La Tropical is a contemporary lush retreat hidden behind one of the many colonial facades of historic Merida.
It’s a sanctuary in the centre of bustling Merida, with every space telling a story of the people who inhabited it.
How would you describe Casa Escuela in a nutshell?
Casa Escuela is a century-old architectural beauty where memories of the past and hopes for the future have found a home. It’s a sanctuary in the centre of bustling Merida, with every space telling a story of the people who inhabited it.
What is the story behind Casa Escuela, what was your inspiration to create it?
We had been living in California for 11 years and felt it was important to go back to our roots. Merida was the perfect place for us to be as it has a very rich cultural heritage, particularly in terms of Mayan culture, which has a lot to teach us. It also offers easy accessibility to the beaches, haciendas and underground cenote pools of the Yucatan Peninsula. As designers and architects, we wanted to create a space where guests could experience all of this.
Casa Escuela was built in 1919 as a school and is located in downtown Merida, just five blocks from the Zocalo. Aside from preserving the original building with its pasta tiles and wooden doors, we also designed several additional rooms to create the property you see today. Every space preserves the history of its original materials, with traditional Yucatan celosias dressing the walls and adocreto bricks bringing elements of the natural world inside.
The restoration was a 4-year preservation project lead by Ezequiel Farca and Monica Calderon. Their preservationist approach and contemporary interventions sensitively respect the original character of the property’s historic architecture.
How would you describe the atmosphere and interior design of Casa Escuela?
Casa Escuela is a place for accessing the ancestral cultural wisdom of the region and celebrating the richness of the Mayan culture. We’ve blended the old and new while using materials that have a connection to the history of the space.
For example, underneath the house was a well that we transformed into a spa resembling the cenotes that dot the surrounding region. Also, we brought a more contemporary design to the celosias, which are a feature of Merida architectural design. Each of the rooms celebrates the traditions of a time well-lived while safeguarding the experiences of those who came before.
To you personally, what is so special about Casa Escuela?
The details and architectural elements in the way the house was curated and built are what make it a unique project. It was conceived as a place to share our culture with people from around the world and showcase local artworks, with the property decorated with Latin American sculptures and paintings.
It’s also important to mention that we are concerned about sustainability and our environmental footprint, so we have solar panels and are careful about our electricity and water usage.
Casa Escuela sleeps up to 12 guests. There are five bedrooms, each tastefully designed and furnished with tzalam solid wood and linen bedding.
At the front of the property is an art gallery and store that is open to guests. As soon as you walk into the house, there is a landscaped courtyard and a patio that connects to all of the rooms. On the left is a spacious living room while behind the courtyard is the amazing dining room. A bar connects the dining room to the impressive kitchen where you’ll find a wood-fired pizza oven and a traditional clay plate to make tortillas.
Beneath the courtyard is the cenote-inspired spa, steam room and shower, with water falling into the cenote to resemble rain coming from the sky. It’s a real surprise in the house.
There are two bedrooms on the first floor - a master suite with a king-size bed and a double queen room - both of which connect to the swimming pool. A spectacular pyramid-style staircase leads from here to the second floor.
On the upper storey is another king-size suite with a private balcony, as well as two bedrooms with queen-size beds. In total, we can accommodate 12 guests. Each of the rooms has a little sofa and a table, so they are places where you can spend time aside from just sleeping. They are all well curated with linen bedding and furnished with tzalam solid wood, with all of the furnishings designed and made by us.
Daily breakfast is included in the rates and we have an in-house chef who can prepare additional meals and culinary experiences on request. Mexican breakfasts are a big meal, so we like for our guests to experience that.
Our house manager ensures guests have everything they need during their stay. We also provide guests with a list of recommendations in terms of activities, experiences and restaurants before their stay.
Cleaning is provided every day. We also partner with people who own haciendas, private cenotes and private archaeological sites, so guests can have a curated, unique experience.
Casa Escuela has a projector so guests can connect to their preferred streaming services and we stock the house with basic supplies such as coffee and refreshments at the start of each stay. Aside from the swimming pool, there is the cenote area with its steam room. We can organise masseuses or yoga teachers and create a day spa ambiance here.
I would recommend visiting some of the archaeological sites and the haciendas in the surrounding region, as well as the cenotes. The closest beach is around 40 minutes away and has a beach club where you can enjoy margaritas and tacos.
Within Merida itself, I would suggest exploring some of the newly opened stores, galleries and cultural centres, as well as enjoying the city’s gastronomic experiences. There are also a couple of museums showcasing the region’s Mayan culture. I am always available to help guests create a stay based on what they are interested in.
Admire Mérida’s historic colonial buildings along Paseo Montejo and walk all around Merida centro (zocalo) to discover Merida's vibrancy in the arts, gastronomy and culture. Discover day trips like hiring a boat to see the flamingos in Celestun, exploring the nearby Cenotes, Pyramides, and Haciendas or enjoying a relaxing beach day.
Casa Escuela is located five blocks from the Zocalo and within walking distance of lots of stores, restaurants and the artisan market. Downtown Merida is known for its colonial architecture, so there are beautiful buildings to admire in the surrounding streets. All of the properties are “deep” and there’s a lot to discover behind each door, from bookshops to artisan stores and flower markets.
Merida is one of the safest places in Mexico and the people are very warm and kind. There is a new wave of artists and designers coming into the city with lots of galleries opening up and Mexican chefs establishing restaurants here. You can really feel that the cultural atmosphere is vibrating. It feels very vibrant, like it’s the new place to be.
Merida is the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatán, and the largest city on the Yucatán Peninsula. The city is located in the northwest part of the state, about 35 kilometres (22 miles) off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
Merida can get very hot between April and September, so the best time to visit is from October to March. That being said, we have visited in summer and just did different things, like spending more time in the pool and at the beaches. During the rainy season from June to October, there are heavy but beautiful downfalls.
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