Paseo de Montejo 480, at Calle 41, Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico
With a prime location, sharp style, great history, even a spa, this small hotel on the edge of Mérida's historic center is the luxury lodging the city has been waiting for.
Mérida's centro histórico is dotted with excellent bed-and-breakfasts and a handful of slightly more upscale options—but none offer full-service luxury. For that, you have to head substantially farther from the center (or out of town completely). Enter Rosas and Xocolate.
Set near the southern end of Paseo de Montejo, the small hotel is an easy walk to Mérida's main plaza. Montejo is the city's grandest avenue, lined with French-style and Italianate mansions built around the turn of the twentieth century by the Yucatan's wealthiest men. Like its neighbors (most now converted to stodgy offices), the hotel is a splendid old home—two, actually, that have been massively overhauled and linked together.
You can't miss the place: it's painted bubble-gum pink. Bright colors are the norm in Mexico, but on this otherwise sedate street, the pink pops out, and hints at the difference inside. This is Merida's first design hotel with real substance and a sense of place, eye-catching without being too gimmicky, and retaining an old-fashioned sense of space and grandeur. Historic details, such as the intricately patterned concrete floor tiles and beautifully carved wood doors, are offset with sheer, color-saturated walls, in line with Mexican modernist architecture. In the lobby, a massive braid of rope hangs from the ceiling, alluding to the mansions' roots in henequen (sisal) fortunes.
The name Rosas and Xocolate explains the color scheme: the vivid pink is for roses, offset throughout the hotel with a rich, chocolaty gray-brown. If the color makes you hungry, nip into the chocolate boutique in the lobby, stocked with products from the city's deluxe confectioner, Ki'xocoatl.
The 14 rooms and three suites are built on two levels around a courtyard. A midsize pool here is in shade in the afternoon, but it's enough for a refreshing dip. (If you want more sun time, ask about access to a private beach club in Progreso, 45 minutes north.) The rooms, both standard (aka "superior") and deluxe, are all about 450 square feet, with 12-foot-high ceilings and sleeping areas set apart from a desk and comfortable reading chairs by dramatic standalone cabinets—not a formal suite, but reasonably private. The style is a mix of clean modern furnishings (a sleek mosaic headboard in different wood tones) and faux antiques (spindle-legged tables for the ceramic sinks).
The well-designed bathrooms take up nearly as much floor space as the sleeping area, with double sinks, a rain shower and an outdoor tub. This is the only way of getting fresh air in the room—unfortunately a common problem in many urban luxury hotels in colonial cities. The soap by the sink is locally made, fragrant with chocolate.
With all this in the rooms, the suites aren't a substantial step up—except for the master suite, which is double the size of the rooms and the other two suites. And they do have terraces overlooking Paseo de Montejo, where you can watch horse-drawn carriages trotting by in the evening. You might make the decision based on style alone: the suites have a slightly more subdued, stately look: more old-fashioned furniture, and more brown, less pink.
Additional services at the hotel include a spa (with chocolate-based treatments, naturally), a small but well-appointed gym with a trainer on hand, day trips with an excellent local operator (Catherwood Travels) and the outdoor Moon Lounge, a hot spot for Mérida residents who like the breezy vibe and creative drinks.
Best of all, though, is the restaurant, one of the best in the city. Chef Mario Espinosa (formerly of celebrated Pujol in Mexico City) applies a light hand with Mexican fusion to create dishes such as "chicharrón de pulpo" (tender morsels of fried octopus that look deceptively like pork rinds). Room service is an option, but the place can be such a scene, it's worth coming downstairs for.
Rosas and Xocolate does have a few drawbacks. The place feels slightly understaffed—there was no one to greet us at the door and deal with both our bags and car parking, for instance. Wi-fi is available only in the public areas (cable connections are available in the rooms; super-thick walls kill wireless signals). And design sometimes trumps practicality, as in the upstairs hallway and staircase lit only with pin lights in the floor—dramatic, yet unnerving to navigate.
But these are tiny quibbles for what's a lovely addition to Mérida's hotels. You no longer have to choose between location and full service—and you get access to a lively local social scene as well.
Web Address: www.rosasandxocolate.com
Total Number of Rooms: 17
Published rates: from $215 to $650
Review and photos by Zora O’Neill
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