Destination: Mexico: Riviera Maya
Vibe: Relaxed, beachside boho chic, intimate.
At a Glance: Surrounded by the lavish five-stars of the Riviera Maya, boutique Esencia feels beautifully of the destination, like being invited to a chic Mexican friend’s beach home.
Review: Many five-star resorts battle for top billing with over-the-top amenities – grandiose spas, 24-hour butler service, entrances that rival those of royal palaces. At Hotel Esencia, which sits hidden down a dirt road and through a jungle on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, luxury comes in a very different package. During my recent stay, I never signed a check, never locked my door, never thought twice about logging onto email or grabbing a Coke from the minibar (both WiFi and the minibar are complimentary). In fact, I’m not even sure what my room numbers were, since the staff seems to know the name of every guest from the second they enter the property. I almost hesitate to call this discreet, 29-room property – formerly the estate of an Italian duchess – a resort. I felt like I’d checked into a friend’s house party rather than a hotel.
But as hotels go, this one is pretty special. The spacious rooms are scattered in small white cottages throughout the jungle, each furnished simply with whitewashed concrete 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. The beds are some of the most comfortable I’ve tried. Amenities also include walk-in closets, flatscreen televisions, a complimentary minibar (restocked daily) and an iPod dock equipped with a preloaded iPod to complete the chill-out package.
The only amenity I missed at Esencia was a gym. Complimentary yoga classes are offered by the beach every morning, but given the amount of guacamole I devoured each day, I could have used a treadmill. Others might lament the lack of a kids’ club, but anyone traveling during a school vacation will find one in place – the other kids staying at the hotel. I could barely coax my five-year-old away from her crew of ten new friends from London, Paris, Houston, San Francisco, Boston and just down the street from us in Manhattan. Esencia also offers two free hours of nanny service each day while guests have dinner or use the wonderful spa. Our babysitter the first night was so wonderful that we booked her for the rest of the week.
WHO SHOULD STAY: Low-key families who like rustic luxury. If you love Cap Juluca, you’ll probably be a fan of Esencia as well. Also, for anyone who craves proximity to Tulum without sacrificing, say, electricity and reliable plumbing, Esencia’s the only option. The hotel is a 25-minute drive north of Tulum, an easy trip along a well-paved highway. We popped down to the low-key beach town for late lunches, a few afternoons on the beach and some excellent dinners.
INDAGARE TIP: Families should book one of the two two-bedroom cottages, which come with their own full-size pool as well as living and dining spaces. Book well ahead, as these two cottages go quickly and there is only one pair of connecting rooms as an alternative for families. If you must have ocean views, there are only a few suites in the main house.INDAGARE LOVES:
- The laid-back vibe, inspiring relaxation, unplugging and rejuvenation.
- Destination-specific setting/decor.
- Details like complimentary mini-bar and preloaded iPod.
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