Vereda La Montaña, Quimbaya, Quindío, Colombia
The accommodation options in Colombia's coffee country got considerably better with the opening of this four-suite, adults-only hideaway.
Hacienda Buenavista, opened at the end of 2014, offers an unrivaled level of style and seclusion. Despite being just 20 kilometers from the international airport in Armenia, there is nothing else like it in the region.
Juan Valdez, a fictional character created by the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia in 1985, has become one of the most well-known brand ambassadors in the world, representing and promoting Colombia's coffee industry which produces some of the best Arabica beans on the planet. But these days simply enjoying a cup of coffee isn't enough. Coffee connoisseurs want to know where their cup of joe comes from and many coffee loving travelers want to see it growing and even pick some for themselves. As coffee tourism evolves, emulating the model of wine tourism, Colombia wants and deserves its share.
In 2011 UNESCO inscribed an enormous coffee growing area in Colombia as the Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia stating that "it reflect a centennial tradition of coffee growing in small plots in the high forest and the way farmers have adapted cultivation to difficult mountain conditions. The urban areas, mainly situated on the relatively flat tops of hills above sloping coffee fields, are characterized by the architecture of the 'Antioquian colonization with Spanish influence'."
The landscapes and architecture are beautiful and the coffee is delicious so it's no surprise that Colombia's Coffee Triangle is a well-known tourist destination attracting people who want to enjoy sweeping landscapes and learn more about the production of coffee. What is surprising is the caliber of hotels in the area. Apart from a few rare gems, most fall into two general categories: brightly painted traditional wood farmhouses in the traditional Antioquian style that have been up fitted with modern plumbing and electricity, or routine three- and four-star hotels or resorts that appeal primarily to Colombian families.
Hacienda Buenavista owners Floris and Lynn Van Pallandt spent eight months visiting almost 150 properties before they found the site that would live up to the hotel's name (buenavista means "good view" in Spanish). The 110 acre parcel, near the town of Quimbaya in Quindio province in the heart of coffee country, includes a slender ridge with 360 degree views of lush hillsides, steep canyon walls, and the Rio Vieja in the valley below.
There are only four rooms at Hacienda Buenavista: two standards, a suite, and a superior suite. Each has luxurious furnishings, an addictive bed, a unique color palette inspired by the various stages of a coffee bean's growth, and a private furnished porch. You'll experience utter peace and quiet thanks to a no kids and no pets policy. Bathrooms are roomy and spa-like with polished gnarled wood tables, inlaid river stones, and indulgent toiletries imported from Scotland, a nod to Lynn’s home country. It's worth splurging on the Ceiba suite. The wrap-around porch, views and enhanced sense of privacy make for a spectacular stay.
All rooms include robes, complimentary Wi-Fi, and a safe. The top two also have a minibar. Room service is available and there is parking for an extra charge.
The solar heated infinity edge pool and the sunny sitting area around it were designed and tiled to mimic a sandy beach transitioning into shallow and then deeper water. Valley views from the pool are spectacular.
There is no lobby, just a series of elegant homey spaces including a living room with a fireplace and inviting sofas, a central roofless courtyard garden, and a cozy reading room. The small bar near the pool is complemented by very well-stocked glass, climate-controlled wine storage unit that was scrapped and re-done twice before the owners felt it was right.
Food is taken just as seriously at Hacienda Buenavista. Floris and Lynn hired a young chef with experience in coastal Colombian cuisine and found a supplier who can get fresh fish to them, a true luxury in this part of Colombia. The hotel's wide-ranging menu is changed daily and many dishes use corn, eggs, avocados, oranges, and other ingredients which are grown on the property.
Though the hotel is in a remote location there are plenty of activities within reach. Guided tours of the coffee region can be arranged through the hotel and the embarkation point for the area's signature adventure—floating down the Rio Vieja on rafts made by lashing bamboo poles together with stops for a picnic lunch—is just 10 minutes away in the valley below. You may catch red howler monkeys and other wildlife on the banks of the river. On the property itself, a short hike brings you to a 20-foot waterfall.
A fifth room is on the way which the owners are designing as a honeymoon suite. It will have its own private garden and an internal water cascade. Additional plans include a small stable of horses to offer to guests who want to ride around the extensive property through the orchards.
Review by Karen Catchpole and photos by Eric Mohl.