Hacienda San Jose captures the romance of a bygone era. // © 2016 Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide
Feature image (above): At Hacienda Temozon, a donkey named Habanero takes visitors around the grounds of the 17th-century estate. // © 2016 Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide
It isn’t often that you’re allowed to peek into the past, but a recent visit to two of Starwood Hotels’ Luxury Collection haciendas on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula allowed me to do just that.
Hacienda San Jose
My first stop was the 18th-century Hacienda San Jose, where a lush jungle enclave, brilliant bougainvillea and graceful palm trees revealed a new meaning to the adage: “Mi casa es su casa.”
This is a perfect spot for a romantic getaway, with 11 guestrooms and suites, and four Maya-style casitas — all of which are restored using period materials, techniques and colors.
Guestrooms, some with outdoor bathtubs, are clustered around a charming patio, while the casitas — tucked under palapas and featuring unique “hanging beds” — are located in a more secluded area.
My guestroom had original floors, doors and windows and plenty of creature comforts, including air conditioning, ceiling fans, complimentary Wi-Fi, cable television, Egyptian-cotton bed linens and goose-down pillows.
Dining, another time capsule experience, takes place in a former factory building overlooking the main garden, where Chef Alexis Can prepares international and regional fare using organic ingredients grown in the hacienda’s gardens.
There’s a chapel on property and a freestanding house called Casa del Patron, with a private garden, pool and courtyard, that is perfect for weddings and intimate gatherings.
A small spa offers an assortment of treatments.
Nearby sites such as the legendary ruins of Chichen Itza, the charming colonial town of Izamal, mysterious underground rivers called cenotes and the subterranean Maya caves of Loltun, offer memorable outings.
One of 17th-century Mexico’s finest gems, Hacienda Temozon is a throwback to old Mexico and only 35 minutes from Merida International Airport.
Known as the estancia (estate) of Diego de Mendoza — a descendant of the conquistador Francisco de Montejo — the hacienda offers 28 guestrooms and suites surrounded by stunning gardens.
Charming accommodations are located in original buildings, restored and furnished with modern-day accoutrements. Most rooms are named for the purpose they once served: Mayordomo (butler’s quarters), Escuela de Ninos (school), Comedor (dining room), etc. The Presidential Suite, once the bedroom of the hacienda’s owner, features a private pool.
Here, too, I was tucked into a room with characteristic decor, including a woven cotton hammock — a staple for the Maya.
Exploring the beautiful property, I uncovered vestiges from the past: an abandoned railroad track, ancient coaches, mining carts, gracefully crumbling walls and a long-silent smoke stack.
My evening meal took place in the enchanting restaurant overlooking the main gardens, large swimming pool and former factory buildings, and a menu blending regional and international dishes. The “Romantic Dinner” for two, served in a special garden hideaway surrounded by soft candles, is a must for couples.
A highlight of my visit was meeting Habanero, the gentle resident donkey, who took me on a short ride in a mining cart to the underground cenote where I got to swim. Next I headed to the spa where I surrendered to a soothing massage inside a well-illuminated cave housing another cenote.
Hands-on cooking classes, spiritual cleansing by the resident Maya shaman and tours to nearby tourist sites were added adventures.
No matter which hacienda clients choose, it will mean a unique experience worthy of bragging rights back home.