If you’re searching for an oasis that embodies an unparalleled authentic Mexican experience, the award-winning boutique hotel Hacienda El Santuario in San Miguel de Allende should be top of your list.
You’ll find yourself stepping into a Mexican treasure. The three 16th-century buildings, one of them a convent, exude timeless charm, elegance and taste, with fine art and design from the owners’ museum-quality collection on display.
This is a family-run hotel dating back four generations, and is known for its warm and delightful staff.
Located in the heart of the centro histórico in this UNESCO World Heritage city, the hotel’s entryway is a picturesque, lush courtyard terrace with a fountain. Here, a flower-covered bar, La Samaritana, serves house-made aguas frescas (fresh fruit waters), made from a range of local fruits and nuts. This is the perfect place to relax after a stroll in the nearby park. Or one can slip next door into their enchanting boutique, where you’ll find an impressive selection of Mexican art, design and clothing.
This tranquil property offers 29 individually designed and fully-equipped rooms, ranging from the petite suite to grand master suite.
The rooms are connected by ancient stone staircases, beautiful covered terraces and common gardens and lounging areas with fine rugs and antiques.
In the dining courtyard, a hundred year-old bougainvillea tree provides a splash of color and shade over this former convent cloister.
It’s a treat to be able to peek into the brightly tiled open kitchen from the dining patio, and watch Filomena – who has worked with the hotel group for thirty years – and her team, cooking traditional Mexican dishes.
You can taste the experience and love in the home-cooked sopa azteca, molcajete, flautas and the outstanding arroz con leche, which paired with an organic Oaxaca coffee, is the perfect Mexican dessert!
Isabel Castro, one of the owners, is very proud of El Santuario being voted one of the top ten best hotels in Mexico in Condé Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice awards. Their sister hotel in town, Real de Minas, is the longest running and one of the most successful hotels in the state.
“We want our guests to feel as if they’ve come to stay in a very special Mexican family home, where they can soak up the historical ambience, the architectural features, my mother’s art collection, primarily from Michoacán and Oaxaca, the unique personality of all the rooms and traditional Mexican cuisine and drinks.”
“The original touches are important to us; the shrine to artworks showing La Virgin de Guadalupe, the library which houses antique Mexican books, the mural in the bar. We host a talented guitarist who plays for an hour each evening and for Sunday brunch.
“El Santuario is really a celebration of the rich beauty of our country, and we want to share that with the diverse international crowds who visit our city.”
The hotel’s standout room might be the intimate, art deco style bar, La Sanmiguelada, which offers house cocktails, local mezcal and pulque. The entirety of the walls are painted by the celebrated Mazatlán muralist, José Luis Arias.
“The pandemic was the perfect time to invite him to paint his story of Mexico,” Isabel continues. “Here you can see representations of local festivals, like the Fiesta de Los Locos, and famous figures such as Hidalgo and El Pípila, or Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.”
There are also a few private event areas like El Salón Corazón Amarillo, which can seat 50 people. This room’s signature yellow wall serves as the backdrop for a breathtaking display of catrinas, brightly colored Mexican folk art skeletons. The charming roof terrace has the same capacity, perfect for an evening dinner party, and boasts by far one of the most spectacular views of the city.
“We’re remodeling our spa up here on the rooftop,” Sofia, one of the managers, tells me.
“You can also enjoy our “little garden” in the corner, where we’re growing rosemary, tomatoes, cilantro and manzanilla (chamomile). The family owners, Grupo México Real, love nature. They have another hotel, Agua Bendita, a nature sanctuary, and a regenerative farm outside the city. They like to bring that vision in small ways to this urban oasis also. That’s why there are many water features, plants and flowers to enjoy throughout El Santuario.”
“Our third level terrace is a perfect spot to read, relax, enjoy conversation or even host a reading, surrounded by the beauty of a Mexican garden. We host weddings and parties, where guests can relish the variety of different spaces, and stay in their chosen corner of the hotel.”
It’s this attention to detail and the colorful, markedly Mexican style of the design, gardens and cuisine, that really delights at El Santuario, and makes it stand out from the other hundreds of boutique hotels in the city. Upon arrival, you’re even invited to choose an organic homemade soap and a china dish for your bathroom from an antique treasure chest!
Perhaps its former history as a convent lends this hotel such an air of serenity and beauty, but it’s the masterful eye and sensibility of a seasoned local hotelier family that has created a truly rich and original hospitality experience.
For more information:
Hacienda El Santuario, Aldama 41, Col Centro, San Miguel de Allende, GTO 37700
Tel: + 52 415 980 0192
Henrietta Weekes is a writer, editor, actor and narrator. She divides her time between San Miguel de Allende, New York and Oxford, UK.