One of the keys to happiness has always been having something to look forward to, but the unfortunate pause in river and ocean cruising has inflicted a heavy toll on my travel wanderlust. Making a rebellious move towards mitigation from induced isolation, I discovered the prescription and ultimate cure in an impromptu escape to the reopened borders of Mexico and the beautiful coastal corridor of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Although dozens of mega-resorts permeate the region, intimate boutique properties can still be found for those seeking more personalized indulgence. On this nostalgic return to a beloved area we discovered a polished gem basking in the Riviera Maya sun.
Hotel Esencia, There’s A Jungle Out There
Staking claim to the exquisite white powder sands of Xpu-Ha beach, the secluded private home of an Italian duchess has been transformed into an elite estate of villas and suites, catering to guests that appreciate refined hospitality and upscale accommodations. The secret enclave of Hotel Esencia proudly passes the litmus test for its esteemed status as a luxury resort completely untethered to the concept that bigger is better.
Marking a new chapter in its royal lineage, new owners reimagined the estate in 2014 and discreetly nestled 42 suites and 3 villas into the tropical landscape. Serpentine pathways connect to the centerpiece mansion and twin pools, leading onto the spectacular beach.
What to do? What to do.
A typical day starts with coffee, juice and pastries delivered to your jungle sanctuary, followed by a complimentary yoga session inducing harmony with the intimate surroundings. A light workout in the Technogym fitness center followed by a refreshing dip in the twin pools cap off the indulgent morning. The on-site Esencia Spa offers afternoon “me time” with indigenous treatments for the body and soul, integrating endemic ingredients from the Mayan jungle. A sauna, steam room and hydro pools of pleasure are complimentary.
If preferences are geared towards engagement with the turquoise sea, complimentary paddle boards, kayaks, snorkeling equipment and a sail boat are available. Snuggle up in a hammock or relax under a private palapa cabana but don’t miss the late afternoon tea served in the storied main house.
For excursions of adventure, Hotel Esencia is surrounded by Mayan jungle and sacred Mexican cenotes yet only minutes from kinetic Playa del Carmen. For culture hounds, the iconic Mayan ruins of Tulum or Coba are just a short drive away.
Starry, Starry Nights
Three dining venues tempt the palate at dinner time, each offering a culinary experience that’s sophisticated yet casual, exemplary of what would be expected from a five star resort.
The internationally respected BEEFBAR, replete with hanging gardens entreats meat lovers to savor top of the line cuts, with Kobe beef tostaditas as a signature menu item. For seafood connoisseurs, the crystalline waters of Mexico’s Caribbean supply MISTURA with bounty of the sea dishes plated to perfection.
Positioned under a thatched palapa roof, The Beach Bar evokes the ambiance of a flip-flop lifestyle, serving lite bite comfort food and cocktails. If exotic dreamscapes float your boat, torch lit private dining on the beach can be arranged to put wind in the sails of romance.
After dinner, a retreat to your sumptuous suite with a nightcap is in order and lounging on your private terrace or taking an al fresco dip in your plunge pool will certainly conjure up fantasies of life in a perpetual paradise.
Staying healthy on holiday will be easier than ever before with the introduction of the soon to be opened Rooftop Wellness Suites. These innovative accommodations will feature a private indoor fitness studio offering the virtual on-demand personal trainer ‘The Mirror’, state-of-the-art Technogym personal weight kits, exercise balls and yoga mats. Optional Peloton bicycles and/or TRX suspension trainers are available upon request. Complementing these amenities are the rooftop terraces, immersed within the jungle canopy with private heated plunge pools and showers that double as steam rooms
The hotel’s Artistic Director, Juan Carlos Gutierrez has applied his visionary talent and keen eye for detail to blend the beauty of raw nature into an aesthetic of luxury. The property’s boutique identity, unique solitude and warm hospitality serve as catalysts for the Hollywood celebs and privileged few that know it, to return time and time again. It rightly deserves its hush-hush reputation but is far too exceptional to keep secret.