Hotel Esencia

Near Playa del Carmen, The Yucatan, Mexico Book from Book from £556 per night

Peaceful, luxurious hotel with white-on-white rooms, delicious food and an organic spa, set on a perfect stretch of beach in Xpu-Ha
Thirty years ago, the powder-soft sands and warm turquoise sea of Xpu-Ha bewitched the Italian Duchess of Ferrari to such an extent that she commissioned a Mexican architect to build her a holiday house there. And what a holiday house: a 50-acre estate of perfectly manicured lawns dotted with palm trees, backed by the tropical jungle and fronted by that dazzling white beach. She spent several years in fleeting residence, but finally decided to share her slice of paradise, so crafted her home into a hotel in 2006, adding extra rooms in the greenery behind the white stucco main house.

A glorious fusion of Caribbean colours, Mayan heritage and sleek modernity, Hotel Esencia is a world away from Playa Del Carmen - and very much retains its tranquil, elegant roots. Its 42 rooms are spoiling and decadent - pristine white, with sumptuous bathrooms and private terraces. The restaurants are some of Mexico’s best - choose between a cool beach shack serving grilled seafood and ceviche, a smart steak restaurant with a Michelin-starred team or a laidback cafe for light meals. And don't miss the perfectly zested margaritas. And its organic spa is the stuff relaxation dreams are made of, with open-air massage rooms, herb-scented steam rooms and thermal Jacuzzis.

But what really sets Esencia apart is its incredibly friendly service towards families and couples alike, and its relaxed overall vibe. And the complimentary afternoon tea served in the comfortable salon gives the hotel a sociable villa feel, just as the Duchess intended.

Highs

  • Spoiling little touches include pre-breakfast coffee and pastries delivered to your room, yoga classes, Havaianas, help-yourself minibars, and couples' palapas on the beach
  • It's fantastic for families, with free babysitting, a kids’ pool, and thoughtful activities in the holidays
  • The airy spa has its own herb garden, housed in a circular Mayan-inspired building, with open-air massage tables and decadent treatments
  • The fabulous rooms and suites are very private, spacious and squeaky clean. Some have plunge pools or hammocks, and a couple have cinema rooms
  • The excellent staff quickly know you by name

Lows

  • Exclusivity comes at a cost; food and drink is (we felt) overpriced, and there are unexpected costs too
  • We also felt a little uncomfortable at the use of towels (3 per person just for your sun lounger) and small water bottles (although these are recycled)
  • If you come in school holidays, be prepared for quite a few families
World Favourite Family Hideaway

    Best rooms for families

    The spacious Jungle Suites (if you have 1 child), or the more private Pool 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.

    Parents should know...

    The pools aren't fenced
  • 8 cots
  • Baby bedding
  • High chair
  • Baby bath
  • Bottle warming

Some equipment may need to be requested in advance

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.

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.

  • Heated swimming pool with toys
  • Separate kids pool
  • DVDs
  • Board games
  • Beach toys
  • Free children's yoga
  • Kids cookery classes
  • Specialist chocolate spa treatments for kids
  • Beach
  • Eco-archaeological park Xcaret, for swimming with dolphins, snorkelling, Mayan culture, animals and more
  • Xel-Ha waterpark
  • Snorkelling, diving and swimming
  • Ruins to visit

Great for...

Beach
Family
Foodie
Honeymoon
Spa
  • Luxury Beach Hotel
  • 40
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pools
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Babysitting
  • Creche / Kids Club
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room:

Rooms

The decor throughout is utterly mindblowing, characterised by whitewashed walls, native wooden ornaments and padded sofas moulded seamlessly into the rooms. Big windows and sun terraces offer stunning views, mostly of the glistening beach out front. Fun design concepts include speakers in the bathrooms and remote-controlled blinds. Bathrooms have huge walk-in showers (some have tubs, too). And to top it off, the minibars are complimentary.

The smallest Jungle Rooms are nice and private, hidden down individual paths shaded by huge leaves and foliage. The Jungle 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. If you’d prefer a sea view to a jungle hideaway, opt for an Ocean Suite or a Beach Suite.

The Pool 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 a 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 new Penthhouse Suites or a Master Suite 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 a range of films.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Cots Available
  • DVD player
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Plunge pool
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Satellite TV
  • Terrace
  • WiFi

Eating

There are 3 restaurants to choose from - all cool, contemporary and delicious.

Cafe Esencia offers laidback, all-day dining. We liked the interesting breakfast options, including huevos motulenos (fried eggs with tortilla, refried black beans, ham, salsa motulena, green peas, fried plantain). Lunch and dinner options range from salads and sandwiches to fresh fish and tacos.

Beachfront Mistura is a bright, funky restaurant with a Greek taverna feel and killer sea views. At lunch, the fantastic signature ceviche makes a light and fresh meal. Also available are salads and fresh seafood from an open grill. This is a great spot for lazy afternoon drinks - or you can stay refreshed with a smoothie from the Beach Bar if you prefer.

Beefbar is the sparkling new steak restaurant, run by a Michelin starred team. Décor is urban chic - hanging plants everywhere, a cocktail bar, wicker chairs that spill out onto the garden with fairy lights and daybeds. A Cuban singer and guitarist provided the music on our visit. It all felt very special.

If you want a change of scene, there's a beach restaurant called Cielo that's very close to the hotel.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Children's meals
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Laze by the pool, or in your private thatched palapa on the beach. Attendants are armed with towels, iced water, snorkelling equipment, and buckets and spades
  • Take one of the free paddleboards or kayaks out into the calm morning sea - we spotted lots of rays and a turtle as we paddled over the reef
  • Snorkel from the shallows - the world’s second-longest coral reef sits off the Yucatán’s east coast, and we saw a sting ray, a couple of crabs mating, and some sizeable fish just yards out from shore
  • Spend a day on the hotel’s sailing boat for snorkelling on nearby reefs, fishing or just letting the ketch get some wind in her sails - a heady experience
  • Swim alongside the world’s biggest fish in whale shark season (June-September). The highly recommended trip is run by Ocean Tours, exclusive to the hotel
  • Bliss out in the Mayan Spa. The steam rooms are scented with bundles of fresh herbs, and the hot or cold Jacuzzis are deliciously open to the breeze, with sea views
  • Visit the Dos Ojos cenote, 5km from the hotel. Bring a snorkel and mask to get a closer glimpse of what lies beneath
  • Hire a car through the hotel and discover hidden Caribbean beaches on your way to Tulum's Mayan ruins
  • Complimentary yoga classes are held in the outdoor pavilion every morning at 8am during the week; at the weekends there’s Tai Chi
  • Head to the hotel library and browse the incredible collection of books, which are mostly big hardbacks about art and architecture from around the world
  • Liaise with the hotel to arrange a romantic beach dinner under the stars
  • Have a cookery lesson with the Guatemalan chef (suitable for children, too) and learn the secrets behind proper guacamole, sopa de lima and fajitas
  • If you’re craving some nightlife, take a taxi to Playa Del Carmen for a buzzing carnival vibe, late night bars and clubs

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse riding
  • Nightlife
  • Private guided tours
  • Sailing
  • Scuba diving
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Well being
  • Whale watching
  • Yoga

Best Time to go

High season is mid-December to April, when it's typically drier and cooler (mid 70Fs- mid 80Fs). May to early December is low season, when prices are usually substantially reduced. Temperatures and rainfall rise from May to October, with average highs reaching into the 90Fs. During the Mexican summer (July and August) it can be extremely hot with daily bursts of rainfall. Although it can rain at any time of year along the coast, September and October are generally the wettest months and have the greatest risk of hurricanes.

Our Top Tips

Once settled at Esencia, it's difficult to do anything energetic, such is the relaxed ambiance of the place. But do borrow the free snorkels and masks and the free paddleboards for exploring the nearby reefs - we spotted turtles and rays whilst paddling over the bay.

As the garden rooms are enclosed by jungle, they tend to attract more bugs and mosquitoes so bear this in mind if you tend to get bitten.
Kid Friendly:

Location

Hotel Esencia is located on the beach at Xpu-ha, 20 minutes from Playa del Carmen, on the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico.

By Air:
Fly into Cancun International Airport (76km away).

From the Airport:
The hotel can arrange transfers, or you can take a taxi.

By Car:
If you want to hire a car for the duration of your trip, see our recommendations. If you want to hire a car for a day or 2 after you arrive at the hotel, staff can arrange this for you.

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.

Airports:

  • Cancún International 76.0 km CUN

Other:

  • Beach 0.1 km
  • Shops 26.0 km
  • Restaurant 0.2 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 1 independent review from i-escape guests

9/10
Room
10/10
Food
9/10
Service
8/10
Value
9/10
Overall

This hotel was fantastic. Amazing service and incredible food. A real treat.

10/10,

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