“ Address: Plaza Borda No.4 / Taxco / Gro. México / CP 40200 „
Taxco has quite a good selection of hotels for a small town, because it is a popular tourist stop. At 2 ½ hours from Mexico City's southern bus terminal, and 3 ½ hours from my home in the centre of the city, I decided I would want to stay the night rather than try to visit the town and squeeze 7 hours travel into one day (though a girl I met while in Taxco, who lives a few streets from me, had opted to do just that).
I booked the Agua Escondido because its central location meant it was actually on the tiny map in my guide book. I always like to know where I'm going when time in a place is limited. I also liked that it had an outdoor swimming pool, because the weather here is beautiful at the moment. I found the hotel on a booking website, but made my own reservation with the hotel directly as I wanted to pay (pesos) cash on arrival rather than sticking yet another thing on my (UK) credit card. I made the booking easily, and received email confirmation immediately.
On arriving in Taxco I struggled to find the hotel because of the dubious (but common) Mexican approach to street numbering. The hotel is located in Plaza Borda, the central square, and overlooks the large church and the bandstand. However its address is Plaza Borda 4, so I was confused when I could spot buildings numbered 2 and 3, and then a number 12, with no hint of a hotel in between. It was there though, but is totally out of sync with those numbers, and is the colonial building located on the other side of the square. The entrance is quite small, but the sign is clear, and once inside you feel like you're in a Tardis because it is much, much bigger than its street entrance would suggest.
I checked in quickly at the desk in the large reception area, which also has an internet terminal (free of charge), a few conservatory-style sofas and a large, unused space where some children were having an impromptu game of soccer. I paid cash as planned, but go no receipt, though I had to fill in the standard registration card at the time. Then, in lieu of your usual bellboy or porter, one of the receptionists came out from behind the desk and accompanied me to my room, rather unnecessarily carrying my small backpack for me. Once we got there, he unlocked the door, turned on the TV to prove the remote worked, and left without even the hint of wanting a tip.
I had booked a single room, which actually had a double bed, though this was pushed up against the wall, and only accessible from one side, which you wouldn't normally get in a room being sold as a double. Something else that made me thing this was a permanent single room (albeit with a big bed) was the number of towels in the shower-room, as they had provided two, but I assumed one was for showering, and one for hand washing.
The room was comfy, and full of personality, not at all like a characterless motel chain. The walls were white, but here, and throughout the hotel, they were adorned with a cute design of tree branches, with leaves and flowers stencilled on. Not so much that you felt you were sleeping in a forest, mind, but just a few here and there to brighten up the place. In addition to my bed I had a bedside table but this was a smidge too big, and therefore either blocked the door, or had to be pushed right into the mattress (uncomfortable if you rolled over at night). I also had a wardrobe that only came up to my chest, making it short even by Mexican standards.
Three chairs (one slightly broken, and therefore not the best choice to stand on when closing the window) and a desk completed the furniture. The desk boasted two, free bottles of water and lovely instructions which started "How to survive a hotel fire..." though these included lots of "Wet some sheets and towels" and managed to miss out completely a useful diagram of the escape route.
The room was lit by rather random gas-lamp style fittings, complete with contrasting energy saving light bulbs. The large window and mirror in the room also added to the light, but I was wary of the latter. In a market near me in Mexico City there is a stall which sells rather unique porn films, which have titles like "Hotels of Reforma Avenue", "Hotels of La Condesa" and "Hotels of Zona Rosa", all areas in the city. Apparently these masterpieces are made from footage received from cameras hidden behind the mirrors in these hotel rooms, and the stars are poor, unsuspecting hotel guests. Having had lengthy discussions on this with friends in the know, I now understand the best way to check for such cameras, and promptly did this, in part just so I could say I had. (If you're interested, you're supposed to point your finger so it touches the glass, and if the reflection does not meet your finger exactly, there is a problem. And also, don't be mistaken into thinking it's the porn itself I object to - it's more the idea that one day I could inadvertently watch myself appear on the screen in front of me that worries me. Yes, I was travelling alone, but for all I know they intersperse the good stuff with clips of "British girl wandering around somewhat naked while watching American Idol"). This sorted, I was off out, to find some dinner before nightfall.
On my return I decided to explore. The hotel is like a rabbit warren, with all sorts of random corridors. My room was easy to find because it was on the first floor, and near reception, but the downside was that it looked out onto the square. Though this meant nice views, it also meant noise at night, since the single glazed windows did little to obscure the noise of the traffic, or the birds the following morning. Other rooms, perhaps the superior ones, are located towards the back of reception, and have street views away from the central plaza. I was looking for the hotel, but it took some doing despite the occasional sign assuring me I was heading in the right direction. Eventually I located it, after almost 10 minutes walking (I told you it was a big hotel), and though it was now fairly dark, it looked nice, large enough for lengths, and with a spacious, surrounding terrace with loungers. The hotel name means "Secluded water" and when applied to the pool, I think it's an apt description.
In the morning, after a little light television from my excellent choice of channels in both English and Spanish, I wanted a shower. The bathroom was cramped, but adequate, with a sink, toilet and shower. The toiletries were mid-range: shampoo, but not conditioner, moisturiser, but no shower cap. However in the end I needed none since the one thing the hotel had not thoughtfully provided was hot water. Not even a trickle. Unfortunately, this is becoming standard in Latin American hotels, so it didn't even occur to me to make a fuss, I just got dressed and stayed smelly for the day. Obviously if I had been paying more, or staying longer, I might have kicked off at reception, but as I wasn't I just added it to the list of things I would need to include in my review, and moved on. (NB: this was not a one off. Tripadvisor confirms that many other guests have had the same problem. Perhaps that "Secluded water" name is actually meant to apply to hot showers?).
Breakfast was not included in my rate, but I decided to eat at the hotel anyway, since my guidebook made a special note of their Sunday buffet. The breakfast cost 90 pesos, which is a huge amount for here (across the street from my apartment in Mexico City I could eat a feast for 30 - 40 pesos) but I really wanted to try the buffet, having been cheated out of this on all my recent hotel stays. To get my money's worth, I was up and down like a jack rabbit, and must have gone back to the buffet at least 7 or 8 times, but the selection was appealing, so I wanted to try everything.
The buffet only took up two tables but was deceptively varied. There were cakes and pastries, fresh fruits, cereals and the dubious Mexican favourite of gelatine, like a jelly but with chopped up stuff in it. The only thing missing was....bread. They had scones and croissants and freshly baked sugary things (still warm from the oven) but no straight forward white or brown bread, neither rolls nor slices. The hot section included Mexican dishes like frijoles (beans) and all sorts of eggs, and there was interestingly a large dish of totopos (tortilla chips) to accompany these. I had a handful of these, because normal breakfast food or not, I do love them, and they had a great freshly baked taste. They buffet also had mini American style pancakes (regular and whole-wheat) and French toast, with syrups and jams for these. The drinks included coffee (served to your table), hot chocolate, and a selection of normal juices, with a slightly less normal Nopal (cactus) juice thrown in. The food was tasty, regularly replenished and nicely presented. My favourite find was what they were advertising as low-fat vanilla yoghurt - something unheard of in Mexican supermarkets (they do low fat, but only in natural or strawberry / peach flavours). The restaurant also does lunch and evening meals, and they have a bar and a cafe too, but I wasn't staying long enough to try these, though you can see the menu and prices on their website.
I paid 579.15 pesos for my stay, which was their standard rack rate from their website. Actually I paid 580 since they clearly weren't paying attention that day in maths class when the rules for rounding were taught. At the moment, that is £27 (hurray for a weakening peso) which is reasonable for a night in a 3 star hotel in a busy tourist destination - and as usual, the double rate for two people would only have been a little more than my single. Expedia currently sell it too, for about £35 per night if you would prefer to book and pay in advance, at a guaranteed GBP rate.
This hotel has a lot going for it: it is extremely central, has a nice pool, serves a good breakfast and has polite, friendly staff, all for a reasonable price. Most people would not stay in Taxco for more than a couple of nights, so the facilities (restaurant / bar / pool / games room) are more than adequate. There is still that one huge negative though, so based on my stay I would only recommend it for those who like a bracing, icy shower in the morning. A shame really, since other than that it was quite a find.
Official website: http://www.aguaescondida.com/
Telephone (762) 622 11 66