The flowers! A blush of red above, a carpet below of the falling flowers of the flamboyán trees that bloom with not wild but distinguished abandon. They offer just a hint of the spectacular warmth that guests receive when they rent Hacienda Petac in Mexico’s Yucatán.
Hacienda Petac is a vacation destination somewhere between a vacation rental and a five-star resort. Built from the ruins of a former sugar factory, today’s Hacienda Petac is a stunning compound with lush grounds, soaring ceilings, and everything you could possibly need for a relaxing vacation.
Let’s start with the obvious: Hacienda Petac is drop dead gorgeous. The owners purchased the property in 2003 and with the help of architect Salvador Reyes Rios they used the sturdy bones of the factory and elaborate administrative buildings to create a property that is at once historic and modern.
The grounds are lush in this rather notably dry area. Thousands of gallons of water are recycled through the irrigation system to create a diverse landscape of flowers, fruits, vegetables, herbs, and stately trees that shade the property.
The possibilities are legion at Hacienda Petac. They really want to make the experience work for you and your group – a gathering of friends, a family reunion, small wedding, birding group or whatever group of people you can find to make the trip work for you.
When you arrive, you pull through the gate to see a sprawling compound before you, shaded by those welcoming trees. After a welcome drink of iced jamaica – a hibiscus tea – to cool you from the midday heat, you are led to your rooms by the lovely Colleen, who has been managing the property since 2010.
The first thing you’ll notice is the fresh flowers decorating the bed. It’s one of many small touches that indicate the attention and care that the staff give to every guest. Each room is different, but all include elements from the original factory. The soaring ceilings in the rooms and large bathrooms are humbling. The history feels alive, honored, and respected, though the property is completely transformed.
Let me take you through a day at Hacienda Petac:
When you wake up, if you’d like coffee you can hang a (hand-sewn!) sign on your doorknob, and within minutes a smiling staffer will have a cup of coffee for you, and by your second day she will know how you like it and will bring milk and sugar as you wish.
At the appointed breakfast time (which you’ll arrange with Colleen the night before), you’ll go to the breakfast table. The table might be by the pool or in the dining room in the main house, but it will always be set with fancifully folded napkins and an artful array of fresh flowers. Servers come around with fresh juices and more coffee or tea, followed by a traditional Yucatecan breakfast like chilaquiles, chaya (a local spinach-like vegetable) omelet, or a more traditional US breakfast like eggs and bacon, with fresh fruit, granola and yogurt always available.
After breakfast you have some choices:
- Borrow some bikes from the hacienda and explore the neighboring towns. There’s a paved bike path not too far away.
- Relax by the pool. Ah… the pool. The pool is made from the factory’s former water storage tank, where the stairs measured how many days worth of water remained. Today the pool has just the right mixture of shade and sun, and two hammocks where you can either sit with your feet dipping into the pool, or lie in the shade for a good read. Or maybe – probably – a nap.
- Schedule a spa treatment. Margel, one of the local women employed at Hacienda Petac who was trained in massage and facial techniques by a local non-profit, has developed an impressive array of treatments based on traditional Mayan methods. They are offered in the dedicated spa building, where you can have treatments in private spaces either indoors in the air conditioning or outdoors in the fresh air.
- Learn to cook or make a cocktail. Depending on your degrees of expertise and ambition, you might learn to make something as simple as guacamole or as complex as the multi-step local specialty, panuchos – black bean-filled tortillas that are fried and topped with chicken, avocado, marinated onion, and more.
For the kids, the choices are just as inviting:
- Game room. In one of the former factory buildings, there’s a pool table (that can be easily converted to ping pong), card table, all the games you could possibly imagine, a sound system for music. And the modern abstract art on the walls? That’s the graffiti they found when the owners bought the place, framed and looking like Jean-Michel Basquiat masterworks.
- A kid-friendly cooking class – The kitchen staff leads the kids in making fresh fruit popsicles they can eat later in the day.
- Arts and crafts – The kids can make a piñata that they can break open on their last night at the hacienda.
- Explore! Kids can ask for an archaeology map that will take them on a tour of the property that ends with finding a Mayan shard.
There is good, fast wifi coverage throughout the property, though you may jump from one router to another as you move from your room to the pool or the spa.
The owners have very thoughtfully hidden a huge (80 inch!) tv inside a cabinet in one of the buildings so that if you would prefer that your children not know that it’s there, they won’t, but if you really really have to watch the Super Bowl or the World Cup or election returns or Spongebob (I won’t tell), you can.
When I returned to my room on my last night to find my bed again decorated with fresh flowers, I got a little teary. This time I knew the person who picked the flowers and the one who made the design and the one who made the bed and the one who did the laundry and the one who brought me coffee in the morning. I knew something about their stories. I knew all this hospitality is borne from a love of this place, a respect for history, a desire to provide a warm respite for visitors.
Hacienda Petac can be booked only as a rental of the full property, fully staffed. This is a good thing.
Round up your favorite people – the ones you haven’t seen in ages but you want to have hours-long conversations with over poolside cocktails or late night tequila shots or hibiscus tea – and rent the whole place for 4 days or a week.
All your meals will be included, along with airport transfers, a trip to Merida, a cooking lesson in their soaring kitchen, and my favorite: daily laundry service.Drop your dirty clothes into a bin in your bathroom in the morning, and by evening they will be cleaned, dried, folded and back in your room. Magic.
On your final night, you’ll have a dreamy serenade by one of the Yucatan’s most famous guitar trios: Los Tres Yucatecos. With the frogs and crickets singing backup, and the chalk blue of dusk darkening behind the Moorish arches of the hacienda’s main house, you will hang on every note that rings from each guitar, wishing this night didn’t have to be your last.
One thing is without a doubt, if you rent Hacienda Petac for yourself and your family, you will be well cared for.
I was a guest of the Hacienda Petac and Yucatan Tourism, but I would be singing their praises even if I weren’t. My opinions are my own.
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Learn more about other hacienda hotels in the Yucatan in my article on TravelMamas, where I blog as the Startup TravelMama.