Luz en Yucatan: Redefining the Urban Retreat in Merida, Mexico

I have a confession: I’d never heard of Merida, Mexico before I was invited to go there as a guest of Donard and Tom, the cheeky proprietors of Luz en Yucatan, who claim to rent rooms “by the day or by the moment.” How was it possible that I’d never heard of Merida? I mean, come on! It’s the capital of Yucatan state! But part of the wonder of travel by sea is that you end up in the last places you expect, and after having spent two wonderful days at this hotel, using it as a basis to discover this charming, safe, and delightful city, I’m going to tell everyone I know to visit Merida, the capital of the Yucatan state and the epicenter of Mayan culture.

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Located across from the 16th-century Santa Lucia chapel and just a few blocks away from the city’s Grand Plaza, the hotel is ideally located, within walking distance of the historical cathedrals and museums of downtown, as well as the grandiose architecture and nightlife of the Paseo Montejo just to the north, a king-sized, mansion-lined avenue that’s been called Mexico’s answer to the Champs-Elysees. After locating the small sign, backlit and almost mysterious against the facade, I rang the bell and entered the wrought-iron gate, already feeling like I was being ushered into a special hideaway, or some quaint turn-of-the century home that dates to when the henequen (sisal) barons of Merida were at their peak. In fact, the house was formerly part of the chapel, and it shows–the mood is plainly contemplative. Maybe it’s the buttery light filtering through the stained glass in every room–there’s a reason they call it Luz.

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Handing me a towel for the pool, the front-desk attendant asked me if I wanted a beer, like I’d been invited to a backyard carne asada. “It’s free at Luz!” he announced grandly. Heck, yes. And so is tequila–I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the bar cart with six different types of Mexican tequila, as well as a bottle of ruby-red sangrita to mix it with in the traditional local way, shot glasses aligned like little topaz jewels. Filing it away for later, I took a refreshing dip in the lagoon-like courtyard pool, then climbed up an outdoor staircase trimmed with climbing vines, feeling like Rapunzel on the way to a tower–one I actually wanted to be stuck in. Sinking into the pillow-top mattress of the king-size bed I noticed the flatscreen TV, cavernous tile shower and vessel sink, not to mention the strong WiFi signal in every area of the hotel for when the outside world calls. A brand-new remote-controlled air conditioner and a 10-gallon jug of drinking water helped keep me cool and refreshed as a fruit salad, even as I air dried.

Decorated in folk art and with creamy orange light filtering through the stained glass windows, I was in paradise, but what really took my breath away was when I stepped out onto the private terrace. There, I could relax in one of Yucatan’s ubiquitous hand-woven hammocks or sit and drink a beer at the built-in bar, and let the buzz of the city rooftops fill my ears, in the bustle and yet apart from it.

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A lot of hotels tell you to “make yourself at home:” Luz takes it to dizzying extremes. For those not staying in the penthouse, downstairs, there’s a communal kitchen and a full dining room. My penthouse included a full outdoor kitchen, complete with refrigerator, microwave, and anything you could need to throw a gourmet bash. A longer-term traveler would choose Luz in a heartbeat, and I pondered extending my stay myself. Fantasies of making a new life in the most charming city in the Yucatan, cooking out on the patio, and strolling down the Paseo on Sundays started to flit through my head.

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Oh, and in case you weren’t convinced, pricing at Luz is on a sliding scale, based on how successful you feel. A struggling artist? Pay as little as $54 for a ground-floor single. A jetsetting CEO? Snag the penthouse for $104 and stay awhile. And don’t worry: they have no cancellation penalty because “life is hard enough.” Isn’t that the truth? Well, not at Luz, at least.

IF YOU GO

Luz en Yucatan is located at Calle 55 #499 x 60 y 58, Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. Call 011-52-999-924-0035 (Mexico) for reservations or email info@luzenyucatan.com

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Thanks to Luz en Yucatan for inviting me to experience the hotel. As always, my opinion is my own!

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