Down Mexico way

Hotel Esencia

The privacy and barefoot luxury of the boutique Hotel Esencia is so exceptional, guests find it hard to leave

Located on Mexico’s Riviera Maya between the luscious Mayan jungle and the turquoise Caribbean Sea, Hotel Esencia is a unique luxury hideaway infused with personality, warmth and charm. “Our owner, Kevin Wendle, is a visionary,” says General Manager Sean Murphy, who previously worked for the Ritz-Carlton hotel group.

“Kevin understands hotels and he really understands luxury,” adds Sean. “We are the only place in the region on a private bay with no neighbours, and visitors feel like Kevin’s private guests. He lives here most of the time, greets the guests and chats to them at dinner, which creates an additional layer of warmth so that guests even forget they are even staying at a hotel. His own art, furniture and book collections are scattered around the property.”

Kevin came to hospitality from Hollywood, where he co-founded Fox Broadcasting in 1986, and began buying luxury properties around the world, which he often rented out. He acquired the main villa of Hotel Esencia with a view to creating his ideal mix of hotel and homestead.

After purchasing the property in 2014, Kevin set about transforming the villa, which was originally built as the private holiday home of an Italian duchess. He renovated it and bought additional land to build luxury villas, all with direct access to the private beach and reached through a network of secluded pathways. Hotel Esencia is now Mexico’s only Forbes five-star independent hotel, with 45 suites and three villas. There are plans to construct three more villas on the beach, as well as a luxurious residence that will have a cinema room, a recording studio and a basement speakeasy.

As all this suggests, Hotel Esencia is constantly evolving, with a vision of perpetual renewal and a high design standard, so the hotel always feels fresh and new to repeat visitors. A recent innovation was the creation of the Rooftop Wellness Suites: a series of luxury duplexes with private rooftop pools, virtual personal trainers, weights, yoga mats, Peloton bikes and steam showers with essential oils. The hotel was awarded the 2021 Wellness Star Award by Forbes Travel Guide.

The hotel’s three restaurants are also internationally acclaimed. “We want our guests to enjoy the area, but a lot of them stay on the ground as we have so much space and incredible gastronomy options,” says Sean. “We have the Beefbar Esencia, offering exceptional cuts of beef and other comfort-food delicacies; our sushi restaurant, Taiyo, with a chef from Japan who uses local fish straight off the boat; and Mistura, which offers regional specialties with a Mediterranean touch.”

The hotel benefits from being right on the pristine white sand beach where water-based activities take place, but there are numerous other spectacular sights nearby, such as Mayan pyramids, the UNESCO World Heritage biosphere of Sian Ka’an, and Rio Secreto – an underwater river that has been described as the Eighth Wonder of the World.

Despite these attractions, many guests choose to never leave the environs of the villa, so magnificent are the facilities. “We have more than 240 employees and 60 to 70 guests, so they are very well looked after,” says Sean. “It’s like being hosted at Kevin’s private seaside estate or on your own private island where you never have to lift a finger. Everything is designed so you can sit back and relax in a truly phenomenal setting.”