,000-plus compressed earth bricks used to build the resort were hewn from the very soil on which it now stands. And that’s just for starters: one of the building’s distinctive curves was designed purely in order to preserve a pair of chachafruto trees because, well, they were here first. The ethos here then is very firmly about leaving the land – once a cattle-trampled prairie – in better condition than before. To that end, Cannúa’s reforestation project has also revived nine glorious hectares, attracting endangered birds, frogs and other native critters back to the land after years in exile. Roofs at the resort are thatched with strong, sustainable guadua bamboo and water is filtered and recycled for use in the gardens. Furniture and artworks around the resort are – when not made by artisans from the neighbouring village or by kids from the local community project – fashioned from materials recovered during the resort’s construction. This ties in neatly to Cannúa’s no waste policy, which also sees the restaurant focus on the use of non-traditional mountain plants and super-local low-waste produce, as well as carefully weighing and composting all leftovers. After all that, it goes without saying that the toiletries in your bathroom are biodegradable and you won’t find a single-use plastic within a country mile of the place.
You’ll have to get to the restaurant early to bag the best tables out on the terrace, with their sweeping valley views.
Get down with the eco vibe and rock your favourite recycled (or upcycled) organic cotton togs, coincidentally ideal for the daytime heat. Throw on jeans and a jumper for cooler evenings on the bar deck.
Cannúa’s French-Colombian restaurant serves up dishes that look like works of art and taste – possibly quite literally – like nothing you’ve eaten before. The chef’s vibrant masterpieces are strewn with colourful edible flowers and leaves plucked from the kitchen garden that very morning, as well as ‘lost flavours’ foraged from the mountains. For sustainability reasons, pork and beef are no-nos here, but carnivores can look forward to dishes including Colombian rabbit-loin stew and the signature slow-cooked chicken confit, served on a bed of arepa purée with a pesto made from non-traditional foraged plants. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus afternoon snacks like sandwiches and empanadas in the afternoon.
Chocolate-, coffee- and rum-tasting sessions on the bar deck vie to distract your attention, albeit fleetingly, from those endlessly dreamy vistas. The bar itself stays open until midnight, serving a range of local beers, wines and, of course, rums. Mixologists use the best of the mountain’s bounty to rustle up cocktails such as the signature Dr Cannúa, a medicinal blend of Bulleit Bourbon, organic honey, ginger, eucalyptus, lime, and smoked cinnamon.
Breakfast is served 7am–10am and the bar deck keeps the party going until midnight.
Cannúa hovers high in the cloud forests of rural northwest Colombia, an eco-paradise set in nine verdant hectares between the Andes and the Caribbean Sea, 20 minutes from the town of Marinilla.
José María Cordova International Airport is 40–60 minutes from the resort. One-way transfers can be arranged for around COP200,000.
If wild mountain roads, hair-raising hairpin bends and occasional off-road action is your bag, you’d do well to rent a car at the airport and make the journey north to Cannúa yourself. Of course, once there you may decide you never have to leave the place again. But if you do, you’ll find having your own set of wheels handy for visiting local coffee plantations and colourful nearby towns like Marinilla and Guatapé. There’s free valet parking at the lodge.
Worth getting out of bed for
No-one’s going to think less of you if you take the understandable decision to spend your stay supine on the bar deck, lifting your head only to sip cocktails and squint sleepily at tropical birds as they flit to and fro between the trees. Indeed, hanging out at Cannúa is actively encouraged, and there’s a range of largely untaxing activities held right here in the grounds. For example, included with your stay is a short tour and talk on the lodge’s design and the owners’ commitment to the principles of permaculture. This is waaay more interesting than it sounds, an unmissable highlight delivered with great knowledge, passion and zeal by the owners.
You’re going to be spending a lot of time on the bar deck, and here’s why. As well as those delicious views, it also provides the glorious setting for a number of tasting sessions. Lovers of devilishly good chocolate, coffee and rum will be in clover at these expert-led showcases, which are liable to leave you legless or bouncing off the walls, depending on your favoured tipple.
Short hikes from the lodge include a free daily stargazing sunset walk and a wander along the pre-Columbian track that leads off the property. For something a little more challenging, book the extended version of the latter, which takes you some 15 kilometres across the mountains, meeting fruit farmers and native wildlife along the way. The hike includes a traditional Colombian picnic lunch and the chance to cool off beneath a 210-foot waterfall.
Other off-property activities sure to make your holiday snaps pop include releasing endangered baby turtles into the wild as well as paragliding over the Andes – and spelunking under them. Meanwhile, the colourful pueblos of Marinilla and Guatapé provide more traditional sightseeing options, including Spanish colonial churches, local guitar workshops and – in the Peñón de Guatapé – a great big 650-million-year-old rock protruding from the earth. A 708-step staircase, designed for those with nerves of steel only, weaves a path up its near-vertical face.
Cannúa’s imaginative dining menu might make excursions to other restaurants feel like an unnecessary exertion, but there are a few options worth seeking out along nearby Marinilla’s quaint cobbled streets and squares.
Bodyswerve the town’s many fast-food joints and head instead for the likes of Con Tradición just off Parque de Marinilla, a colonial main square complete with impressive wedding-cake church. Inside this unassuming eatery, light filters down through a bamboo roof, illuminating intricately carved doors and a simple tiled floor. The face of Jesus beams benevolently from a large portrait on the wall, as diners tuck into biblical portions of modern Colombian favourites like aromatic spiced beef with arepas and langoustines with tomato rice.
Just around the corner and right on the square, Elemental is a smart, light-filled restaurant with quirky decor that features giant squids, traditional local guitars, mosaic floor tiles and more foliage than your local garden centre. Colourful plates of food made using local ingredients is the order of the day here. Try fluffy satay bao buns and wood-fired burrata pizza for the win.
You’ll find most of Marinilla’s bars huddled around the main square, handy for a few gentle post-sightseeing libations. Try La Corpo for cool artworks, moody lighting, and live music over beers, and head to the hallucinatory neon-lit interiors of Elefante Negro Café Bar for colourful cocktails and huge pizzas.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this luxury eco-lodge in the foothills of the Andes and unpacked their stash – several kilos of the finest Colombian chocolate and coffee – a full account of their off-grid mountain break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Cannúa in northwest Colombia…
Designed on the principles of the golden ratio, Cannúa is a shining example of how achieving oneness with nature needn’t mean losing an argument to your pop-up tent or being outsmarted by a can opener. Just grab a table on the bar deck or snuggle up with a Colombian coffee in your cabana’s wicker hanging chair to experience how effectively this modern eco-lodge brings the outdoors indoors. It’s there in those life-altering views across the San Nicolás Valley and in the lodge’s bamboo roofs with their elegant spirals, like snails’ shells. You can hear it too, in the chattering of endangered frogs, now thriving in the purpose-built bio-fountain; in the whispering leaves of the native chachafruto trees, left carefully undisturbed during the resort’s construction; and even – if you’re lucky – in the occasional bark of a howler monkey high in the mountain forests.