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Sweet Sonora Surprises

Alamos Hotels

Hacienda de los Santos

Hacienda de Los Santos offers a stunning retreat to tuck into. Behind its authentic adobe walls you'll find flowing fountains, mosaic tiled pools with statues gazing peacefully at their reflections in the water, colorful and lush exploding gardens, a sumptuous spa, putting greens and more. Outdoor fireplaces with cozy seating areas are scattered around the upscale enclave offering a private spot to snuggle, read or simply absorb the tranquility.

Several living rooms with fireplaces are thoughtfully stocked with games and books, making it feel like a good friend's house. One could spend days discovering the impressive collection of art and historical artifacts which are absolutely everywhere throughout the property. An angel flying over the fireplace here, a horseback soldier supervising your shower there. Surprising delights abound throughout the property.

American owners Jim and Nancy Swickard have created an oasis in the heart of friendly, laid back (and very safe) Alamos. For 24 years they've offered their warm welcome to locals, dignitaries from around the world, pilots (they have a private hangar and cool club for pilots) and travelers from the US and farther flung parts. It's one of those places you instantly fall helplessly, madly in love with and want to return again and again.

Each of the 9 Hacienda guest rooms and 14 suites are decorated personally by Nancy with her eagle eye for special pieces. Every room has at least one fireplace and the suites have two or three fireplaces. All in all there are 60 fireplaces on the property, many of which are set into cozy alcoves for anyone to enjoy or in the shared living rooms. There are traditional vibrant Mexican colors popping here and there in all the right places, amidst uber comfortable furniture in rich, earthy tones. All have adobe walls and charming architectural details such as wood beams, stone floors, tiled bathrooms, massive wooden doors and more.

They've used local artists and craftsmen to restore and create every inch of this truly magnificent property. At every turn as you make your way around something delightful surprises you. Two arched tunnels connect different parts of the property making it feel like an adventure just to get to your inviting room. The brick tunnel is lined with accolades and articles about the property to remind you that the love affair you've just developed with the place is shared by some pretty impressive folks similarly struck by the love bug.

The warm ochre toned tunnel is lit by inset cubes of light and is such fun to be in it's almost a bonus when you realize you've forgotten something in your room and get to slink through it a few more times. It feels a bit like a clandestine version of Alice and Wonderland...a wildly surprising delight to pop out the other side in either direction. A graceful bridge draped in eye-candy magenta bougainvillea connects the main part of the property to the restaurants, cantina and theater.

The cozy spa has a full menu of traditional spa treatments in an adobe walled tranquil space tucked at the back of the property. Prices are reasonable and the treatment rooms are really sweet.

Most evenings there is live solo romantic guitar music for the guests. For special events and groups they can arrange a performance by Ballet Folklorico (a 40 person group from the University of Sonora), La Estudiantina (a 15 person group of young men who are dressed in 18th century Spanish costumes and sing and dance) or a guitar trio who sing Spanish songs.

Hacienda de los Santos has received a long list of well deserved awards, including feature stories in Architectural Digest and AOPA Pilot (350,000 pilot readership for it's private plane access and pilot club), Trip Advisor Awards 2012 Top 25 Traveler Award Hotels of Mexico (#12) and Top 25 Traveler Relaxation/Spa Hotels of Mexico (#4) and is a stand-out member of the prestigious Mexico Boutique Hotels collection.

The property is clearly a labor of love for the Swickards who purchased the 300 year old hacienda in 1989 and then combined additional parcels to create the sprawling compound which exists today. They are so passionate about Alamos they both received awards from the then Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano and Sonora's Governor Eduardo Bours for their humanitarian work in Sonora. They received the annual Alvaro Obregon Award which was the first time it had been presented to foreigners in Mexico. You can feel it on the property that these vibrant owners have invested heart and soul into the community and the property.

For group events there is an off-property facility at the airport which can accommodate up to 100 guests in an indoor-outdoor space. Entertainment can be arranged and up to 20 people can travel the short distance by horseback. A fun and funky bus accommodates guests who would prefer to skip the horseback fun.

Private dinners can be arranged around the property on your private patio, in a Colonial dining room, in a covered, cozy outdoor area by the cantina, in a fireside alcove or in the warmer seasons at the Treetop Grill, a private rooftop dining space with bar.

The super attentive staff will make the fires for you and restock wood when needed. In my case I asked stellar staff member, the charming Mario, to light the fires in my suite just before I planned to arrive back in the room from dinner so I arrived to a beautifully lit heavenly abode truly fit for a president. The staff accommodates requests with a gracious warmth so typical of the people in Sonora.

Prices at Hacienda de Los Santos range from $155-$950 depending on time of year with breakfast included. A meal plan can be added on for $45 per person per day in their wonderful restaurants with an open menu choice included. All of the rooms are charming and lovely so you really can't go wrong here in any price category. I stayed in The Presidential Suite which was my favorite of all the special rooms, with four fireplaces (bedroom, living room, bathroom and outside living space), two lovely bathrooms, wood beams, stone floors and a massive, romantic King bed.

Le Colonial

Le Colonial is another wonderful choice in Alamos. It's perfectly located in the center of town and offers a charming compound style retreat. Through the iron entrance gate is a courtyard with a soothing fountain, rotating local art collection and 10 charming rooms. All rooms have fireplaces and privacy, with beautiful wooden doors, sweet tiled bathrooms and romantic beds. The second courtyard offers a sunny open space for weddings or gatherings and a shady, covered space for breakfast.

It looks a bit like a southern mansion with Mexican flair and it should given the vivacious dynamo of an owner is from Louisiana. She makes you feel like you've been friends for years and is happy to have you in her gorgeous home. Rates start at $135/night including continental breakfast, turn-down service and WiFi throughout the property.

El Pedregal

If you're into bird watching, river rafting or just want to be in a more natural environment, El Pedregal offers 5 adorable adobe casitas on 20 acres of tropical deciduous forest connected by curving pathways at the base of the mountains just a mile from town. With one or two Queen beds, luxury linens, comfy seating area for two, covered porch and homemade meals included, this is a great option. A yoga studio with massage treatment room in a straw bale building holds yoga classes and group gatherings. Outdoor fire-pits offers a way to kick back under the freakishly breathtaking starry skies in the evenings.

Rates start at $100 per night based on double occupancy and include breakfast. Yoga is offered twice a week for $8 per class. Massage is available for a very reasonable $50. River rafting excursions are also available. The property is very popular with birders and bird watching excursions can be arranged. The property feels secluded and remote but is close enough to town to walk in for dinner down a road lined with wealthy ex-pat compounds.

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