Hacienda Pena Pobre – Luxury in Mexico City
My wife and I recently made our first trip to Mexico City to join a tour of the Central Mexican Highlands. As we usually do upon our first visit to a new city, we wanted to arrive a few days early to get our bearings and get acclimatized. Since Mexico City is located at an elevation of 2,250 meters (7,382 feet) and we live at sea level, this was doubly important on this trip. The first place I always look for suitable hotels is on the Small Luxury Hotels website as we have had nothing but great stays with this group over the past decade. There were two hotels, The Downtown which, not surprisingly is in the Centro Historico and the Hacienda Pena Pobre. We were joining the tour at another hotel in Centro Historico so I opted for the Hacienda Pena Pobre which is in the Tlalpan district in the southwest area of the Mexico City metropolis. Turns out that was a great choice. Here’s why.
History of Hacienda Pena Pobre
Believe it or not the history of this place goes all the way back to the 16th century when the land was owned by Martin Cortés, the son of Hernan Cortés, the Spanish conqueror of the Aztec Empire. The hacienda itself was constructed in the 17th century and was part of a complex that hosted a paper making facility for hundreds of years, finally closing only in 1985. Designated an historic cultural space by the National Institute of Anthropology and History, Hacienda Pena Pobre was converted into a small luxury hotel in 2010. On the one hand it preserves the elements of the hacienda that make it historically important while at the same time providing rooms that have all the modern necessities that traveler’s expect in a luxury hotel. The idea of staying in a place that has antecedents that go back farther than any city, let alone building, in Canada or the United States was very compelling.
At the same time as I made the booking, I also arranged for the hotel to have a driver meet us at the airport and deliver us to the hacienda.
We cleared customs without incident and our driver was waiting for us. He spoke decent English and we had a pleasant conversation during the 30 minute drive. I had expected the traffic to be worse than it was and that there would be noticeable air pollution. In fact, the air was clear and sunny.
Hacienda Pena Pobre
We arrived at the gated entrance to the Hacienda Pena Pobre, were buzzed in and stepped back in time. By definition a hacienda is usually surrounded by high walls and so it is with this one – walls made from interconnecting patterns of smooth stones of various colours that are really works of art. There was water streaming from a fountain amidst fruit trees and flowering shrubs. If you were rattled by a long flight or the uncertainty that sometimes comes the first time you are in a new city and just needed a place to rest, this looked like the perfect spot.
We were greeted first by a tail wagging golden lab that we later learned was Mia, the hacienda’s resident dog. She very much appreciated Alison scratching her neck. Over the next few days Mia would join us for breakfast, hoping for a scrap or two, but she was never a pest. There’s something about the company of a big, gentle dog that is also very relaxing.
Lest cat lovers feel left out, there were a few of them around as well.
This is the entrance to hacienda proper.
Inside we were greeted warmly by the young lady at the reception desk, who apologized that they did not have a second floor room with a balcony available, but did have a suite on the ground floor. These are the rooms with balconies.
The suite we were escorted to turned out to be more like a large apartment with two separate bedrooms connected by a huge living/dining room/kitchen.
This is one bedroom.
And this is the other. Both had king beds and en suite bathrooms. This suite could easily be occupied by two couples or a family. Also, if one of a couple might occasionally snore or toss around in his/her sleep it’s great to have an escape option.
Each of us having our own bathroom was a bonus. The towels, linens and toiletries were all good quality.
This is the room that connected both bedrooms. As you can see there was a large kitchen with a full-size fridge.
If this is the price we paid for not having a balcony I would gladly take it any day.
As noted, Hacienda Pena Pobre has a lot of history behind it and after settling in we poked around, settling for a while in the big wing back chairs in the library.
Just before dinner we ordered a bottle of wine and discovered that Mexican wines, especially the whites, are very dry and very good. We took it up to the rooftop garden where breakfast is served at this very traditional wooden table and benches. It looked like it might have been here since the days of Cortés.
There is also a small menu of items you can order made to order in the evening. I opted for my first taste of real Mexican tacos and was not disappointed – these were simple, not overly fancy and delicious.
Returning to our room we found that each bed had been turned down and adorned with these little chocolate skull candies with a dried chili. Nice touch.
In the morning we returned to the rooftop garden and had a Mexican continental breakfast. On the second morning we opted to pay a little extra to get our choice of either Huevos Americano or Huevos Mexicana, the latter being a lot spicier than the former.
So that’s what our stay at Hacienda Pena Pobre was like – a great place to wind down before tackling the many sights of Mexico City. But that’s only half the story.
Touring with Eduardo Castrejon Garcia
Upon checking in I had made inquiries if the hotel could arrange a private guide for the two days we would be in Mexico City before joining the tour and within an hour had confirmation that the guide would be here with his own car at 9:30 the next morning.
Eduardo Castrejon Garcia has been a guide for over forty years. He is a small, gentle man whose English is quite good – better than many local guides we had later on. The first place we wanted to visit was the National Anthropological Museum. This was on the schedule with our tour, but only for an hour or so and I knew this world famous museum would require at least half a day to properly appreciate. In fairness, the museum is quite far from the Hacienda Pena Podre, but Eduardo handled the traffic adeptly, did not drive like a maniac and pointed out a lot of interesting things on the way there and back. Our tour of the museum was one of the highlights of the entire Mexico trip and Eduardo’s deep knowledge of all the various cultures made it even more informative.
We also visited the National Palace and saw the famous Diego Rivera murals, the Zócalo with the great cathedral on one side and the Templo Mayor, all with Eduardo leading the way.
On the second day Eduardo took us to the neighbourhood of Coyoacan which was alive with Day of the Dead festivities. It is much closer to Hacienda Pena Pobre than the museum. We especially enjoyed mingling with the crowds of Mexicans out for a Sunday visit.
Afterwards we had lunch at a Sanford’s overlooking the Jardin Centenerio and the famous coyotes fountain. I could hear an old fashioned organ grinder in the street below.
We found the Hacienda Pena Pobre not only provided us with a great guide, but his services were more than reasonably priced. If you do stay at this hotel and want a guide then ask for Eduardo.
Another place that is easily reachable from Hacienda Pena Pobre is the famous floating gardens of Xochimilco. We visited there on our tour, but one could just as easily do it on your own with Eduardo.
So the Hacienda Pena Pobre is really about two things – what you can do onsite and what you can do off, knowing you have a tranquil haven to return to at the end of the day.
One final note – hotel prices in Mexico are way cheaper than in most of North America and Europe. Our stay at Hacienda Pena Pobre was really very good value for our dollar. Check it out.