STiR Coffee & Tea / August-September 2016
By Larry Luxner
One of Puerto Rico’s most prominent coffee-growing families plans to open a five-star boutique mountain resort aimed at wealthy tourists passionate about coffee.
Hotel Hacienda Lealtad, located off Highway 4131 near the Puerto Rican town of Lares, is to open for business sometime this December with 20 rooms, said project manager Baltasar Soto.
“A hacienda like this you won’t find anywhere else in Puerto Rico or the Caribbean,” said Soto, 59, whose younger brother Edwin is president of Café Lealtad, which grows and packages coffee for local consumption and export.
The hotel is an attempt to recreate the atmosphere of Lares as it was in the 1830s, when Puerto Rico — then a Spanish colony — was among the world’s premier coffee exporters. At the time, Hacienda Lealtad belonged to Miguel Marquéz y Enseñal of Spain and was the largest coffee plantation on the island, according to Baltasar Soto.
The property consists of six restored structures. It has two antique horse-drawn carriages on display, and features a museum with antique furniture, framed portraits and various artifacts from Puerto Rico’s colonial past, ranging from a 19th-century washing machine to a domino set and native musical instruments.
The hotel’s planners could not have picked a more politically symbolic location for their new property. In 1868 — a good 30 years before the Spanish-American War — pro-independence rebels demanding liberation from Spain led an uprising there. Even though the movement, known as El Grito de Lares [The Cry of Lares] was put down quickly, to this day advocates of Puerto Rican independence from the United States look upon it as the beginning of their struggle for self-determination.
In some ways, Hotel Hacienda Lealtad will be similar to Hacienda Buena Vista — located north of Ponce. The latter site was established in 1853 as a corn mill to feed area slaves. Nightly room rates at the new hotel have not been established, though Soto said his potential market is clearly tourists from the U.S. mainland and possibly Europe.
Accommodations will include a wine cellar, a restaurant serving local and international cuisine, and a heliport that will whisk guests from San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport to the mountain property in 23 minutes (the trip by car takes about two hours). The resort also features its own waterwheel and a nature park with trails, and already has its own Facebook page.