Calle de Santo Domingo No. 33-63, Cartagena, Colombia
A stately classic in the heart of this UNESCO World Heritage city is now a Relais & Chateaux property (the only one in Colombia) and also offers the most indulgent check-in amenity in the country.
In the 17th century, Count Pestagua, shipping magnate and one-time mayor of Cartagena, Colombia, began to build his mansion. Of course, he wanted to have the most beautiful house in the city and he got what he wanted with extravagant touches including a nine-foot-wide curved stone staircase. That staircase, and many other original elements are still in use at Casa Pestagua hotel including wood floors, beamed ceilings, antiques from the original house, tapestries, and salvaged gilt mirrors.
The Count's three-story mansion now has 11 guest rooms. They're set around a double interior courtyard and lush garden with a reflecting fountain, al fresco restaurant, sitting areas, an outdoor bar, small spa, and a large swimming pool shaded by massive trees. Since opening in 2007, the spacious, serene, and romantic Casa Pestagua has established itself as a classic in the historic center of Cartagena. In 2016 Casa Pestagua received the Relais & Chateaux certification.
Leave the heat and hustle of Cartagena behind as you walk through the hotel's massive wooden doors. Inside is a world of fountains and a tree-filled garden that gives the place an island-like feeling. And this island is often populated by the most interesting people in town, all friends of owner Claude Pimont. The Frenchman has lived in Colombia for years and has become an actor, hotelier, and general bon vivant.
There is so much space at the hotel that even when Casa Pestagua is full, which is often, it's still possible to find an appealing corner to occupy with a good book or a good friend. A few times a week there's live music in the central courtyard. Add in English-speaking staff members (something that's still not a given in Colombia) and a roof deck Jacuzzi positioned for maximum views over the city and the Caribbean and you've got a lot of reasons to consider Casa Pestagua a destination within a destination.
All rooms at Casa Pestagua differ in terms of size and style. However, all accommodations include individual Wi-Fi routers, fresh cut flowers, L'Occitane bath products, robes and slippers, air conditioning, and great beds with luscious bedding and ample pillows.
Rooms on the ground floor off the central patio are darkest and least spectacular and can be a bit noisy, so try to book a room on the upper two floors. Room 9, on the second floor, features a huge bedroom with a sofa and sitting area in a peaceful spot over the pool. Room 6 has a large living room and an even larger bedroom along with a small patio over the main street, lots of natural lights, and lovely painted ceilings.
Room 11 is the hotel's principal suite. Located on the top level, the suite offers a huge bedroom with two sitting areas and an enormous light-flooded bathroom with a roomy sunken shower with brass fixtures. This room also has a semi-private outdoor furnished patio and easy access via the hotel's only elevator.
Casa Pestagua has been on the list of Condé Nast Johansens luxury hotels for years and Claude says the nod from Relais & Chateaux makes him happy, but he's not flaunting it. While at the hotel I see one waiter sporting a Relais & Chateaux lapel pin and you have to really look to see the official plaque near the entrance to the hotel where the official Relais & Chateaux flags are only sometimes flying. The most notable change at the hotel is at the restaurant, which is now open to the public, and has been re-named Amadeus (Claude loves classical music). The excellent a la carte breakfast, included in rates, is served at Amadeus.
Now, about that "most indulgent check-in amenity in the country": all guests at Casa Pestagua get a free 15-minute foot massage in the hotel's onsite spa and those who book directly through the hotel get a free full body massage.
Web Address: www.hotelboutiquecasapestagua.com/
Total Number of Rooms: 11
Published rates: $250 to $560 double including breakfast
Review by by Karen Catchpole, photos by Eric Mohl.