Learning Mérida can feel a little like learning a language: the basics are relatively accessible but truly, truly getting to grips with the detail, truly feeling the rhythms and cadences can take longer. But while there aren’t really any cheatsheets for language learning, this column is definitely a shortcut to getting to know Mérida. This month, we offer you two fabulous but not especially well-known, outdoor options for family fun. If you love seeing your kids run wild, ‘get down’ with nature and get totally grubby, Ponylandia and Hacienda Dzoyaxché will be total hits.
Have you heard of Ponylandia? I had but for some reason just never got around to taking my kids. That was remiss of me. They kept asking, I kept saying yes and then finding other things to do instead. My recommendation is to stop putting it off and just go! It’s super fun, super chilled out and a perfect place to let the kids run, play and interact with animals in a way that isn’t so easy to find in Mérida.
Approximately 30 minutes from the city on the road to Baca and Motul (ooooh, why not couple a trip here with huevos motuleños in Motul?) is Ponylandia, a small didactic farm where the kids can ride ponies and horses, interact with goats, llamas, small pigs, rabbits and more.
We visited on a Saturday and had the farm very nearly to ourselves. The kids were over the moon to meet kids (goat kids not kid kids) and to hold rabbits. Even my dad was captured staring lovingly into the eyes of a fluffy, cute rabbit!
The entry cost includes a pot of food for the animals and a short tour around the farm. Our guide was very knowledgable, answered all our questions willingly, engaged the kids and was very patient with everyone. I checked and tours are also available in English although I’d get in touch via FB to confirm that as there was no one who spoke English when we were there.
Once the kids have hung out with the animals all they want, they can play in the small playground, draw at the art station, and play on the carts, letting their imaginations run riot.
Take snacks with you as the on-site tiendita only sells soda and chips. We adults sat for a good few hours in the bench area while the kids explored, drew and played.
Hacienda Dzoyaxché Cuxtal
This hacienda sits right on the edge of Eco reserve Cuxtal (almost 11,000 hectares of land dedicated to ecological activity right in the heart of our city. Cuxtal provides almost half the city’s water and is home to 168 species of bird and many other animals too).
Entry to the hacienda grounds is joyfully free (but a tip upon leaving is obviously very gratefully received). If you want to use the two swimming pools it will cost you an enormous $2 pesos per person. The ruins of the hacienda are closed to visitors but they’re strikingly beautiful and strolling around the grounds is a wonderful way to pass a day. There is a small cenote on-site you can explore but it isn’t swimmable. There is a play space that my kids enjoy even though it’s small and not well maintained but most of the fun comes from running around and the freedom this place offers children’s imaginations.
My family heads to Dzoyaxché when we feel that we need to reconnect with nature, when we need to hug a tree, the kids need to scamper through the bushes and I need to see their little faces beaming at me through the dirt and grime.
Families from the nearby villages use Dzoyaxché as a picnic spot so why not join them, take your lunch and a lot of water (there is a small tienda nearby and there are a few stalls selling snacks in the parking lot) and enjoy!
Open: Tues – Sun 8 am – 5 pm
Hacienda San Nicolás Dzoyaxché
Editorial by Cassie Pearse
Photography by Cassie Pearse for its use in Yucatán Today
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