Habitas-on-Hudson: A Connection-Focused Country Retreat in Staatsburg

  |  January 14, 2023

What might a stately home in Staatsburg have in common with villas in Saudi Arabia’s Ashar Valley or a sustainable sanctuary in Tulum, Mexico? Quite a lot, actually, as these are all examples of properties launched by the disruptive hospitality management group Habitas.

The founders never meant to create a global hospitality group, but wanted, initially, to create a vacation destination that was focused around human connection. “We were building something for ourselves, an experience and a way to travel that didn’t exist,” says Oliver Ripley, Habitas co-founder and CEO, of the group’s first location.

Photo by Pepe Molina

However, that Tulum location soon out-performed other hotels in the area, and the founders realized others might appreciate their more social-centric approach to vacationing. Since 2017, nine Habitas locations have opened—in locations as far flung as Namibia, San Miguel, Mexico, and Dakhla, Morocco. The latest is Habitas-on-Hudson, a Neoclassical mansion with a glorious view of the river and rolling mountains beyond—a vista that drew Gilded Age money barons to construct multiple mansions nearby. Built around 1900, the home served as an inn, before opening as a Habitas property in December 2022.

Despite the different experiences each property offers, these locations are united by a shared concept: the importance of promoting deeper human connection. Each location is set up to encourage guests to talk to each other, to build friendships and enrich their lives by learning about each other’s backgrounds and cultures.

Photo by Pepe Molina

“The world is continuously leaning towards a fast-paced, technology-focused environment, and we want to give people a space to take a pause and reconnect with themselves,” says Ripley. “Our brand brings together those who want to travel, create memories, share experiences, make new friends, reconnect with loved ones, and expand their minds.”

At Habitas-on-Hudson the importance of connection is evident in everything from the design decisions to the slated activities. The layout of the main building, known as The Manor, features several sitting and lounging areas furnished with appealingly clustered, colorful Mid-Century furniture and vivid modern art. There are also rooms dedicated solely to playing games. There’s a cozy intimate pub with a copper-topped bar and The Social, a ballroom-sized, farm-to-table restaurant. The restaurant’s design scheme marries rehabbed rustic furnishings with a clean modern aesthetic, and, perhaps more importantly, features multiple communal tables.

Photo by Pepe Molina

As in all Habitas locations, the restaurant’s vegetable-forward menu will revolve around seasonal local produce, with menu favorites such as wild mushroom pappardelle, prepared with charred leeks; seared black bass with lemongrass coconut rice and golden beets; and braised short ribs on polenta; plus a Sunday brunch with global breakfast all-stars like  shakshuka, chilaquiles, brioche French toast, and banana pancakes. Though the launch date is in the air, when it does launch, the restaurant will open to the public and, in warmer weather, will offer outside dining perfectly situated to enjoy the stellar view.

The Manor features six bedrooms, four of which offer an expansive river view, with an additional Lodge and Stone House, bringing the total number of bedrooms to 30. The Manor’s comfortable sleeping quarters are decorated in a soft natural palette, featuring sand-colored fiber art on the walls, woven leather furniture, and bamboo blinds. Some of the bedrooms open up to a communal sundeck. Most feature vividly painted clawfoot tubs ideal for a luxurious soak after fun outdoor activities.

Photo by Pepe Molina

Photo by Pepe Molina

Adventures at each Habitas location are tailored to the environment. At the Staatsburg location, there’s a swimmable pond, a tennis court, opportunities to hike and fish, volleyball, archery, and ice skating in the winter. Offerings like yoga, mountain biking, breathwork, cooking classes, massages, and bonfires with storytelling and s’mores can be organized upon request. An artist-in-residence program invites musicians, chefs, photographers, artists, and nutritionists to share their talents with other guests in exchange for room and board.

“We will do painting classes, whiskey tastings, and a lot of activities that provide a different way to experience the Hudson Valley,” says Mario Velazquez, the site’s pre-opening general manager.

After guests check in at a Habitas location they are welcomed with a ceremony that incorporates local —often indigenous—cultural traditions. In the Hudson Valley the ceremony reflects Iroquois cultural heritage, with guests invited to state their intentions, what they hope for or want to accomplish during their stay and beyond.

Photo by Pepe Molina

For each guest, Habitas also donates to RISE the brand’s global initiative focusing on empowering local communities, cultures, and conservation efforts. “We focus on strengthening local communications and education, as well as sustainable and conscious tourism,” says Ripley. “We also look to source local materials, produce, and set up and support local micro economies.”

A deeper human connection is the most important objective. “That’s why we do communal family tables,” says Velazquez. “The purpose is to make new friends, to meet more people from around the world. It’s all about connections—connecting with the area, connecting with others. The best way to enrich your life is by exploring and learning new things.”

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