Riviera Maya, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
At a Glance
Set on 50-acre private estate on the tranquil, sugar-white sand beach of Xpu Ha
Beautiful hacienda style house that used to be owned by an Italian Duchess
Offers a truly personal and boutique hotel experience for both couples and families
Very bright and light design with a fresh feel
Excellent fusion Mexican food served in the restaurant and seaside grill
Calm and secluded located on a small beach
Two storey beach bar serving fresh pressed juice and mouth-wateringly good cocktails
A small oasis on an undeveloped beach
Access to the world's second largest barrier reef offers excellent snorkelling and diving
Spa specialises in ancient, holistic treatments and offers complimentary daily yoga classes
For a party with family or friends take over Esencia's fabulous ocean front villa 'Yuum Ha', complete with a private chef & butler
Best time to Visit
Good time to visit
Average time to visit
The best time to visit is typically during the drier, slightly milder months between November and April. The ‘rainy’ season begins in the south around June and runs until November. Although it can be hotter and more humid at this time of year, usually it only rains for a couple of hours before the weather clears. The wettest months tend to be September and October. The Caribbean coast can be affected by the hurricane season, which officially is from June to November.
Overlooking the turquoise Caribbean coastline and powder white sands of Xpu-Ha beach on the Riviera Maya, Esencia offers an intimate boutique hideaway from which to enjoy ocean adventures and the rich Mayan culture of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Esencia's 50-acre private estate offers an intimate atmosphere with just 40 guest rooms and suites, the breathtaking jungle and beach front location offers an appealing tranquillity, away from the crowds of nearby bustling Playa del Carmen and popular Tulum. With two ocean front swimming pools, an extensive spa, two restaurants and friendly, discrete service, Esencia is a firm favourite of Scott Dunn's for both families and couples.
The guest rooms and suites are simple and elegant, featuring native hardwood furnishings, crisp white walls and floors, twelve-foot high ceilings, mahogany louvered doors and large windows that frame tropical garden and sea views. Other features include 600-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets and Molton Brown amenities. The extra-large bathrooms have double rain-shower heads and private chef and butler service is available at all times. Esencia has two Two-Bedroom Cottages, which are the perfect choice for families and afford plenty of space and privacy and have their own private pool. For larger parties, enquire about Esencia's beach front villa, accommodating nine people, making it ideal for a family holiday home or a big celebration.
The Aroma Spa features five treatment rooms, four Jacuzzis and two Mayan-styled domed steam rooms. The ancient holistic treatments include massage, herbal saunas and facials all performed with traditional organic methods using pure indigenous fruits, plants and herbs. The hotel’s beachfront restaurant Mistura serves delicious Mexican cuisine, while the pool restaurant is better suited to casual dining with a mix of cuisines and more simple dishes on offer. There is a also a renowned Beefbar restaurant serving its internationally acclaimed Argentine steak.
Esencia is just 20 minutes south of Mayakoba and Playa del Carmen and 25 minutes north of Tulum. Given its privileged beachfront location, there is an abundance of non-motorised water sports on offer including scuba diving, stand up paddle boarding, snorkelling, windsurfing and sailing. Day expeditions to swim in fresh-water cenotes or dive in underground caverns, to visit ancient Mayan ruins from Tulum to Coba with expert guides and day trips out to the barrier reef to snorkel or dive can be arranged.
Esencia features 38 rooms and suites and three villages. 10 suites are hidden in the lush tropical gardens with their own private plunge pools whilst the two cottages can come with full staff including a cook and nanny (charged at an additional cost). Rooms feature Nespresso coffee machines, free minibar, 40MB wireless internet, movies on-demand, TVs and DVD players with a movie library and iPod sound system.
Offering ultimate luxury, Esencia has a stunning private villa nestled between 15 lush acres of well-manicured foliage. With three bedrooms, the villa can accommodate up to nine people and is just a three minute stroll from the beach.
Children are very welcome to come and stay at Esencia. Babysitting is easily available upon request and there is also a children's pool.
Esencia has two restaurants serving rustic specialities using exotic local ingredients, a beach bar, private beach, two swimming pools, a gym and scuba diving club. There is also a 24 hour concierge service, DVD library and babysitting service. The Aroma spa offering massages, herbal saunas and facials all performed with traditional organic methods as well as a Jacuzzi.
During your stay at Esencia there are many activities which you can participate in. You could go swimming, scuba diving, snorkelling along the world's second largest coral reef, windsurfing, sailing, play some golf and or get involved in some yoga classes. Or if you feel like having a lazy day, spend some time by the pool, get a massage or relax in the gardens with a good book.
Jenny Weidemann (Staff)
I did not expect to find a gem like this on the busy coast of the Riviera Maya. While most of the coast is covered with busy resorts this is more like a private hacienda with beautiful gardens and a gorgeous beach! The design is very minimalistic with white stone walls and bits of colourful vintage dcor. My highlight was the pastry basket and coffee they delivered to my room in the morning. The best fresh pastry I had in a while - still warm and so fluffy. Service is very personal, food is excellent (try the tuna ceviche at their new Missouri restaurant-so yummy), My personal favourite!
Scarlett Richard (Staff)
Hidden in tropical jungle Esencia hotel is a real gem. For those wanting to avoid the larger hotels typically found within the Riviera Maya, Esencia is a small boutique hotel with only 29 rooms (soon to be 40). Being smaller doesn't mean it forgoes the creature comforts as it still has a fantastic Mayan designed spa, two restaurants, a gym and lovely manicured gardens where peacocks roam and iguanas laze. The service here is incredibly personalised, where room numbers are avoided to give you the sense of being at home and staff will always greet you with a warm smile. I loved all the rooms, particularly my Junior Suite Garden room with a plunge pool. The room was very private and I loved the minimal feel to it. Large ceilings and stone walls all painted white and brought to life with cool colours from the Mexican soft furnishings. I ate a couple of times at the pool restaurant which is the main restaurant for all meals. All the food is delicious using only the freshest of ingredients. Make sure to try the house margaritas and avocado fries. Most importantly, the beach remains to be one of the best along the Riviera Maya with white sands and turquoise waters. At the time I was there it was a little spoilt by sea grass which is an ongoing and unpredictable problem ongoing along the coast- however the staff worked non-stop to keep the beach grass free and with the beauty of the area it had little impact on my overall experience.
Helen Dolan (Staff)
Esencia is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been with two gorgeous pools overlooking the stunning beach whilst the rest of the resort nestles amongst the shady greenery of the Yucatan Peninsula. The restaurant offers fantastic fusion food and overall there is an unobtrusive but extremely attentive service. If you want to get out and about you can explore on your own with a hire car or the hotel can easily arrange fantastic tours. I loved every moment!
Mark Beken (Staff)
There are very few places that instil such a sense of happiness and wellbeing as Esencia. It is one of those hotels that just seems to work on every level: the service is excellent but not over-the-top, the food delicious, and the rooms spacious and calming. I loved the spa with its rustic organic accents, and the beach is in my view the prettiest on the Riviera Maya.
It’s not your usual Mayan resort, this magical private estate, in fact most people that arrive to the area have never even heard of it. But Esencia is without hesitation one of the best hotels you’ll find in Playa del Carmen with a non-chain spirit of an independent luxury hotel located on a 50-acre private beach estate. The former-home of an Italian Countess, today this aristocratic resort is privy to chic wedding parties and in-the-know honeymooners that arrive along a private drive leading to hacienda-style estate with smooth white walls and terracotta roof.
With no quirky theme or trendy minimalism, Esencia's lobby is laid in white concrete floors with ebonized furnishings alit in colorful upholstery and views to the outdoor resort area with grassy lawn and sexy pool area that stretches-out to the sea. Esencia is home to Sal y Fuego Restaurant, one of the best hotel-based eateries on the coast, in a thatch-roof dining room with outdoor terrace offering a menu of seafood, meat and salad specialties. In-house Aroma Spa isn’t as large at Rosewood’s or Banyan Tree’s, but far more intimate and personal in rustic treatment spaces with soaking Jacuzzis and two Mayan-style domed steam rooms with walls of glass facing the tropical gardens.
The Yucatan Peninsula’s eastern shore is home to spectacular beaches and the world’s second-longest coral reef. A hideout for hippies and honeymooners, it’s lately become a magnet for families, who’ve discovered the impressive waterfront resorts, plus snorkeling, eco-parks, and Mayan ruins all within reach.
Although many of the amenities are geared toward grown-ups—the new organic spa with massage tables by the sea, and Sal y Fuego, the area’s best restaurant - the resort has recently begun to cater to kids. The expanding roster of children’s activities, available on request, includes yoga sessions, cooking classes with the resident pastry chef, horseback riding, scuba instruction, and chocolate massages (using cacao bean oil); nannies are also available full-time. Plus there’s always the beach to comb for toenail shells and coral.
Earthy, spartan, luxurious. These words rarely apply to a single property, yet they aptly describe the Hotel Esencia. Guests enter the 11-acre property through a traditional Mayan mud hut, then walk along a jungle path to the main building, which holds 9 guest rooms (the others are in cottages and houses). The furniture is elegantly simple, with sitting areas and bed platforms built into the smooth plastered walls. Luxury here is in the details—sumptuous bed linens, pizza-sized showerheads, speaker plug-ins for iPods—and the service. Because the staff know guests' names, signing for charges isn't necessary, including at the excellent Meso-American restaurant Sal y Fuego. Among the myriad spa services is a temazcalli ceremony, a traditional cleansing ritual inside a Mayan pyramid on the grounds.
Mexico’s Riviera Maya is home to the country’s most paradisiacal beaches. For boutique pleasures by the sand just a short drive from Playa del Carmen – and light years away from brash Cancún in terms of ambience – is Esencia, probably Mexico’s best hotel. Both guest rooms and cottages are plain and elegant, with native hardwood furnishings, high ceilings, mahogany doors and tall windows with views of tropical vegetation and the sea. The romantic Sal y Fuego Restaurant serves superlative seafood dishes in a relaxed, but refined, setting.
Chichen Itza & Private Cenote
A superb experience that combines exploring the archaeological wonders of Chichen Itza, a delicious picnic and relaxation by a beautiful cenote in complete privacy
Coba by Bicycle
Explore one of the Yucatan's less known Maya sites by bicycle, and climb the 120 steps to the top of the Nohoch Mul pyramid temple. Accompanied by a historian guide you will learn about the ruins and natural wonders which can be found at the site.
Dive Mexico's Underwater Museum
Explore the weird and wonderful underwater world of the Riviera Maya as you experience one of the most fascinating dive sites. The MUSA Underwater museum was created to encourage coral to grow and is now home to an array of colourful fish species.
Ek Balam & Xchen Cenote
Explore one of the Maya world's less visited complexes, the magnificent Ek Balam, before relaxing by a beautiful cenote in the afternoon.
Jungle Quad Bike Adventure Mexico
Go quad biking along lush tropical jungle tracks through the Mayan rainforest on Mexico's Riviera Maya. Drive past stunning white sand beaches and cool off with a swim in a crystal clear sacred cenote.
Out-of-Hours Chichen Itza Private Tour
Rise early to explore the impressive site of Chichen Itza as the sun comes up and before the gates open to the public on this exclusive private experience, allowing you to escape the crowds and make the most of your time at this must-see landmark.
Private Catamaran Sail to Isla Mujeres
Charter your own private catamaran for the day and sail the turquoise Caribbean waters that separate Cancun from the stunning white shores of Isla Mujeres, stopping en route to visit secluded coral reefs for fantastic snorkelling in protected seas.
Private Deep Sea Fishing in the Riviera Maya
Experience the thrill of sport fishing in the warm waters of the Mexican Caribbean on a private fishing charter. Catch mahi-mahi, sailfish, barracuda, king mackerel, wahoo, tuna, grouper, snapper, and many other species.
Rio Secreto - Underwater River Expedition
Step back in time as you head on this amazing excursion to explore the underground 'Secret River', a series of caverns with impressive stalagmites and stalactites which create a dramatic and mysterious setting for today's adventure.
Riviera Maya Jungle Adventure
Venture into the World's longest underground river system on this full day adventure through Mexico's Mayan Riviera, snorkelling in hauntingly beautiful sinkholes, off-roading through stunning jungle landscapes by jeep and flying along zip lines.
Scuba Diving Dos Ojos Cenote
Experience the most amazing scuba diving of your life exploring the world's most extensive system of underwater caverns and caves at Dos Ojos cenote near Tulum. All you need is an open water certificate for this epic adventure.
Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve Private Tour
Discover the UNESCO Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve on the Riviera Maya with this unique ecological tour through the coastal wetlands. Learn about nature, ecosystems, tropical birds and plants, as well as Mayan culture and swim in sacred cenotes.
Snorkel with whale sharks
Snorkelling with whale sharks is incredible, best experienced between July and August when droves of these remarkable creatures can be found. Gasp as these gentle leviathans of the deep cruise past you, an utterly unforgettable experience.
Snorkelling with Turtles in Akumal
Akumal is a small beach town on the Riviera Maya and is a great place to snorkel with sea turtles as you are almost guaranteed to see them. Wonder at these ancient sea creatures in their own environment.
Tulum Mayan Ruins
Experience the mystery and the magic of Tulum, considered some of the most beautiful Mayan ruins in Mexico mostly because of its dramatic location on a cliff overlooking the turquoise Caribbean.
Ultimate Chichen Itza air expedition
Soak in spectacular views as you swoop over the Yucatan peninsula by private plane, passing over cenotes and lush jungle to reach the impressive ancient ruins of Chichen Itza, one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.
Ultimate Uxmal & Merida Air Expedition
Soar over the Yucatan Peninsula by privately chartered plane for unrivalled views of the region's stunning topography, enjoying privately guided visits of the archaeological site of Uxmal and the charming historic centre of Merida.
Wave Runner Riviera Maya
Speed across the turquoise waters of Playa del Carmen by jet-ski for an exhilarating way to explore the beautiful Caribbean coast. Head to Playa Norte, a picture-perfect stretch of white sand beach where you can relax to your heart's content.
Boutique Mexico City and Beach
Mexico City and Xpu-Ha, Riviera Maya
from £6100 pp inc flights & transfers for 9 nights
- A perfect combination of culture, city and beach
- Stay at personal, boutique hotels where you'll be treated as a guest rather than just a room number
- Unwind on one of the Riviera Maya's most beautiful beaches, with powder white sand and turquoise waters
Location & directions
Riviera Maya, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
Esencia is set on Xpu-Ha beach, on Mexico’s Riviera Maya coast. Located just 20 minutes south of Mayakoba & Playa del Carmen, and 25 minutes north of Tulum.
How to get there
Esencia is reached by an 11-hour international flight to Cancun International Airport, followed by a 1-hour drive to the hotel. Private transfers are available from the airport.