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Last updated: 13 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Alex Robinson

Once the home of a style-conscious Italian aristocrat, Esencia combines immersion in nature with high-end luxury. The hotel sits secluded under the palms on the edge tropical forest overlooking the long, talc-white Xpu-Ha beach. The reef is within swimming distance of the shore.

The main villa sits over the pool with sweeping views of the sea; low-lit paths wind from here into the surrounding forest to luxuriously appointed private thatch-roofed cottages, each with its own plunge pool. Sugar cube casitas are sprinkled in a forest garden, over the sand and around a large pool and opulent main villa.

If you are too. Unless you crave an ocean view, book a garden villa. They’re far more intimate – with secluded plunge pools for two and large wood terraces with hammocks and breakfast tables, shielded from prying eyes by abundant foliage.

The hotel has two restaurants, and a huge menu of activities and tours for guests. And lots of mosquitoes – bring a net for the bed.

Surrounding area

The resort sits in tropical forest overlooking the white sand of Xpu-Ha beach, thirty minutes’ drive from Tulum and Playa del Carmen.

The huge Barcelo resort is 500 metres away around a cape pocked with a beautiful cenote and clear-water creek. Some guests make their way to Xpu-Ha beach, which Esencia otherwise shares only with a handful of smaller hotels sitting nearly a kilometre south.

Playa del Carmen itself, with pristine beaches to the north and south and a lively urban centre, offers the intimate back-to-nature feel of Tulum and Puerto Morelos and Cancun’s urban amenities and nightlife – albeit on a smaller scale. The town is close to Cozumel island (for reef dives) and the big Xcaret and Xel-Ha adventure parks.

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Key facilities

Airport transfers*
Beach: Onsite
Fitness centre
Fitness classes
Golf course
Hot tub
Parking: On-site (free)
Pool (adults only)
Pool (indoor)
Pool (outdoor)
Pool (kids)
Tennis courts
WiFi: Free

Food & drink

All inclusive
Kids menu
Restaurant on-site
Self catering
Additional charge

Room types


Room facilities

Air conditioning
Flat screen TV
Jacuzzi (private)
Pool (private)
Tea & coffee making facilities

Bedding options

2+ bedrooms
3+ beds
Connecting rooms
Rollaway/sofa bed

Bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination, closest first

Gran Cenote

Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Lily-covered, glassy-clear and filled with terrapins and tropical fish, this cenote near Tulum is easy to reach and fabulous to swim in. Big caverns make for spectacular cave diving.

Best for ages: 6+ | £7

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Overview >

Mayan ruins of Coba

Quintana Roo, Mexico

An authentic, atmospheric and less-visited Mayan site, set in lush, wildlife-rich forest. Climb to the summit of the 126ft-high Nohoc Mul pyramid – the tallest on the Mayan Riviera.

Best for ages: 13+ | £5

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Overview >

Other worthwhile experiences in this destination if you have the time or the interest, closest first


Akumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico[16.2 miles]

A simple nature-based theme park with a safari-park zoo, a cenote for swimming, a spectacular cave and a rainforest canopy zip-line adventure.

Best for ages: 4+ | £30

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Overview >

Xcaret Park

Playa del Carmen, Mexico[17.9 miles]

With glassy pools and shallow lagoons offering dolphin, nurse-shark and manatee swimming, tame jungles, and spectacular Mayan dance shows, this huge eco-theme park is a Maya World, and a snorkel-friendly Disneyland.

Best for ages: 4+ | £80


Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico[21 miles]

A snorkellers’ theme park, comprising a series of broken, crystal-clear bays and glassy streams, teeming with brightly coloured marine life and fringed with low tropical forest. Safe, supervised snorkelling plus swimming with (captive) dolphins and manatees.

Best for ages: 4+ | £80

El Camaleon Mayakoba Golf Club

Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Designed by Greg Norman, the course weaves its way through dense jungle, beautiful stretches of white sand and mangrove forests, with cenotes – natural sink holes – providing natural hazards.

Best for ages: 13+ | £125

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Overview >

Destination guides including or relevant to this place to stay

Mayan Riviera


Talc-white beaches, reefs teeming with life, ruined temples in misty rainforests – the Riviera Maya offers a family or romantic beach holiday with a dash of Indian Jones adventure.

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Overview >