Two years ago, after falling in love with Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Sara deRuiter and Neil Haapamaki left their lives in Toronto behind to open The Diplomat Boutique Hotel in Merida. Here, deRuiter shares the couple’s favourite things to do in their new home.
For Local Cuisine “At the Santiago Market, you can go and eat tortas—basically French bread sandwiches—or cochinita pibil, [which is] pit-roasted pork with spices and achiote paste. You’ll be sitting on plastic chairs with the locals and there won’t be another tourist in sight. And the habanero sauce knocks your socks off. You gotta try it.”
Favourite Bar “[We like to] go to La Negrita with friends. The cantinas have a long history in Merida. They’re the saloon-door-type little bars that you can just sort of sneak into and have a drink. They often have bands playing and people are dancing between the tables.”
Art Stop “One of the city’s great museums is the MACAY. It’s a contemporary art gallery with works by artists from all over Mexico.”
Market Must “The Lucas de Galvez is the main mercado [market]—it’s colourful and fragrant. [You’ll find] local Mayan women wearing white dresses with floral embroidery, selling whatever they’ve picked from their garden.”
Cenote-Seeking “There’s a small town called Homún [about an hour from Merida] that has several cenotes [natural swimming holes]. You can hire a motorcycle taxi to get from one cenote to another. Many can be accessed with a local guide and you can see every type. It’s not frequented by many tourists, and it’s an amazing experience.”
Culture Walk “Merida’s architecture is fantastic. I can’t walk down the street without stopping and finding an Instagram moment.”
For a Sweet Treat “[There’s a] little gelato shop called Pola. They infuse local flavours into their sorbet and gelatos. They have a chocolate con chile, which is spicy, but chocolatey.”
Family Time “The city really comes alive at night. All the families go to the local parks to hang out and embrace the coolness of the evening. At the main Plaza Grande, there are street vendors selling different foods and ice creams. And there are musicians walking through the city and entertaining the people on the streets.”
Merida’s Charm “Merida is an amazing city of culture, [perfect for] a seasoned traveller who wants to do a bit more than just sitting on a beach.
Getting there: WestJet flies to Merida once a week from Toronto.