“Peaceful, luxurious hotel with white-on-white rooms, delicious seafood and an organic spa, set on a perfect stretch of beach in Xpu-Ha”
There’s a high standard of furnishing throughout, characterised by whitewashed walls, native wooden ornaments, padded sofas moulded seamlessly into the room and huge inviting beds with stone headboards. Big windows and sun terraces offer stunning views, mostly of the glistening beach out front.
Proper entertainment systems - enormous flat screens, DVD players, pre-loaded iPods - are a nice touch, and fun design concepts include speakers in the bathroom and remote-controlled blinds. Bathrooms have huge walk-in showers with 2 angled heads (some have tubs, too) and Molton Brown products are generously scattered. The overall effect is one of supreme comfort - cooling air-conditioning and sumptuous bed linens mean these are lovely places to lounge and relax in (though you're wary of getting anything dirty!), plus the minibars are complimentary.
The smallest Garden Suites are nice and private, hidden down individual paths shaded by huge leaves and foliage. The Garden Suites with Plunge Pool are a step up, with spacious decks, outdoor plunge pools and loungers, though the greenery means they don’t get much sun - and whilst we loved the quiet setting, our plunge pool felt rather exposed to the walkways so we hardly used it. If you’d prefer a sea view to a jungle hideaway, opt for one of the first- or second-floor Ocean Suites.
The Villas behind the spa provide accommodation for a family or group. Upstairs are the bedrooms - a vast master with 2 terraces (1 with hammock) and a generous bathroom, plus a twin room with a smaller bathroom (ideal for kids). Down below, the large communal area opens onto a sociable deck for meals, plus a private pool. Out back there's a cinema room and small kitchen, and you can request chef services if you want a change of scene for meals.
For a special treat, choose one of the Master Suites in the main house. Most popular is the Duchess’ former bedroom on the second floor. Its sizeable terrace has double vistas of the ocean in front and the treetops behind (great for sunsets), plus a roomy outdoor plunge pool. However, our favourite has a stunning 360-degree lookout over the horizon, thanks to its panoramic windows. And if this cinematic view isn’t enough, the push of a button transforms the windows into blinds, so the room can double as a private movie room with a high definition projector and range of films.
Esencia’s menus contain an appetising mix of beautifully presented Mexican specialities and international food. Most meals are served at the Pool Restaurant, though the Garden Restaurant is also open a couple of nights per week.
We liked the interesting breakfast options, including tasty quinoa porridge with almond milk and huevos motulenos (fried eggs with tortilla, refried black beans, ham, salsa motulena, green peas, fried plantain).
And at lunch, the fantastic ceviche menu makes a light and fresh meal, particularly the zesty seafood ‘Azteca’ version. Also available are quesadillas, sandwiches, burgers and homemade nachos.
During dinner, a guitarist serenades with a velvety voice, and each table has a fat candle for atmospheric lighting - families tend to eat early, couples later. We whetted our appetite with salty margaritas, then enjoyed seared scallops followed by red snapper served in a steamy banana leaf parcel, with a piquant tomato salsa. Delicious puddings included the Esencia chocolate bomb and banana flambé Overall, our only criticisms would be that the menu may be a little limited for longer stays and that even the cheapest bottle on the wine list is pricey.
If you want a change of scene, there's a beach restaurant called Cielo that's very close to the hotel.
Families are made very welcome - we kept noticing how sweet and friendly staff were with children. Almost everything you could need is laid on, from babysitting to kids menus, yoga classes and even kiddie spa treatments, and it's definitely popular with families, but manages to shy away from feeling like a 'family hotel'.
Under 2s go free; depending on where you're staying, children might be included in the price of your accommodation or you might have to pay half the adult price (up to age 12) for an extra bed.
Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)
The spacious Garden Suites (if you have 1 child), or the more private Villas with heated pool (if you have 2+ children). Most rooms can take an extra bed or cot; one of the Master Suites can connect with an Ocean Suite.
The hotel's nanny service offers 2 hours for free if you're using the restaurant or spa; babysitting is charged after that.
Baby monitors available with reception throughout the hotel.
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
Food is available all day and there's a microwave and blender for guest use too. There is a kids menu and the chef is happy to whip up special requests.
The pools aren't fenced