the "essence" of the riviera maya...

Always on the hunt for unique properties... my latest find takes the form of a mesmerizing boutique hotel on a blissfully remote beach about 20 minutes south of Playa del Carmen.

My first clue that I had hit upon a hip hideaway was the dirt track road I had to take off an unnamed highway to even get to the property. In fact, I kept asking my driver if he was sure he was taking me to the right place!

The former house of an Italian Duchess, Esencia is a 50-acre seaside estate backed by a tropical jungle and fronted by a dazzling white beach. When the Duchess decided to share her slice of paradise, and craft her home into a hotel- she did it with one condition- the property had to maintain the feel of a private house... and that it does! None of the 29 rooms (which are housed in white stucco haciendas) have numbers- they all have names. Yet the names aren’t posted anywhere- truly making you feel like you’re staying at a wealthy friend's beachside estate.

The other thing that really amazed me is that I never had to sign for a meal, spa treatment or anything else-- the staff all knew me by name!

The minimalistic, all white decor of the rooms fits perfectly into the overall “luxury in the jungle” vibe of the hotel. The property is ideal for stylish couples who want a mellow retreat. A “buyout” for a destination wedding is definitely the way to go- allowing your guests to take over the entire property.

Families might be more comfortable staying in one of the 10 garden suites (each features outdoor showers and private plunge pools) or one of the two-bedroom cottages, which have kitchens (including private chef services), media rooms and their own full-size pools. 

Although the property is kid friendly- the resort’s amenities are definitely geared towards grown-ups... particularly Aroma SPA. Having frequented spas all over the world, I consider myself quite the spa “junkie”, but I’ve never encountered anything quite like this. Housed in a circular, Mayan-inspired building- it is a sanctuary where past and present Mexican healing rituals mix- resulting in a very spiritual experience.

Treatments are based on ancient healing techniques and are 100% natural & organic. Built on a foundation & belief in the healing powers of local plants- ingredients are grown in an organic garden & mixed by hand in the spa’s “pre-hispanic” kitchen.

I indulged in the Ritual de Limón- a massage that incorporates limes (considered by Mayan healers a natural element for purification), with deep stretching. When she was finished, my therapist handed me the four limes she had used during my treatment and I tossed them into an open fire to “burn” away the negative energy that they had absorbed from my body during my massage. Quite cathartic!

Clearly I’m a fan about everything at the hotel... including the phenomenal cuisine. Chef Bernardo’s Meso-American creations with a Yucatecan ‘twist’ are served up at both of the hotel’s restaurants. A favorite for me was his unique twist on Eggs Benedict...poached eggs on artichoke hearts with hollandaise sauce. Another special treat is the sublime ceviche menu (I enjoyed the zesty Azteca ceviche on the beach along with a Hibiscus margarita!)

spoiling (complimentary) touches...

Pre-breakfast coffee & pastries that are delivered to your room... you just have to let the concierge know what time you’d like them and they “magically” appear outside your door!
8AM yoga classes on the lawn
Couples’ palapas on the beach
Afternoon cookies & tea in the main house (the Duchess would approve!)
Excellent staff that quickly know you by name (Fidel was amazing!)

Needless to say... I can’t wait to book my next trip back!

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