Carretera Cancun–Tulum, Xpu–Ha 2, Quintana Roo, Mexico
With flawless service and excellent design, Esencia also happens to be the rare luxury property that welcomes children––but that shouldn't deter adults seeking an escape, as there's plenty of privacy if it's desired.
Whitewashed inside and out, the exclusive resort of Esencia is set on a beautiful bay between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Detachment from the outside world happens at the front gate, where guests pass through a traditional Maya house, a dirt–floor oval made of saplings and lit with candles. From here, a path meanders through the low forest to reach substantially more splendid buildings clustered along the beach and extending back from the water amid a neatly tended garden.
The heart of the place is a villa built by an Italian duchess, where guests can sprawl on deep sofas in the salon or chat on the front terrace that overlooks two pools and the broad, fine beach; upstairs are two of the more remarkable rooms, the Rosa suite, which has its own pool, and the torre (tower) suite, with its panoramic views of the bay and surrounding greenery (Esencia is fortunate to have small hotels and private homes as neighbors; only one larger resort is visible to the south).
A string of two–story outbuildings in the garden section contain the most common room layout, the gardenview suite. They make up for the lack of sea views with private plunge pools, outdoor showers, and, in many rooms, deep soaking tubs; the ground–floor rooms have a little more space. The indoor showers have two heads, one dinner–plate hanging from the ceiling and another jutting from the side of the stall. Families may want to book one of the two cottages––one has one separate bedroom for children, while the larger complex has up to four additional adjoining rooms. In every case, though, privacy is paramount––front terraces, where coffee and pastries are delivered every morning, are screened with greenery, and buildings are angled so you can lounge by your plunge pool without being on display.
In 2014, Esencia was taken over by owner Kevin Wendle, who has ushered in a new era in the hotel's decoration and organization. Throughout, mid–century Mexican art and design in the form of accents like woven rugs, bed throws and table tops give the hotel a modern yet homey affect. The hotel's new soundtrack has been created by Paris DJ Michel Guabert and you will now find a bevy of new art and design books in guest rooms and hotel salons. Everywhere you turn, there are thoughtful details, from an extra side showerhead (in addition to the de rigueur dinner plate) to smartly placed power outlets to soft, light robes perfectly suited to the climate.
Although it has expanded well beyond the Main House, Esencia maintains its feeling of hominess. This is managed primarily through the seemingly effortless hospitality extended by the staff––you'll see few uniforms, and certainly no name tags among the employees. Whether you're chatting in the salon or settling into pool chair, someone will soon arrive to offer cocktails or other refreshment. The Esencia Organic Spa offers traditional Maya treatments and their new fitness room and cold-press juice bar round out the holistic wellness experience.
Their other new addition is Executive chef Juan Carlos Gutierrez Chavira, who uses ingredients sourced from the hotel garden or nationally, from regions of Mexico known for their excellent products—moles from Oaxaca, wines from Baja California, etc.
Esencia has a social feeling, in part because the guests are not just couples, but also because more people are drawn to the main house by wireless Internet access and the promise of afternoon tea, in keeping with the duchess's preferences. If you're in search of quiet elegance—and can stand the sight of children—Esencia will feel like a home away from home.
Web Address: www.hotelesencia.com
Total Number of Rooms: 29
Published rates: $650 to $4,356 including continental breakfast but not taxes and 10% service charge
Review and photos by Zora O'Neill
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