Calzada Roberta 16, Colonia 31 de Marzo
In a mountain city filled with small inns wedged into the historic districts, Parador San Juan de Dios entices with a hacienda hotel vibe and expansive gardens with mountain views.
Chipas State in Mexico is a latecomer to the tourism game. It wasn’t so long ago that revolutionaries were fighting the federal government over indigenous rights and wealth distribution. Picturesque San Cristobal de Las Casas was a no–go zone for all but the hardiest travelers.
Ironically, Chiapas is now one of the safest states in Mexico and San Cristobal has seen an explosion of tourists. Only a few luxury travelers make it here, however, so while there are plenty of great restaurants and coffee shops spreading through the center, there is really only one luxury hotel so far.
San Juan de Dios is not walking distance to the central plaza, unfortunately, but it’s worth a few cab rides (less than $3 each) to kick back in such a sublime setting. Rooms here have a high “wow factor” and the well–tended gardens are blooming all year.
The buildings once comprised a hacienda anchoring a farm and wheat mill. They were built in the traditional style with adobe and stone, with thick wood beams holding everything up and clay tiles on the roofs. Original stone walls surround the whole property, making it an easy place to let kids run around—a sign just asks you to keep an eye on them!
Rooms range from cozy to sumptuous, with an eclectic mix of historic and modern furniture that doesn’t always make sense. Historic details include carved headboards, religious artifacts, and Spanish Colonial oil paintings dating back a few hundred years. All rooms feature hardwood floors, fireplaces, comfy duvets, electronic safes, and baths with a good selection of natural toiletries.
It’s best to skip the “luxury rooms” though and go for one of the ten suites. These really make you feel like a modern day Hacienda lord with their separate living areas, large plasma TVs, and whirlpool tubs in the expansive baths. Each has some kind of wardrobe, ample chairs, and a desk. Unlike many city center hotels, rooms here get ample natural light.
The top suite to get here is the master suite named after the original hacienda owner: Fray Antonio de Remesal. It is on two levels, with a large living room, dining for eight, and a full kitchen on the first floor. A spiral staircase leads to a huge bedroom with another fireplace and lots of interesting lines: there is a sloping ceiling and a neat little cubby by the window for reading or writing. There’s another sitting area off to the side of the bed and the large bath with whirlpool and shower has a towel warmer.
In theory there is complimentary internet access throughout, but it’s hard for Wi–Fi to penetrate some of these 3–feet–thick walls. If you’ve got work to do, you may need to park yourself in the lobby or bring an ethernet cord to plug in.
A restaurant with walls of windows is cheerful and features a mix of local and international dishes. Some of the herbs and vegetables come from the hacienda’s garden and the food here gets high praise from guests. When weather permits, tables are set up on an outdoor terrace next to a barbeque parilla and there is a full bar and room service as well.
Additional diversions are limited, though the resident masseuse can perform multiple treatments after a Chiapas adventure and a business center is on site. Staffers can set up city tours, excursions to local attractions, or a rental car.
As in much of Mexico away from the resorts, English proficiency is hit and miss here, but the restaurant staffers know enough to get you what you need and the front desk can call in a bilingual manager if you get stuck. Service is performed with a smile regardless.
While this luxury hacienda hotel doesn’t get as many international visitors as domestic ones, it’s a top–notch operation that’s peaceful and an aesthetic delight in one of Mexico’s “Magic Cities.”
Web Site: SanJuanDios.com
Total Number of Rooms:
Published rates: $140 to $300 including taxes
Review and photos by Timothy Scott