This New Mexico Hotel Helped Turn Albuquerque Into a Hot Destination — With World-class Art, a Rejuvenating Spa, and Top Culinary Talent

Hotel Chaco tells the story of an ancient New Mexican civilization.

<p>Nick Merrick/Courtesy of Hotel Chaco</p>

Nick Merrick/Courtesy of Hotel Chaco

Like the best trips, the best hotels immerse you so thoroughly in a destination that staying at them is like taking a deep dive into the local culture. Because they authentically pay tribute to their location through food, artwork, and design elements unmistakably linked to that specific place, you go home with a richer understanding and appreciation of where you’ve been.

No one does this better than Hotel Chaco, whose sandstone façade seamlessly blends into Albuquerque’s desert landscape. The hotel was built to align with the movement of the sun and showcases one of the best collections of original contemporary Native American artwork in the world, making it impossible to forget you’re in New Mexico — and also so close to one of the most stunning and underrated archaeological sites in the country.

“We’re using the hotel to tell the story of Chaco Canyon,” says Matthew Troche, manager of Hotel Chaco. “If you leave here and don’t know any more about it than when you came, we missed the mark. We can’t be just a beautiful hotel. We have to tell that story.”

<p>Nick Merrick/Courtesy of Hotel Chaco</p>

Nick Merrick/Courtesy of Hotel Chaco

That story revolves around an ancient civilization that settled in the inhospitable terrain of northwest New Mexico between 850 and 1250 and built Chaco Canyon, a breathtaking hub of culture and trade home to about 10,000 Puebloan people. Despite the high altitude and dry, desolate conditions, they flourished there, building great houses that are considered feats of architecture that can still be admired today.

“We thrive on simplicity in New Mexico, but it’s amazing to think about how advanced our ancestors were,” says Troche. “Chaco Canyon is right in our backyard. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it can go toe-to-toe with Machu Picchu, yet most people have never even heard of it. We want our hotel to start that conversation.”

Entering Hotel Chaco for the first time, I was mesmerized by The Guardian, an unexpected ceramic sculpture watching over the kiva-inspired lobby from a ledge high above the reception desk. The lifelike figure was a reassuring presence throughout my stay and a powerful introduction to the hotel’s commitment to honor Chaco Canyon.

<p>Nick Merrick/Courtesy of Hotel Chaco</p>

Nick Merrick/Courtesy of Hotel Chaco

That was six years ago, and I’ve never been able to get The Guardian or the calm I experienced at Hotel Chaco out of my mind. I recently revisited the hotel to check out two new additions that I just knew would feel so natural in that setting: a holistic spa inspired by Native American rituals and ingredients and the hiring of Marc Quiñones, a James Beard nominee and, arguably, the face of modern New Mexican cooking, as executive chef of Level 5, Hotel Chaco’s rooftop restaurant.

I felt my shoulders relax as soon as I walked through the gorgeous front doors and saw The Guardian still at his post. Created by Roxanne Swentzell, one of the most prominent Native American artists, the sculpture immediately gives you a sense of place and authenticity.

“It’s very empowering to me to be part of this hotel,” says Patricia Michaels, the award-winning designer who created Hotel Chaco’s distinctive staff uniforms and was the first Native American designer to appear on Project Runway. “It’s a huge honor to be in the company of all these world renowned Native American artists, some of whom are my childhood friends. The hotel is really honoring who we are, and to be honored is comforting. It’s why we all gravitated here in the first place.”

And it’s why so many guests, including Bono and President Biden, gravitate here, too.

Read on for my review of Hotel Chaco.

Hotel Chaco

  • Stunning and significant original Native American artwork is displayed everywhere, from the front doors to the staff uniforms.

  • The spa is a blissful oasis grounded in Native American healing practices.

  • Chef Marc Quiñones has reinvented Modern New Mexican Ranch Cuisine, creating the most unique and delicious dishes using traditional local ingredients in delightfully non-traditional ways.

  • Guestrooms are light and airy, combining a minimalist aesthetic with modern luxury.

  • You can’t beat the location for its proximity to everything Albuquerque offers.

The Rooms

<p>Ryan Gobuty/Courtesy of Hotel Chaco</p>

Ryan Gobuty/Courtesy of Hotel Chaco

All 118 guestrooms have been thoughtfully designed to keep with the Ancestral Puebloan philosophy of living with only what you need. The rooms have a quiet luxury, thanks to the soothing earth-tone color palette and the handwoven Navajo rug that takes the place of honor over every bed. Despite the focus on tradition, no modern touch is overlooked, from the many conveniently located outlets and USB ports to the perfectly placed reading lights and coffee and tea station. Also, no carpeting means better air quality and fewer allergens. Opt for a room with a balcony where you can sit and page through The Great Houses of Chaco, the beautiful coffee table book you’ll find on the desk.

Rooms range from the Classic King and Classic Queen to the Deluxe King Suite and Presidential Suite. “We missed our opportunity there when President Biden decided to stay in the Terrace Suite instead,” laughed Troche.

<p>Courtesy of Hotel Chaco</p>

Courtesy of Hotel Chaco

The Terrace Suite features three connecting guestrooms, a homey living space, and a jaw-dropping wet bar. It boasts a 2,000-square-foot balcony with comfortable seating to view the Sandia Mountains and the Rio Grande Bosque.

Food and Drink

With Chef Marc Quiñones (who you might recognize from Hell’s Kitchen and Beat Bobby Flay) at the helm, the new menu at Level 5 is a celebration of beloved local ingredients taken to a whole new level. “It’s a love song to New Mexico,” he says.

I would have laughed if you had ever told me I would be raving about carne asada elk and guajillo chile-braised buffalo short rib. And yet, I still think about the flavors and artistry of these dishes.

“Because of the unique geography of the high desert, our ancestors were ranchers by necessity,” explains Quiñones. “They would walk outside, and it was all wild elk, boars, and quail running around. They had to eat, so they would cook them in kettles, which they buried in the ground because they had no refrigeration. Now, we only cook in cast iron kettles out of respect, and we find exciting new ways to use the same amazing bounty of chilis, herbs, and produce they pulled out of the ground. We’re dignifying ingredients traditionally served as sides, like calabacitas, by putting them in the center of the plate.”

Dinner at Level 5 is simply a master class in modern New Mexican ranch cuisine.

For a truly unique wine and spirits experience, head downstairs to the Crafted Tasting Room. New Mexico is the oldest wine-growing region in the country, and this is the place to sample the best of them.

Activities and Experiences

<p>Nick Merrick/Courtesy of Hotel Chaco</p>

Nick Merrick/Courtesy of Hotel Chaco

Carve out time to explore the artwork around the hotel, starting with the front doors inspired by the black-on-black pottery that’s a signature of the Santa Clara Pueblo. You can request a tour from the knowledgeable staff members or check out the hotel’s website for descriptions of some of the pieces.

Gallery Hózhó, the onsite fine art gallery, features a thoughtfully curated collection of contemporary art by local Native American artists. You’ll likely find a painting, sculpture, or jewelry that will become a treasured souvenir.

Plan a day to visit Chaco Canyon with Heritage Inspirations, the hotel’s tour company. It will elevate your hotel stay, putting in context the rich culture, architecture, and artwork you’ve already tasted. Being there in person will give you a greater understanding of this ancient civilization and why it’s so special.

Back at the hotel, you’ll want to cool off in the outdoor pool, which is open year-round. You can also take advantage of the well-equipped fitness center and join the complimentary yoga class every Saturday morning.

The Spa

As a spa devotee, I was eager to try out the new Spa at Chaco, and wow, was I impressed. The space itself is intimate and cozy, and it offers a surprisingly extensive menu of services focused on healing, using native herbs and plants that grow locally, including sage, honey, and lavender.

Even the stones used in trigger point work and hot stone massages have a deeper meaning. According to spa director Jana Wofford, the spa’s opening team members took a field trip together to harvest them from the Rio Grande. “They each picked unique sizes and shapes that called to them,” she said. “They continue to put them out during the full moons to clear negative energy and make sure we always bring the positive, grounding energy of New Mexico into the specific service in which the stones are used.”

My three-hour — yes, three-hour — Journey to Renewal was one of the best treatments I’ve ever had. It includes everything you could want in a treatment: a fantastic massage, a contrast therapy ritual, and aromatherapy, and then ups the ante with sound bowl healing, chakra balancing, and smudging. When I landed on a chaise lounge on the outdoor patio, being served tea and a wooden board full of fruit, nuts, and chocolate, I didn’t have a care in the world.

Accessibility and Sustainability

Hotel Chaco offers several ADA-compliant rooms with roll-in showers and closet rods lowered for easy wheelchair access. In keeping with its commitment to honor the Earth, the hotel incorporates natural raw materials from the region, avoiding carpet — which has a substantial environmental impact. Level 5 does its part by composting and using fresh ingredients from their own farm to table garden but the hotel’s most significant contribution to sustainability lies in its support of the local community and its ancestors.


There’s no need to rent a car when staying at Hotel Chaco since it’s just a short walk to the must-visit Albuquerque Museum and the galleries, shops, and restaurants in Old Town. The hotel is directly across the street from Sawmill Market. In this excellent food hall, you can indulge in everything from Mexican food at Flora to the signature burgers at Dr. Field Goods to decadent pastries at Crème De La Crème. Ubers and Lyfts are plentiful, so you can grab one to indulge in a hearty breakfast at nearby Campo at Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm, where you may just be greeted by the resident peacock.

How to Get the Most Value Out of Your Stay

Hotel Chaco offers a variety of deals like the Holistic Spa Journey Package, which features a $150 spa credit, and the Celebrate Romance Package, which includes an upgraded room, a late checkout, sparkling wine, and chocolate. Guests from Colorado and Texas can take advantage of the discounted “Neighbor Rate,” while New Mexico residents are treated to an even deeper “Locals Rate” discount. Be sure to also check the hotel’s website for seasonal specials.

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