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Esencia––Quintana Roo, Mexico

Carretera Cancun–Tulum, Xpu–Ha 2, Quintana Roo, Mexico

With flawless service and excellent design, Esencia also happens to be the rare luxury property that welcomes children––but that shouldn't deter adults seeking an escape, as there's plenty of privacy if it's desired.

Whitewashed inside and out, the exclusive resort of Esencia is set on a beautiful bay between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Detachment from the outside world happens at the front gate, where guests pass through a traditional Maya house, a dirt–floor oval made of saplings and lit with candles. From here, a path meanders through the low forest to reach substantially more splendid buildings clustered along the beach and extending back from the water amid a neatly tended garden.

Esencia beach

The heart of the place is a villa built by an Italian duchess, where guests can sprawl on deep sofas in the salon or chat on the front terrace that overlooks two pools and the broad, fine beach; upstairs are two of the more remarkable rooms, the Rosa suite, which has its own pool, and the torre (tower) suite, with its panoramic views of the bay and surrounding greenery (Esencia is fortunate to have small hotels and private homes as neighbors; only one larger resort is visible to the south).

Esencia suiteA string of two–story outbuildings in the garden section contain the most common room layout, the gardenview suite. They make up for the lack of sea views with private plunge pools, outdoor showers, and, in many rooms, deep soaking tubs; the ground–floor rooms have a little more space. The indoor showers have two heads, one dinner–plate hanging from the ceiling and another jutting from the side of the stall. Families may want to book one of the two cottages––one has one separate bedroom for children, while the larger complex has up to four additional adjoining rooms. In every case, though, privacy is paramount––front terraces, where coffee and pastries are delivered every morning, are screened with greenery, and buildings are angled so you can lounge by your plunge pool without being on display.

Throughout, the unifying design scheme is soothing, high–glosse white plaster, finished with rounded edges and molded into bedside tables and other built–in nooks; the only accents are dramatic pieces of dark driftwood, horseshoe–crab skeletons and other striking marine salvage. Window screens roll up at the touch of a bedside button, the linens and robes are silky, lightweight cotton tailored to tropical heat, and iPods play a mix of Mexican, jazz and world music. Everywhere you turn, you'll find thoughtful details, from an extra side showerhead (in addition to the de rigueur dinner plate) to smartly placed power outlets to soft, light robes perfectly suited to the climate.

Esencia pool

Although it has expanded well beyond the Main House (there's also a fine spa that uses local herbal treatments and aromatherapy, as well as an excellent restaurant with Mesoamerican cuisine), Esencia maintains its feeling of hominess. This is managed primarily through the seemingly effortless hospitality extended by the staff––you'll see few uniforms, and certainly no name tags among the employees. Whether you're chatting in the salon or settling into pool chair, someone will soon arrive to offer cocktails or other refreshment.

Esencia poolEsencia is owned by the same company that developed Ikal del Mar, so many of the amenities are the same. Esencia, though, has a more social feeling, in part because the guests are not just couples, but also because more people are drawn to the main house by wireless Internet access and the promise of afternoon tea, in keeping with the duchess's preferences. If you're in search of quiet elegance––and can stand the sight of children—Esencia will feel like a home away from home.

Web Address: www.hotelesencia.com
Total Number of Rooms: 29
Published rates: $475 to $950

Review and photos by Zora O'Neill

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