Calle de la Universidad No. 36-44 - Cartagena de Indias, Colombia
In a prime part of the historic center of the walled city of Cartagena, Casa San Agustin is a romantic, luxurious boutique hotel that stands out in a city with strong high-end lodging competition.
Located a few blocks from the 16th-century Spanish Colonial fortress wall and the water beyond, Casa San Agustin is in the thick of historic buildings and enticing cafes, but is one of the newest boutique hotels in the center. Opened in late 2012, it combined three adjacent houses and has remnants of an original aqueduct that ran over the top.
Two courtyards are in the spaces in between the original homes, one containing a swimming pool, the other outdoor dining space for the restaurant and bar. On the rooftop is a solarium with a view, comfy lounge chairs at the ready for catching some rays, showers nearby for cooling off again.
The beautifully designed Alma Restaurant lives up to its custom hardwood furniture and Colombian handicrafts with a menu that features local seafood, beef aged on the premises, and delightful desserts using the wealth of fruits and cacao grown in the country. Presented with international flair and confidence, yet drawing on the homeland for inspiration, the menu here is getting a reputation as one of the best in the city. A fine wine list and inventive cocktails round out the experience here or at the equally attractive bar with tapas menu.
You can also choose to have an after-dinner drink in the library lounge, where an honor bar is available with spirits and cordials. It?s a library in name more than practice, with the books limited to the coffee table variety, but it?s a comfortable space with large windows on two sized and restored original frescoes peeking out in one section from behind decades of paint.
Among the rooms in three buildings are six main types, ranging from the smallest Classic rooms to several two-bedroom suites that are like large apartments. All are well-appointed, with Frette linens, duvets, quality robes, slippers, Bose CD/iPod players, HDTVs, and nice Ortigia bath amenities. The Classic and Deluxe rooms are fine, but the Premium Room gets a plunge pool or whirlpool overlooking the gardens. The junior suites have more space and furniture, starting at 800 square feet. Many of the rooms are shower-only, so inquire when booking if you want a bathtub.
The Casa San Agustin design uses lots of earth tones, whites, and creamy marble, but colorful tile accents and rattan furniture offer some sense of place. All rooms include complimentary Wi-Fi and you can even borrow an iPad to use while you?re staying. Turndown service and 24-hour room service are nice inclusions in a hotel of this size.
The two-bedroom suites are the way to go though if you want to get the best experience or are traveling with kids. The Prestige Suite has two bedrooms, two baths, and lots of outdoor deck space for looking over the rooftops of historic Cartagena. High-end custom furniture in the living room and thoughtful design touches make them a visual delight. Marble baths with bidets have double vanities for him and her. The Suite Del Virrey (pictured above) has two deck areas large enough for a dinner party, with views of the convent building and other historic structures. This one has regular stairs, not the spiral staircase of the Prestige Suite, so this is better if you have mobility issues.
Cartagena is blessed with a variety of luxury boutique hotels and competition gets stiffer each year. Casa San Agustin hotel holds its own though with consistently great design throughout, the best quality materials, and a restaurant that delights small groups and romantic couples alike. With both the fortress wall and Cartagena?s delightful plazas both just blocks away, the spot is ideal for seeing the best of Colombia?s best luxury destination.
Review and photos by Timothy Scott.