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Hotel Highlights

  • White-sand Caribbean beaches
  • Innovative Meso-American cuisine
  • First-class pampering in an organic spa


The whims of a wealthy European royal created Hotel Esencia, a boutique stay set on a secluded stretch of beautiful Mayan Riviera beach. What was built as a triple level casa for a duchess and her guests is now a blissful retreat with royal trim. Simple sophistication spoils travellers in the luxurious whitewashed Casa Grande, where the spa is sublime, the tequila cocktails are mixed with an expert touch and rooms have much-appreciated black-out curtains.

Smith Extra

Here's what you get for booking Hotel Esencia with us:

30 minute massage treatment for two

Latest deals

Exclusive rates, packages and special offers at Hotel Esencia

Smith Exclusive: 4 nights for the price of 3

Flash sale: 35% discount


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Esencia Hotel - Yucatan Peninsula - Mexico

Need To Know


29 in total, including 17 suites and two cottages.


Midday, but flexible, depending on room availability.


Double rooms from $615.00, excluding tax at 29 per cent.

More details

Rates include breakfast.


Pups under 10lbs are welcome, for US$75 a night. Food bowls and beds will be provided for diminutive doggies

At the hotel

Fitness centre, organic spa, gardens, DVD/CD library, free WiFi. In-rooms: Flatscreen TV, DVD/CD players, iPod dock, Ipod minis preloaded with music, minibar with complimentary water, soda, juice and beer, internet access, Molton Brown bath products.

Our favourite rooms

The Deluxe Ocean View suites have 360º views; watch the sun set from the terrace and enjoy sunrise from your giant bed. The private two-storey, two-bedroom cottages set in the gardens are enormous and wonderful for family holidays: they even have their own full-sized swimming pool, multimedia room, bar and chef. The Rosa suite in the Casa Grande was the master bedroom when the Duchess of Ferrari owned the property, so the entire hacienda can be viewed from its enormous terrace.


There are two swimming pools (one for families, one adults only) with sun loungers, plus a white-sand beach.


Overlooking the estate's cenote in a villa with a traditional palapa roof, the organic aroma spa has temazcal and phytotherapy treatments, Jacuzzis and steam rooms.

Packing tips

Leave your pool shoes at home: you'll find a pair of Havaianas sandals in your room. Bikinis are a must; a swimsuit is probably more practical if you want to try snorkelling or scuba diving.


Fancy a nip of something local? You'll find a sample of small-batch Casa Dragones tequila in your room.


Welcome; the resort has multi-lingual nannies and babysitting can be arranged at $25 an hour. High chairs and cribs provided. Babies under two stay for free. An additional third bed costs $150 a night; $75 for under-12s.

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Food and drink

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Hotel Restaurant

The casual poolside restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and small plates throughout the day in a relaxed shaded pavilion. Start your day with filling chilaquiles, nibble on grilled fish tacos for lunch and pop by for ceviche after a day at the beach. Open for dinner, the Garden Restaurant is set in an open-air palapa with views of the manicured gardens; the space deftly balances rustic beach chic (thatched roof and dark wooden floors) with the elegance of a fine-dining room (moody candlelight and white linen-dressed tables). The menu is inspired by regional cuisines with a Mediterranean accent and an emphasis on fresh local produce, herbs and vegetables grown in the estate’s gardens and seafood. Don't miss the red snapper marinated in Mayan achiote sauce.

Hotel Bar

Refresh with a cold-pressed juice after a spa session from the made-to-order juice bar. Sip drinks in the chill-out lounge in the main house, by the pool or on the beach up till 11pm. Try one of the tequila-based creations spiced with home-grown herbs and chilis.

Last orders

The Pool Restaurant serves meals from 7am to 4pm and dinner from 7pm to 11pm; the Garden Restaurant serves dinner from 7pm to 11pm.

Room service

Round the clock: hot food is available until 11pm; after the kitchen closes, cold snacks are still available.

Smith Insider

Dress code

Informal and relaxed; a little dressier in the evening, if you feel like it.

Top table

For lunch, go for a beachside table with a sea view; for dinner, one of the tables overlooking the cenote, an underground freshwater pool that's romantically illuminated by night.

Local Guide

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Esencia Hotel - Yucatan Peninsula - Mexico
Eat, drink, see, do: local favourites and more…

Local restaurants

The award-winning and lively Yaxche Maya Cuisine Restaurant in Playa del Carmen serves Yucatecan and Mayan-inspired dishes with a Euro twist (it's pronounced 'Jag-shey'). Try regional specialities such as Tsotolbichay (Mayan tamale).

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Tropical Caribbean seaside

Hotel Esencia

Carretera Cancún Tulum, Pedio Rústico Xpu-Ha Lote 18, Quintana Roo, Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo, 77710


Cancún International Airport is an hour's drive from the hotel. From here, you'll be able to fly to cities all over the US, with onward connections to the UK. It's also served by some charter flights from the UK.


Taxis are inexpensive, but it’s worth renting a car if you want to explore further afield – there are desks at Cancún airport. The hotel is around 20 minutes south of Playa del Carmen, accessible via a small lane running off Highway 307, which links Cancún with towns along the Riviera May.


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Esencia Hotel - Yucatan Peninsula - Mexico
Hotel Esencia
Hotel Esencia Carretera Cancún Tulum, Pedio Rústico Xpu-Ha Lote 18, Quintana Roo Riviera Maya 77710 Riviera Maya Mexico

Anonymous review

by , Political reporter

Rating: 10/10 stars
Spotting Uma Thurman on the verandah of the villa helped validate our decision to visit Esencia at the outset. We were still pale new arrivals at that point. Only a short time earlier, a hotel taxi had picked us up from the Cancun airport and driven us a quick hour south toward the resort, turning down a two-lane road off the highway toward the water. Upon entry, a ‘butler’ assigned to…
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Hotel Esencia

Anonymous review by Anne Kornblut, Political reporter

Spotting Uma Thurman on the verandah of the villa helped validate our decision to visit Esencia at the outset. We were still pale new arrivals at that point. Only a short time earlier, a hotel taxi had picked us up from the Cancun airport and driven us a quick hour south toward the resort, turning down a two-lane road off the highway toward the water. Upon entry, a ‘butler’ assigned to us made quick work of signing the paperwork before guiding us on the tour of the grounds – the manicured green lawns of the Esencia estate, dotted with palm trees, which until recently served as the private vacation home of an Italian duchess. I quickly entered into fantasies of owning our own such family compound.

 ‘Maybe we should see our room before we buy the place,’ my sensible Mr Smith cheerfully suggested. But first: midday cocktail hour by the pool.

I rarely drink hard liquor, but we were in Mexico after all, and Mr Smith assured me it would be impolite not to at least test the local tequila. We sat under a hot sun overlooking the sparkling blue ocean and were served two, and then two more, of the most exquisite margaritas, salted. Guacamole and fried chips kept arriving unbidden. As two well-behaved children splashed adorably – but not too loudly – in the water in front of us, we decided that we had made an excellent choice.

And then Uma emerged, ruddy and fresh from a facial. Exchanging knowing glances, we simultaneously cited, in whispers, our favorite celebrity magazine feature – ‘Stars! They’re just like us!’ in US Weekly, which publishes photos of stars engaged in mundane activities such as drinking lattes at Starbucks – and decided that in fact we were just like stars. Mr Smith rummaged around for the camera to document our immense success in life.

Before the silliness could continue, our usher appeared to tell us our room was ready. We stumbled across the lawn to a white stucco villa a short distance away, and were led into a sprawling suite.

Sobriety set in. This was our dream loft, not a resort hotel room. Up a short flight of stairs, the heavy wooden door opened up onto a split-level room decorated sparsely, all in white, with a large sitting area leading out onto a patio with an ocean view. On the upper level, a large bed sat in front of a flat-screen television (done tastefully modern, not gameboy style), with a nano iPod plugged into the surround-sound system. A Spanish music medley, downloaded by the hotel, played at the just-right romantic level. Before collapsing onto the bed, we inspected further: On each level was a bathroom, one featuring a standing, wood-paneled shower, the other with a walk-in closet and a large bath. Our fridge was full of (complimentary) local beer, juice and water.

‘Could you live here now?’ I teased. As we would repeatedly discover over the next two days, the beauty of Esencia was the mandate to do absolutely nothing other than wander a few feet to the next station of luxury – perhaps stopping to admire a small iguana on the way to the bar, or lazing in our private hammock, or staring blankly at the ocean before heading off to a massage. Although we had been duly informed at check-in about the available activities, including private scuba lessons and daily morning yoga lessons, nothing in the atmosphere (or the room brochure) urged excessive exertion. Even upon being shown the wi-fi equipped common room overlooking the pool, we were urged by a member of the hotel staff: ‘Please don’t do too much work.’

Thus implored, we headed to dinner our first night at the early hour of 7 pm – something of a tactical mistake, as we found ourselves surrounded by young families with children in high chairs. Still, a tasting from the extensive wine list and ceviche menu quickly put the family atmosphere at some remove. The next night, at a much later hour, the dimly lit dining area had a more exclusive feel. And yet the open seating encouraged interaction among the guests. One couple from San Francisco, having heard us say that we had previously been to the the Tides Riviera Maya resort down the road, did not hesitate to introduce themselves and ask for a comparison, which led to a spontaneous, alcohol-fueled forum on destination weddings that kept us laughing well after we had left.

By day, we did what we do best, examining every feature of the spa and taking advantage of as many services as we could justify spending money on. Set apart in its own bungalow (though with a full complement of modern amenities), the spa welcomed us even when we did not have appointments set, to use both the steam room (with a rosemary aroma) and the outdoor plunge pools. My best moment came when Claudia, a wiry Mexican woman with tattoos, led me to a private room for a massage, where for 80 glorious minutes she stretched and kneaded muscles I had never known. Afterward, she sat me down in a low wooden chair surrounded by candles to serve me fresh fruit and sweet tea. When I inquired about sitting in the jacuzzi, a therapist led me to a private, heated outdoor pool, where I sat and read, sans swimming suit, for more than an hour.

‘I am so happy and relaxed, I just can’t believe it,’ we overheard a lithe blonde woman at the next table on the patio (not Uma) say later on our final afternoon, before she tumbled onto the lawn with her Mr Smith for a round of tickling. We watched with the satisfaction of those who knew what she was talking about.

The Guestbook

Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel with us, we'll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members have to say about Hotel Esencia in the Guestbook below…


Stayed on

We loved

We live in Sydney (so appreciate good food and beaches) and have a 7 month old baby. We travelled to Mexico for a close friend's wedding, and wanted 5 days relaxation afterwards by the beach with our daughter. This place was perfect: - very baby friendly: on arrival they gave us a cot with mosquito net and sheets, and a bottle steriliser, baby bath and washing up liquid; most of the staff knew our daughter's name by the time we left - very friendly staff who really went the extra mile to ensure we had what we wanted - great babysitter - excellent spa - free kayaks and paddle boards - food was delicious - beautiful large room - kid's pool In summary it was luxurious without being pretentious, it was genuinely family friendly, the staff were fantastic and we loved it. Go to the ruins in Tulum. Very atmospheric and you can really imagine the Mayan trading ships coming off the sea through the reef.

Don’t expect

Massive parties. This is not the Cancun you have heard about - which makes it even better.

Rating: 10/10 stars


Stayed on with teenage girls. they loved it. teenage boys likely to be bored

We loved

Discrete excellence. The place is low key, small and very hard to leave. you are treated as if in your own home. the setting with one of the most beautiful beaches and 'jungle' gardens is truly superb. Staff first class and really know how to treat their customers. Those wanting bling need not bother!

Don’t expect

Ground floor rooms are a bit dark and should not really be priced at same level as first floor rooms. some rooms quite a long walk from the beach - fine so long as you know when booking.

Rating: 10/10 stars