Deep in the jungles of the Yucatán, near the base of the rolling Puuc hills, there lies a stunning piece of the 19th century. Hacienda Santa Rosa is a portal to the region’s past, when sisal barons built grand rain forest estates to capitalize on the value of henequen, an agave fiber once referred to as “green gold.” Amid the vestiges of this plantation era, the hacienda today is a haven of harmony, where local Maya share their ancient culture with guests of what is now a sustainable hotel.
With elegant columned archways, colorful tiles, and French-inspired furnishings, the meticulously restored Hacienda Santa Rosa retains the grandeur of La Belle Époque; and the surrounding landscapes are a botanical Eden where peacocks strut among fruit trees. But it’s the Maya from neighboring Santa Rosa de Lima who make this place magical, embracing the lodge as an extension of their village, and its guests as visitors in their home. During your stay, you might come upon them sitting in a chatty circle weaving sisal, assembling floral bouquets for the lodge, performing ancient rituals with the town shaman, or practicing a traditional dance—and you’re always invited to join in.
Hacienda Santa Rosa leaves its gates open during the day—a gesture to their Maya neighbors in Santa Rosa de Lima, who are welcome to come and go as they please. And come they do. The lodge has established itself as a resource for the local community, not only offering ample employment opportunities, but also providing a leafy place for children to learn and play, and even employing a traditional Mayan doctor who is available to give complimentary medical consultations.
Community events, like children’s soccer games, are hosted on the premises; and on Mayan and Catholic holidays, it’s the lodge that throws the party, erecting traditional altars and hosting celebratory dances. The extensive support provided by Hacienda Santa Rosa has enabled families to remain in town rather than seek work further afield, thus strengthening the fabric of this traditional Mayan community.
National Geographic guests may choose from one of three exclusive experiences. Waken to an herbal infusion delivered to your door just before daybreak, then join the head gardener for a Maya sunrise prayer and short yoga session. Or opt for an interpretive tasting of local food and drinks, such as tequila and chocolate. Alternatively, you may opt to join an astronomy expert on a night walk to learn about the constellations that shine brightest over the Yucatán. Then gather around the nightly campfire to listen to ancient Maya legends, accompanied by wine and roasted marshmallows.
Hacienda Santa Rosa belongs to the Fundación Haciendas del Mundo Maya, initiated in the early 1990s to convert Yucatán’s historical sisal plantations into sustainable lodges. To that aim, each of the haciendas was restored to its former glory using only natural materials found in the region, and then decorated with locally made sisal products of all sorts—baskets and rugs, ropes and hammocks—an endeavor that marked the beginning of a strong relationship with the surrounding Maya communities.
Since those early days, Hacienda Santa Rosa has engaged and trained a network of villagers from Santa Rosa de Lima, and in the process, fueled a revival of their native traditions. Artisans weave sisal products for the hotel and offer handicraft workshops to guests; the spa provides a natural arena for Maya spiritual rituals, which are incorporated into therapies; and a Maya doctor on site offers consultations to community members and medicinal plant tours to guests. This exchange—both cultural and economic—is fulfilling for locals and guests alike.
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