Hacienda San Gabriel de las Palmas


I’m the last person a hotelier would want to have visit their property, and then add insult to injury by reporting back home about it.  Well, that’s part of my job.  I have covered the globe visiting hotels on behalf of my very discriminating clients.  The “wow” factor is generally over the top: fab villas in Italy, lush lodges in the bush of Africa, palaces of the Maharajahs in India, private islands in the South Pacific, castles in Spain and Bavaria, Moorish extravaganzas, Chinese fantasies – the list goes on.  The “been there, done that” factor is at the highest level.  Let’s face it; I’m a jaded hotel slut.

Surprise, surprise.  I just returned from the state of Morelos, Mexico.  What?  Where?  I wasn’t robbed by drug warlords, I didn’t get the flu, swine or otherwise, no Montezuma’s revenge.  The hacienda I called home was built in 1529 by order of Hernan Cortes, but everything else is very up to date.  I ate food fit for an Aztec princess, or the New York variety.  The spa was understated perfection; the horses were gorgeous and rideable; the wranglers were funny and charming.  The rooms are individual stories unto themselves: luxury married to tradition; the public areas, a museum; the grounds, a botanical garden; not to mention the mundane – pools, tennis and paddle courts, horseback riding, golf, archeological sites and natural wonders at a stone’s throw, if you can tear yourselves away.  I must say, my mouth is still ajar.   I think I embarrassed myself gushing compliments like a novice to the owner as we toured the property after dusk on a hot summer evening.  It’s just one gorgeous surprise after another.

The ambiance is not in-your-face, ostentatious luxury.  It creeps up on you throughout your stay.  Service is offered up in that gracious, gentle, warm Mexican way: mi casa es su casa.  Bred in the bone and yours for the asking, or even before you ask.

The owner of San Gabriel is a wonder unto himself: Mexican?  American?  Hotelier?  Botanist?  Actually, he’s a Hollywood-class set designer, and it shows.  The whole hacienda is a stage, and you can be the actor.  The reviews will all be raves.  Is there a wedding in your future, a honeymoon, an anniversary, a surprise engagement, a long weekend getaway? Any romantic occasion – San Gabriel will rise to the occasion.  Go mid-week to avoid the upscale Mexican crowds (or not, if you are into people-watching); no matter when, you will be treated as a treasured guest, and will never want to leave.

I generally tell hotel owners / managers that “the fish stinks from the head” and they can take it any way they wish (sometimes I elaborate, other times I don’t have to).  Well this fish gives off one heady perfume.  And just where we Americans are least likely to look for it these days: in our own back yard.

Is there a tiny bit of hyperbole to all of this?  Perhaps, but it’s almost unavoidable.  After all, this place is just magical!


How to get there: 90 minutes from Mexico City by private transfer (car and driver), or there’s a heliport; 25 minutes from the Cuernavaca airport if you are arriving by private jet.

The SPA: facials and massage, of course.  Water treatments, yoga and “temazcal” for the more adventurous.

Activities: two pools, tennis and paddle, horseback riding, jogging or cycling path, disco, billiards, game room, golf at 15 minutes, water sports at nearby Lake Teqesquitengo (including paragliding), river rafting at Amacuzac, the prehistoric ruins at Xochicalco, the caverns at Cacahuamilpa, the silver capital at Taxco, guided visits to other haciendas., museums and fine dining in Cuernavaca, 30 minutes away.

Dining: two restaurants, four bars, a wine tasting cellar.

Accommodations: 20 suites (king, queen, or double/doubles), wireless internet, and business center.

Reservations: call me; I have special rates that will surprise you as quite reasonable.

WEBSITE:, but you needn’t bother; I’ve told you everything you need to know and pictures don’t really do it justice.

CURRENT RATES:  Pricing ranges from approximately USD $210 to $530.  The master suites at $330 are fab.  Rate will be quoted in Mexican Pesos and include the 17% taxes.  Meals are additional.


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