View of a yellow river raft on the Arkansas River in Buena Vista

Where to Stay in Buena Vista (Best Areas & Hotels)

Buena Vista is a lesser-known Colorado mountain town, especially among people visiting from outside Colorado. It doesn’t have a ski resort in-town, or even all that close by, but that means that you’ll find more affordable options when staying in Buena Vista.

Fortunately, there are many fun things to do in Buena Vista, including many outdoor activities that give you a taste of the Colorado wilderness! 

In this guide to where to stay in Buena Vista, I’ll walk you through the best areas and places to stay in. For first-time visitors, Historic Downtown Buena Vista is a great place to be, but there is a lot to consider depending on the reason for your visit and your budget. 

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Best Places to Stay in Buena Vista

View of a rocky river in Buena Vista

Just looking for a quick answer on the best places to stay in Buena Vista? Here are my top picks: 

Ok, let’s do a deep dive of the best areas and neighborhoods in Buena Vista: 

4 Best Neighborhoods & Areas to Stay in Buena Vista

Buena Vista is a small Colorado town, but there are several areas where you can stay, depending on what you’re doing. 

North Buena Vista is the area as you approach town from Leadville and other northern areas. Historic downtown has buildings from the 1800s that have been turned into museums, shops, and restaurants. South Main is a newer area, built near the Buena Vista River Park. Cottonwood Pass is closed in winter, but is a beautiful drive that ends near Crested Butte. 

You can see a variety of options for places to stay in Buena Vista on this map

Historic Downtown Buena Vista

View of cars parked alongside a street in Buena Vista

👉 Best Area For Old Town Vibes | Best Historic Buena Vista Hotels: The InnBest Western Vista InnBuffalo Peaks B&B

Historic Downtown Buena Vista is a great area to stay in that puts you close to the town’s best shopping, restaurants, breweries, and coffee shops. The town history museum is also on Main St. If you walk all the way down to the end, you’ll be at the Buena Vista Whitewater Park, where there’s a variety of outdoor activities.

Pros of Staying in Historic Downtown Buena Vista:

  • Lots of shops and restaurants
  • Hiking, biking, and river sports nearby
  • Historic buildings

Con of Staying in Historic Downtown Buena Vista:

  • Main Street can get crowded in season

📚 Historic Downtown Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Buena Vista History
Google Map

  • Best HotelsThe InnBest Western Vista InnBuffalo Peaks B&B
  • 🏠 Apartments –  Browse Top Rentals in Buena Vista
  • 🍽️ Where to Eat – Simple Eatery & Spoon It Up ($$), Little Engine Eatery ($), Crave ($$$)
  • 🍸 Where to Drink – The Slammer, The Cellar on Railroad, Push & Pull
  • 🎟️ Top Attractions – Buena Vista Heritage Museum, Deerhammer Distillery, Buena Vista Whitewater Park

North Buena Vista

View of the Best Western sign in Buena Vista
On the way into town

👉 Best Area For Rafting | Best Buena Vista Hotels: Five Peaks InnChealsey’s RentalsBest Western Vista Inn

Several rafting outfitters are located along Highway 24 as it approaches Buena Vista. Staying on the north end of town means you’ll be close to those spots and ready for a day on the water. You can also find some relatively affordable accommodation options in this area, like the Best Western Vista Inn.

Pros of Staying in North Buena Vista:

  • Near rafting outfitters
  • Close to the Arkansas River
  • Beautiful views

Con of Staying in North Buena Vista: 

  • Farther from historic Main St. restaurants and shops

📚 North Buena Vista Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Rafting the Arkansas River
Google Map

South Main

View of a neighborhood in Buena Vista

👉 Best Area For Newer Buildings | Best South Main Hotels: Surf Hotel & Chateau South Main Residences by Surf HotelThe Inn

South Main is a newer area of Buena Vista. The Surf Hotel & Chateau was built overlooking the Arkansas River, and you’ll get beautiful views of the river and mountains. And while buildings from the 1800s have their charms, this is where to stay if you are the type of traveler who really appreciates newer hotels and nice eateries.

Pros of Staying in South Main:

  • Modern buildings and conveniences
  • Close to the Arkansas River
  • Close to new restaurants

Con of Staying in South Main:

  • Not as many shops & restaurants as the historic district

📚 South Main Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for New Luxury
Google Map

Cottonwood Pass

View of the Cottonwood Hot Springs sign at the entrance

👉 Best Area For Exploring The Pass | Best Cottonwood Pass Hotels: Merrifield Homestead Cabins and Hot Springs Cottonwood Hot Springs Inn & SpaBuffalo Peaks B&B

Cottonwood Pass winds its way from western Buena Vista over the Continental Divide. It’s a beautiful drive that’s closed in winter, but with amazing views! Even though the pass is closed part of the year, you can still visit the hot springs (one of the best springs in Colorado) and go snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the area. 

Pros of Staying Near Cottonwood Pass:

  • Feels more open
  • Near nature and wildlife
  • Outdoor activities like hiking or cross-country skiing

Con of Staying Near Cottonwood Pass:

  • Not close to shops & restaurants

📚 Cottonwood Pass Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Outdoor Adventures
Google Map

Tips for Staying in Buena Vista

Hydrate!

Buena Vista may not be as high up as Leadville, but at 8,000 feet up a lot of the same rules apply! Make sure you drink plenty of water or sports drinks throughout the day, especially if you’re outside getting exercise. In fact, experts recommend drinking between 3-4 liters of water and hydrating liquids a day when you’re at high altitudes. 

Use Plenty of Sunscreen

Sunscreen can be easy to forget when it’s 20 degrees outside, but you can get just as burned in winter (or worse, thanks to the sun’s reflection on the snow!). You’ll want .04 ounces of sunscreen on your face, or enough to fill the bottom of a shot glass, plus sunscreen for your neck, ears, hands, and any other exposed areas. Be sure to reapply!

Give Yourself Time 

If you’re not used to high altitudes, you may need a day or two to acclimate to 8,000 feet. Plan on extra breaks while hiking or biking. If you’re planning an extremely strenuous activity like climbing a 14er, do that a day or two after you arrive so you have time to adjust. 

If you’re traveling from sea level, you may also want to spend a day or two in Denver to allow your body to adjust.

Know When to Get Help

If you have trouble breathing, or if mild symptoms of altitude sickness get worse, seek treatment. It can be frustrating to spend part of your trip getting medical help, but it’s much better to get it treated sooner rather than later.

Layer Up

In winter, you’ll likely want several layers, including warm base layers, shirts, sweaters, and a good jacket. In summer you’ll want layers, too! If you plan to be outdoors in summer, you can go from a cool mountain morning to warm sun, back to a chilly breeze in almost no time. 

👉 Read Next: The Best Places to Stay in Denver CO

FAQs About Where to Stay in Buena Vista

What is Buena Vista Known For? 

Buena Vista is known for its excellent rafting on the Arkansas River. There are several rafting outfitters in and near town, and rafters can paddle through Browns Canyon National Monument on a thrilling ride.

Buena Vista is also known for the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area, which includes the college-named 14ers Mount Princeton, Mount Harvard, and Mount Yale. Many people climb these mountains, or enjoy other hikes and mountain bike rides in the area. 

What City is Buena Vista Near? 

Buena Vista is near the cities of Salida, Leadville, Nathrop, Granite, and Fairplay. 

What is There To Do In Buena Vista? 

Things to do in Buena Vista during summer include rafting, hiking, paddling at the whitewater park, and visiting the Buena Vista Heritage Museum. In winter, you can snowshoe, cross-country ski, or check out the breweries, distillery, and shops in town. Year-round, you can visit the hot springs that dot the area.

***

Buena Vista may not have a Colorado ski resort to draw visitors in, but in some ways that’s why it’s a great place to visit in Colorado

You’ll find fewer crowds and plenty of outdoor activities for families or for serious hikers and adventurers. You’ll also find places to rest at night after a day of exploring, from mom-and-pop motels to new, upscale hotels. 

I hope this guide helped you get your place to stay in Buena Vista sorted! Before you go, be sure to check out my list of the top stuff to do in Buena Vista and our complete set of Colorado travel guides.

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