A master suite at Hacienda Xcanatun //
© 2010 Hacienda Xcanatun
One of my favorite Mexican cities is the Yucatan capital, Merida. Most visitors use the city as a base for excursions to Chichen Itza, which is about a 1½-hour drive away. But after clients have seen the ancient site and spent several ambling afternoons exploring Merida’s colorful streets and markets, they’ll probably be ready for a change of pace. A stay at nearby Hacienda Xcanatun, a boutique hotel that is located about 20 minutes from the historic center of Merida, provides weary travelers with an intimate retreat as well as a variety of eco-excursions and day tours. The hacienda has 18 suites and superior rooms, with coral stone and marble mosaic floors, hand-carved furnishings, antiques, marble-wrapped bathrooms and private patios slung with hammocks. In its previous incarnation, Hacienda Xcanatun was a sisal plantation.
Features at the hacienda include two freshwater swimming pools set deep into its gardens; a spa using holistic Maya and beauty/wellness treatments; and a gourmet restaurant, Casa de Piedra (Stone House), specializing in fusion Yucatecan cuisine.
Hacienda Xcanatun’s owner, Jorge Ruz, is a native of the Yucatan and the son of one of Mexico’s most famous archaeologists. He and his American-born wife, Cristina Baker, utilized their insiders’ knowledge to design a series of exclusive, off-the-beaten-path day trips led by an expert guide.
Full-day, guided excursions start at $180 for one to three passengers in an air-conditioned sedan. Choices include treks to eco-biospheres for birdwatching by foot or kayak; snorkeling and swimming in freshwater cenotes; or convent tours to observe ornate wood carvings and frescoes in Franciscan Churches and convents in Maya villages.
The resort also offers shorter expeditions, such as culinary adventuring, in which guests visit several women ranchers who have recently started raising red deer and black criollo pigs — gastronomic favorites of the ancient Maya. Guests also get the chance to visit Cholul, where a local agronomist invites travelers to see her restored gardens that are planted with fruits and vegetables once thought to be extinct. They are then invited into her kitchen to prepare a Yucatecan lunch and depart with a book of her favorite recipes as a parting gift. The tour is priced from $95 per person.
Those who reserve a three-night minimum stay at Hacienda Xcanatun receive Hacienda’s Jackpot Package, which includes a free fourth night; daily breakfast for two; a massage, a manicure or pedicure; and a three-course dinner in Xcanatun’s restaurant, Casa de Piedra. Priced from $625 per person, based on double occupancy, the package is available year-round, excluding Christmas and New Year’s holidays, through Dec. 15, 2011.