This coral pink Hacienda de San Antonio in Mexico’s small highland state of Colima raises the boutique-hotel bar to lofty new heights. Built more than 120 years ago and decorated with style and passion by the Goldsmith family, its elegant arched buildings sit serenely in a jaw-dropping landscape of coffee plants, avenues of bamboo and the awe-inspiring backdrop of the Colima volcano.
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of mangrappa, private return airport transfers from Colima airport and a visit to the coffee and cheese factory
Double rooms from £586.25 ($827), including tax at 19 per cent.
Meals are not included in room rates; the hotel offers a range of meal plans.
If you fancy cocooning yourself away for an evening in front of a film or a sports event, the Mirador sitting room on the rooftop terrace has a gigantic widescreen TV, a working fireplace and comfortable seating.
At the hotel
Huge gardens, tennis court, gym, library, DVD selection, free WiFi throughout, private airstrip. In rooms: open fireplace, Bose sound system, minibar and cocktail station, under-floor heating, bespoke toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
For a view of Colima’s smoke-haloed volcano, you can’t beat the El Quetzal and El Volcan Grand Suites – both have fireplaces in the bedroom and living areas, sumptuous sofas, beautiful artwork and large private balconies. Alternatively, La Chalupita is a bright and enticing corner suite with huge windows overlooking the gardens and French doors that open onto the patio.
A stream flows down the immaculately manicured lawn to an enormous heated swimming pool, where you can laze away the day on cushioned loungers, in view of the gorgeous gardens and the smoking volcano. There's also a poolside palapa serving lunch
There's no spa, but you can have massages and beauty treatments in your room.
Leave your mobile at home – it won’t work here anyway. Do bring outdoorsy gear though, whether horse riding, hiking or mountain biking is your bag, you can do it at San Antonio.
Ground-floor suites are available to guests with small pets (less than 9lbs) in tow. Dogs must be kept on leads, except in the gardens. Pets stay free, but there’s a charge if they need feeding.
Under-5s stay for free; 6-11 year-olds stay for $75 a night. Meals for under-2s are free; children from 2-5 eat for 25 per cent of the adult rate; 6-11s pay 50 per cent. Babysitting can be provided for $45 for four hours; three days notice is needed.
Under-fives stay free, under-11s are $75 a night. Babysitting can be provided for $45 for four hours, if arranged three days in advance.
Adventurous kids of all ages.
The ground-floor suites are best suited to families with young children – extra beds ($75 a night) can easily be added. If you have two or more kids in tow, book adjoining suites, (such as El Sol and El Quetzal).
There’s an assortment of outdoorsy fun to be had, including tennis, football, croquet, volleyball and kite-flying, and the hotel has arts and crafts supplies on hand for more indoorsy entertainment.
Inflatables and flotation aids are available for use in the hacienda’s outdoor pool.
Since all meals are tailored to your tastes, it’s all to easy to order child-friendly dishes, of whatever portion size you wish.
Can be arranged three days in advance, at a cost of $45 for four hours (charges increase at Christmas and New Year).
No need to pack
If requested in advance, the hacienda can provide almost anything you might need.
Every Christmas, Hacienda de San Antonio organises a traditional Mexican party for children, with songs, games and piñatas.
Thanks to its Goldsmith patronage, the Hacienda is big on sustainability and runs its own organic ranch – El Jabali – producing fruit, vegetables, cheese, coffee, meat and dairy produce.
Ask the hotel staff to set up a table in the formal gardens amid the fountains.
Refined but unshowy, think indolent aristocrat.
The hacienda arranges dinner in a different room each evening; before the open fireplace of the club room, one night, in the elegant red room on another. The menu uses produce grown in the grounds to create Mexican-European crossover cuisine.
Homely, relaxed and warmed by a roaring fire, the hacienda’s Yellow Bar opens out into the gardens and serves a potent Hacienda Margarita using mango grappa distilled on the hotel’s estate.
Food is available between 7am and 10.30pm; the bar’s open until 11.30pm.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are available form the restaurant menu anywhere in the hotel while the kitchen is open.
The nearest international airports are Manzanillo, around two hours from the Hacienda, and Guadalajara, two and a half hours away. Get to Manzanillo from the US with Alaska Airlines (www.alaskaair.com) or United Airlines (www.united.com). Guadalajara is served by regular flights from various US cities. Alternatively, the domestic airport at Colima is 40 minutes from the Hacienda – AeroMar (www.aeromar.com.mx) flies here from Mexico City and Cancun.
There are no rail links to Hacienda de San Antonio.
Hacienda de San Antonio is 30km north of Colima, which is connected to Guadalajara and Manzanillo by Freeway 54. From Colima, head towards Comala, pass through the town and continue for another 22km. The Hacienda’s entrance is on the left, marked by a wooden gate with a security booth. Free parking is available for guests. Car hire is available at both Manzanillo and Gaudalajara airports.
If you want to make more of an entrance, private air charters to the Hacienda’s landing strip can be booked via its reservations desk.
Worth getting out of bed for
The hacienda's cattle ranch, El Jabalí, is very nearby and has a host of expert guides on hand to take you hiking, nature-spotting, bird-watching, sky diving, hot-air ballooning and horse-riding across the gorgeous landscape. Alternatively, as the hacienda to pack you a picnic and wander through acres of peaceful pasture to dine lakeside. Make an excursion to Comala or Colima to pick up Huichol art and handicrafts and sample ponche – the local tipple made from the maguey cactus.
Hacienda de San Antonio is sufficiently remote to mean that Colima's other eateries aren't exactly convenient, but thanks to an innovative kitchen, and ever-changing dining area, and vast acreas of land producing fresh, seasonal ingredients, eating here can be like dining in a different restaurant every night.
Oppressive warmth, broken air-con, and two conflicting, illegible maps is a recipe for disaster, and the making of a heated ‘Mr and Mrs’ – what my mum diplomatically refers to as a spousal dispute. There we are, sweating in our rented Nissan two-door tin can, attempting to navigate the arid, monotonous terrain between Cuixmala, a collection of villas on Mexico’s Pacific Coast (the former estate of Sir James Goldsmith), and La Hacienda de San Antonio, Cuixmala’s sister property up in the mountains outside the tiny town of Comala. A dozen identical road signs point to route 200, the road we want, each with its own sense of direction. It is confusing enough to make Hernando Cortez’s head spin.
Hacienda de San Antonio is 15 minutes from the sleepy, cobblestoned streets of Comala. We pull up to iron gates worthy of a conquistador and descend through a dense grove of trees, finally emerging into a grass covered plaza bordered by a grand hacienda dripping in bougainvillea and ivy. The irritability produced by a four-hour drive evaporates as we pass through the colossal wooden doors and the staff offer us chilled mint tonics (a fine tipple, I later discover, when paired with vodka. I manage to acquire the secret recipe and might be persuaded to share it if you tweet me @ashleyhartswick).
The hacienda was built in 1890 by Don Arnoldo Vogel, a German immigrant clearly enraptured by the hacienda lexicon of courtyards, colonades, and lightly curved arches. Vogel turned the estate into a thriving coffee plantation, but at some point, things went south and by the time Sir James picked up the property, the hacienda had long been shuttered. He gave his daughter, Alex Marcaccini, the task of bringing the place back to life and she succeeded splendidly. The yellow bar alone, with its creamy canary walls and drapes offset by a vaulted ceiling in cinnamon, was worth risking divorce on the road.
On entering our suite, we feel as though we have teetered back in time to a princely era. The room boasts 25-foot ceilings and is filled with 18th-century furniture, with surprise contemporary touches such as bright red ikat tapestries. We put a musty tang to the air down to the combination of old stone and burnt firewood, and we take it in our stride as part of the ambience.
The grounds behind the hotel are an imperial succession of gardens that exalt geometry: allées of boxwood splaying from a circular ornamental pool, the spaces between brimming with flowers; a cascade of semicircular stone steps descending to another decorative pool, this one of Moorish inspiration. Hidden benches and natural nooks and crannies scattered throughout the grounds induce the urge to strip and run wild over the lawns. Aside from the staff (gracious, knowledgeable and ever-aware of our comings and goings), there are only two other guests who would notice. I am game but Mr Smith says if he went along with it we'd have to get room service for the rest of our stay.
An entire afternoon is spent splayed out on a wide chaise beside the tiled, Olympic-size pool, with us reading and being raucously serenaded by a band of chachalacas, a large wild-turkey-like bird. Aside from the squawking, the atmosphere is serenity squared, and somehow staff materialise at just the right moment with a new set of cold, rose-scented hand towels or a top-up.
Lunch, served in a gazebo by the pool, consists of a myriad of Mexican dishes, accompanied by a bottle of native rosé: Monte Xanic’s Calixa grenache. We later learn that 80% of the Hacienda's organic food (from vegetables to beef) is produced on its adjoining ranch. We also discover that the hotel is searching for a new chef. This explains our concern that it's occasionally a little bland. However, the guacamole is not to be missed and the homemade ice-cream is a standout. And by the time you read this hopefully they'll have a new gourmet head honcho.
At dusk, the hotel’s grand scale takes on a magical, mysterious aspect, perhaps because the palms, loggias, and oversized decorative terracotta pots are often in silhouette, and the pathways lined with torches and votive candles. You want romance? Just try and avoid it. After cocktails and stargazing on the veranda, dinner on the terrace, and a rousing game of dominos in the main salon, we retire to our room and discover the hotel’s only other shortcoming, lack of air conditioning. We try opening the windows, but are soon assaulted by squadrons of mosquitoes, and so endure a hot night.
Mr Smith successfully challenged to a morning tennis match is followed by massages for us both savoured in the privacy of our room. Active travellers, we could have done with at least another day to take full advantage of the hotel’s offerings – hiking, wine tasting – but we settle for some horseriding. Venturing out into the countryside on horseback proves a highlight of our stay.
Now, as an innate horse-lover and experienced rider, I am not quite as excited as Mr Smith, knowing how fretfully boring most organized ‘trail rides’ can be. But once we are mounted, our guide (tipped off about my prowess by Mr Smith, I assume) spurs his spirited pony, and before I can adjust my cowboy hat, we are galloping off to some nearby lakes. And what a landscape. Keen to see how this dramatic terrain must look after the rainy season, I plot a way to come back after August. Indeed, the only thing that could make this place more magical, would be seeing it when the wild flowers are in bloom.