Dotted throughout the Yucatan Peninsula are grand structures once built and owned by wealthy landowners to farm henequen, Yucatan’s cash crop of the late 19th Century. Henequen was grown and processed there, producing strong sisal rope, used on ships around the world. Later, that same sisal rope was also used for hay bales and farming, making it an extremely valuable commodity. The wealth from these products built beautiful Merida and surrounding cities that we still enjoy today.
Every hacienda was built by a private entrepreneur, and thus, each hacienda is different. The various buildings had different purposes (a house for the owner, a building for processing, another for storage, a chapel for worship and living quarters for the Maya who worked there). Many haciendas have now been renovated and serve as private homes, hotels or restaurants. Most are still surrounded by villages.
Near Santa Elena, you can visit a few haciendas that are open to the public. Between Merida and Santa Elena, Hacienda Ochil provides a lovely venue for a delicious outdoor meal, and includes a small henequen museum, a gift shop, an orchid garden and a natural outdoor amphitheater sometimes used for theater or musical productions. There is also a small henequen orchard and an example of the kind of trains that were used on henequen plantations for transportation.
Hacienda Temozon is also located between Merida and Santa Elena, and like Hacienda Santa Rosa (west of Santa Elena) it is part of Starwood’s Luxury Collection of hotels. Both have restaurants that are open to the public, featuring local cuisine and beautiful environments for a relaxed meal.