The only privately owned and managed luxury hacienda in Yucatan, Hacienda Xcanatun (ssh-KANA-toon), translated as Tall Stone House from the Maya, is an elegantly restored 18th century sisal plantation set on the outskirts of the sacred Maya city, Dzibilchaltun. It is located 20 minutes from the historic center of Merida.
Hacienda Xcanatun’s owners/directors, Jorge Ruz and Cristina Baker, describe their fascination with the historic sisal plantation as “…a labor of love, vision and commitment…giving back life to ruins that were destined to disappear.”
The original hacienda was almost destroyed by hurricane Gilbert in 1988. In 1993, showing great foresight, Ruz-Baker bought the original buildings and the surrounding 9 acres. They were the first to dream of transforming a piece of Yucatecan history into a historic boutique hotel. They started the restoration process almost immediately. During their 20 years’ stewardship, the couple has insisted on authenticity. Only the best local materials and master craftsmen were used. The eclectic, neoclassical lines of the original buildings were respected, and echoed in new construction. Interiors were remodeled with native hardwood, painted tile, local marble and stone mosaic floors reflecting the original period style. Recycling was their mantra – only natural insecticides are used to ensure the profusion of butterflies and birds in the garden. The staff, drawn primarily from small, neighboring Maya villages and trained by the owners, is proud of the hacienda’s rebirth and enjoy sharing its story with guests.
The 18 spacious, air-conditioned suite and rooms, are each individually decorated, however, coming elements include thick stone walls, 18-foot wooden beamed ceilings, Carib-colonial hand-carved furnishings, antiques, marble-wrapped bathrooms and a private veranda or patio with a prized, hand-woven Yucatecan hammock. Additional facilities include two swimming pools, one transformed from the original water reservoir, and a family chapel that hosts not only weddings, but also board meetings and concerts by the International String Quartet of Yucatan. At the intimate spa a Maya therapist, trained by her grandfather, a noted shaman, enhances beauty treatments with healing rituals passed down from her ancestors.
Their gourmet restaurant, a culinary area landmark, has been selected as one of the top 50 restaurants in Mexico by the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences. The menu pays tribute to the hacienda’s Yucatecan origins serving a tempting variety of fusion Yucatecan and traditional dishes, While rooted in traditional Maya cuisine, fusion Yucatecan specialties employ French cooking technique combined with the finest European, Caribbean and local ingredients. The extensive wine cellar contains selections from worldwide vintners, and guests can sip from the best tequilas and mezcales.
However, being an integral part of the local community takes more than providing job opportunities. Ruz-Baker have supported the local old age community center, the children’s pre-school program and the local baseball team. They stock the hotel’s boutique with fine crafts from surrounding villages and encourage local Merida artists by offering their works for sale at the hacienda.
Jorge Ruz is the son of one of Mexico’s most famous archaeologists, Alberto Ruz Lhuillier. He was with Dr. Ruz when he discovered the tomb of Lord Pacal at the Maya ceremonial city Palenque in the ´50’s. Later he spent a lot of time at the site with his father learning to write Maya glyphs for illustrating his father’s books and gaining a deep reverence for both the ancient and living Maya. Today, Jorge owns a film production studio in Mexico City, where he makes both TV commercials and eco-documentaries. Proceeds from his eco-documentary films fund a monkey refuge in the province of Quintana Roo, where former pet spider monkeys are re-trained to live in their jungle environment. He also serves on the board of directors of Naturalia, Mexico’s largest environmental protection organization.
Hacienda Xcanatun offer three types of accommodations: Superior Rooms, Deluxe Suites and Master Suites. Rates per room, single or double occupancy, range from $265 – $395 depending on the category and season. Taxes amount to 19%, and there is a nightly $10 service charge.
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