Exactly the vacation we wanted - KimKim delivered, above and beyond.
Jul 7 - Jul 12, 2022
We had exactly the vacation we wanted - a great mix of new experiences and natural beauty. We were always just far enough outside our comfort zone to keep us fully present and engaged. Chris did a fantastic job of understanding what we were after. Starting with a stay at the Camino Real was perfect: international luxury, poolside dining and opulence. Then, a hotel that doubles as a working horseracing track and some time in Chiquimula, a town that feels like one huge, endlessly bustling market. Next, a boutique garden hotel in the heart of Antigua, so we could soak up the architecture and history of the old capital. Finally, a couple of days in a cliffside hotel dangling over Lake Atitlan, maybe the most beautiful location in Central America. Our drivers and guides were warm, helpful and fun, and great with our kids. We are so, so happy that we booked this trip through KimKim.
If you've ever wondered what it would be like to stay in a top-tier international hotel "back in the day," this is the place. Everything they do is casual, confident luxury. The pool is perfect and perfectly maintained, because of course it is. You can get huge portions of excellent food poolside, or in your room, or in the restaurant because why wouldn't you? The beds are unbelievably comfortable and quiet. The staff is friendly and helpful. Things are ready when they are supposed to be, or sooner. They have a spare of whatever you lost. They know how to help you find the place you can't remember the name of. They are the Westin Camino Real, they've been doing this since people flew in on PanAm 707s. It's the only way they know how to do things: perfectly.
We really enjoyed Finca Los Laureles, but I think some aspects suffered from how empty it was at the time. I think there were, maybe, two other rooms occupied during our stay. That was probably why there were very few employees on site, too. Coupled with the sprawling, rustic layout of this hotel, it added up to something of a ghost-town experience. We wandered around a lot, wondering where things were, or if we were really supposed to be in the places we ended up. We had an odd but wonderful dinner on, I think, the back porch of a restaurant but never figured out where the front entrance was. All in all: lots of wonderful moments with some confusing times, too. I suspect that this would have been a very solid 5-star review if we had stayed here during a busier season.
So pretty, in such a perfect spot. Great little restaurant, friendly staff. So, why not 5 stars? The heat. Antigua gets pretty hot, and stays warm pretty late into the evening. There are lot of bugs, particularly mosquitos around. So, some hotels have AC. Some have fans. The rest of the places at least have screens on the windows, or mosquito netting, or both. The Hotel San Jorge has no AC, or fans (even in the bathrooms), or screens or netting. Also, they keep bright lights on all night in the courtyard, and are in a fairly noisy part of town. That means trying to sleep in stifling heat, or trying to sleep while coated in bug spray with something over your eyes against the light and, if possible, ear plugs. So, the rest of our experience was lovely, but we got very little actual sleep - which is a key part of what you generally want from a hotel.
It's hard to really separate "just the hotel" from the rest of the experience. Lake Atitlan is always going to be the star of any visit here. The lake, the surrounding volcanos, the trails and villages around it...it's just so endlessly beautiful. Casa del Mundo does a great job of understanding this. The layout is vertical and shallow, so that wherever you go, you are looking at the lake. There's not a lot of "building," other than the restaurant and front desk. There are patios and benches everywhere between and above the rooms. There's no AC, but there are windows with screens and cross-ventilation so you can have your windows open and hear the water lapping at the rocks. They enforce a 10pm quiet hour, which helps make that work for everyone. Be aware, this maybe isn't for everyone: you can only get here by (a smallish) boat, and there are a LOT of stairs in getting up from the lake to the hotel. If you aren't able to face 60-70 stairs on a regular basis, or you like to travel with 3-4 suitcases, you might not enjoy this place nearly as much.