Dave and I hadn’t even heard of Valladolid until we started complaining that the Cancun region was way too touristy for us, and that we wanted to see the real Mexico.
Our blogger friend, Talon from 1 Dad, 1 Kid, pointed out that Valladolid was a must see. Not only is this small town in the heart of the Yucatan Peninsula – making it a great location to visit the Mayan ruins in the area – but it’s the first colonial city away from the modern tourism traps of the Cancun side of the region.
So Dave and I decided to go exploring. Hiring a car for a small fortune (as we wanted to get maximum insurance to be on the safe side) we drove off to Valladolid.
As soon as we arrived in the town, we knew it was different. I turned to Dave and smiled, “This was the Mexico I had in mind when we flew in four weeks ago.”
Finally, we could walk down the street without touts yelling at us to buy a tour. We could go out to dinner and only hear Spanish being spoken, or the native language of the region – Mayan. It seemed we’d finally got out of the Las Vegas-like horror hotel strip of Cancun and were in real Mexico at last.
We’d organised to stay at Casa Hamaca, a bed and breakfast run by Denis Larson – an American who’d moved down to Mexico permanently a few years back.
All his staff members are Mayan from the local villages surrounding Valladolid, and they greeted us with warm smiles.
Location of Casa Hamaca
Casa Hamaca is in the heart of Valladolid, facing on to a small square and close to a beautiful old church. Children play in the evening in the small playground at the square’s centre, and it has a very family-friendly vibe.
Walking a few blocks down the road and you’ll be amongst the hustle and bustle of the busiest part of town – which, with a population of 45,000 or so, can be described as lively rather than hectic.
The best part about the location is that Casa Hamaca is close to ruins like Coba, Ek Bilam and Chichen Itza, meaning you’ll be able to get there each morning before the hundreds of tourists arriving on their large air-conditioned buses from Cancun.
We took full advantage of this bonus, and arrived as the ruins opened each morning. We had all of them – including new 10th wonder of the world-listed Chichen Itza – practically to ourselves. Priceless.
Rooms at Casa Hamaca
We stayed in the Chac Na suite and it was large and comfortable. It featured a tiled floor, large wooden wardrobe, chair, two small tables and a hammock. The bed was king size and a large mural decorated the wall above it.
Each suite in the bed and breakfast has a mural, and all of them were painted by local teenagers from the area. We thought it was lovely to have this local input for the creation of Mayan designs.
The bathroom had a beautiful brightly-coloured ceramic basin and a decorative mirror. The shower was strong, although you have to wait a few minutes for the hot water to come through. Once you’ve waited though, it’s very hot.
All the suites are air-conditioned.
Food at Casa Hamaca
We ate breakfast at Casa Hamaca every day and chose something new each morning. There are some traditional American foods on the menu, like hot cakes, but mostly all the food is Mayan or Mexican inspired and it’s delicious.
A favourite was the fried eggs in red and green peppers for breakfast, accompanied by avocado and plantain fritters – divine.
There’s also a buffet of fresh fruit and cereal every day for guests to enjoy.
We also ate dinner at the Casa one evening and it consisted of simple yet satisfying food, such as pasta and salads.
Other amenities at Casa Hamaca
The question shouldn’t be what else does Casa Hamaca offer, it should be what doesn’t it offer. You can receive a massage in the bed and breakfast’s relaxation room, learn Spanish at its small language school attached to the property, and the Casa can even help you organise to volunteer in the local community.
As for the facilities, along with the restaurant and bar there’s a small pool to refresh in – and a delightful garden to stroll around. This garden is best enjoyed in the early mornings before the heat of the day becomes too much.
What we liked about Casa Hamaca
The best thing about Casa Hamaca is the friendly vibe. The staff are always there if you need something, but it doesn’t feel like a cold hotel – it really feels as though it’s a home away from home.
Denis even takes his guests to the local market on Sundays, giving you a chance to eat homemade (and tasty!) tacos for breakfast. It’s his treat too – we loved this special touch.
As for the rest of our stay – the bed was also extremely comfortable, making it hard to get up in the morning to go sightseeing! The wifi was also very strong from everywhere on the property. Finally, we loved relaxing in the palapa in the mornings and the evenings – or by the swimming pool!
What we didn’t like about Casa Hamaca
It’s hard to be critical of the Casa, but if I could pick one thing, it would be the bottled water in our rooms each day. Although this is a thoughtful touch, it would be more environmentally friendly to have a large water jug downstairs from which you could refill a re-usable cup, rather than waste plastic over and over again. It’d also be more cost-effective I believe.
It’d also be great to be able to put a sign on your door asking for the towels not to be changed each day. Although it’s nice to get a fresh towel in the afternoon, it’s really not needed and by re-using your towel you can save a lot of water.
What you need to know:
Cost: Prices are between US$80 – US$135 per room, per night, plus a 19% tax.
How to get there: Casa Hamaca Guesthouse is located on Colonia San Juan, Calle 49 #202A x 40, Valladolid, Yucatan, Mexico. You can get a AVO bus from Cancun, or rent a car to get to Valladolid.
Booking: You can book your stay at Casa Hamaca here.
Carmen: Casa Hamaca is a bed and breakfast located in the middle of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Surrounded by lush gardens in the centre of Valladolid, it’s a relaxing place to lay your head after a busy day of sightseeing.
US-owner Denis had an idea of the certain type of property he was after when he envisioned his new home in Mexico.
Denis: Old hacienda like buildings, or colonial buildings, with a big courtyard, with the trees and the butterflies and I said, “I like the idea of having my coffee in a place like this.”
So that was the image I had in my head – I liked the idea of a colonial town, and I liked the idea of a Mayan town.
Carmen: Denis bought the one story home and added a second floor, creating the space with artwork and murals, many painted by local teenagers from the area.
Denis: I had all these big wall spaces and as you see I’ve got a certain amount of art and artefacts that I’ve collected, but not enough to fill up these walls. I think I came across the piece here in the salon and reception – of the structure of Chichen Itza – and said that would make a neat mural.
Carmen: The walls weren’t the only thing Denis changed – he also improved the garden.
Denis: When I first bought the place there were some of these kind of plants – these red-tipped things – and they don’t visually say tropics. So I immediately planted bananas, coconut palms and bamboo, which all visually say tropics. And I think it’s been pretty successful. You look at this and you think, “Yep, I’m not in North Dakota.”
Carmen: But it was only after Denis had gutted the house and added more rooms that he decided to start a bed and breakfast to help pay for his labour of love. The bed and breakfast now has eight large rooms, complete with ensuites, king size beds and a hammock for your afternoon siesta.
There’s also a bar and restaurant which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in the palapa adjacent to the garden. Not to mention a pool to cool off in during the hot afternoons in the Mexican sun.
Best of all, being located in the heart of the Yucatan means it’s the perfect spot to base yourself for sightseeing in the region.
Denis: Because of its geographic location, you can see almost anything in the Northern Peninsula as a day trip.
Carmen: And the best thing about your stay? After a hectic day climbing the Mayan ruins and swimming in the cenotes, you’ll have a comfortable place to go back to – a place that feels like home.
Denis: It’s a great place to come home to every night, because after a day or two it feels like home. It doesn’t feel like, “Oh, I’m back at the hotel.”