Av. Bustillo km 2.5, San Carlos de Bariloche, Patagonia
While not nearly as refined as the historic and boutique hotels further from Bariloche proper, Design Suites is the hottest address in town for the young and fashionable and is an excellent value for boutique hotel fans with tempered expectations.
Clinging to the side of a hill just south of San Carlos de Bariloche's center, this artistic boutique hotel is the most stylish address in San Carlos de Bariloche proper—the only quality hotel that's a short dash from restaurants and nightlife. It does not brashly project its hipster status, however, and is more subdued than many too–cool hotels in the capital up north, letting the views be the main attraction. The designers also knew when to let it rest with the concrete trucks, incorporating enough stone and wood to honor the forest setting.
The main building's public areas flow into one another in loft style, with steps and half partitions indicating where the lobby lounge stops and the main restaurant begins. Those who want to take a dip outside in the summer better be secure about their physique, however, since the outdoor section of the pool is just one level down and can be viewed from here—by anyone gazing out at the lake and mountains. A fireplace and wood beams add warmth to counteract the concrete floors and a fireplace flickers light on the contemporary furniture. Diners can sit on cubical armchairs or snuggle up on sofas, eating a full meal or grazing on wine and tapas. The bar hums until late with contemporary music and neon cocktails, but with guest rooms well separated from here, you don't have to be a part of the party if you are pooped.
Besides the pool, the spa features a well–equipped gymnasium, massage rooms, and saunas. As if to prove Design Suites is not just for hip 20–somethings, there is a kids club on site. Shuttles run into town from noon to 7:00 pm and an on–site travel agent can set up excursions.
Accommodations are housed in several separate buildings, "ski condo style," with parking underneath. Even at the lowest level, these are the largest upscale rooms near Bariloche. (Note that the layout makes this a more difficult property than most for those with limited mobility, however.) They are contemporary without being aggressively so, the light wood and earth tones making them feel more organic than many boutique hotels. Clean lines mark the quality wood and leather furniture and here you are sure to get a king bed or two doubles. Elegant artwork is housed in glass boxes along the walls and all TVs come with DVD players. Robes, minibars, and dressing rooms with large closets are nice surprises for these rates and the baths contain a nice array of upscale toiletries.
Getting a suite is relatively easy here since they make up over half the room count. The junior suites are really studios with more space, but their signature offering is a circular bath with a view of the lake or forest. The largest suites are six deluxe family apartments with a kitchenette and whirlpool tub—though strangely none of the suites has more than one bath. All but the standards have a desk and separate shower in the bath.
Room service is available 24/7, English proficiency is good, and Wi–fi is available at no charge throughout the property. The clientele here trends younger and louder than in the more subdued hotels further out.
* We continue to receive reports that room maintenance here is lax and service is not up to the standards of the excellent lodges further around the lake, but for now this is the only good choice in San Carlos de Bariloche itself. For the price, it's still a good value for those who want to be close to the action.
Review by Timothy Scott, photos courtesy of Design Suites Bariloche.
Web Site: www.designsuites.com
Total Number of Rooms: 54
Published rates: $180 to $720 BB