Indagare member Christina Bernstein recently returned from Hotel Esencia in Mexico. Here are her impressions from the trip.
A 30-minute drive north of Tulum, Hotel Esencia overlooks the pristine and private Xpu-ha beach. The 29-room property feels more like a private estate than a five-star resort—it was originally the home of an Italian duchess— which made it an ideal retreat for our honeymoon.
Everything about the hotel is well thought out, from the white-washed rooms with rounded corners (Mayans believed that energy flowed better that way) to the complimentary havaianas sandals and special turn-down gifts. The hotel’s owner, Kevin Wendle, is involved in all aspects of the property and cordially introduced himself when we arrived. He suggested we visit the nearby cenote (a natural freshwater pool), where guests (if they get lucky) can swim with passing manatees.
Esencia’s area abounds with wildlife: peacocks and iguanas strut around the grounds; fearless blue Yucatan jays peer at guests hungrily as they collect their pastry baskets in the morning; and just off shore there is a vibrant coral reef teeming with fish and turtles.
The new air-conditioned gym has all the equipment you need but if you’re looking for a more holistic fitness regimen, take advantage of Esencia’s complimentary sunrise yoga classes. At the beginning of our stay, before the weekend guests arrived, my husband and I were the only two yogis there every morning. Our instructor, clad in all white, led us through Vinyasa poses on the second floor of the new open-air yoga pavilion. To be surrounded by ocean was calming, exhilarating and—in keeping with our experience at Esensia—completely perfect. After yoga each morning, we'd head to the juice bar, bring our freshly cracked coconuts to the beach a few paces away and claim a private thatched awning for the day.
Everything at Esencia is laid back and ‘tranquilo,’ and this is especially true at the spa. The space is complete with soaring ceilings, a steam room, private hot and cold water pools and a candlelit kitchen where the staff concocts traditional Mayan recipes intended to make you relajado (entirely relaxed). We felt so calm and happy that we actually canceled our 4th of July plans back home in order to extend our stay!
The food at Esencia is also remarkable. From the aguacate frito (lightly fried avocado spears) to the assortment of ceviches and fresh salads, everything created by executive chef Juan Carlos Gutierrez is healthy, delicious and often sourced from Esencia’s own gardens and nearby farms. We dined outside the hotel only once during our stay, and while Hartwood restaurant was worth the trip, we hurried back and decided not to leave this little slice of paradise until the last minute. On the last day, I left my straw hat with one of our new amigos at the hotel and told him to keep it safe until we return—which won’t be soon enough!
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