Ladies’ Choice: Top Lodging Picks in Central America
By Ann H. Waigand
Giovanna Holbrook rescued a rainforest in Costa Rica and turned it into both a tourist lodging and a learning center for the local community. Dona Flavila transformed her ancestral home in Honduras into an archaeological and ecological experience.
Mary Sue Morris wandered the world for almost thirty years before finding a place “as close to nirvana as you can get” and embellishing it enough to attract an American president to her small Guatemalan town.
Ana Maria Pellecer opened her inn only four years ago, but her family traces its ancestry back to the conquistadors. Eva Robbins traded Hong Kong for an overlooked stretch of Mexican beach and the chance to turn guests into friends. It’s the ladies who make the difference in our top selections for Central American overnights.
Posada del Angel
The choice of Bill Clinton when he became, in 1999, the first U.S. president to spend a night on Guatemalan soil, Posada del Angel was created by a world traveler from Texas, Mary Sue Morris.
An elegant residence in the tiny Guatemalan town of Antigua, this colonial inn shines through its decoration, a testament to Morris’ worldwide collecting. Every suite has a wood-burning fireplace, and the inner atrium holds a heated lap swimming pool. Both owner Morris and Manager, Ivonne Anzueto, are known as gracious and expert entertainers, and guests often become part of one of their frequent parties.
Five suites priced from $120 – 200/night, depending upon season.
- Hacienda San Lucas
Copan Ruins, Honduras
Hacienda San Lucas calls itself an eco-hacienda, but it has a varied history over its 100+ years in existence. Having seen life as a cattle farm and coffee plantation, the property is now a bed-and-breakfast that also offers nature trail hikes, horseback rides, and traditional Copan country cooking to day visitors. The ancestral home of owner Doña Flavila, the hacienda sits on a 200- acre property that also includes an ancient Mayan fertility site where stones were sculpted into frogs, for reasons unknown! You have to cross a river and take an unpaved road to get to the hacienda from the famed Copan Ruins, a mile away, to claim one of the two guest rooms and the chance to learn how to make tortillas and cheese in the indigenous manner.
Two rooms priced from $40 – 55/night, depending on number of occupants.
Hacienda San Lucas, Copan Ruins, Honduras
- Casa de Los Cántaros
Built in 1597, this stately colonial mansion has been a hotel for less than half a decade. Though in the heart of town, the hotel offers a view from the terrace and upper story that stretches over traditional tiled roofs to the volcanoes that surround Antigua. Elegantly outfitted with colonial-era antiques, the inn has an inner courtyard filled with lush, tropical greenery which overflows to corridors, or breezeways, typical to colonial houses, where guests can take breakfast or cocktails.
Three rooms, from $72 (single) to $120 (suite)
Casa de Los Cántaros, 5a Avenida Sur #5, Antigua, Guatemala
Tel: 502-832-0674, fax: 502-832-0609
- Eden Beach Hacienda
In 1996, Eva Robbins and Jim Garrity quit their jobs and headed south in search of paradise. They found it in the beach town of Troncones on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Originally slated, by the Mexican Tourist Association, in 1971, to be the next “big thing,” this tiny town was quickly overshadowed by the development in Ixtapa…and Eva and Jim feel the luckier for it. They bought a three-mile stretch of beach, hired a Venezuelan architect, and, in 1997, built their own “piece of paradise.” The six-room hacienda overlooks Manzanillo Bay; all rooms, which feature hand-painted tiles and Mexican hardwoods, face the ocean, which is only 20 yards away.
Six rooms, priced at $65/night for downstairs, $75/night for upstairs.
Eden Beach Hacienda, Apdo Postal 128, Zihuatanejo, Gro. 40880, Mexico
- Selva Verde Lodge
Giovanna Holbrook, matriarch of the family that owns natural history tour operator, Holbrook Travel, impulsively purchased the La Selva ecological station in 1984 when she learned that the owner had plans to destroy its surrounding 500 acres of primary rainforest. Over the next years, she poured her energy into transforming the spartan field station and home of the local botanist into a lodge for visitors. Now Selva Verde, in addition to accommodations and guest facilities, encloses a nature reserve with a butterfly garden, over 365 species of birds, and an abundance of mammal life. The complex also includes a Learning Center for the young people of the area, another way Holbrook has arranged to give back to the local community.
Forty-five double rooms, five quadruple rooms, priced from $37 to $85/night per person, including meals, depending upon occupancy and season.
Selva Verde Lodge, Chilamate, Sarapiqui, Costa Rica
Tel: 506-766-6800, fax: 506-766-6011
Also contact through Holbrook Travel, tel: 800-451-7111, holbrooktravel.com
- Sierra Lodge
Copper Canyon, Mexico
American Skip McWilliams is exceptional enough to warrant inclusion in our “Ladies Listing” of Central American hostelries. He found and restored Sierra Lodge and Riverside Lodge in the Copper Canyon area of Mexico’s rugged Sierra Madre Occidental, opening them as an accommodations option for travelers who shied away from the conventional way of visiting the canyon, by train. Now Riverside Lodge is on the market (asking price: $1 million), and Skip is back on the trail in search of an even less-touristed region for a new ecotourism project. But travelers can still book a stay at Sierra Lodge, a 22-room log lodge that sits in a 7600-foot-high valley on the Continental Divide. Outfitted with wood and cast iron stoves, red-tile floors, log and adobe walls, and lantern light, the rustic inn is a perfect base for day hikes into the surrounding pine-scented valley.
Twenty-two rooms, priced at $50 per person, per night, including meals.
Copper Canyon Lodges, 2741 Paldan Drive, Auburn Hills, MI 48326
Tel: 800-776-3942, fax: 248-340-7212
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