Km. 91.5 Carretera CA-14, Alotenango, Guatemala
La Reunion Antigua Golf Resort & Residences, just outside La Antigua Guatemala, provides discriminating travelers with an experience on par with the world's finest golf resorts.
Antigua, Guatemala is quickly gaining a reputation as one of Central America’s most cosmopolitan and picturesque cities. Conveniently located just 45 minutes from Guatemala City and its modern international airport, the city seems to have most everything the discerning traveler might want. Now Antigua’s offerings even include a golf resort, something it previously lacked, and the results are nothing short of astounding.
La Reunion Golf Resort & Residences is just 11 miles from Antigua proper, in neighboring Alotenango. It enjoys a spectacular location, nestled amid the coffee trees, flowers and hills of a former plantation on gently rolling volcanic slopes descending to Guatemala’s Pacific coast. On a clear day, you can see the nearby coastal town of Escuintla and the Pacific Ocean. But on any given day, it’s hard to ignore the four sentinel volcanoes that give this property some of the most amazing views anywhere. The Pete Dye-designed golf course with Maya-inspired themes and the lodge are literally built on the slopes of smoldering Fuego and adjacent Acatenango volcanoes. Looking east, the view is dominated by the cone of Agua volcano, with fiery Pacaya and its lava light show easily visible at night.
In addition to 26 comfortably posh suites, La Reunion has two excellent restaurants. The 19th hole, Wayeb, serves tasty snacks and good cocktails overlooking the golf course and Agua volcano’s sloping terrain. Restaurante Argentilia’s, meanwhile, specializes in grilled steak and seafood dishes and enjoys the same outstanding views. You can dine indoors and enjoy the volcano views from floor-to-ceiling windows or out on the terrace with a nice tropical breeze. Alotenango lies at a slightly lower elevation than Antigua and so it tends to get warmer.
From the clubhouse, you can grab a golf cart and make your way down to your luxurious accommodations. I’m a big fan of the better-value Gran Clase Suites, which are very well thought-out and have made the most of the location with private, infinity-edge plunge pools overlooking the golf course and the aforementioned fabulous volcano views. There are indoor and outdoor Jacuzzi hot tubs. The rooms also have wonderful wooden furnishings and accents, excellent beds, DirecTV, Wi-fi, Guatemalan textile accents, and L’Occitane bath products. If making the trip up to the dining room feels like too much effort, you can order from a full menu of in-room dining options or grab a snack from the well-stocked minibar.
As for the golf course, the 72-par, 7,560-yard course is one of the country’s most challenging and is the only golf course in the world with a view of four volcanoes. Its designers, Pete and Perry Dye, gleaned inspiration from the Mayan Solar Calendar, which consists of 18 twenty-day months. Each of the course’s 18 holes is named after its corresponding month on the Mayan calendar. The 19th month, Wayeb, is a five-day month dedicated to rest and contemplation and so makes a fitting name for the bar and restaurant. Facilities include a driving range, putting green, chipping green, practice bunker, and pro shop. Incidentally, Pete’s eldest son Perry Dye recently spent the last days of 2009 on vacation at the resort with his family and nailed a 178-yard hole-in-one on the course’s 12th hole. Should you grow weary of golf or your surroundings, you can easily take a day trip to nearby Antigua, with its art galleries, handicraft shops, and colonial architecture or head southeast to the Pacific coast (less than an hour away) for sailfishing year-round or whale-watching during the winter months.
Guatemala hasn't always attracted loads of U.S. attention or investment, unlike some of its better-known neighbors, but La Reunion really has nothing to envy other properties in destinations such as Costa Rica and Hawaii. Absent U.S. investors, Guatemala's wealthy business sector has stepped in to create the country's finer accommodations, high-rise condos and supporting infrastructure. In the case of La Reunion, forward-thinking Guatemalan investors were willing to plunk down US$80 million to make it a reality.
La Reunion's real estate sales director, Rodrigo de Bedout, hails from Costa Rica and points out that Guatemala's economy is substantially less susceptible to the whims of its giant neighbor to the north. Although Guatemala was certainly affected by the U.S. recession, the effects on tourism and investment in Guatemala pale in comparison to Costa Rica's substantial drop in tourism investment during 2009, he says. The project also includes the sale of luxury residences. Already, most of the first phase is sold out and a second phase is in the works. De Bedout adds that La Reunion's future plans call for the addition of a 125-room hotel and they are currently in talks with luxury chain Waldorf Astoria as a potential operator.
For now, La Reunion remains wonderfully peaceful. The only thing you'll hear is the chirping of birds, the occasional roar of a distant lawnmower and, once in a while, a landing helicopter announcing the arrival of Guatemala City's business elite coming in for a round of golf. It's all par for the course.
Web Address: www.lareunion.com.gt
Total Number of Rooms: 26
Published rates: $220 double
Review and photos by Al Argueta.