Hotel Spotlight

Try Out Chill City Life in the Yucatán

by Jeralyn Gerba
All photos courtesy of Hacienda Xcanatun by Angsana.

Hacienda Xcanatun by Angsana
Mérida, Mexico
Timeless, $$

Travelers well aware of the Yucatán Peninsula's coastal allure (see: Cancun, Tulum, Playa del Carmen) don't necessarily take the time to explore inland. But the Mexican city of Mérida — with its colorful buildings and overgrown courtyard gardens — is charmingly low-key, historic, and bohemian. The atmosphere is one of faded opulence, not unlike Havana, where neglected cobblestone streets lead to freshly painted villas, and life reveals itself in little pockets: couples salsa dancing in the park, young people clinking sundown cervezas on a side street, shopkeepers tending to storefronts overflowing with piñatas or flip flops or bunches of dried chilies. On the outskirts of town, what remains from the sisal barons of the 18th-century are enormous haciendas, many of which have been given new life as private homes or inns, like the iconic Hacienda Xcanatun by Angsana. The large estate, rebuilt after serious hurricane damage in the 1980s, is now an 18-suite boutique hotel on four acres of lush gardens.

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At a Glance

The Vibe: Stylish Mexican vacationer meets artsy expat for a tequila.

Standout Detail: Four acres of tropical flowers, fringe-y fronds, and green lawn which also serves as a preserve for the herons, iguanas, and coatimundis who call it home.

This Place Is Perfect For: Travelers looking to add substance to their beach resort plans; creatives jonesing for a dose of color and urban charm.

Special Covid-19 Protocols: Rigorous cleaning, distancing in public areas, contactless service where possible.

Rooms: There are 18 suites with terraces, verandas, plunge pools, high ceilings, exposed beams, and handmade furniture for an overall spacious and grand feeling.

On Site: Elegant pool, garden, and restaurant. As part of the Banyan Tree hotel group, the hacienda's spa incorporates eastern practices into its treatments. The hotel is also part of Comisaria Meridana de Xcanatun, which provides rigorous standards of sustainability, social responsibility, inclusion, and community collaboration.

Food + Drink: The Casa de Piedra restaurant is surrounded by the gardens and serves Yucatecan specialties developed with French cooking techniques.

What to Do Nearby

A cosmopolitan town, Mérida gives off an in-the-know energy you find in destinations like Marfa, Texas, or San Miguel de Allende. Galleries, shops, restaurants, cafes, and churches abound. There are evening markets and specialty street food stalls, places to dance, and lots of people-watching in the plaza. You can reach the main square by strolling Paseo Montejo, a big, beautiful boulevard of mansions.

Take a day trip to the ancient Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá, making a stop in the colorful city of Valladolid for a Yucatecan meal. Swim in as many cenotes as you can find. These enormous limestone sinkholes look like underwater lakes and offer mesmerizing views. Explore the archaeological zone of Dzibilchaltún and head to the beaches of Puerto Progreso (a 20-minute ride away).

Feel like a local when you join cyclists, skateboarders, strollers, and joyriders on La Bici Ruta — it's your chance to explore the streets of Mérida without any car traffic. Mérida has been getting creative with its climate change initiatives and has been recognized internationally for its Green Infrastructure Plan. Travelers can give their time, money, and energy to the non-profit Mérida Verde, a completely volunteer-run organization promoting greater sustainability in all aspects of life in Mérida.

Endeavor to understand the cultural context of the land on which you are enjoying your margaritas by visiting the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, a striking cylindrical building (inspired by the ceiba tree) housing indigenous cultural artifacts and contemporary Mayan art work.

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