Hotel Spotlight

A Little Treasure and an Open Secret on the Mexican Riviera

by Jeralyn Gerba
You could be here. Photo by Tanveer Badal. All photos courtesy of Hotel Esencia.

Hotel Esencia
Xpu-ha, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Bohemian Rhapsody, $$$

Even though it's on the Riviera Maya, within an hour of Tulum and Playa del Carmen, Hotel Esencia is somewhere else entirely. A perennial five-star overachiever on the World's Best lists of fashionable travel magazines, the 50-acre estate, originally built as the private home of an Italian duchess and now owned by a Hollywood producer with a penchant for cinematic settings, is a stylish cocoon enveloping guests in beauty and respite. Discreet suites, villas, and footpaths are built around a main house, and all of it is nestled between the dense jungle and a secluded sand beach.

The buildings themselves are bright white, simple and striking from the outside. Inside, sunlight streams onto shiny floors, invigorating textures and bright colors, contemporary furnishings, and subtle but striking architectural details like curved corners, archways, and shallow alcoves for displaying purposefully place objects and art. Coffee is delivered to guest rooms in the morning so that travelers can gently rouse from their tangle of bed sheets and roll onto the terrace or slip into a gorgeous private plunge pool.

The thatched-roof spa, inspired by the healing rituals of the Maya people, offers herbs and tinctures (grown or gathered on property) and a traditional steam house called a temazcal. But you'll feel deeply relaxed and inspired just wandering around the grounds. You can feel the magic through and through.

At a Glance

The Vibe: You know you've got it good.

Standout Detail: A perfectly executed design vision.

This Place Is Perfect For: Romance, intrigue, drama, deep relaxation.

Rooms: Forty-seven very private suites and four villas (with big windows, well-appointed bathrooms, private terraces, hammocks, perfectly placed palm fronds, and sometimes a private plunge pool). The new Mansion is a four-bedroom stunner with three swimming pools, various seating and dining areas, a gym, sauna, and 20-seat screening room.

Food + Drink: Juice bar and cafe, an omakase dining experience, a steak house, and a Yucatan-Mediterranean seafood spot on the sand.

On Site: Heated pools, tennis courts, and nearby swimming hole called a cenote. There's a fitness center and the spa (with a jungle-y herbal apothecary), and a white sand beach where guests can observe, between March and October, sea turtle hatchings. No surprise that the Esencia boutique is expertly, colorfully merchandised with beautiful clothing, objects, and souvenirs.

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