Getting there: I flew into Cancun, rented a car and took an uneventful two-hour drive to Piste, Mexico, the Chichen Itza area on a well-maintained four-lane toll road, Hwy. 180. A couple I spoke with at Chichen Itza drove slightly above the speed limit of 110 kilometers per mile (about 70 mph) and were stopped. A small bribe got them on their way. Needless to say, I drove under the limit during my return to Cancun.

Where to stay: I stayed at Hacienda Chichen, a boutique eco-hotel adjacent to the ruins of Chichen Itza. The hotel includes 28 guest rooms in cottages that once housed archaeologists, a saltwater swimming pool, a kitchen supplied by its own gardens, a spa, a gift shop and a jungle reserve. The original hacienda, built in 1528, serves as the main lobby and dining area. There is a dining room, but during my stay guests dined on the gracious back patio. Most staff are Mayan, and some proceeds, especially from the gift store and spa, support social and ecological programs of the local Maya Foundation. During my October stay, rooms began at $129 a night. (; U.S. toll-free number, 1-877-631-4005).

The larger Mayaland Hotel, where dining options include wood-fired pizza and a buffet-style restaurant, also leads onto the grounds of Chichen Itza. It is within easy walking distance of Hacienda Chichen. (

Safety: The State Department warns about the risk of travel to certain places in Mexico; no advisories are in place for the states of Quintana Roo (Cancun) and Yucatán (Chichen Itza). More details at

Kerri Westenberg