Hotels + Resorts

On the Scene: Hotel Esencia, Riviera Maya

When in Mexico, retreat to a hideaway by the Mayan shore.

Private Terrace

Nestled in the breathtaking bay between Playa del Carmen and Tulum on the eastern coast of Yucatán, lies the palatial Hotel Esencia. Far from the sprawling resorts that have come to characterize the experience of so many visitors to Mexico, Esencia is a hidden gem for those looking for something more refined.

Swaddled by the dense jungle, this exclusive resort is further hidden behind the traditional Maya house that first greets guests. The room’s dirt floor and soft candle light give little hint of the luxurious gems awaiting further up the path. Crossing this threshold one sheds the concerns of the outside world for the indulgent luxury of this secluded retreat. The humble exterior quickly gives way to villas of increasing splendour until the jungle yields completely to the pristine sands of Xpu-ha at the water’s edge. Here is the ultimate sunrise vista, one of the very last remaining undeveloped shores of the Mayan Riviera.

Private Terrace, Villa Bel-Ha

That this resort was built as the vacation home of an Italian Duchess will come as no surprise to those lucky enough to be staying there. This main building is the heart of the hotel. Here, guests will congregate for the Duchess’ longstanding tradition of afternoon tea and luxuriate in the finely appointed salon. Whitewashed both inside and out, the design is accentuated with lighting that reveals intention and select pieces of furniture in original mid-century style. Though it has long since grown from the original Main House, the entire property retains an effortless elegance and a hominess that permeates every aspect of its stylings and service.

A short walk away, past the pools and through the carefully curated gardens, lies the outbuildings where most patrons will stay. While only a select few suites feature seaside views, all are splendidly appointed in keeping with a modern white-sand beachside aesthetic with select, and surprisingly complimentary, colourful pieces in the Dunbar style. The rooms feature private plunge pools, large indoor and outdoor showers, Bluetooth stereos and remote-controlled air conditioners and blinds. Guest will revel in the attention to detail in the smaller, more thoughtful, touches like pre-breakfast pastries, which magically appear on your terrace, plugs precisely where you want them, as well as complimentary robes, sandals and beach bags suited to every season.

Restaurant Pool

Though the buildings are not all that far apart, considerate and careful design of the structure’s angles and gardens ensures near total privacy. Outside the suites, however, the atmosphere is social. Though increasingly renowned as a honeymoon destination, the resort does not cater strictly to couples. Its many guests and families find themselves chatting easily in the central spaces and wisely designed garden paths.

The staff of the Esencia are well-practiced in the subtle art of hospitality and deliver it effortlessly. Anticipating almost every request before it’s given, their relaxed manner and genuine smiles go a long way in creating a truly welcoming and tranquil space. Nowhere is this truer than in the circular Mayan palapa, which houses the all-organic Aroma Spa where guests will be treated to the ancient holistic treatments with ingredients taken from the nearby jungles and waters.

Fresh Ceviche

Hotel Esencia is so named because it is the very essence of an escape. In this idyllic paradise, time stands still and worldly woes melt away. The white powder beaches and warm turquoises of the ocean paint a seascape that intensely rejuvenating and awe-inspiring. If tranquility has a home, then it can probably be found in the blissful seclusion of Hotel Esencia.