When the heat gets brutal in the Mexican state of Jalisco, the locals head for the cool air of the highlands. And those in the know head for Rancho San Bernardo, a rural resort on a plateau in the Sierra mountain range less than two hours’ drive south of Guadalajara.
The San Bernardo Hotel and Spa — on the outskirts of the “magic town” town of Tapalpa, one of the most picturesque villages in the entire country — is the brainchild of Gloria de Chevallier, who is devoted to the cause of improving the fortunes of the indigenous people. The property provides employment not only in the hospitality sector, but also as a farm that breeds and raises ducks, primarily for the gourmet delicacy foie gras.
Foie gras and locally sourced ingredients are the inspiration for San Bernardo’s award-winning chef Fernando Gonzalez, whose on-site restaurant, La Granja, is a drawing card not only for guests but also the neighbors who own nearby vacation homes. His cuisine alone — especially the tasting menu — is reason enough for an extended stay.
Needless to say, the property has plenty more to offer. Although designed and built in the 21st century, the modern main building draws on elements of the classic hacienda, with tree-filled inner courtyards and adjacent chapel. The result is a pleasing blend of the intimacy of a boutique hotel set in a spacious expanse, within and without.
The individual suites are very roomy, with king-size beds and full couches in the sitting areas. Many have verandas, giving out over sprawling vistas. The bathrooms are nothing short of lavish, boasting either separate showers and tubs or dual shower stalls, and plenty of thirsty towels alongside the plush robes. Complimentary cheese, crackers and a demi-bottle of wine are set out on the coffee table in front of the large flat-screen satellite televisions. The coffee makers are the newest model espresso machines. Free wi-fi access extends to the guest rooms as well.
The surrounding area is prime outdoor recreation territory, with miles of hiking, mountain biking and horeseback riding trails. Guests can enjoy kayaking, canoeing and pedalboating on a semi-private lake. It would not even be a stretch to call Rancho San Bernardo a lodge, since the hotel will gladly arrange fishing and even hunting, in season.
Once back at the ranch, so to speak, whether one is in the privacy of one’s own room, relaxing in the mellowing Lavanda Spa, or enjoying the atmosphere in the impressive billiards room with fireplace, Rancho San Bernardo exudes the air of an exclusive retreat for guests used to the finer things in life.
No. of rooms: 9
Published rates: MXN 2,200-4,500
Review and photos by Buzzy Gordon, who was a guest of Rancho San Bernardo for purposes of review.