In Colombia, the Andes Mountains just north of Medellin rise to create the perfect conditions for growing some of the world’s best coffee. How good is that java, exactly? So good that UNESCO inscribed an enormous coffee growing area in the region as the Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia in 2011.
So it's no surprise that, today, Colombia’s coffee country is a well-known tourist destination for travelers attracted to sweeping landscapes and the opportunity to learn more about the production of coffee. And until recently, hotel options -- though plentiful in number -- were quite limited in diversity. They've fallen in two general categories: brightly painted traditional wood farmhouses that happily benefit from the addition of plumbing and electricity, or feeble attempts at three- and four-star hotels that appeal primarily to Colombian families.
That all changed on December 22 of 2014, when the intimate Hacienda Buenavista opened its doors.
Owners Floris and Lynn Van Pallandt spent eight months exploring nearly 20,000 miles and 150 properties in the region 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, includes a slender ridge with 360 degree views of lush hillsides, steep canyon walls, and the Rio Vieja in the valley below. That’s where the Dutch and Scottish pair built their stylish and serene hotel.
There are only four rooms at Hacienda Buenavista: two standards, a suite, and a superior suite. Each has luxurious furnishings, a difficult-to-get-out-of bed, and a unique color palette inspired by the various stages of coffee bean growth. Roomy bathrooms have an organic feel with with polished gnarled wood tables, inlaid river stones, and earthy toiletries imported from Scotland (a nod to Lynn’s home country). Thanks to a no kids and no pets policy, you'll find utter peace and quiet here. And if that's not enough to convince you that the property is a haven for grown-ups, consider each room's private furnished porch and a refrigerator stocked with mini bottles of champagne.
Elsewhere on property, the infinity edge pool and the sunny sitting area around it is a major draw for those who want to soak up some fresh air. The space is designed and tiled to mimic a sandy beach that transitions into shallow and then deeper water. Unlike most hotels, there isn't a lobby here -- just an open-plan group of spaces with inviting sofas, an open air central courtyard, small bar, and plenty of nooks to settle into with a book or a cocktail. The kitchen is a natural magnet, with guests gravitating to the action and the aromas as you would in a friend’s house. You can’t miss the climate-controlled wine storage and display unit which covers one wall. (Floris had it custom built. Twice.)
Food is taken as seriously as wine at Hacienda Buenavista. Its Colombian chef was hired two months before the hotel opened, spending those weeks fine-tuning an enormous stable of dishes that are rotated to create a different menu every day. Many dishes use corn, eggs, avocados, oranges, and other fresh produce farmed right on the property. A foodie traveler might sit down here with sweet and smoky grilled corn soup, a creative starter of three different ceviches, and a succulent signature baby beef entrée.
Though Floris and Lynn have created an indulgent and romantic hideaway that's a vacation in itself, plenty of nearby activities await for those who want to explore. Just 10 minutes away in the valley below is the embarkation point for the area’s signature adventure: floating down the Rio Vieja on bamboo pole rafts, with stops for a picnic lunch. There are opportunities to see wildlife like red howler monkeys on the banks of the river here, and a short hike brings you to a 20 foot waterfall on the grounds of the hotel. Guided tours of the coffee region can be arranged, and free onsite horseback riding is coming soon.
The best part? Even in a country full of travel bargains, Hacienda Buenavista's rates from $116 to $177 per night based on double occupancy -- including full breakfast -- are definitely a steal.