intimate, beachy, boutique
Carretera Cancún-Tulum, 265 Quintana Roo, Mexico +52 984-873-4835 hotelesencia.com
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At a Glance
This whitewashed stucco property was once the private villa of an Italian duchess—and thanks to pops of color, work by 20th-century artists, midcentury modern furniture and a curated collection of art and design books throughout, it has the feel of a chic friend’s Mexican beach house. (For most of the past decade the property has been owned by television produce Kevin Wendle.) The quintessential Mexican architecture, setting and décor give the resort an immediate sense of place. Public spaces have a chill house-party vibe thanks to a curated playlist by celebrated sound designer Michel Gaubert. Midway between Playa del Carmen and Tulum (and a 50-minute drive from Cancún), the property is surrounded by Mayan jungle to the north and Xpu-Ha cove to the south. The 47 stylish beach suites , a new mansion and three villas have terraces with hammocks and plunge pools dotting the 50-acre estate. What we love most about it is the size, charm and authenticity—especially in an area known for its massive gated resorts. It is the kind of hotel where the staff knows your name and laid-back couples and families can kick back and truly relax.
The Standout: A signature margarita from Beach Bar—just a few (barefoot) steps from the sand—made with Casa Dragones Blanco small-batch tequila, Cointreau, grapefruit juice, rosemary and crushed ginger (and empanadillas from Mistura)
Don’t Miss: A visit to the Maya ruins at Tulum, on a hilltop above the sea
- The two-bedroom cottages with full-size pools
- Paddleboarding or snorkeling to see the family of manatees at the nearby lagoon
- The breezy ocean suites that have stunning views of the sea
Hotel Esencia Review
Many five-star resorts battle for top billing, with over-the-top amenities like 24-hour butler service and entrances rivaling royal palaces. At Hotel Esencia, which sits hidden down a dirt road and through a jungle in between Mexico’s Riviera Maya and Tulum, luxury comes in a very different package. Complete with glistening turquoise waters and a soft white sand beach, guests will never have to sign checks, lock doors or even learn their room number. This discreet, 47-room hotel–formerly the estate of an Italian duchess–feels more like checking into a chic friend’s luxurious beach house
As hotels go, this one is pretty special. Staff seem to know the name of every guest from the moment they enter the property. There are no room numbers, but rather yellow ribbons tied to trees. The spacious rooms and suites are in small white cottages scattered throughout the jungle, each furnished simply with whitewashed stucco walls and floors accented by mahogany windows and floor-to-ceiling doors that slide open to the terrace. Expansive bathrooms stretch into the outdoors as well, featuring private plunge pools and, in some rooms, outdoor showers. Amenities include walk-in closets, Haviana flip flops, stylish beach bags and an iPod dock equipped with a preloaded iPod with a customized DJ set to complete the chill-out package. There are fabulous accommodation options with multiple bedrooms for families as well. Our favorite is the master beach suite which can connect to the jungle suite.
There is also The Mansion, a lovely villa that was added in 2022. reached via a palm-shaded path. White, bright, clean-lined, effortlessly stylish, a casa blanca amid the lush jungle, it sleeps eight in four bedrooms and spans three floors and has a good size pool and a rooftop plunge pool and big picture windows with lush palm views from every window. There’s a private butler’s pantry off the kitchen for easy entertaining, along with a downstairs screening room and a speakeasy with its ceiling painted by a local artist, as well as a private entrance. A favorite detail: the white tiles with royal blue animals seen around the pool also cover the walls in the master bath.
Esencia’s spa, built under traditional palapa thatched roofs, inspires instant calm. It has a Mayan kitchen laboratory where ingredients from the estate’s garden and the ocean are mixed in customized blends for guests. There are private whirlpools, steam rooms, and saunas including an infrared sauna. The separate fitness room has the latest equipment, including a fitness mirror which provides workouts by professional trainers.
The hotel also offers complimentary daily yoga classes under a pavilion with views of the jungle and beach, which are perfect for a light work-out before the daytime heat sets in. Guests should be sure to plan a visit to Esencia’s private cenote access where they have a chance to paddleboard and swim with wildlife without the crowds found in the rest of the Riviera Maya.
For dining, guests can choose between Wagyu or Kobe Beef cuts at Beefbar, a sea-to-table concept at Mistura, or seasonal international fare at Café Esencia. The tuna tostadas are not to be missed and are best enjoyed from your beach palapa with a spicy mezcal frozen cocktail.
Who Should Stay
Low-key families and couples who looking for a bohemian-cool retreat.