Municipio de Comala, Colima
The snow-capped Volcan del Fuego rises above this gracious historic estate where you feel like pampered royalty on a country holiday.
Mexico is filled with hidden villas and haciendas where wealthy city dwellers escape for fresh air and relaxation. Privileged guests at these gated, ultra-private homes experience the epitome of Mexican hospitality and gracious living. Such opportunities are rarely available to outsiders, making Hacienda de San Antonio an extra-special indulgence.
The rose-colored hacienda, first constructed in 1890, is buried in palms and pines beside a coffee plantation in Colima, northeast of coastal Manzanillo. Built in the classic colonial style with arched walls framing a central courtyard, the main building faces a sweeping lawn and manicured garden paths leading to a spectacular swimming pool. Art and antiques catch the eye all around the property.
British financier Sir James Goldsmith purchased the hacienda and coffee plantation in the 1970s. Goldsmith, who was one of the forces behind the development of the raified Costalegre south of Puerto Vallarta, used the property as a rural getaway for family and international jetsetting friends. His daughter Alix Marcaccini designed the hacienda's interior spaces and constantly monitors their upkeep. I never discovered a flaw during my two–night stay.
My suite overlooked lawns melding into wild forest. Friends staying across the courtyard had a spot-on view of the volcano. Our rooms were decorated completely differently, as are all the 25 suites. In fact, touring the accommodations is like visiting a Mexican interior design museum. Talented artisans from through the country have restored brick boveda ceilings, covered walls with handpainted tiles, and woven one–of–a&nash;kind tapestries and rugs. Each suite has a different color scheme and design theme within the larger consistent country-estate style. Tailored couches and chairs, beds dressed in the softest sheets possible, and enormous bathrooms with deep tiled tubs and rainshowers make you want to stay in your room night and day, but there's much to explore beyond your hand–carved door.
Within the hacienda there's a 19th century neoclassical chapel, where Catholic mass, religious festivals and weddings are held. Various lounges, living rooms and the library are stocked with amusements, cozy seating areas, and libations. Continental–style dinners with a Mexican flair are served in the formal Dining Room. Breakfast, which starts with fragrant warm pastries and coffee grown and roasted on the coffee plantation, is best enjoyed on the dining terrace beside the gardens. Lunch, which includes some truly memorable ceviches, arrives at the poolside restaurant. Of course, you can have any meal anywhere you want, more or less. and And you can't beat having a waiter serve afternoon tea and pastries on your balcony.
The service is discreet and ever–present without being overwhelming. Housekeepers refresh towels and straighten up your room every time you leave; waiters appear with water and cool towels when they sense even mild discomfort. Attendants at the 115–foot–long heated swimming pool spread plush towels on bed–sized lounges, deliver icy pitchers of water and aguas frescas (water flavored with flowers and fruits) and proffer occasional treats like plates of chilled jicama and carrot slices sprinkled with ground chilies. Any water buff will love the expansive warm pool that literally sparkles with dappled sunlight.
Tours of the 5,000-acre Rancho Jabali organic farm and coffee plantation that abuts the 470-acre hacienda property are a must–do experience. Trails and dirt roads lead to hidden ponds and lakes buried in the forest 3,600 feet above sea level. Birds abound — it's worth getting up early to see the trees buzzing with hummingbirds, fly–catchers and parrots. You can tour the ranch's cheese and coffee roasting plants (much of the food served here is grown or raised on the farm) and ride horse or mountain bikes along lonesome trails.
Some guests visit Hacienda de San Antonio because it's close to the Parque Nacional Volcán de Fuego. The beautiful 12,000–foot–high volcano is still active, though clouds often obscure the wisps of steam drifting up from its crater. Hardy hikers can sign up for a dawn trek to a granite precipice close to the volcano. Apparently, it's a must-do adventure for amateur and professional volcanologists. I was perfectly content within the hacienda and ranch's boundaries.
Foreign tourists are still a rarity around the hacienda and ranch—two of the largest employers in the area. But the airports at Guadalajara and Manzanillo are within two to three hours by car, and the hacienda has a licensed private airstrip. Colima, the eponymous nearby town, is a gem with a pretty plaza, lots of booted cowboys, and mariachis singing at sidewalk cafes beneath stone archways.
Travelers interested in Mexican culture will thoroughly enjoy Hacienda de San Antonio for its glimpse into a rural lifestyle that encompasses all economic levels. The level of service and gracious surroundings might actually intimidate those not accustomed to weekends among the elite. But the entire exerience, from the folk art in the suites to the scent of lemon blossoms in the citrus groves and the sense of gentility, is unforgettable.
Web Address: www.haciendadesanantonio.com
Total Number of Rooms: 25
Published rates: $540 to $1320
Review and photos by Maribeth Mellin.