This article is from the March 2000 The Mexico File newsletter.
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Where to Stay Along the Way, and How to Get There 

Hacienda Mariposa

We weren’t sure what to expect as we wheeled into Hacienda Mariposa’s entrance, greeted by German Shepherds. Of course, we’d visited the website, , but we knew how deceptive some sites can be. Rounding the bend past the nursery, the property came into full view, and sure enough, the website was deceptively understated. What lay before us was awesome.  

Hacienda Mariposa bills itself as a “bed-and-breakfast,” which spells to us one of those quaint hostelries run by someone’s Aunt Edith or two gay guys. We were wrong. We were also wrong in our preliminary assessment of eco-hotels as YMCAs for the backpacking crowd. Hacienda Mariposa proved that luxury and ecology aren’t mutually exclusive.

“It’s a new way of life,” announced proprietor René Ocaña, as he led us through the dining room and parlor, dismissing my plea about dataports. “You can live without being online,” he insisted, conceding that a connection was available in case of true emergency.

As soon as I entered the kitchen, being a sort of nosy type, I knew he was on to something. This was no ordinary hotel kitchen. This kitchen was straight from the pages of Architectural Digest, equipped with autentico Mexican cooking paraphernalia from metates to a stone water filter. While Hacienda Mariposas does feature gourmet meals served as properly by candlelight as Amy Vanderbilt might dictate, guests are free to eat, watch the staff cook, or even pitch in this kitchen that would make the staff of Fine Cooking drool enviously. And the kitchen will cook up anything a guest’s heart may desire, given notice, from vegan to chiles en nogada out of season. I’m willing to bet that the staff could conjure up chipotle tofu if asked.

Guest rooms, ranging in price from $85 to $150US, feature fireplaces as well as portable Italian electric heaters, plush down comforters, Ritz Carlton quality bathrooms, and the kind of amenities guests are apt to stockpile as souvenirs – especially the pumice stone wrapped in beribboned cellophane.

Included in the room rates are full breakfasts and afternoon refreshments. If a guest is particularly enamored of the homemade zarzamora (blackberry) jam, the inn will send a jarful home. Even more enticing was Hacienda Mariposa’s willingness to take care of guests’ children, providing special activities, a children’s meal, and babysitting! Anything and everything is available for the inn’s guests, ranging from tours to nearby villages, contact with artisans, horseback riding – even a jaunt to the volcano Paricutin and butterfly sanctuaries. And for the true couch potatoes, an ample library beckoned.

California touches are evident, from the extensive wine cellar to the quiet sense of natural elegance, including an adamant no-smoking policy. “If you must smoke, we will accommodate you by driving you in one of our red Suburbans, along with an ashtray, to the road outside of the property, allow you to smoke, and then bring you back,” the innkeeper told us after a great deal of prodding.

Ocaña, who started out as an anthropologist, studied at the California Culinary Academy, and now plies his off-hours as private fiduciary in Santa Rosa, California, has turned a simple hillside in the rolling hills between Patzcuaro and Santa Clara de Cobre into an experience of a lifetime in only two short years. His creation will rival the Villa Montaña and Las Mañanitas, my favorite lux inns in all of Mexico.

For reservations: Tel (800) 573-2386, fax (707) 575-1166 in the U.S. From Mexico: (434) 24-728. Carr. Patzcuaro-Santa Clara de Cobre Km. 3. Transportation to and from Morelia’s international airport is included in the room rate with a 4-night minimum stay.

From Morelia, take the  highway to Patzcuaro. Instead of turning at the exit marked “Patzcuaro,” go on to the Lazaro Cardenas/Uruapan turnoff. From there, take the exit marked “Tacambaro/Ario de Rosales.” A small sign will indicate that this leads to Santa Clara de Cobre. Stay on the main road through Opopeo. Santa Clara is about 14 km. from Patzcuaro.


Santa Clara’s hotels, both facing the downtown plaza are clean, adequate and have private baths.

Hotel Oasis. Portal Allende No. 144. Tel. (434) 300-40. Rates range from $80 to $300 pesos/night, cash only. Twenty rooms.

Hotel (& Restaurant) Real de Cobre. Portal Hidalgo No. 19. Tel (434) 302-05. Rates range from $80 to $250 pesos/night, cash only. Fourteen rooms.


From Patzcuaro, head toward the muelle (dock), and follow the signage to Tocuaro and Erongaricuaro, where you’ll pass through the villages of Huecorio, San Pedro, Tócuaro, Arocutín, San Francisco Uricho, rimmed by the lake, before reaching Erongaricuaro, some 14 km. down the pike.  Just outside of Arocutín is Restaurant Campestre Alemán, serving up trout grown right on the premises along with German food amid strains of classical and German pop music. Open daily from noon to 7:30 p.m.

There are no hotels in Erongaricuaro. 

From Erongaricuaro, a scenic paved road leads around the lake, all the way back to Quiroga. From there it’s two-lane winding blacktop to Morelia. The better and safer option is to head south to Tzintzuntzan and then on to the divided highway.


Daily flights from LAX, SFO and ORD lead to MLM, Morelia’s international airport, as do commuter flights from GDL and MEX.