Close to Mérida and the Yucatan Peninsula’s Caribbean coast, Hacienda Santa Rosa is a Mexico boutique hotel vibrantly painted in brick red and cobalt blue. Looking out through the arches of the colonnaded terrace where dinner is served, you can see wide green lawns, the enormous botanic gardens that supply its kitchen with fruit and vegetables, and the distinctive Yucatan jungle beyond, home to hundreds of tropical bird species.
Noon, but flexible depending on occupancy and subject to a $40 charge.
Double rooms from £360.19 ($470), including tax at 19 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional service charge of 5% per room per night on check-out.
Rates exclude breakfast.
Ask for a tour of Santa Rosa’s botanical gardens. Spread over 9,200 square metres, the gardens contain a vast assortment of plants used in cooking and medicinal remedies, as well as some rare species.
At the hotel
Spa treatments, (temperamental) WiFi in the main building. In rooms: TV, CD player, open fireplace, minibar. DVD players are available for a fee.
Our favourite rooms
We liked the seclusion and spaciousness of the Mayan Villa, as well as the hanging bed, suspended from the ceiling by thick ropes, which gently sways you to sleep. The large terrace is great for lingering breakfasts before a dip in the private plunge pool. Two of the Junior Suites in the main building share an ample private garden and swimming pool with the Deluxe Suite, the hacienda’s largest, which has a living room too. All rooms are decorated in colonial style, with attractive red and cream tile and cotton hammocks enticingly slung across the corner.
As well as a shallow wading pool stretching across the lawn, Santa Rosa has a deeper pool that reaches underneath part of the main hacienda, allowing you to swim through the arches of the smoky red building into the shady caves beneath.
A mask and snorkel are essential gear if you plan on exploring the cenotes (underground rivers) at nearby Chochola; otherwise, insect repellent and a good book will help you while away lazy days by the pool.
Up to two under-12s can stay free in their parents’ room – cots and extra beds are available free; babysitting can be provided with 24 hours’ notice. The extra guest charge for children over 12 or adults is $50.
Hacienda Santa Rosa uses waste water to irrigate its gardens, grows its own fruit and vegetables and its owners are behind the World Haciendas Foundation, which supports henequen rope-making communities in the Mexican southeast.
On the front terrace, overlooking the town’s ancient church. Breakfast by the pool beside the botanic gardens.
Linens for lounging, dresses for dining.
Although the restaurant has a grand room indoors for cooler nights, most dining is done on the terrace outside. Gilded black lanterns hang from the beams, illuminating a row of round tables, where guests enjoy mixed Mexican and European cuisine.
Although there’s no bar as such, you’re free to enjoy a drink anywhere in the hacienda’s grounds.
Santa Rosa’s kitchen is open until 10.30pm.
Restaurant meals can be enjoyed in your room from 7am–10.30pm.
Manuel Crescencio Rejón in Mérida is the nearest airport, located 45 minutes from the hotel. It offers limited flights to the US with United Airlines (www.united.com), as well as domestic flights to Mexico City with Mexicana (www.mexicana.com), where onward connections will be available to cities throughout the US and Europe.
A car is essential for exploring the Yucután Peninsula – there are rental desks at the airport. The hacienda is 6km from Highway 180, which runs south from Mérida, and is accessible via a road which turns off the highway between the towns of Kopoma and Maxcanu. Free parking is available at the hotel.
It is December in the Yucatan and the roads are lined with energetic young Mexicans riding brightly decorated bicycles as part of the annual procesón in honour of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Meanwhile, at a safe distance from such admirable yet exhausting exertions, I’m lying prostrate under an orange tree enjoying a traditional Mayan massage.
We’ve been at the Hacienda Santa Rosa for less than half an hour, but already the staff have had their wicked way with me and I’m feeling incredibly relaxed. Our car keys having been confiscated on arrival and the vehicle whisked away to some secret parking spot, we were then treated to cooling fresh lemonade and ice-cold hand towels.
Once inside our suite, I try and work out whether I have shrunk in size or if giants once occupied the hacienda. The ceilings seem to be above cloud level while the wooden windows and doors are at least 10-feet high. Sinking into the middle of the king-size iron bed, I stretch each arm out but my hands aren’t even close to the edge of the mattress. Looking around I see a fuchsia frenzy of bougainvillea petals adorning every surface, and the whiter-than-white linen and super fluffy towels are emanating a floral scent that I can’t identify but am instantly and wildly addicted to.
After a breakfast of poached eggs and chia (Mexican spinach boasting six times more iron than its feeble European cousin) it is time to investigate the Hacienda’s grounds. Much to Mr Smith’s consternation, I instigate an expedition into the botanical gardens, a wonderland of tropical plants irrigated using an ancient watering system introduced by the Spanish. My appetite for flora and fauna is not disappointed when we find passion fruit growing alongside papaya, aloe vera, tamarind, lemons and coriander. Unfortunately Mr Smith doesn’t share my green-fingered pretensions, so once he starts dragging his feet we move on to the local women’s workshops.
Minutes later, I am laden with silver jewellery, hammocks and various kitchen receptacles woven from sisal. Even in a remote Yucatan village my talent for shopping is not wasted. These women keeping traditional Mexican handicrafts alive and expressing their creativity is wonderfully inspiring to my jaded consumer-driven soul.
Navigating our way back to the hacienda, Mr Smith is momentarily traumatised as we walk past a gaggle of turkeys, terrifyingly ugly with blue heads and scarlet snoods (yes, that is the name of the red thing under a turkey’s chin, not just that 80s' scarf-type accessory). Mr Smith blames an unfortunate childhood incident when he was chased by one of these beasts. I placate him by agreeing to a road trip in the afternoon to find out what the surrounding area has to offer.
Exacting revenge on a morning filled with flowers and feminine handicrafts, Mr Smith takes me to the altogether more testosterone-fuelled Oxkintok Mayan ruins (where he admires the devil’s temple) and the Calcehtok caves (which I insist we experience from the entrance due to my inappropriate cave-exploring attire of skirt and flip-flops). As darkness falls I am more than glad to return to the hacienda, which I had secretly never wanted to leave in the first place.
We scrub up for dinner, choose a table on the hacienda terrace and tuck into the best the kitchen has to offer. For me, this is prawns wrapped in bacon with mango sauce and couscous, Mr Smith, meanwhile, tackles the grouper fish with fresh local pumpkin. We sample the delicious fresh ingredients grown in the hacienda’s gardens, served with warm home-baked rolls and red wine butter. Once we’ve had our fill we go for a walk around the terrace, where bats are feasting on the fruit trees surrounding the pool and crickets compete to create a deafening crescendo.
I pop my head around the kitchen door on our way back to the suite and ask for an ice bucket. We have a bottle of bubbly chilling in the fridge and there’s the small matter of the plunge pool in the suite’s private garden to be addressed. Mr Smith dons one of the hacienda’s oversized white robes and matching slippers to pad around the pool and turn on the hot water. I stifle a giggle as he looks like a rap video contender, minus the gold chains and cigar. As we sip our drinks, steam rising from the pool towards the full moon glimpsed through giant banana plants, we take in the moment, candles flickering around the rim of the pool, casting long shadows into the night.
A minor disaster is averted at breakfast before we leave. Reaching greedily for the pots of homemade mango, papaya and strawberry marmalade (which I'd have smuggled home if Mr Smith hadn’t stopped me), I manage to knock over the sugar bowl. Covering my misdemeanour with a napkin, but it’s too late, the waiter has seen and rushes over to clear up. 'You are lucky,' he tells me, 'If that was salt it would have meant you were destined for a disastrous day.' I’m thinking, 'Damn, I wish it had been salt – then I’d have had a legitimate reason for refusing to get in the car to leave.'
For days after returning home from Santa Rosa, I am still repeatedly informing Mr Smith that I miss the hacienda. I long for those magical, invisible hands lighting candles, sprinkling flower petals, placing slippers by the bed and readying my favourite table for dinner. Mr Smith, a man of few words, concedes that it was good to get away. He even has a misty look in his eyes.