Orange petals are falling as we enter the gates to Hacienda Petac, a restored 17th-century estate in Mexico’s Yucatán province. This surely has to be one of the most stunning driveways that I have ever seen, the gravel path bordered by bright orange Flamboyán trees on both sides.
Hacienda Petac is one of many haciendas surrounding the city Mérida, once one of the richest cities in the world. The source of all this wealth was ‘Green Gold’, henequen fiber from the agave plant that was harvested to make rope. Large haciendas were built on the outskirts of town to produce and manufacture henequen (also known as sisal) and many remain today, although many are in varying states of disrepair. Over the past few years, however, artists, designers and overseas buyers, have been snapping up these sprawling old haciendas and transforming them into luxury retreats. One such example is Hacienda Petac.
Located roughly 45 minutes from Mérida town centre, this hacienda is one of the oldest in the area. It was bought in 2000 by American couple who spent the next three-and-a-half-years transforming it into a sophisticated home available to rent in its entirety, making it the perfect place to come for a friends’ reunion or a family gathering.
I was fortunate enough to spend a weekend here recently with five blogging friends and together we experienced all that this beautifully-restored property has to offer.
The History of Hacienda Petac
Like many haciendas in the region, Hacienda Petac was built on the site of an old Mayan ruin (the Mayans always built where there was water and the conquistadores simply followed suit). It started life as a sugar factory before shifting to henequen production, which it continued until the mid 1970s. Today, much of the hacienda’s past remains visible; the swimming pool was created from the well that once irrigated the grounds, the 60-foot factory chimney is a water feature and the bar area was the original pay station for the hacienda.
You’ll also see oversized cast iron bolts acting as door stops, old machine cogs hanging along one wall in the games room and the odd metal wheel propped up in a corner. Wooden hooks line the walls of the casa principal, that dates back to the 1600s and which once served as the main building for the working hacienda. The building was constructed to be the perfect width for hammocks and workers would string them up from these hooks after a hard day’s work. Although given that the hammocks were made from sisal, I can’t imagine they were terribly comfortable!
My personal favourite is the graffiti in the games room. After production was stopped, the hacienda lay abandoned and uninvited guests to the property left drawings and scribbles on the wall of the old factory. Rather than paint over them, the architect responsible for the renovation framed them as if works of modern art.
The restoration is impressive, particularly once you seen the photos of what it used to look like. A photo album sits in the living room and provides a fascinating insight into the mammoth renovation task.
Hacienda Petac Today
Today, Hacienda Petac is an award-winning estate and one of the most luxurious haciendas in the area. There are seven bedrooms, divided among three buildings, that can sleep 14 people (15 maximum).
At the heart of the property is the casa principal that houses the common rooms, the kitchen and bar, the indoor dining room, a small chapel and the outdoor patio where most meals are served. A lovely swimming pool sits nearby, flanked on one side by sun loungers and hammocks. The steps leading into the pool once acted as a measure of water for the hacienda.
Three bedrooms, including the one that I stayed in, the Chu Jun bedroom, can be found in the Casa de Maquinas, the old factory. Rooms here are huge with lofty ceilings and generous bathrooms.
A further two bedrooms are located in the Casa del Mayordomo, which was the original quarters for the henequen factory manager. Casa Ramon, is a new build with a fabulous terrace and two bedrooms separated by a large living area. This is a great option in particular for families.
In addition to wonderful accommodation, the hacienda boasts beautiful gardens home to myriad birds (Petac is a popular destination for birding groups). This means that your entire stay is accompanied by birdsong.
Drinking & Dining
To say that we ate well during our three-day stay at Hacienda Petac would be an enormous understatement. The food here is, quite simply, divine. All meals are freshly-prepared and showcase the best of Yucatecan cuisine. During our stay we feasted on delicious soups including sopa de tortilla and caldo tlalpeño, as well as traditional dishes of poc chuc (a tasty grilled pork dish) and pollo pibil (chicken that has been cooked in the ground). Breakfasts saw fresh fruit, banana bread, generous helpings of chilaquiles and even a mint omelet.
Every room comes with a small, cross-stitch sign saying ‘Café Please’, to hang on your door when you’re ready for your morning coffee.
What’s more, the table is decorated with flowers at every meal. Petals, leaves and flowers are positioned on napkins and along the table runner in a series of pretty designs. You’ll find similar flower art in your bedroom and bathroom when you arrive at Hacienda Petac.
Activities at Hacienda Petac
Hacienda Petac offers guests a number of activities, which we got to try out. On our first morning we enjoyed a cooking lesson. Hacienda Petac often hosts cooking groups and so they boast a professional kitchen.
We were instructed in the art of making flan and then taught how to make panuchos. Legend had it that this traditional local dish was started by Don Chucho (Mr Chucho) who would sell these roadside snacks to hungry travellers. Panuchos consist of tortillas stuffed with frijoles (refried beans) and then fried. Once crispy, the tortillas are topped with lettuce, cucumber, cabbage, onion that has been marinated in sour orange, and shredded chicken. They are delicious!
Even more enjoyable than the panuchos was the lesson itself, given by two lovely (and very patient!) members of Hacienda Petac’s staff. On a separate evening they also taught us how to make cocktails.
Hacienda Petac boasts an excellent spa that offers a wide range of treatment. Having enjoyed a Gold Orchid facial, I am happy to report that their services are top notch!
Probably my favourite activity during our time Hacienda Petac, however, was our evening with the Trova musicians. We spent our final night in Merida being serenaded by Los Tres Yucatecos, a trio of incredibly talented musicians who have been playing together for some 25 years. Take a look at the video above and you’ll see just how good they were! All guests staying at Hacienda Petac will get to enjoy a performance.
If you can tear yourself away from Hacienda Petac then the Yucatán region is a wonderful place to explore. During our time here, we took a fantastic tour with Lawson’s Original Yucatan Excursions and visited the ancient Mayan site of Uxmal and swam in a cenote. I have a separate post on this coming up soon.
Activities for Kids at Hacienda Petac
Hacienda Petac is a wonderful place for families. There’s the swimming pool, the garden and incredibly friendly staff. But there are also some dedicated activities just for kids.
These include piñata making (and piñata bashing!) as well as a Junior Archaeologist Hunt. During this scavenger hunt, children are encouraged to discover an ‘old map’ and then follow its clues in order to find an ancient Mayan shard.
Depending on the age of children, they can take part in simple cooking classes and learn to make tortillas, simple sauces or, icy popsicles using local fresh fruits.
Evenings roasting marshmallows in the old stone oven that sits outside, can also be organised and the Games Room houses a dozen or more board games to play plus a snooker table that transforms into a ping pong table.
Hacienda Petac Highlights – What you need to know
- The staff are fantastic. Guided by the lovely manager Colleen, the team at Hacienda Petac are second-to-none.
- Hacienda Petac offers a daily laundry service (included in the price) – you can pack light!
- Your (alcoholic) drink requests are customised prior to your arrival – just let them know what your favourite tipple is.
- The Hacienda is popular with birding groups, cooking tours, friends and family.
- There’s a small chapel on site, painted a beautiful Mayan blue, and weddings are occasionally held here.
- The Hacienda sleeps 14, maximum 15, people.
Weekly Rental Includes:
- Exclusive Use of Hacienda for Your Guests Only
- All Hacienda Meals and Non-Alcoholic Beverages
- A Full Service Staff, with On-Site Manager/Concierge
- Full use of private spa and gym
- One Round-Trip Merida Airport Ground Transfer
- One Merida City Tour
- One Evening of Music with Los Tres Yucatecos
- One Cooking Lesson from Menu
- 3% Government Tax
- Daily Laundry/Nightly Turn Down
- Shower and Bath Amenities
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For more information on Family Travel in Mexico see our Family Guide to Travelling in Mexico with Kids.
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Disclosure: We were generously hosted by Hacienda Petac as part of #WalkingonWeekends organised by Walking on Travels. All opinions are, as always, entirely my own.