The historic inland area of the Yucatan Peninsula has traditionally
been explored via day trips from Mexican Caribbean beach resorts,
but a budding lineup of former haciendas-turned-luxury inns is
drawing discriminating travelers to the region for multiday stays.
The exclusive properties were extravagant estates and
plantations from the 17th to the 19th centuries, when the region
was booming with the production of agricultural products, namely
henequen, a natural fiber that fell out of favor with the advent of
synthetic material. The wealthy properties were eventually
abandoned and left in disrepair until the 1990s, when a move took
shape to revive the heritage of the region by restoring the
haciendas to their original splendor, taking special care to
maintain the unique character of each estate.
Over the past few years, a handful of boutique jewels housed in
the immaculately preserved and renovated properties have surfaced.
As a stand-alone getaway or a multiday add-on to a Mexican
Caribbean vacation, the haciendas allow visitors to immerse
themselves in a centuries-old ambience while enjoying the many
lures of the region.
Located in the area surrounding the Colonial City of Merida, the
haciendas provide an ideal base for exploring the wealth of Mayan
archaeological sites such as Chichen-Itza, Uxmal and Kabah, and
historic villages filled with colonial churches and monasteries.
Natural wonders also dot the landscape, including cenotes
(underground caverns with natural wells) and Celestun, a nature
reserve filled with hundreds of pink flamingos.
The haciendas can arrange tours of the region, or clients can
rent cars and explore on their own.
Three of the Yucatan Peninsula’s restored haciendas are now
operated under Starwood Hotels and Resorts’ Luxury Collection:
Hacienda San Jose, Hacienda Santa Rosa and Hacienda Temozon.
Located 32 miles east of Merida near Chichen-Itza, Hacienda San
Jose is an 18th century architectural gem. Historians,
archaeologists and architects were involved in the restoration of
the property, which paid special attention to utilizing original
materials and techniques.
The property’s 15 guest units surround a central courtyard and
encompass 11 deluxe rooms and four Mayan-themed villas, each
featuring handcrafted wooden furnishings, tile floors, high
ceilings and terraces, while many of the units open onto lush
gardens and private plunge pools.
Hacienda San Jose’s original chapel, which also was restored, is
adorned with historic murals. The chapel is available for weddings,
including Mayan-style ceremonies with traditional dress. Also
available are a pool, a gym and a restaurant that serves gourmet
Hacienda Temozon is the largest of the Starwood Luxury
Collection haciendas in the Yucatan, but the 17th-century property
still exudes an intimate atmosphere. Set on 1,300 acres 24 miles
south of Merida, the hacienda’s original quarters are now a
masterwork of restoration and renovation, offering 26 guest rooms
and suites detailed with period furnishings, high-beamed ceilings
and luxury linens.
Many of the units also have private outdoor plunge pools. The
renovation of the property added several modern-day amenities,
including a restaurant serving Southeastern Mexican specialties, a
spa, a gym, swimming pools, tennis courts and a jogging track. The
extensive grounds are also crisscrossed with numerous hiking and
Hacienda Santa Rosa, located 35 miles southwest of Merida, was
built in the 18th century and grew to become one of the world’s
main suppliers of henequen. Nowadays, the luxury inn is an exotic
retreat in the jungle featuring 10 guest rooms and suites and one
Each unit was designed to reflect the aristocratic lifestyle of
the hacienda’s heyday, with such appointments as antique furniture
and bronze beds with hand-embroidered linens. All of the units have
terraces that lead to manicured gardens. Some of the suites share a
swimming pool, and the Mayan-themed villa is a free-standing unit
with a private plunge pool. The property’s restaurant specializes
in Yucatecan cuisine.
Starwood’s Luxury Collection offers a Hacienda Hopping package
that makes it easy for clients to experience the inland Yucatan
Peninsula by staying at one or more of the unique properties.
The program, available for three, five or seven nights, includes
accommodations at the haciendas of choice, roundtrip transfers from
Merida Airport, a welcome drink and a fruit basket, breakfast
daily, one dinner and one lunch. Through Dec. 19, rates start at
$957 per room, double, for three nights.
Call 800-325-3589. Web site: www.luxurycollection.com.
Other restored estates in the Yucatan include Hacienda Katanchel
and Hacienda Xcanatun.
Set amid 740 acres of tropical jungle and Mayan ruins 15 miles
east of Merida, Hacienda Katanchel was a 17th-century estate and
plantation. The property offers a main hacienda complex and 33
bungalow-style units, which originally served as housing for the
workers. A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the property
is a standout for its luxury accommodations, which consist of 39
suites featuring colonial antiques, gardens and terraces with
hammocks, as well as for its regional Yucatecan and continental
cuisine, much of which incorporates organic produce from the
The property has a spa offering a variety of facials and body
treatments. Excursions include tours of the expansive hacienda
grounds, as well as trips to major archaeological sites and
historic villages in the countryside. Through April 30, 2003,
nightly room rates start at $275.
Web site: www.hacienda-katanchel.com.
Hacienda Xcanatun, located eight miles north of Merida, is an
oasis of tropical gardens, ponds and fountains and an architectural
showpiece that was painstakingly restored to its original
18th-century grandeur by master wood and stone craftsmen.
Outstanding features of the hacienda’s 18 guest rooms and suites
include period furnishings and private verandas surrounded by
blossoming gardens, in addition to hand-carved stone tubs in some
of the units.
The property also has two swimming pools, spa services and Casa
de Piedra, a well-known gourmet restaurant that blends European,
Yucatecan and Caribbean cuisine to create interesting nouvelle
Golf, horseback riding and tennis are some of the activities
The hacienda is a member of Mexico Boutique Hotels, a Puerto
Vallarta-based company representing small luxury retreats
Through April 30, 2003, nightly rates start at $215 per room,
single or double.
Call 877-278-8018 from the United States, and 866-818-8342 from
Web site: www.mexicoboutiquehotels.com.