Hotel Esencia Estate, Riviera Maya, Mexico
The in-room speaker system is playing a mix of Euro-chill, Feist, Aretha Franklin, Missy Elliott, indigenous folk, Madonna, Nina Simone, and jazz via iPod playlist. Note the enormous pocket doors to my private palapa porch. Sweet.
My giant bathroom features a giant pocket door, which leads out to my private soaking tub. Beautifulness.
Terrific selection of useful things, left for guests' use, in one of the guestroom cabinets: snorkel hoses, bug spray, big flashlight, and incense burners.
Next to my computer, on which the wireless is working beautifully, there is a glass of Don Julio tequila and soda on ice, procured from the pool bar without need for cash or credit card, 'cause they know my by my room name, Mentha (mint).
This is what breakfast at the pool bar looks like, btw.
This is what it feels like.
Over on the bar above the fridge stocked with complimentary beer, water, juice and soda, is a bottle of great Ikal malbec and a a little tray of fruit, brought to my room as a welcome gift shortly after checking in.
Never mind the icy glass of lemonade handed to me as I was given a tour of the premises, part of the check-in process. Which went like this:
The private car I hired from Cancun turns into driveway for Esencia, whose entrance is decidedly not bombastic, monstrous, or ostentatious like most of the overdone resort entrances on highway 307 from Cancun to Tulum. It's just over an hour by car from Puerto Juarez to Hotel Esencia.
USA Transfers is a great private car company recommended by Mapchick, and they gave the best price of 4 different companies from whom I requested quotes via email. My driver was super nice and the trip felt faster than it was.
The car is stopped at an unassuming checkpoint, and my name is confirmed against a guest registry by a smiling lady. Car proceeds down a jungly driveway, arriving at the opening to a jungly path. If you're lucky, you'll spot a sereque, a lovely local critter that frequents the jungles of the Riviera Maya.
Porters take my luggage, a staff member escorts me down this jungly, delightful path, and I am handed off to a member of the reception team who speaks terrific English. I attempt to practice my Spanish on him and it is inwardly very hilarious for me. He takes it super gracefully as we walk down beautiful, manicured -- but not too manicured -- paths through the estate.
I am taken around the property to the different resort elements. First, the Aroma SPA, housed in a giant palapa with no sharp corners, only rounded edges on the walls within to maximize energy flow. Do I care if this is hokum or not? No. I prefer to believe that it is real. That is my privilege as a snooty spagoer. You either believe the hokum or you don't. Me? I'm a Mulder. I want to believe.
Then, I'm led to the main house of the estate, which was owned by an Italian duchess at one point. Oh man, is it private here. Long, jungly paths; lush, green expanses of lawn; a sizeable garden which supplies the spa with aloe, citrus, and more; and a colonial Spanish-looking center of activity, which houses a large living room, a smaller TV lounge, a veranda, and a concierge desk.
We walk out to the main lawn, where there is a yoga tent to the left, two swimming pools out by the beach, a pool bar, and little private mini palapas with nice, solid beach loungers on the beach.
Only the kids' pool is heated (pictured). The adult pool is not. It's January.
Why isn't the adult pool heated? Still, it's very, very beautiful. And there were a grand total of two -- just TWO -- children the whole 3 days I was there, and they were probably the best behaved little nuggets I've ever seen (aside from The Shop Tart's children, who are the most well behaved on earth).
Ceviche. Margarita. View. Boom.
Dinner at the highly atmospheric restaurant, housed under a grand palapa, is fairly top notch. Much better than the resort norm, and definitely more like fine dining in a major city. Live music. Friendly, professional servers. Fantastic cuisine.
A Modelo beer with this excellent dish.
The crescent-shaped beach at Esencia, with super soft sand, personal palapas + sunbeds, is sweet. Very few other hotels nearby, so it feels remote in a good way. A little rocky in the water, though. Not as swimworthy as Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres, for example. The sea at Xpu-Ha is really quite fierce compared to the calm, tranquil waters of Playa Norte.
More time to chillax in your palapa.