Experiencing the Riviera Maya

Hotel Esencia‘s Pool Villa is a two-bedroom, two-story accommodation, which has a full-size swimming pool. (Tanveer Badal)

Hotel Esencia is a 50-acre estate at the midpoint between Tulum and Playa del Carmen. Originally built as the private hideaway home of an Italian duchess, it later became a hotel, long sought after by honeymooners.

The hotel has just 40 suites across seven categories — 11 of which are brand new. At the end of 2017, Hotel Esencia acquired 10 acres of beachfront property and, with that, launched six Beach Suites and five Jungle Suites. If you want the best views on property, opt for the Beach Suites, located right on the white sands of Xpu-Ha beach. Each Beach Suite has a private beachfront terrace, an in-room double bathtub, and all of Hotel Esencia’s standard amenities such as walk-in closets, HDTVs and an in-room sound system with a hookup for iPods and other digital accessories.

If you’re seeking one of the top options at the hotel, we say go for the Master Suite or the Private Villa. The two Master Suites of the main house offer panoramic views of the grounds and the Caribbean. Inside, guests will find a king bed, master bathroom and grand terraces. The Private Villa, named Yum-Ha, is a colonial-style accommodation, discreetly located on a lush, 15-acre property adjacent to Hotel Esencia. The three-bedroom villa is a short walk from the beach and can accommodate up to nine people on three levels. Its Beachfront Cabaña, which sits right on Xpu-Ha beach, can accommodate up to four more. The property has en-suite bathrooms, a fully stocked kitchen, living room, dining room and a terrace with outdoor dining area.

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Hotel Esencia‘s Master Suite provides panoramic views of the hotel grounds and the Caribbean.

Good to know: Yum-Ha comes with a private butler and cook, and housekeeping services.

Hotel Esencia late last year opened a new restaurant, Mistura. The circular restaurant sits under a thatched palapa right on the beach, offering unencumbered views of the water. For a more romantic option, reserve a table on the terrace where you can dine under the stars. The kitchen is led by Dimitris Katrivesis, an alumnus of world-renowned El Bulli in Spain. Katrivesis has brought a “tropical Peruvian-style of cooking,” fusing Peruvian and Japanese flavors while highlighting ingredients from the Yucatan peninsula. A top dish is the Yucas Bravas — fried yuca with egg vinaigrette, black garlic, oregano, crispy chorizo, chilepasilla and rocoto.

Note: Mistura is open to both guests and locals, so it’s advised to book at least 48 hours in advance.

If you find it necessary to tear yourself away from your beachfront accommodation, Veronica Torres ([email protected]), guest service agent, can put together a slew of activities. Due to its location, available options include a chic shopping trip to Tulum, an excursion to the Mayan pyramids, visits to underground cenotes or booking a table at one of Riviera Maya’s top nightclubs. 

There’s also a reef sanctuary right off of the hotel’s beach, which is rich with exotic fish and sea turtles. Water junkies can dive, snorkel, kiteboard, paddleboard and deep-sea fish. For couples, we suggest arranging horseback riding on the beach at an Eco Park.

Blue Diamond Luxury Boutique Hotel‘s amenities include a main pool with sun chairs. 

Located 10 minutes north of Playa del Carmen and set on 36 acres of tropical jungle is the exclusive, adults-only Blue Diamond Luxury Boutique Hotel, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Built perpendicular to the ocean, the resort has accommodations nestled along waterways, a cenote and the Caribbean Sea. The 128 suites blend limestone and wood, and the amenities range from private docks, rooftop terraces with sun chairs, rooftop infinity pools and more.

The most requested accommodation on property are the Beach Front Casitas; each has — as its name implies — a beachfront location with private access, private terraces, bathrooms with dual rain shower heads, indoor marble rubs and rooftop terraces with infinity pools. Additional comforts include 42-inch HDTVs with home theater systems, walk-in closets, floor-to-ceiling windows and 500-thread-count linen sheets. These rooms can sleep two guests.

For larger groups, book the Beach Front Presidential Suite, which includes three bedrooms (two with ocean views) with en-suite bathrooms, a dining area for six, a kitchenette and a spacious living room. Guests also have access to a private beach and a beautiful terrace with two private infinity pools. Tip: This suite offers private butler service and a private chef; the Palafitos Deluxe Junior Suite and Beach Front Casita also have butler service.

Reach out to Mayra Chavez ([email protected]), sales executive, for reservations. 

Overlooking the pool and ocean is the hotel’s AguaMarina Restaurant.

According to the hotel, there are seven things you must do when visiting the Riviera Maya; they are: swim in a cenote; scuba dive or snorkel; visit Xcaret Park; make a day trip to Tulum; enjoy the Playa del Carmen nightlife; explore Chichen Itza; and, lastly, relax.

Blue Diamond Luxury Boutique Hotel can also organize bike tours, visits to rifle or archery ranges and shopping trips to 5th Avenue (book with Front Desk Manager Aracely Barragan at [email protected]); whichever you opt for, afterwards, we say hit the nearly 30,000-square-foot spa. Here, masseuses merge Mayan philosophies with ancient Asian healing rituals. There are five individual cabins and three double cabins; book one week before arrival. 

The most requested treatment is the Blue Diamond Exclusive Massage, which is a combination of aromatherapy, hot stones, reflexology, shiatsu and a Swedish massage. Tip: Laura and Martha are the most asked-for masseuses for Swedish massages.

From indoor to al fresco, casual to elegant, Blue Diamond Luxury Boutique Hotel has numerous restaurants for you to choose from. There are also chic rooftop bars and café lounges, which are the perfect place to savor cocktails or meet new people, while taking in ocean and garden views. For guests who would prefer a night in, the hotel offers 24-hour, in-suite dining, including its signature Champagne Breakfast. 

Banyan Tree Mayakoba‘s Bliss Pool Villa (here) and Beachfront Three-Bedroom Pool Villa (below) both have an outdoor bathtub. 

Banyan Tree Mayakoba blends Asian hospitality with the “idyllic passion” of Mexico. Set within the private gated resort development of Mayakoba, the hotel has an impressive list of programming from its excursions to experience local culture and visit local sites to “Destination Dining” and couples retreats.

Romantic travelers have an option of numerous accommodations, including the Bliss Pool Villa, the Serenity Pool Villa with Living Room and the Spa Pool Villa with Massage Porch. These villas range from 3,153 square feet to 3,466 square feet, and have king-sized beds, outdoor bathtubs and private, heated swimming pools. Tip: The first two room options also have two complimentary bicycles — perfect for active couples.

Good to know: The Beachfront Three-Bedroom Pool Villa, totaling just over 5,500 square feet, is the only accommodation (of 123) on property that has ocean views. While the resort doesn’t have “butlers,” each villa does receive its own Resort Host to help take care of anything that guests might need.

To help find the right accommodation for you, contact Jesus Estrada ([email protected]), reservations sales manager. For trips during holiday season, book at least six months in advance.

New at the resort is the Nikkei Cuisine Experience, which is a blend of Japanese and Peruvian food. There is a set menu, available every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. For more of a local taste, HAAB (also available thrice weekly) is a Mayan culinary feast set in the heart of the jungle. The show / ritual / feast is held at a Mayan roundtable and food is cooked just as it was centuries ago. Saffron is the signature restaurant, serving Thai cuisine, but there’s upwards of 10 different dining options. 

Saffron restaurant serves up contemporary Thai cuisine. 

We suggest that couples book Ixchel (meaning “Moon Goddess”), the traditional trajinera boat. Guests can enjoy cooked-to-order local or international dishes while exploring the waterways of Mayakoba. The experience is available twice daily (breakfast and dinner), and must be booked in advance. Another intimate dining option is to have a Banyan Tree chef prepare a private meal in your villa. Yasmin ([email protected]) handles restaurant and Destination Dinning reservations and can be reached out with enquiries. 

For spa treatments, book at least two weeks in advance for individuals and one month in advance for groups. The top treatments are the 30-minute foot ritual and refreshment, and the 60-minute massage and rainforest experience. For couples, there is a three-hour combination of treatments, comprising a 60-minute rainforest experience, 30-minute exfoliation, 60-minute massage and 30-minute refreshment. Tip: We’re told that Asti is the most requested masseuse for all treatments. Advisors can be book treatments with Walter Narvasz ([email protected]), spa supervisor. 

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