Tips on Choosing a Hotel in Santa Fe
One of the typical distinguishing characteristics of Santa Fe accommodations, as you might guess, is the use of Spanish Colonial and Pueblo Revival architectural elements - latilla-and-viga ceilings (a style in which smaller wood poles are laid crosswise upon larger wood beams), kiva fireplaces, Navajo and other Indian rugs and textiles, and built-in bancos (benches) and similar shelves and features. You'll find these especially in B&Bs set inside historic adobe houses, but also - to an extent - in larger hotels.
The LGBTQ travel market is a prominent one in Santa Fe, and several inns are also owned or staffed by local gay and lesbian residents. The properties written about here are mostly independent and rather distinctive, but Santa Fe does have a large variety of chain motels and hotels, mostly set along busy and not particularly attractive Cerrillos Road, a few miles southwest of downtown, which is anchored by the historic Plaza and where you'll find most of the city's notable attractions, restaurants, and retail.
The Cerrillos properties are fine if you want a good value and have a car. But, if you're seeking a property with more character, visit some of the ones included here, the majority of which are within walking distance of the Plaza. On that note, if you do stay in the center of the action, you can easily get to Santa Fe without a car. But, given that the entire north-central New Mexico corridor offers a wealth of things to see and do and dozens of spectacularly scenic drives, you may want to rent a car anyway, if even just for a day or two of exploring (there are some rental agencies in town).
Santa Fe has a small airport with regular service on a few airlines from cities like Los Angeles, Dallas, and Denver. Most visitors fly into the much larger Albuquerque International Sunport, which is just a little over an hour away and also has regular shuttle bus and train service into town.
A note about B&Bs: if you're not typically a fan of guesthouses and B&Bs because you prefer a bit more privacy and insulation from fellow guests and innkeepers, you might give Santa Fe a try anyway. At many smaller properties here, accommodations are in detached or semi-detached casitas (cottages) with separate outdoor entrances. Even when breakfast is included, guests at many properties have the option of dining in-room or at least at a private table. Guesthouse rooms are often significantly larger than hotel rooms, and they sometimes have private gardens or patio, small kitchens, fireplaces, and other appealing features. You may want to read a bit more about some of these, visiting their websites as well, before deciding.
An excellent, reasonably priced choice that's perfect if you want to be near nature and away from the hubbub of the Plaza, the Bobcat Inn is about a 20-minute drive south of the city center along the Old Las Vegas Highway, which parallels I-25 (making it easy to reach from the interstate, and a great base if you're exploring the region to the east, perhaps to the funky town of Las Vegas, New Mexico). Although it's about 8 miles south of the Plaza and many of Santa Fe's restaurants, it's also close to one of the favorite places in the region for innovative food and cocktails, Harry's Roadhouse, which also has something of a gay scene.
The Bobcat has six rooms. One has a jetted tub and fireplace, and all are designed with warm, attractive Southwest furnishings. Rates include a tasty buffet breakfast (there's always a hot entree), plus first-rate coffee. The Pueblo Revival adobe house opens to a courtyard with a tranquil pond, and it's set on 10 expansive acres - you can see for miles across the mesa.
Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino
Some highly impressive, quite posh casino resorts have opened in New Mexico in the past decade, giving the Land of Enchantment new cachet as a high-end gaming destination. Santa Fe has got into the act with the opening of the striking Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino, on the Pojoaque Indian Pueblo, 15 miles north of downtown Santa Fe. The property comprises an upscale 393-room hotel operated by Hilton, a huge casino, and several other notable amenities, from a full-service 16,000-square-foot spa to a pair of acclaimed golf courses.
It probably goes without saying that fans of gaming will appreciate this Resort - the casino is pretty dazzling, at 61,000 square feet, with slot machines, gaming tables, and a large poker room. The gaming area is set well away from most of the property's other common areas (except for some of the nightlife options, which adjoin the gaming area). The property strikes a nice balance between a gaming property and simply an attractive, luxury resort, and the management is exceedingly gay-friendly.
The rooms are stunning - spacious and contemporary with large windows or full balconies overlooking the dramatic scenery (many face the Sangre de Cristo mountains). Amenities include 37-inch flat-screen TVs, high-speed Internet, and sizable bathrooms with high-quality bath products. Rates are generally about 20% to 40% lower than what you'd pay at hotels with comparable rooms in downtown Santa Fe, and you have the advantage here of being close to the Santa Fe Opera, Los Alamos, Bandelier National Monument, and the "High Road" village of Chimayo.
Restaurants tend toward the casual, and none of them is a major reason to stay or visit here, given all the excellent ones in Santa Fe itself. But, there are plenty of options, from buffets to the Route 66-inspired Turquoise Trail Bar & Grill to a handy branch of Starbucks. Hale Irwin and William Phillips developed the property's renowned Towa Golf Course, which consists of three nine-hole courses for now (with a fourth to planned down the road). And a full slate of spa treatments are offered at the property's fabulous Wo' P'in Spa, and there are also tennis courts, a well-equipped health club, a pool, and plenty more.
Casa Culinaria Don Gaspar
A lovely, quiet, tree-shaded compound in a historic residential neighborhood a 10-minute stroll from the Plaza, the Casa Culinaria Don Gaspar consists of several rooms and suites plus a pair of romantic casitas. Architectural elements reflect this historic neighborhood and include examples of early-20th-century Pueblo Revival and Territorial style, which is fairly typical of Santa Fe, as well as a courtly main house done in the Arts and Crafts design. During the warmer months, guests tend to spend a lot of time outside their rooms, enjoying the verdant grounds shaded by mature trees and surrounded by patio and gardens.
Rooms range considerably in size and price, as larger suites have full kitchens and can be quite rangy and sleep more than two guests (the largest, at 1,575 square feet, sleeps six). The simplest rooms, which are still thoughtfully decorated, have gas fireplaces (except in once instance), and some have Jacuzzi tubs. Skylights, Mexican tile work, and tasteful but eclectic furnishings lend plenty of charm throughout.
El Farolito Inn
The owners of this sophisticated, upscale inn - Wayne Mainus and Walt Wyss - are veteran innkeepers who run this property with the utmost attention to detail and warm hospitality. That being said, guests are given as much privacy as they'd like, and each of the eight casitas and rooms at this little compound in the South Capitol neighborhood offers plenty of seclusion. The 10-minute walk to the Plaza is along narrow, tree-shaded streets, and El Farolito is also just a few blocks east of this historic but hip Railroad/Guadalupe District, where you'll find many enticing bars, restaurants, and galleries. In the other direction, to the east, it's an easy stroll to the Canyon Road Gallery area. One of the most acclaimed, high-end eateries in Santa Fe, Restaurant Martin, is along the same block as El Farolito.
Accommodations are El Farolito are spacious and exceptionally beautiful - some of them sleep up to three adults, and most have private garden patios (with the rest opening to shared patios). Decor varies from Spanish Colonial to Native American to classic Santa Fe style, and all have fireplaces (wood is provided from mid-fall to early spring), individual climate control, Wi-Fi, and private outdoor entrances. Bathrooms have colorful haid-painted Mexican tiles, and rates include a good-size hot buffet breakfast served in the guest lounge and dining area.
The same owners operate a smaller nearby sister inn that's every bit as lovely, the Four Kachinas, which has six smartly decorated rooms, some with private patios, and all with thoughtful amenities like those of El Farolito, which is just a couple of blocks west.
El Rey Inn
Built in 1936 along a stretch of Cerrillos Road that was then part of the fabled Route 66 system and is still lined with now mostly fading old motels, the handsome El Rey Inn is that slice of vintage Santa Fe roadside nostalgia that's been charmingly maintained well into the modern day. Behind the main building, several mostly single-story buildings surrounded by neatly kept gardens and leafy trees contain the hotel's 86 rooms and suites, which come in a dizzying array of styles and layouts.
You'll find everything here from basic, and quite affordable, old-school motel units with parking spots out front to expansive suites with fireplaces and kitchens. Many rooms contain funky old paintings, vintage furnishings, and art deco, Native American, or Southwestern decorative pieces. Whatever the kitsch factor, you can still count on cleanliness and nicely updated bathrooms. Amenities include a pool, gym, and laundry facilities, and Continental breakfast is included.
Alas, busy Cerrillos Road has all the charm of a Jiffy Lube (of which you'll find three along this strip of chain retail, motels, and fast-food restaurants), and rooms nearest the road can sometimes pick up traffic noise. This is the upper stretch of Cerrillos, closer to the historic Santa Fe Plaza (which is 3 miles northeast) than most of the chain properties out close to I-25, but this still isn't a neighborhood with much appeal for pedestrians, other than a handful of pretty good restaurants in the vicinity. But given the reasonable rates and tremendous personality, El Rey's positives more than outweigh its deficits.
Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe
Developed on the site of a venerable historic resort that had been closed for some years, Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado is a stunning property that comprises 65 exceptionally luxurious suites set in groupings of adobe casitas spread out over hilly, 57-acre expanse of sagebrush and pinon trees in the Sangre de Cristo foothills. The property includes the outstanding Terra Restaurant, the supremely plush Spa at Encantado, a yoga studio and fitness center, and a seasonal heated pool and hot tub. Although it's an unquestionably posh lodging, and rates reflect it, the pace at the Four Seasons is utterly relaxing, and the staff is easy-going and helpful.
What sets this apart from other high-end properties around Santa Fe is the setting - it's 10 miles northeast of the Plaza up a quite rural highway beyond the artsy village of Tesuque, and most rooms afford views for many miles across the Rio Grande Valley and up into the Jemez and Sangre de Cristo mountains. And also the rooms themselves - they're enormous, starting at 630 square feet, and a kiva-style fireplace, private terrace or balcony (some of the terraces even have their own outdoor fireplaces), radiant-heated floors, massive bathrooms with deep soaking tubs and separate showers, a minibar stocked with clever and interesting snacks, flat-screen TVs with DVD/CD players, iPod docks, and both central heat/air and beam ceilings with fans. It's not a great choice if you wish to be in the thick of the action in historic Santa Fe, but its distance from town is what creates the great sense of spaciousness. And once you're here, you may very well not feel like leaving - at least not the first day or two.
Hacienda Nicholas - Madeleine Inn - Alexander's Inn
A collection of exquisitely decorated East Side inns just a short walk from the Plaza as well as the galleries on Canyon Road, these three warmly furnished properties offer a nice balance of personal service and privacy - each is named for a different child of the thoughtful owner and innkeeper, Carolyn Lee.
The largest building, Hacienda Nicholas has about 10 units done in classic Southwest style (as with Alexander's Inn) and is right across the street from the lovely and Victorian-decorated Madeleine, which has seven rooms and suites - it occupies an 1880s mansion built by a railroad mogul. A few more rooms are located in adjacent Alexander's Inn. There are also a couple of one- and two-bedroom casitas and homes, and there's a full-service, Javanese-style, eco-conscious spa, Absolute Nirvana, situated adjacent to The Madeleine.
What's great about these inns is the tremendous variety of room configurations, decor styles, and even prices. The breakfasts - served at The Madeleine and Hacienda Nicolas - are superb and expansive.
Hotel Chimayo de Santa Fe
Known until recently as the Plaza Real, the Hotel Chimayo de Santa Fe is operated by the very gay-friendly Heritage Hotels & Resorts company, which also owns two other nice properties in town, the Lodge at Santa Fe (a pleasant, mid-priced option on the north side of town with nice Sangre de Cristo views and relatively close proximity to the Santa Fe Opera), the centrally located and upscale Eldorado Hotel, and downtown's historic Hotel St. Francis, as well as the Hotel Albuquerque in Old Town and Nativo Lodge in Albuquerque, El Monte Sagrado and Palacio de Marquesa in Taos, and Hotel Encanto down in Las Cruces.
This well-situated hotel is just a block from the Plaza, steps from the historic Santa Fe Public Library, and within a short walk of countless shops, restaurants, galleries, and museums - it's right across the street from the beautiful New Mexico History Museum, in fact. Although it's less fancy than some of the other hotels close to the Plaza, the 56-room Chimayo is perfectly comfortable and attractive, with plush bedding, wood-burning fireplaces in many units, rooms that open either to a narrow but pretty central courtyard or to private balconies, free Wi-Fi, and traditional Pueblo Revival and Southwest-influenced handcrafted furniture and textiles. Most of the rooms are suites with separate sitting areas, and there's a very good restaurant and bar on-site, Estevan, that's run by one of Santa Fe's more celebrated chefs, Estevan Garcia - it's open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The hotel is also pet-friendly, and underground parking is available but for a nightly fee.
Hotel St. Francis
Like the Hotel Chimayo, the venerable and richly historic Hotel St. Francis is part of gay-friendly Heritage Hotels & Resorts, as well as a slew of distinctive and atmospheric properties elsewhere in Santa Fe as well as in Taos and Las Cruces. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the grand hotel dates to 1923 and is one of Santa Fe's most striking buildings. Despite its wonderful history, the hotel had become a bit dated over the years prior to a major renovation that has given the lobby, bar, and restaurants a fresh dose of elegance while still preserving the building's character. And rooms, although some of them are quite small (and in certain cases have miniscule bathrooms), have also been given classy makeovers that blend classic and modern touches: polished hardwood floors, white and muted gray tones, lovely beds with pillow-top mattresses and down comforters, flat-screen TVs, and free Wi-Fi. The peaceful look is a nice alternative to the sometimes busy, cliched designs of many Santa Fe hotels. There's no spa on-site, but in-room treatments can be arranged, and there is a gym.
Whether or not you stay here, do at least come by to relax in the grand lobby, before the fireplace, perhaps for Reposo, the traditional afternoon tea, coffee, and sherry service held on Friday and Saturday afternoons from 3 until 5. The acclaimed Santa Fe chef Clay Bordan runs the very good Tabla de Los Santos Restaurant at the St. Francis, and the Secreto Bar - with its open-air loggia - is quite popular with locals and has something of a gay following.
Inn of the Anasazi
Among in-town accommodations, the 58-room Inn of the Anasazi ranks as arguably the most luxurious. The Pueblo Revival building sits just a few paces around the corner from the Plaza, across the street from the ancient Palace of the Governors and close to dozens of fine restaurants and shops. Part of the discerning Rosewood boutique hotels group (Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, Hotel Georgia in Vancouver, The Carlyle in New York City, Mayakoba and San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, Jumby Bay in Antigua, Tucker's Point in Bermuda, and several others), the three-story Anasazi is highly regarded for its own exceptional restaurant, known for artfully prepared regional Southwestern fare - plus a terrific bar menu on the patio (ahi tuna tacos, mini buffalo burgers, Parmesan truffle fries, and more).
Common spaces are few but incredibly inviting, notably the rustically elegant Library, with its wood floors, leather chairs, beam ceiling, and shelves of books on the Southwest. The Living Room is every bit as inviting, warmed by a roaring fire. The latilla-and-viga-beam ceilings carry through to the rooms, which feature fireplaces, smooth adobe walls, vibrant tapestries and rugs, hand-carved furnishings, four-poster beds, TVs with DVD players, coffeemakers, Lady Primrose bath amenities, and twice-daily housekeeping. Rates are predictably steep given the high level of service (solicitous but easygoing and friendly) and the swank trappings, but this beautiful hotel consistently delivers.
Inn of the Five Graces
Owned and operated by one of the Seret family - who have long been known in Santa Fe for their design, textiles, and fine furnishings businesses - Santa Fe's distinctive Inn of the Five Graces is also the only lodging in the state that's part of the exclusive Relais & Chateaux hotel brand.
The rambling compound sits along an ancient lane, hidden away from the city's crowds. Although peacefully and privately situated, it's just a few steps from the New Mexico Capitol building and within a short walk of numerous fine restaurants as well as the galleries of Canyon Road.
There are 24 rooms and suites, including the swanky 2,000-square-foot Luminaria House (with two bedrooms, five fireplaces, two decks, and two patios) and filled with museum-like artifacts, tiles, hand-carved furnishings, and finely woven pillows and tapestries imported from all over the world, but especially the India, Mexico, and the Far East. There's a dreamy 1,001 Nights quality to these spacious rooms and suites, which have wet bars and receive twice-daily housekeeping. The hotel is neither modern nor especially Southwestern in style, which suites devotees but might put off those looking for a more traditional Santa Fe accommodation.
Inn of the Governors
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more reasonably priced, warmly decorated hotel with such a central location, right along the gentle trickle known as the Santa Fe River, and just a couple of blocks from the Plaza. The Inn of the Governors is a two-story, Territorial-style adobe building with 100 rooms set in a few different wings. A significant number of rooms have wood-burning kiva fireplaces, and all are decorated in traditional Southwestern style, with bold-colored rugs and tapestries and custom-made furniture.
There's a casual restaurant and bar off the lobby, Del Charro Saloon, with affordable pub fare and popular drink specials, and although the hotel lacks a gym, it does have a year-round heated pool and a lovely garden patio. And rates include Continental breakfast, parking, and Wi-Fi. This charming, gay-friendly property is a terrific value.
Inn on the Alameda
One of the better upscale values in town, this rambling boutique hotel with a prime location just east of downtown and steps from Canyon Road's art galleries has rooms that are every bit as attractive and cushy as many pricier properties, and there's a very good breakfast included in the rates (it's buffet-style, but with lots of choices and several hot dishes). Inn on the Alameda has no restaurant or spa, or much else in the way of common areas, although there is an attractive, airy lobby lounge (The Agoyo Room, in which you can order a cocktail, beer, or glass of wine, including the inn's signature Turquoise Margarita) that's a great place to relax in the evening with a glass of wine during the complimentary afternoon wine-and-cheese reception. The hotel also has light tapas-style dinner service as well. There's also a good-size breakfast room and several outdoor hot tubs set among the several buildings that contain the hotel's 71 rooms, suites, and casitas.
The emphasis here is squarely on the rooms, which are spacious, warmly furnished, and - in many cases - have balconies or private patios as well as fireplaces. All come with robes, high-end linens, cable TV, and free Wi-Fi and parking. Decor include handsome hand-crafted armoires, colorful textiles, bathrooms done in Spanish tile, and beautiful pine and aspen woodwork.
La Posada de Santa Fe Resort
La Posada de Santa Fe Resort is one of the largest hotels in the central part of town, and also one of the most interesting - now part of the upscale RockResorts portfolio, the compound of about 157 rooms and suites dates back many decades. The oldest part of the property, Staab House, occupies a grand 19th-century Victorian mansion that's now home to one of the most atmospheric bars in Santa Fe as well as a superb restaurant, Julia, and several cozy seating areas. A big draw at La Posada is the 4,500-square foot Spa Sage, which has one of the city's best fitness centers and offers an extensive array of treatments.
Rooms are set in a series of buildings dating from the late 1800s and early 1900s and connected by landscaped paths and sunny patios. Decor tends toward classic, upscale Santa Fe: beam ceilings, adobe-plaster walls, regional blankets and fabrics, hand-crafted furniture. Rooms with fireplaces and private patios cost a bit more but offer lots of extra charm, and a variety of suites offers plenty of room to kick back as well as additional perks, such as local artwork from noted Santa Fe galleries and large sitting areas.
The hotel is along leafy Palace Avenue, a short walk from Canyon Road galleries in one direction, and the historic Plaza and museums, restaurants, and shops in the other - there's a great deal within walking distance.
Sante Fe Sage Inn
What was for years a bare-bones budget motel on the edge of the artsy Guadalupe District has been nicely upgraded and rebranded as the Santa Fe Sage Inn. The 156-room property is just six blocks from the Plaza, and a free shuttle whisks guests anywhere within a 2-mile radius, from Museum Hill to the north side of downtown. Rooms are set in several hotel buildings just a few doors down from Whole Foods Market and include several freebies: Wi-Fi, a decent Continental breakfast, and lots of parking (you can often find a spot right outside your door). Pets are permitted for a modest fee, and there's an exercise room, pool, 24-hour business center, guest laundry, in-room refrigerators for a small charge, and all of the usual amenities you'd find at an affordable but well-run motel.
The rooms are mid-size and done with Southwestern-print linens, hanging tapestries, framed photos, and basic but still fairly stylish furniture - all have work desks, coffeemakers, irons and boards, and individual ac/heating units.
Ten Thousand Waves
Known first and foremost as a serene Japanese-style spa and baths nestled in the foothills 4 miles east of downtown, en route to Santa Fe Ski Area, Ten Thousand Waves also has a collection of simply furnished casitas and bungalows set along a slope beside the spa. These 12 artfully furnished lodgings with a minimalist aesthetic that matches the overall vibe of the spa range from relatively compact and simple units with queen tatami platform beds to spacious suites with full kitchens, fireplaces, and deep soaking tubs. All are sumptuous without feeling overdone, and decor often blends Asian and Southwestern elements. There's a good mix of amenities in each one, too - some have private patios and courtyards, and some lack cable TV (all have high-speed Internet).
Although you'll need a car to get anywhere from this secluded compound, the spa does have a small shop selling healthy snacks, and Ten Thousand Waves has opened a superb izakaya-style restaurant, Izanami, which turns out some of the most flavorful and artfully presented Japanese food in the Southwest. A major reason guests stay here, of course, is to partake of body treatments and massages in the spa, which has long been one of the best in the state - known for a wide variety of massages as well as Ashi Anma Foot Massage, Deep Stone Massage, Yasuragi head and neck treatments, salt glows, Japanese organic facials, and more.
There are also seven private baths, which guests can reserve. Like all of the spa facilities, the baths are available to the general public as well. In fact, both have a strong following among Santa Fe locals, including outdoorsy types returning to town after a day of skiing or hiking in the nearby mountains; they also have a strong following within the LGBTQ community. There are also two public communal baths, one of them coed and the other for women only. Be aware that the communal baths are in no way a sexually charged scene, which isn't to say that they aren't quite social. They can be a fun place to meet locals and other visitors. And from all of the baths you're treated to amazing views of the mountains and, when the sun goes down, New Mexico's starry nights.