While traveling around the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, I set out to find the best family-run boutique hotel in Merida, and I found it.
The Merida Santiago Hotel Boutique
The Merida Santiago Hotel Boutique opened in 2009 and was one of the first boutique hotels in Merida at that time. Plenty more have opened since then, but this hotel still remains the best. Jan and his wife Rita manage their six rooms to perfection. But it’s not just the rooms that make this hotel so special.
The rooms themselves are definitely luxurious. Each spacious room has a super-comfortable kingsize bed, TV, Nespresso coffee machine, walk-in shower with Regina organic bath products, a safe, a small (not mini) fridge, and the rest of your usual amenities. Two of the rooms have a spa bathtub, and one has a private patio complete with hammock and yoga mat.
As a digital nomad, one of my favorite features of the hotel is the blazingly fast internet – over 100 Mbps down and up! The WiFi reaches every point of the hotel, and only slows down in the rare event of a blackout during a thunderstorm.
Another fantastic feature of the Merida Santiago Hotel Boutique is the fantastic team of chefs. Jamil, Majo and Fabricio are all highly trained and serve some truly amazing dishes. For dinner, we wanted something different than Mexican food, so I went with the Hawaiian (pineapple) bacon cheeseburger, and Vanesa ordered the Asian noodles. Both were the best we’ve had in Mexico. For the free breakfast, I had the huevos motulenos, a local dish that has become my favorite breakfast in the Yucatan Peninsula. The hotel set a new standard for me of how good it could taste.
Cooking Class and Market Tour
What makes the hotel truly special is that they offer the best tour within Merida – the Market Tour and Cooking Class. Jamil takes you to Santiago Market – the oldest market in the center of Merida, discusses the history of the neighborhood, teaches you the different ingredients for the local Mexican cuisine, and picks up what you’ll need to prepare your dishes.
In the cooking class, you’ll be cooking from scratch two appetizers, a main course, and a dessert. In my class, Vanesa and I prepared poc-chuc (marinated pork), while the vegetarian and vegan prepared brazo de reina (regional tamales). For the appetizers, we crafted calabasita fritas (fried pumpkin), chayitas with sikil pak, and guacamole. Dessert was Puerto Rican tostones and papaya sorbet. The sorbet is the only thing we didn’t make from complete scratch.
Jamil took us through every step of creating the sauces, tortillas, salbutes, and tostones, preparing the pork for the poc-chuc, and then plating everything to be super fancy. Finally, we got to eat our cake. Wow! Just, wow! I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
The tour is available every day and accommodates any dietary restrictions. You can book it through Airbnb, or pay $61 USD directly with the hotel (cheaper). The class lasts 4-6 hours and comes with complimentary refreshments.
Why We Fell In Love with Merida
After spending a couple of months exploring Cancun, Puerto Morelos and Playa del Carmen, we moved to Merida mostly to get better internet. While we certainly got that, we completely fell in love with the largest city on the Yucatan Peninsula. The buildings are older and far grander than those in the newer state of Quintana Roo. The magnificent Paseo Montejo (Montejo Walk) could fit comfortably in Paris or Barcelona. The cathedral is the oldest anywhere in the Americas. And the tree-lined avenues and Mayan artwork everywhere make Merida the perfect city to spend time in.