No discotheques. No screaming spring breakers. No megaresorts. This is a far cry from the pulsing Cancun just outside the resort's boundaries. Here's why Esencia Estate is the vacation you've been looking for.
Walking to my cottage, I felt the urge to whisper. No need though — the lush jungle that hugs the property would've muffled any sounds, save for the lapping of waves.
I ask what most guests like to do when they visit. The resort manager pauses, pours a cup of tea and smiles: “People usually come down here with a list of what they want to do. By day two, they rip it up.”
Privacy at its finest
My own to-do list disappears when I see this outside my bathroom. I’m certain I can survive on food, water and this private plunge pool alone.
Your own stretch of sand
But if I do leave my cottage, I’ll be here. With only 29 rooms at the resort, the beach usually looks like this.
Plenty of perks
The former home of an Italian duchess until 2006, the main house of the resort serves as inspiration for the rest of the rooms, with airy white everything, native wood furnishings and a hint of color. The minimalist vibe keeps things simple, but it turns out the rooms are full of surprises: a pre-loaded iPod with playlists for every mood; his and hers Havaiana flip-flops; a beach bag filled with towels. I’m impressed. (Bonus: 24-hour laundry service is complimentary.)
No check, please.
The only thing I have to go without is the bill. There are no tabs, no room numbers and no signatures — the staff simply remembers my name. Should I want to see just how many mimosas I’ve downed, I can always request a tab sent to my room, but do I really need to know?
The best towel service, ever
The staff anticipated my every move, dutifully fluffing out white beach towels over the sunniest chaise lounge before I could even say, “that one.” When I came back from a quick dip in the ocean, three new towels were in place, tucked-in and wrinkle-free. I almost felt bad for sprawling out again. (Almost.) The next day, they remembered my favorite spot. And fresh towels, of course.
Mornings are made for munching.
Coffee and pastries magically appeared in the critter-proof cupboard on my patio every morning. But that was just a warm-up course for the main event. “Second breakfast” — my new favorite meal of the day — is served poolside and comes with plenty of fresh guacamole.
Yep, I'm still in Mexico.
Unlike some of the other places I’ve stayed, I never once forgot where I was at Esencia. Local culture is everywhere at the resort, from Mexican breakfasts and barbecues to Maya yoga and shamanic healings that focus on ancient techniques for finding inner light. The kicker was the temazcal, a Maya sweat lodge eerily similar to a human pizza oven. Heated with volcanic rocks, the sauna is used as a cleansing of mind, body and soul. Not sure if I was cleansed during the process, but I was definitely well done.
One sweet spa
After the humid heat bath of the temezcal, I didn't think my muscles could be any looser. Turns out I was wrong. Following the essence of herbs (a constant fire lifts the soothing scent over the entire resort), I made my way to the aptly named Aroma Spa for an organic pampering customized just for me. (My left shoulder will attest to this.) The garden outside isn't just for looks — treatments here incorporate indigenous fruits, plants and herbs into all of their handmade oils and lotions.
With several of the chef’s own creations, Esencia’s stand-out dish has a version to suit every taste. Never one to discriminate when it comes to flavors, I made a point to sample all of them. My faves? The cilantro-laced green ceviche and the spicy mango ceviche with a splash of tequila. Get the recipes.****
Room to move
Confession: I judge resorts by their bathrooms. And this airy one, complete with a rain room and a soaking tub, gets no complaints from me.