Hotel Esencia is a Mexican beach gem
21st January 2016
Winter sun is the best sun in my opinion. Although, I think it is the most stressful to prepare for, particularly when you can never find your trusty pair of sandals. However, its worth the stress once you have your backside planted on a beach a long way from home with an additional stamp in your passport!
We arrived at Hotel Esencia early evening at the beginning of January (after flying from Gatwick to Cancun, Mexico on BA). I was desperate to get to the hotel having just read a raving double page spread review in Conde Nast Traveller on the flight over. The hotel is located off the beach road between Playa Del Carmen and Tulum, and from the moment you are welcomed at the Mayan hut entrance the craziness of Cancun airport seems a million miles away. There is no formal reception area as it is a renovated villa with rooms in the main house as well as the gardens. This works for me, as I am not a fan of hotels that waste space with huge receptions that simply feel soulless. Hotel Esencia is all about areas for you to relax in and enjoy the scenery – blissful and luxury.
This is the first time we have travelled any great distance alone since having kids and to say I was nervous about leaving them (albeit with my parents) was an understatement! However, this place doesn’t allow for stress in fact discretion and tranquillity are the words that come to mind when I think of Esencia. You really wouldn’t know that pretty much every hotel in playa del Carmen and on the way to Tulum in this newly named ‘mayan riveriea’ is a big complex style hotel (although I have heard the Banyan Tree here is rather swank).
Immaculate design and service is key at Esencia. Our room was large, bright and airy with a Scandinavian design feel – complete with a complementary mini bar, nespresso machine, ipod with an awesome play list, amazing toiletries and a Netflix access tv as well as the latest edition of Vanity Fair. It is also on a huge unspoilt beach with snorkelling, kite-surfing and paddle boarding all right there for you. After a few days of staying here you get the feeling you know you have come across a real gem. I travelled to the Yucatan peninsula in 1999 with two uni friends for the summer. As students we tried to spend as little money as possible, see everything and push as much market stall purchases as possible into our trusty back packs! We spent many nights sleeping in hut type places or practically camping on the beach. Tulum at this time had nothing except the Mayan ruins (v impressive), a bus station and hippie rave campsites! This coastline has changed beyond belief in the last 18 years and quite a lot of it is not either for the better or worse – its just feels more congested. This is not something you pick-up when you are sitting in a cabana on the blissful beach at Esencia or waking up to fresh coffee and pastries delivered to your room each morning. It is the complementary things and the fantastic staff that make this place. There is a yoga class every morning next to the ocean at 8 am and because we were coming from the UK we were always awake in time to take part in this. There are paddle boards, boogie boards, masks and snorkels to borrow and three snorkelling spots (one fresh water) within a ten-minute walk on the beach.
When we booked this trip I wasn’t expecting it to focus so much around food but that has been a major highlight of our trip. I am not sure if its simply because we can eat breakfast at 10 am or have lunch at 4 pm because we had no kids with us or because whether we have eaten at the hotel, Tulum (I need to write a whole post on Hartwood) or even in Playa Del Carmen at Catch it has always been about healthy, simple and fresh ingredients. Foodies will not be disappointed with what’s on offer at Esencia but if you are travelling from Europe be warned – it is not cheap and there is a 15% service charge. I don’t dispute the staff deserve the tip because the service is one of the key things that make this hotel so special but it does mean you will pay just over £20 for a tuna sandwich (although it is AMAZING and big enough to share!).
In terms of rooms we opted for a garden room with a plunge pool, and because it did rain a couple of afternoons it was nice to be able to go back to the room with a drink and take a dip. However, these rooms can be considered a little dark because they are well hidden in the gardens. Our room was close to the main house so we didn’t feel we had a great distance to the beach at all but you might feel this if you are further back. The rooms over the main house are probably the best ones but I think you pay about 20/25% more for these (although you would wake up to the sound of the waves).
The concierge is first class – you basically feel like you have butler service without it being too much. The team are always walking around so if you every want a taxis ordered or advice on where to eat out they are right there. You also know there is a particular person assigned to your room, which is helpful and makes everything seem so personal.
On our last day our concierge asked if we would return with our kids and I think the answer is yes. I am not sure I would bring a child under the age of three because I wouldn’t say it is buggy friendly. Also there is no kids club although they do advertise a nanny service for $15 / $20 an hour). However, they do have a family pool and an adults-only pool side by side. Plus there were always kids playing in the pool or on the beach and I never thought them to be loud or out of place. The kids would love the beach and a member of the beach team always seemed more than happy to kick a football around with kids on the beach. It would be wrong for me not to mention that the hotel is also home to quite a few iguanas that roam the gardens by the beach – big and little kids would love to watch them chilling in the sun and eating the bugs.
To conclude Hotel Esencia is a Mexican gem that I know will only get more popular and no doubt bigger in the coming years.
We booked our trip through Goodacre and Townsend
There is an awesome review also on Mr and Mrs Smith