Had Willy Wonka ever set up a hotel in Yucatán, and developed side interests in perfume and tequila, the result might have looked a little like Rosas & Xocolate: a Mayan-inspired mansion with a chocolate shop, mini perfumery and tequila bar.
2pm, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, noon.
Double rooms from £252.99 ($327), including tax at 19 per cent.
Rates usually include an American breakfast.
Architect Salvador Reyes Rios is behind Rosas & Xocolate’s historic good looks. There’s an artful muddle of old and new: floors covered in original tiling mingle with French doors, suspended staircases and state-of-the-art mod cons such as Bose sound systems. Ceilings soar 20-feet high, natural light streams through the double-glazed windows and antique columns showcase the building’s pedigree.
At the hotel
Chocolate shop, gym, library and free WiFi throughout. In rooms: air-conditioning, a hammock, flatscreen TV, Bose sound system with CD and DVD player, iPod dock, minibar with espresso machine, L’Occitane bath products and locally made rose-and-chocolate soap.
Our favourite rooms
Walls have been finished with a Mayan technique using a mixture of the chukum tree resin and plaster, resulting in a sleek, warm-hued surface. We loved Rooms 3 and 12, both high-ceilinged Deluxe Suites. Room 6 is right next to the Moon Lounge, so pass on this one if you’re seeking quiet nights. Every room has its own outdoor tub fit for two on an interior terrace.
Edged by palm trees and set in the interior courtyard, the pool is designed with cooling dips in mind, rather than sporty laps.
Bring your sweet tooth: the hotel’s chocolatier, Mathieu Brees, creates gourmet Belgian and Mexican chocolate confections. Be sure to bring your bikini/beach shorts for trips to surrounding cenotes or a dip in the Gulf of Mexico.
Smokers can light up in the restaurant, bar and on the suites’ terraces. Try one of the hotel’s xocolatherapy treatments, which feature locally produced pure cocoa paste in facials and massages.
Although the hotel is more geared towards adults, babysitting can be arranged for US$10 an hour (give 24 hours’ notice), and little ones are allowed in the restaurant.
Grab a seat at a table facing the creeping-ivy-covered walls of the interior courtyard. For a private dinner à deux outside, go for a table tucked behind the spiral staircase that leads to the Moon Lounge.
For Mrs Smith: a vibrant Erdem dress to stand-out against the pink; Mr Smith will be dapper in a white linen suit.
Chef David Segovia, fresh from Mexico City, riffs on traditional Yucatecan classics, incorporating locally sourced ingredients in each dish at Rosas & Xocolate restaurant. Start the day with huevos motuleños: fried tortilla topped with eggs, beans, lashings of tasty tomato sauce and sprinklings of cheese. At dinner, order the moreish chicharron de pulpo (fried octopus bites). Be sure to order from the 'signature dish' menu, too.
Flanked by antique columns preserved from the original construction, the tequila bar, adjacent to the lobby, serves more than 250 different variations of the potent spirit, plus equally brain-numbing mescal. Sip your chosen poison in one of the squashy leather lounge chairs – after a tequila or two, getting up will be difficult. Thick braids of henequen, fibers from the agave plant, are suspended in the lobby above the bar. Upstairs, the rooftop Moon Lounge has beautiful mosaic tables, hot-pink chairs, jazzy lounge music and a relaxed atmosphere. On Fridays, the busiest night, catch the live jazz band.
Breakfast is from 7.30am, lunch is available from noon to 8pm and dinner is served from 8pm to midnight. Cocktails are shaken until 2am in the Moon Lounge and the tequila bar.
Order from the restaurant's menu from 7.30am until midnight.
Rosas & Xocolate is located along Avenue Paseo de Montejo near the intersection of Calle 41 in Merída.
Manuel Crescencio Rejón is 20 minutes away and offers limited flights to the US with United Airlines (www.united.com), as well as domestic flights with Aeromexico (www.aeromexico.com) or Mexicana (www.mexicana.com) to Mexico City. From there you can fly to cities throughout the US and Europe.
You’ll want a car for trips to the ruins and surrounding towns such as Valladolid. Rent your wheels at the airport. Parking is free at the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
Sample vintage nectars in Rosas & Xocolate’s wine-tasting room. Take advantage of the fact that you’re surrounded by art and culture on Avenue Paseo de Montejo and strike out a tour of the some of the city’s most beautiful buildings, just steps away. Stop by Mérida's Museum of Anthropology, housed in a gorgeous Baroque-style building, to see pre-Columbian artefacts. Visits are free to the Mérida City Museum on Calle 56, and the building itself is a piece of history (+52 999 923 6869). Study the stars at the Mérida Planetarium located in the Olimpo Cultural Center in downtown, open Tuesday to Sunday. The famous archaeological site Chichén Itzá is worth the two-hour drive. Craving a day by the sea? Head to Progresso beach, just 25 minutes outside of Mérida.
Start the day with a trip to Wayan’e in Itzimna on Calle 4 for authentic tacos. Once they’ve sold out, that’s it for the day – they close at 2pm during the week (+52 999 938 0676). Since opening in 1972, Los Almendros has been a local favourite serving traditional Yucatecan meals. Next door, Gran Almendros offers the same menu in a less casual setting (+52 999 923 8135). Watch your meal come together in the open-plan kitchen at Nectar on Avenue 1 in Col Diaz Ordaz. Attentive service, Continental cuisine and the party-centric atmosphere keep people coming back for more (+52 999 938 0838). Buy a shirt, sip a margarita and try tasty tacos at family-run Pancho’s on Calle 59 near the Plaza Grande. After dinner on the multi-level patio, take a turn on the dance door (+52 999 923 0942).
Grab breakfast and coffee made from beans roasted in-house at Café la Habana on Calle 59. Looking to get wired? There’s free WiFi, too (+52 999 928 6502).
Located between Avenue Paseo de Montejo and Calle 58A, a short taxi ride from the hotel, Slavia is one of the city’s favourite after-dark hotspots. End your evening on a tufted seat with a puff or two on a hookah in this red-hued restaurant and lounge with Middle Eastern mood (+52 999 926 6587).
Merida, we had been told, is best visited ‘in season’. The months of December and January are when out-of-towners flock to their renovated Mexican haciendas for winter sun and to ring in the new year with dinner and dancing. In recent years this sleepy Mexican town has become the destination for architects, artists and ex-models, all drawn by the faded limestone mansions available at rock-bottom prices.
Our trip, however, is definitely off-season. But given that neither Mr Smith nor I is an architect or an artist, and we’re definitely not ex-models, we figure that the low season will suit us just fine. We land in hot and steamy April, delighted about a weekend away (sans kids) and even more excited about our choice of hotel, reputedly one of Merida’s best. Not long after hailing our airport taxi, we pull up outside Rosas & Xocolate, a glorious vision in Pepto-Bismol pink. Even in a town choc-a-block full of tropical-coloured houses, this hotel can’t fail to stand out.
It only took a few moments of gazing at a run-down mansion on Avenue Paseo de Montejo for owner (and Sean Connery-lookalike) Carol Kolozs to be certain he had found a home (two, actually) for his dream hotel. After Kolozs decided his mother’s name would grace the hotel, it only seemed natural that a colour scheme of bright-pink be chosen for the façade and much of the interior. He contemplated how to infuse the ever-present Mayan influence before settling on xocolate, the sweet treat traded as currency at one time in the Yucatán. The hotel’s namesakes are ever present, thanks to the in-house chocolate shop and fresh-cut roses topping tables.
Created from two 1930s colonial mansions that were knocked together, Rosas & Xocolate is now a luxury 17-bedroom boutique hotel. Inside the design is old meets new with original French doors and antique columns, suspended walkways and loads of pink. Rope sculptures sit artfully in alcoves and passageways and corridors, and at night the barely illuminated hallways up the romance factor – until Mr Smith nearly trips over one of the spooky statues.
Our room is a deluxe king with 20-foot high ceilings, a gloriously downy king-size bed and wooden shuttered windows overlooking, somewhat disappointingly, a side street. Mr Smith laments the absence of a pool view and I look around eagerly for a cacao treat. Any disappointment quickly evaporates, however, once we see the private outdoor bath that’s cavernously deep and more than long enough to fit a tall Mr Smith.
Given the heat, we head to the pool. It’s small, in fact Mr Smith worries for a moment that he’s jumped into a water feature, but there’s no one else around so we commandeer the handful of deckchairs, order a couple of beers and spend the rest of the afternoon doing absolutely nothing. It’s wonderful. That night we dine in the hotel restaurant. We’ve heard great things about this place; executive chef Mario Espinosa has previously worked at some of Mexico City’s finest restaurants including Pujol that’s ranked among the world’s best. Sure enough, it doesn’t disappoint. We share a handful of local starters and then Mr Smith tucks into a fillet of beef cooked to perfection and I choose the black sesame tuna. Both are outstanding and the service is faultless.
After breakfast the following morning, we head into town. Having not stepped foot outside the main doors since our arrival, we hadn’t quite appreciated our location on Paseo de Montejo. This wide Champs-Élysées-inspired avenue is lined with Beaux-Arts mansions including the stunning Palacio Canton now home to the Regional Anthropology Museum. Horse-drawn carriages clip clop up and down the street in the evenings and on Sunday mornings the road is closed to traffic to make way for cyclists.
Narrow cobbled streets pass pastel mansions that date back to the mid-19th century and we follow these through shaded church squares to the heart of the city, the leafy Plaza Grande. We circle Merida’s sombre 16th-century Cathedral of San Ildefonso built using stone from Mayan temples, and stop by Casa Montejo, now a cultural centre and museum. Here, we learn that at the turn of the 20th century Merida was once one of the richest cities in the world thanks to the lucrative export of sisal, rope made from the local agave plant. Suddenly the hotel’s rope sculptures make sense.
Merida’s once-wealthy past is visible in the grand opera houses, Belle Époque architecture and bohemian cafés. We stop by Chaya Maya, a popular local eatery where women in traditional Mayan dress make corn tortillas and families tuck into bowls of lime and tortilla soup. We try the house speciality, Los Tres Mosqueteros (The Three Musketeers), three tortillas filled with shredded turkey, each covered in a different sauce. It’s filling and delicious.
A facial on our final morning beckons from the serene spa specialising in Mexican therapies using 100% pure cocoa products. The smell is heavenly and halfway through I wish I’d opted for a longer treatment. Glowing, and smelling not dissimilar to a Mars bar, I head off to join Mr Smith by the swimming pool. We spend our final few hours here before it’s time to pack up and wave goodbye to our fuchsia-pink palace. I pause at the hotel’s boutique for souvenirs for the sweet toothed. At least with these bars of artisanal chocolate we can take home a little piece of Rosas & Xocolate.