Courtesy of Chaffee County Visitors Bureau

The Best Places to Eat, Stay and Explore in Buena Vista This Summer




The weather is heating up—and so is Buena Vista.


Situated roughly two hours southwest of Denver, Buena Vista may be small, but it packs a big punch when it comes to outdoor recreation. The Arkansas River runs right through the valley, and this scenic waterway sees more commercial use than any other in the country. Rafters, fly fishers, ATVers and other adventurers love this rugged destination, which also has an impressive cultural scene to boot.


Here’s why you should plan a trip to Buena Vista this summer—and where to eat, stay and explore while you’re there.

Where to Stay in Buena Vista


Many choose to camp when visiting Buena Vista, but you don’t have to rough it to commune with nature. Several accommodations are situated in the nearby Collegiate Peaks, including Rainbow Lake Resort. Set along Cottonwood Pass, this scenic waterfront retreat features 26 cabins, each furnished with an equipped kitchen and comfortable beds that sleep two to six guests. Three larger homes are also available to visitors, as are bi-level condo units within its rustic mountain lodge.


If you’d prefer greater accessibility to downtown amenities, look to the Shorehouse Hotel. It was recently renovated by CKS River Supply, a full-service rental shop located below the four boutique suites. Each spotlights a different local artist and therefore, has a distinct feel. But the area’s river culture is a central theme, and all apartments feature living spaces, full kitchens, laundry facilities and stunning mountain views.


Courtesy of Shorehouse Hotel


For a sophisticated stay, consider the Surf Hotel, an anchor in the town’s South Main neighborhood. A European-inspired elegance characterizes its lobby and rooms, some of which have clawfoot tubs and access to a balcony overlooking the Arkansas River. Its adjacent sister property, Surf Chateau, is made up of several luxurious stone cottages encircling a shaded courtyard. Complete your romantic getaway with dinner at the hotel’s signature restaurant—more on that below.


Courtesy of Surf Hotel & Chateau


Where to Eat in Buena Vista


Open since May 27, Dragon Sushi Bar is the newest eatery in BV, and the only one specializing in Japanese fare. It’s located just off Highway 24 and owned by Sara Hernandez and her husband, who recently relocated from Florida after falling in love with the valley on a family vacation. With more than ten years of industry experience, they’ve created a menu comprising sushi and sashimi, along with traditional and signature rolls.


You’ve heard of apres-ski, but what about apres-raft? Operated by neighboring outfitter River Runners, The Riverside Grill is a local favorite, especially after a day out paddling. Bask in the sunshine and sip on its rum-soaked tiki punch or mezcal margarita, both of which pair well with blackened fish tacos, smoked chicken quesadillas and other flavorful entrées. Live music is also featured on select nights, with upcoming performers including The Motet on June 26 and Deadphish Orchestra on July 14.


Courtesy of Catherine Eichel Photography/River Runners


Speaking of dinner and a show, The Lariat is another Buena Vista mainstay to have on your radar. Its downtown brick building has gathered the community since 1885 and now offers frequent concerts, open night mics and other entertainment like pool, darts, board games and several flatscreens for catching the game. Order from its happy hour menu, which features a brisket burger and a beer for $18, or opt for other tasty pub grub like its Colorado-style pork green chile and popular fish and chips.


Courtesy of Catherine Eichel Photography/The Lariat


For an upscale evening, head to ​​Wesley & Rose, a stylish lobby restaurant within the Surf Hotel. Its New American menu spotlights a savory apple and brie galette, lamb pops and other small plates, as well as a smoked beet salad, bison short ribs and lasagna featuring layers of handmade pasta. Craft cocktails complement any dinner entrée, and mimosas are a must during its indulgent Sunday brunch.


Courtesy of Surf Hotel & Chateau


READ MORE: 10 Unique Things to Do in Colorado This Summer

What to Do in Buena Vista


Buena Vista is famous for its whitewater rafting, and surges of snowmelt have kicked off the season. See the Arkansas River Outfitters Association for an overview of 10 local outfitters, which offer exciting tours for all ability levels. Some rafting companies also offer package deals, like a ziplining combo from AVA and an added rock-climbing adventure through Noah’s Ark.


Courtesy of Catherine Eichel Photography/River Runners


In mid-July following peak run-off, the Arkansas River draws fly fishers to its stretch of Gold Medal waters. For a guided experience, wade with UpRiver Fly Fishing—or better yet, book a float fishing trip that provides access to river sections only accessible by boat. These beginner-friendly tours are limited to two anglers and a guide, allowing for an intimate and educational outing that’s sure to bring in brown and rainbow trout.


Courtesy of UpRiver Fly Fishing


Backdropped by the Collegiate Peaks, Buena Vista is also an ideal home base to embark on scenic drives. Cottonwood Pass and Independence Pass are plowed and open for the season, providing access to miles of trails. Rent an ATV from Buena Vista Adventure Hub, mountain bike along seemingly endless singletrack or peak bag one of several nearby 14ers.


Photo by Abigail Bliss


After a day spent outdoors, ease your muscles at Charlotte Hot Springs and Botanical Gardens, which just began operating this past spring. Surrounded by mountain views, this lesser-known gem offers three tiled pools filled with natural mineral water ranging from 98 to 106 degrees. The atmosphere is quiet and relaxed in comparison to Mount Princeton Hot Springs, a popular family-friendly resort featuring creekside pools, two large swimming pools and, new this summer, thrilling side-by-side water slides spanning 400 feet.




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