Nestled on 250 lush acres on near Merida, the largest city in Mexico’s Yucatan state, is a private getaway with five-star touches where tidbits of history reveal themselves at nearly every turn. Hacienda Petac is a lovingly-restored 17th-century hacienda that once played a role in the region’s booming henequen trade and now welcomes small groups who wish to book it as a whole by the week.
But unlike many private estate rentals, this all-inclusive luxury property with seven guest rooms is fully staffed with 24 people who provide service that tops many five-star hotels.
I was hosted by Hacienda Petac with five other travel writer friends as part of #walkingonweekends so can confirm pampering begins the moment one enters its gates. Most everything was taken care of for us starting with a welcome drink seconds after stepping out of our taxi to daily laundry (pack light) and multi-course meals.
It was up to us to decompress amid stunning flamboyan trees—we were lucky to visit during their blooming season—and a multitude of singing birds in this peaceful retreat. Treatments at the onsite spa and long walks added to relaxation as did chatter over many margaritas and meals.
While there is plenty to explore outside of the gates, it’s also possible to enjoy a truly Yucatecan experience through food, drink, and activities at the hacienda.
Brief History of Hacienda Petac
During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Spanish crown rewarded nobles with land grants in the agriculture-rich Yucatan and the hacienda system—with a casa principal (main house) and self-sufficient community surrounding it—began. Hacienda Petac originally thrived on simple crops and livestock but in the 1800s shifted to growing henequen, an agave plant that produces a strong fiber used in a wide range of products.
The Yucatan is uniquely suited for henequen crops and the Mayans had been using it for ropes, hammocks and more for centuries prior. Demand for henequen from America increased the region’s riches until political upheaval and redistribution of land (as well as increased worldwide competition and the invention of plastics) cratered henequen production. As a result, many of the Yucatan’s haciendas were abandoned and lay in ruin today.
Hacienda Petac was purchased in 2000 by Dev and Chuck Stern who had a vision of restoring the property into the special place it is today, surviving numerous challenges including Hurricane Isidore along the way. Great care was taken to add modern touches while retaining much of its original Moorish architecture.
I loved the various pieces of old machinery scattered throughout as a reminder of the past. The massive factory chimney stack is now a water feature. The old factory has been converted into bedrooms. A trough where cows once drank has become another water feature. The gardens are absolutely stunning. And there is much more.
Hacienda Petac’s Location
Conveniently, American Airlines recently launched a new direct flight to Merida, Mexico (MID) from Dallas Forth-Worth International Airport (DFW), putting travelers about a 30-minute easy drive away from Hacienda Petac, who includes transfers as part of the week’s package.
Hacienda Petac is actually located on top of ancient Mayan ruins which like those in the surrounding area remain unexcavated. It is also adjacent to the Cuxtal Ecological Reserve, a designated green space home to several more historic haciendas in addition to a variety of wildlife. The only sounds heard around the hacienda come from frogs, geckos, birds, wind and water features. It’s tranquil and lovely.
The small village of Petac surrounds the estate which has a school, tortilleria, a few tiendas and not much else. It’s certainly colorful and remote, with dogs and people often seen milling about. Bikes are available at Hacienda Petac for those who would like to explore.
That is, if you can bear to leave the stunning grounds.
While 250 acres in size, it’s easy to quickly become acquainted with the property’s layout. Common areas are simply steps away from the seven guest rooms which are scattered across multiple small buildings.
I stayed in La Ceiba, a spacious king room with vaulted ceilings and an enormous circular bathroom with two sinks and a rain shower. Skylights and big windows flood the room with light during the day. Plenty of plugs for devices and quick WiFi keep guests connected if they like (this would be a fantastic place to unplug). There was no TV but it’s not necessary. Personally, I find it quite zen to listen to the crickets and frogs living in the lush foliage outside. Little touches like bug spray, an umbrella, a henequen tote bag for use during the stay and a fruit plate were much appreciated.
Every room is equipped with a generous amount of bottled water. Although the hacienda’s water is filtered, it’s still perhaps a good idea to stick with bottled. Simply place the “cafe please” sign on your exterior doorknob after about 7:30 a.m. and coffee will be delivered to your room.
In the evenings, staff slip in unnoticed to turn down beds. On check-in day and the evening before check-out, beautiful floral designs grace the entire room and bathroom. I marvel at how quickly they’re able to lay out these arrangements.
Hacienda Petac Activities
Truth be told, one could certainly stay put for a week here and be happy.
How about a poolside margarita or paloma? Guests are destined to spend plenty of time out here at the pool, which was used as the hacienda’s central cistern back in the day.
Our group learned to make a traditional Yucatan dish, panuchos, which is basically a fresh corn tortilla stuffed with black refried beans and then fried before a topping of cucumber, cabbage, marinated onions, tomatoes, grills chipotle chicken and avocado. As a group we assembled the dish (while chatting plenty along the way) in the cooking school kitchen. A cooking class is included in the week’s package.
In fact, you could book a cooking class package that features four separate classes sprinkled throughout the week.
The onsite spa, Casa Maya, is home to a nail bar, fitness area and treatment room with a variety of specialty massages. I booked the Mayan Anti-Stress and Acupuncture massage and it was fantastic. Truly fantastic. And, this is someone who has received similar treatments all in hotels and award-winning spas all over the world. The pressure was exactly to my liking with deliberate focus on my usual troublesome spots.
There is also an outdoor hot tub here staff will heat up by request and bring requested aperitifs and other drinks, too.
Guests of Hacienda Petac are treated to a special evening performance by Los Tres Yucatecos who have been singing together for decades. I am typically not one who is able to sit still for live music performances but they were truly spectacular. I even bought one of their CDs.
But when there are kids in tow, a variety of activities can be customized just for them including a Junior Archaeologist’s Hunt, where kids can follow an old map to discover an ancient Mayan shard. The Kids’ Camp package also includes a scavenger hunt in the Merida food market, crafts including pià±ata making, age-appropriate cooking lessons and more. Expansive lawns are perfect for a family round of croquet and, of course, there is always pool and hammock time.
Delicious Yucatecan Cuisine
Before our arrival, I was assured that no one would go hungry at Hacienda Petac. I can confirm this is true. Multi-course meals are well-rounded and generously portioned featuring Yucatecan soups, entrees, multiple dessert options and more. I can not think of a dish that I did not care for.
We dined together at predetermined times to suit our schedules and these lengthy meals full of fun and funny chatter were the highlights of my trip.
Every table setting featured stunning flower, flower petal and leaf arrangements down the runner, on placemats and slipped into our folded napkins. The staff are well practiced at this art and I marveled at how quickly they were able to place arrange these flowers, many sourced from the hacienda’s grounds.
Things to Do in Merida and Near Hacienda Petac
Plenty of day trips are easily arranged by Hacienda Petac for those who are interested in exploring the Mayan ruins of Uxmal and/or Chichen Itza, beautiful cenotes, boat trips through the Flamingo and Wildlife reserve at Celestun, beach days and so much more.
An excursion to Mérida’s city center, about 45 minutes by car, is included with a stay. The city of Mérida was once home to the greatest concentration of wealth in the world and is a lovely spot for browsing market stalls, boutiques and a variety of restaurants for a day or half-day.
We actually did both with a private guide and I’ll tell you about them in another post.
The Bottom Line
Hacienda Petac would make excellent luxury accommodations for family reunions or retreats, girlfriend getaways, work retreats or a holiday with another family or two. It can accommodate up to 14 people and they can be a bit clever about placing people in accommodations to suit specific needs. Colleen, the hacienda’s manager and guest go-to, is onsite day and night and played a big role in making our stay as memorable as it was.
You need to be the type of traveler who is seeking a retreat so be keen to relax and have needs taken care of. There is no urban city center to walk to or bustling nightlife. I would certainly argue that this is an excellent base for history buffs (like my husband) who would like to explore the region’s ruins and archeological sites.
It is an all-inclusive stay with the exception of add-ons such as spa treatments and alcohol as well as gratuities. For what you get, the rates are extraordinarily reasonable. I think you might be surprised.
I am usually someone who loves grand hotels and resorts so it was eye-opening for me to see the same service and detail I’m used to executed at a smaller property. I would love to return to Hacienda Petac and don’t hesitate to recommend this special place.
*Thank you to Hacienda Petac for hosting my stay! Opinions are my own.