DAYTRIPS FROM CUERNAVACA: HOTEL HACIENDA COCOYOC
For those of us fortunate enough to live in or enjoy lengthy stays in Cuernavaca, there are times we like to get out to the countryside, especially to show off our favorite places to visiting guests. One of my favorite places for lunch is Hacienda Cocoyoc, off the Cuernavaca-Cuautla highway, about a forty-five minute drive, and less than twenty minutes from Tepoztlán if you want to combine the two destinations.
I took 80 Road Scholar (Elderhostel) groups to the hacienda for lunch, and half a dozen private tour groups for extended stays in the hotel. After your visit you will see that it is a sensational destination for weddings, fiestas for quinceaños, and family reunions. But luckily the hotel receives visitors for lunch starting at 1:00 PM. You can tour the gardens before lunch if you want to arrive early, or linger afterward to enjoy a stroll.
There is a brief history of the hacienda on the hotel’s website: http://en.hcocoyoc.com/heritage.html. Because of the 4000 foot altitude, the year-round pleasant climate, and the abundant supply of water, the Aztec emperors vacationed nearby and transplanted numerous flowers and flowering trees. Cocoyoc means “place of the coyote” in the Nahuatl language. When Cortés conquered the area, he married Isabel, the daughter of Moctezuma II, and she brought hundreds of acres of farm land into the marriage. Later parts of the estate were broken up and sold to various hacendados, one of whom created the sugar estate that is now Hacienda Cocoyoc. The lands passed through many owners over the centuries. By the 18th century it was one of a dozen of the most productive sugar estates in the Republic. During the Mexican Revolution of 1910, Emiliano Zapata and his agrarian revolutionaries destroyed many haciendas in Morelos, but Cocoyoc was spared by paying protection money. The land reforms following the revolution divided much of the estate among landless peasants, leaving the hacienda with the 168 acres it occupies today.
In 1957, Paulino Rivera Torres acquired the hacienda and began its transformation into a resort hotel, still owned privately by his heir. Over the years more hotel wings were added, and a spectacular pool was constructed amidst the ruins of ancient sugar warehouses. One granary was turned into a discoteque, another into a spa. Openings were created in the ancient aqueduct to create waterfalls, and the sound of rushing water amid the lush gardens adds to the tranquility of the estate. There is an attractive 9-hole golf course on the grounds, with reasonable greens fees, and an 18-hole course a short drive away. There is a special pool area for children as well as a game room and pony-rides, while the spa and bars provide relaxation for adults.
Of the four restaurants, my favorite is La Chispa, with a charming open-air dining room facing the gardens and one of the waterfalls emanating from the 17th century aqueduct. The lunch menu has both Mexican and international dishes at moderate prices. Tacos, enchiladas, sopa de tortilla are served in generous portions but you need to ask for salsa to spice them up a bit. There are multiple choices for crepes, soups, and salads as well as vegetarian plates. Fried chicken, hamburgers and the like will please the kids. Unlike so many places that offer only the monopolized Modelo beer brands, here you can order a Bohemia or a Dos Equís lager as well, or a margarita if you prefer. The home-made bollilos are an exception to my usual practice of avoiding white bread. The crunchy roll is alleged to date back to the French-imposed monarchy of Maximilian and Carlota who wanted a French bread instead of tortillas. The desserts are rather typical: flan, chocolate cake, ice cream, apple pie, with nothing really spectacular. Still the whole lunch experience in this 16th century atmosphere is a delight and the bill will be less than most lunch spots in Cuernavaca. Avoid busy holiday weekends and especially Holy Week when non-guests may be refused entry.
The hotel has 268 rooms making it a popular venue for conventions. Amnesty International has convened annual meetings here and numerous medical and business groups often keep the place jumping midweek. Standard rooms, best described as rustic rather than elegant, cost about 115 US dollars plus tax at the current exchange and upgrades to deluxe rooms and suites are available. Discounts are offered during quiet calendar weeks. Rates and special packages are advertised on the website.
My first visit to the hacienda was by a public bus along the old highway from Cuernavaca to Cuautla. It took over an hour with lots of stops and innumerable topes (speed bumps) and one never knew how long before another came by for the return trip. Today the autopista to Mexico DF has an exit for the toll road to Oaxtepec/Cuautla with turnoffs for Tepoztlán, Tlayacapán, and Cocoyoc. From the autopista, watch carefully for the sign to Cocoyoc just before arriving at Oaxtepec. The exit connects to a road leading to the old federal highway where you turn east and find the hacienda on the south side within 500 yards. If not driving, there is a bus from Pullman de Morelos centro to Oaxtepec where you can get a taxi. It’s as close to the Mexico City airport as Cuernavaca and you can contract with the hotel for transportation if booking a stay.
Address: Carr. Federal Cuernavaca-Cuautla, Km.32.5. Tel. (735) 356 2211
All photos above by James Horn. Below are some photos taken by Jason Jansen.