Three years ago, tired of the frenetic pace in New York City, my husband and I bought a home in Mexico. Our new home was a dilapidated colonial house that we planned to renovate in the historic center of Mérida, the Yucatan capital. Both of our lives reached a point where adventure felt exciting, and our jobs allowed us to work remotely. In addition to creating our dream home, we were hoping to travel around the country, heading anywhere from Calcomul in the south to Quattrocinegas in the north.
Instead, we found some of the most interesting destinations in our backyard. Travelers from all over the world are drawn to the sprawling resorts in nearby Cancun and the Riviera Maya in Quintana Roo. But in neighboring Yucatan, we’ve come across smaller, more exclusive properties that are eager projects for individual investors, many of whom are inspired by the local culture.
One of the first escape attempts was to the Sisal, just over an hour’s drive northwest of Mérida, on the Gulf of Mexico. It was an important port in the 19th century, but as ships got too big to dock there, the once-occupied transportation hub slipped into a quieter existence. Sisal was recently named “Pueblo Mágico”, an official designation for the towns that have preserved their heritage and traditions and, thanks to a recently reconstructed highway, are ready to welcome newcomers.
We registered access to Club de Patos (clubdepatos.mx; doubles from $360), east of the city. The property was once a private duck hunting club, and was converted into a nine-room hotel last year. There is a tropical sense of modernity in the rooms and private balconies. A new bar, created by Merida artist and designer Gabriel Peón, makes the most of local produce. The light pink restaurant floor is covered with a blanket macaroni (Cement paste) Tiles are often found in Yucatecan homes. A dramatic wall of breeze block dominates the side of the building facing the terrace, pool and sea.
The quiet and intimate scene tends to attract couples, who get busy with quiet activities such as hiking in the mangroves in search of wild flamingos. The restaurant serves mostly Mexican dishes for breakfast and lunch and Italian cuisine at night. The hotel’s owners intend to keep things small, with only the current nine guest rooms. Other plans are underway to reach out to the community, including converting a nearby abandoned shrimp farm into an arts and culinary space.
On the other side of the state, we spotted El Cuyo, an under-the-radar beach town that has long been a favorite of kitesurfing due to its steady winds. Casa Mate 10 rooms (fb.com/casamatecuyo; doubles from $75), which opened in 2021, has a style that is best described as boho-chic – with an emphasis on boho. Dropping in the luxe additions of a luxury resort, it instead amplifies the hotel’s funky beach vibe with thatched roofs and antique décor.
The colonial town of Espeta intrigued me when I heard that a stylish modern hotel was opened there in 2020. Espeta is probably best known for its honeymoon and the Christmas fair, when there’s dancing in the streets. Casona Los Cedros (casonaloscedros.com; doubles from $174) It’s convinced day-travelers to stay longer – it’s also a great base from which to explore nearby Mayan sites like Ek Balam and Chichén Itzá.
Staying at Casona has become a frequent weekend getaway for us. The eight-room hotel is built in a meticulously restored 19th-century house by French architect Laura Lecué. lined floors macaroni Tiles and walls using traditional waterproofing technology. Behind the historic building is a swimming pool surrounded by a tropical garden. Every time we go out to this patio, it is the feeling of entering an oasis under a green canopy. The hustle and bustle of the market and town square seem thousands of miles away. Lecué told me that the most rewarding part of the Casona project was working with local craftsmen, carpenters, gardeners and craftsmen to build the property.
Merida has also seen a wave of luxury hotel openings. In the heart of the city, the eight-room Deco Downtown (decuhotels.com; doubles from $187) It is the latest of five Decu Hotels locations. When recently renovated, some rooms were decorated in colonial motifs with antiques. Others were influenced by the Mayan design with walls Chocum Old form of plaster.
Across town in the greener and quieter García Ginerés neighborhood, another hotel is drawing attention for its modern aesthetics. I already knew the name of the artist and designer Claudia Fernandez from her Mexico City store before I visited Casa Book. (casapuuc.com; doubles from $290). The six rooms are decorated in mid-century modern décor, with antique pieces by Mexican and international designers. “I love Merida,” Fernandez told me. “There is calm and peace here, and in Yucatan in general.” “I started looking for a tiny house for myself, and then a friend showed me this 1914 building, which was perfect for a small hotel.”
As we walked in the courtyard, we noticed the sounds of birds loud in the centuries-old mango, mamey, and cedar trees. They regularly stop their migrations. I suppose humans are not the only ones interested in an interesting editorial.
Sometimes I feel like every week I hear about a new project looming, from a four-room inn near Merida’s historic center to a restored farmhouse outside the colonial town of Izmal. Our travels around this small state are just beginning.