One of the world’s great hideaways, Hotel Esencia occupies a pristine stretch of beach half way between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, a 60-minute drive from Cancún International Airport.
The elegant mansion was originally built as a private home for Italian duchess Rosa di Ferrari. Today, the estate occupies 50-acres of landscaped garden and lush tropical jungle, with 38 suites and three villas. All have private terraces with views of the sea or gardens and are accessible by a stone path which snakes around the property.
Crisp white-washed interiors give way to Mayan jungle and Caribbean coast. Owner Kevin Wendle has blended mid-century furnishings with a mix of classic pieces and Mexican crafts. There are even originals by Pablo Picasso and Le Corbusier from his own private art collection.
Contrasting white with dark wood furniture, rooms are cool and calming at Hotel Esencia. Brightly coloured Mexican textiles and photography add to the aesthetic. With indoor-outdoor showers and freestanding baths, bathrooms are spacious and full of light.
Hotel Esencia has several newly available penthouse suites that overlook the treetops. Leading up from a staircase, each has a private rooftop terrace with a plunge pool and champagne bar.
Well-suited to families, there are also a couple of two-bedroom cottages with full-size private pools, a multimedia room, chef and private bar.
There are a couple of pools just a short stroll away from the sands. There’s also an informal beach bar where guests can snack on grilled fish tacos, and bowls of ceviche or sip a cocktail while enjoying views of the bay. The location is enchanting during the summer months (May – September) when turtles descend on Xpu-Ha bay for nesting season.
Overlooking Esencia’s gardens, the smarter Mistura Restaurant opens for dinner and combines thatched roofs with striking blue and white tiled tables.
Chef Dimitris Katrivesis has composed a menu featuring local seafood specialities and dishes from further afield. For pre or post dinner drinks, there are tequila cocktails spruced with homegrown chillies.
Our favourite is their take on a spiced margarita that tastes like dynamite in a glass.
1 1/2 oz. Tequila Casa Dragones Blanco
2 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
3/4 oz. Cointreau
1/2 oz. simple syrup
5 grams chopped fresh ginger
In a cocktail shaker, muddle simple syrup with a small rosemary twig and the chopped ginger. Add Tequila Casa Dragones Blanco, Cointreau, fresh grapefruit juice and some ice cubes. Shake well. Double strain and serve on the rocks in a salt-rimmed Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a rosemary twig and a flamed grapefruit peel.
Located at the eastern side of the hotel’s gardens, there’s an organic spa with jacuzzis, steam rooms and a recently refurbished gym. A full menu of treatments focuses on deep relaxation and stress relief. Natural ingredients are sourced from the surrounding forests and Caribbean waters.
Yoga classes and other training sessions can be taken in a thatched studio that opens out onto the jungle.
Active travellers can also go scuba diving and explore the world’s second largest coral reef. Snorkelling with sea turtles can also be arranged. Galloping on a horse along the sands is also possible.
A 30-minute (check timings) drive from the 13th-century Mayan ruins of Tulum and Playa del Carmen’s nightlife, Chichén Itzá and Ek Balam (our favourite) are within easy reach (2 hours drive), as well as the mangrove canals of Sian Ka’an.