The city of Merida in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is a sultry, ancient place and Hotel Boutique Misión Fray de Diego fits right in. Centered around a sun-dappled central courtyard, this Colonial-era structure was part of Nuestra Señora de la Consolación Catholic convent from the 1500s to the 1800s, with various evolutions to its architecture along the way. In the 19th century, during the years of the sisal boom in Mexico’s southeastern tip, it was in the hands of private owners and converted into a local mansion.
A quietly bubbling fountain sparkles in the middle of the courtyard and to one side is a statue of Saint Francis of Assisi. A large painting of Friar Diego, an extremely controversial figure of Colonial Yucatan and the person the hotel is named after, adorns the entryway. The reception sits to one side of the courtyard underneath a columned portico and massive standing candelabras are weighed down with the generations of wax that have dripped off of their candles.
Across the courtyard from reception, is a softly-lit outdoor bar with an open-beamed ceiling and a handful of tables for catching any and all breezes in this city of eternal summer. This is where you will be offered an icy welcome margarita to start your visit off right. In the street-facing restaurant just inside from the patio, fans whirl in cathedral-like ceilings and traditional Yucatecan cuisine is served (sopa de lima, papadzules, Poc Chuc) along with a handful of more international dishes (Club sandwiches, hamburgers) and a selection of Spanish dishes (chistorra, paella, pescado a la vizcaína).
If you want the authentic 1800s experience choose one of the four rooms that sit at the front of the hotel that were all part of the original home. They have those same high ceilings and even though the intense religious art might be intimidating, they still feel cozy. Queen-sized beds, armoires and work desks tucked into wall nooks make for a comfortable stay, but don’t expect expansive space, remember that these rooms were built at a time when the size standards of today were not the fashion.
The standard rooms sit in the back of the hotel in its more recent addition built in 2005, decorated and designed in a style that feels seamless with the rest of the hotel’s spaces. A King and Junior Suite are on the top floor, and if you really want space to spread out the upgrade is worth it, with the King suite almost double the size of a standard with a columned staircase, cool, tiled floors, and a fold-out sofa bed if you’re a family.
All rooms include bathrobes, lockboxes, cable TV, air conditioning, and simple toiletries. If you can get a standard that overlooks the front courtyard it’s quite romantic. Most of the standard rooms and the rooms in the original part of the hotel are a little dark, and the outdoor public spaces I’ve mentioned will be where you want to have a drink or relax in the afternoon. Second and third-story standards have a bit more light.
In the back patio is a swimming pool, which while visiting I learned was an absolute must in this town, a great way to refresh and relax after a day of walking and eating in the heat. Next to the pool are a few lounge chairs and umbrella-shaded tables should you want to linger. The hotel’s location is great for exploring Merida. You will be near the main tourist avenues and shops but also close enough to walk to a few of the newer and hipper restaurants starting to pop up a little way out of the heart of downtown. The hotel offers parking a half a block down the street and they have valet parking service as well.
While there are many hotels to choose from in Merida, La Mision Fray de Diego is a lovely mid-range choice with all the basic amenities and a great location. Its public spaces give it an Old World ambiance and you can almost imagine you have gone back in time as you sit and sip a margarita at the bar.
*The author was hosted at this property but her opinions are her own.