Yucatan road trip – Hacienda Kaan Ac, Valladolid
After spending a couple of months on the Mayan Caribbean coast I was ready for adventure so we packed up a few things for a road trip and headed west into the Yucatan to explore the Mayan towns, haciendas and local foods. It’s not my first trip into the Yucatan countryside so I know my way around and love the experience every time.
The new highway from Cancun and Playa del Carmen going west is an excellent stretch of double lane divided highway cutting through the jungle that makes the trip comfortable and safe. The road is more or less straight and the only thing you have to watch for are speeding cars, as there is little respect for the speed limits and vehicles tend to fly by unannounced. This autopista is a toll road and you pay by the segment, depending on your destination. We took hwy 181 from Playa del Carmen, connecting to hwy 180 going west after about 30 minutes drive. From there it’s a straight road to Merida, with exits to Valladolid, Chichen Itza, Ixamal and a few smaller communities and archeological sites.
Our first destination was Valladolid. I have been there a number of time but never stayed overnight so a few nights in Valladolid were on the agenda.
Since I love staying at haciendas we booked a couple of nights at Hacienda Kaan Ac, a castle-like Spanish hacienda dating back to the 1500s set at the edge of Valladolid. It a short distance from city center and I thought we would benefit from both, a stay at a hacienda and exploring Valladolid. It seemed simple enough to get to Kaan Ac but turned out to be more complicated to execute. I clicked on “directions” in Google maps on their website and an hour and a half later we found ourselves at the end of a narrow driveway in the middle of no-where while our GPS is announcing happily that “you have reached your destination”. Well, not quite.
I called the hacienda to try and get directions but the number on the website connected me to another hotel, Hotel Turquesa, and no English speaking person was available. I made about eight calls trying to communicate but nothing was happening. Impatient at the best of times (yes, mea culpa) this was really testing my endurance. I was also questioning my decision to stay at the edge of town when I knew there was a perfectly good hotel right off the main square in the city. I was ready to cancel the reservations altogether but thought I’d try one more time. On my ninth call an English speaking person answered and between his English and my limited Spanish we managed to have him send me an email with directions to the hacienda. Once we got the email things were fine, we followed the map and arrived at the hacienda which was not far around the corner. FYI, the entrance is located off 180, just as you leave the autopista to turn towards Valladolid. It will be on your right. Now was that so hard to do? I am sure they know about the Google map issue since it is directly from their website and could have emailed me a map when I made the reservations. I usually take these minor issues in stride, but for some reason this time I was flustered. Oh well. We got there in the end and I am glad I didn’t cancel.
The Hacienda and Rooms
Kaan Ac is a 16 century castle-like structure that comes with a legend of a pirate who buried a treasure on the grounds.
The hacienda is not as large as some I have stayed at but still, beautiful. There is a castle-like turret at each end of the main building and a few beautiful large public rooms in the middle, furnished with antiques, displaying a collection of guns, beautiful dishes and old paintings.
I booked the Berenguela suite in the main castle-building but ended up changing my mind and staying in one of the villas on the property, a few feet away from the main house. The Berenguela suite was beautiful and authentic with a four poster canopy bed and a spacious stone bathroom but seemed a little dark (castle, right?) and one thing I know is that I need light and space.
The free standing villas are furnished pretty simply but are spacious and comfortable and worked for the short stay. We enjoyed sitting on the private porch under the huge tree with view of the grounds and the castle just a few feet away.
The Bugambilia (Bougainvillea) Suite:
Unfortunately they did not show me their best room in the castle, the Bougainvillea suite, right next to the Berenguela. Had they showed me that one, I would have stayed there for sure. It’s a beautiful large room with a stone bathroom and several windows making it nice and bright. A canopy bed and antique furnitures give the room a special historical aura. An arched entryway to the large suite is painted with a splash of bougainvillea in full blossom, lending the room its name. I got to see it before we checked out, when I asked to see their best room. I should have asked sooner.
The hacienda’s grounds
The hacienda’s grounds were beautifully landscaped and well maintained. An impressive driveway lined with palms leads from the gate to the castle. A swimming pool was situated nearby with plenty of comfortable lounge chairs under the orange trees and a large colourful bougainvillea.
A 16th century chapel is located a short walk from the castle.
Breakfast and dinner are served at restaurant El Filibustero, a few steps away from the main castle in an old stone building. Tables are set both outdoors and indoors and the server Eduardo managed the service excellently. Breakfast (included) was good with plenty of fresh fruits, eggs anyway you like them, toast (dry for some reason), pastries, fresh juice and as much coffee as you wanted. I particularly liked the not too sweet papaya jam they offered that morning.
The food at dinner was okay but not memorable. My husband had the traditional cocinita pibil and I had one of the kitchen’s specialties, grilled chicken en nogada, nogada being a white almond sauce that I know well from a previous trip to Mexico city when I had the famous chile en nogada dish at Christmas time. To start, Eduardo brought us guacamole that was especially good, very fresh and made with avocados that were perfectly ripe. The dinner food could use some refining but never mind, we had a lovely time, felt that we were in a special place, treated very well, enjoyed the unique surrounding and friendly staff and would stay there again if the opportunity arose.
We used the hacienda as our base for a couple of days while we explored Valladolid during the day but once we returned to the hacienda we stayed there to enjoy the property. We moved into town for the next couple of days and stayed at another hotel in the center of town. Stay tuned for the Valladolid report coming up next.