4 Avenida Sur #24, La Antigua, Guatemala
In a prime area that's an easy walk to the historic center, this recent addition to the hotel scene houses museum–quality art and artifacts along with refined service and amenities.
Despite its ever–rising popularity, there are years–long stretches when no new hotels open up in Guatamala's most popular city. So Pensativo House Hotel, which opened in 2013, brought a welcome breath of fresh air to the scene here.
This is no modest boutique hotel wedged into a converted colonial building. There was clearly big money invested in the construction and the collection of pieces housed behind glass in the hallway museum is better than what you'll find in some of the official ones nearby. Along with the pre–Colombian pieces, there are antiques from colonial times used in some rooms and public areas, as well as more contemporary pieces of art including large sculptures. Instead of being showy or overwhelming though, the effect is that of visiting the mansion of a collector with good taste.
Arrival can be a bit intimidating as there is a big gate that can be locked at night and a security guard you have to answer to before entering the lobby. Of course the positive side of this is that you'll have no safety worries here since the lodging facilities are separated from the entrance. Plus there's plenty of room on site for the complimentary valet parking if you have a rental car.
You're checked in with a welcome drink and towel, then shown to one of the rooms that are all a bit different. The smallest standards have one king or two queen beds and limited ventilation, so poke around the website (keeping in mind the photos use a wide angle lens) to find the best option. Better yet, spring for an upgrade to one of the suites. The Grand Suite Royal is the top splurge, with a spacious separate living room filled with fine furniture, a fireplace, and two Jacuzzi tubs: one inside and one on a private patio. The Executive Suite is similar, but with only one whirlpool—on its outdoor patio.
In terms of amenities, these may be the best–equipped rooms in Antigua. Each includes complimentary Wi–Fi, 300–thread–count Egyptian cotton sheets, comfortable pillow–top mattresses, quality pillows, Molton Brown bath amenities, electronic safes, flat-screen cable TVs, and rain showers in the baths. There are also minibars and 24–hour room service. Rooms above the standard level also come with robes and Jacuzzi baths. No catalog hotel furniture here either: all rooms are equipped with distinctive custom pieces and an array of antiques. Higher–tier rooms have chandeliers.
The Ya'ax Restaurant here is housed in a gorgeous indoor–outdoor space with Moorish arches and columns. It is pricey by local standards, and service that isn't exactly snappy, but the dishes are beautifully presented in a cloth napkins and white tablecloths setting. Note that breakfast isn't included in the rates without a premium add–on, so it may be better to wander elsewhere for that and have dinner here to experience the romantic lighting, with reflecting pools running along the edge of the raised restaurant. There's a grand buffet brunch on Sundays, however.
There are several sitting areas outdoors where you can relax with a coffee or cocktail. The Lounge La Quinta bar space serves tapas and a range of cocktails, or you can sample the excellent Ron Zacapa aged rum to get a real taste of the country's signature spirit. Plus there's an elegant private meeting and dining room off the lobby. Now that the hotel is part of the Porta hotels group, guests can use the pool, gym and spa at their sister hotel Porta Antigua one block away. There is a great rooftop deck with a view of the volcanoes and church steeples, however.
There's a library/reading room area with sofas and a business center with three computers for researching the local area or printing out boarding passes.
A full spa has treatment areas for one or a couple and the facilities include a dry sauna and steam room. The hotel can arrange airport pickup or a shuttle to the airport after your stay, which worth setting up in advance since the airport is in the capital city. Staffers can also set up local tours or transportation to Lake Atitlan and other spots around Guatemala.
Pensativo House Hotel is a larger hotel than many of the other upscale options in Antigua. Overall the rooms here are better–equipped and newer than the norm. It's also the best bet in the historic center for anyone arriving by car.
Review by Timothy Scott, photos courtesy of Pensativo House Hotel.