story and photos by Susanna Starr
Riviera Maya is stunning with its super luxurious hotels built along one of the most beautiful strips of beach on the Yucatecan coastline. But, there was a time, not so very long ago, when all that was to be seen was undifferentiated jungle. The few small Maya houses that were there were set far enough back from the road as to be invisible.
In the nineteen seventies, eighties and nineties some adventurous travelers to this remote area of the Yucatan Peninsula fell in love with the glorious beaches and amazing colors of the Caribbean ocean. Some were able to purchase land there and build their own private bit of paradise. One of these was dona Rosa, Duchess of Ferrari, from Italy. Building her own vacation estate on the edge of a small, pristine cove, dona Rosa spent some of her time enjoying the feeling of living where others had not yet intruded. Much to her credit, she made no attempt to place her European stamp on this traditional area of the ancient Maya. She left the jungle pretty much intact.
Because of this, the owners of Esencia Estate have been able to maintain that early feeling of discovery and has afforded its guests the opportunity to experience that same feeling of living in the natural environment. The initial entrance is discreet with little to herald the small, intimate resort that lies set back close to the beach. Walking along a path through old and new growth foliage, trees and shrubs, there is little imposition upon the natural landscape.
The present owners have decided to maintain the feeling of the original home, making the downstairs area into the welcoming and warm lobby, much the same as it would have been in her day when the area was a living room, overlooking a spectacular view of beach and ocean. Of course, it's been enhanced to provide the luxuries that the modern day traveler is expecting. There are two pools close to the beach, two dining rooms, one on the beach and one set back onto a large, lush, lawn. Neither are pretentious but the food is beautifully prepared and presented. Families are very welcome with facilities for child care. In addition to the powdery white sand of the beach, the pool and the shallow waters of the cove are particularly appealing for children.
The 29 ocean, garden view, suites and cottages that have been added appear unpretentious, but are well designed and spacious, providing all the modern amenities of television, electric shades, bathrooms with robes and luxury toiletries. Our suite had a private plunge pool outside which could be entered from the shower as well as the interior of the bathroom. Surrounded by growth on all the open sides, it provided complete privacy. With 50 acres of the private estate, privacy is the working word of this boutique hotel.
An unobtrusive delivery of coffee and sweetbread early in the morning greeted the day. The birds were uninvited guests but obviously made to feel welcome as they perched upon the table when we took a short break to go inside. Apparently they feel quite comfortable in their natural environment and must consider the tasty leftovers just part of having their space shared with the Estate's guests.
There is also the very natural feeling of the Aroma Spa built in the same area as the spaciously scattered accommodations. In keeping with the feeling of “realness,” the spa offers a variety of treatments in an extremely natural setting. The décor is specifically Mayan with colorful additions of textiles, pottery and found wood that have been interestingly used as decoration. Meandering paths through the jungle will get you there from your private casita.
Yoga sessions are held further out on the lush lawn just past the main house and before the beach, at the far end of one of the pools. In addition to the outdoor porches of the guest suites, relaxing is easy on lounge chairs around both pools, at the outdoor dining tables or on the lounges on the beach. Great food and drink are available from complimentary breakfast on the beach served at the poolside(including individual french presses for fresh coffee) to dinner at the main restaurant.
Although all the attractions of the Riviera Maya are within easy reach of Esencia Estate, it's so appealing to simply relax away from all “activity” that you can find yourself so perfectly satisfied and content being away from “the madding crowd” that you might just pass all your days right here and know you've “gotten away from it all” ….....that worked for me!
If you go:
Most major airlines fly into Cancun International Airport (CUN) and Riviera Maya is easily accessible from CUN by land transport.
Where to stay:
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Susanna Starr is an entrepreneur, photographer, speaker, artist, writer, and traveler and holds a degree in philosophy from Stony Brook State University of New York. Susanna has over twenty years experience in the hospitality business as owner of Rancho Encantado, an eco-resort and spa in Mexico. She has lived in Northern New Mexico for more than thirty five years and has lived in and traveled throughout Latin America. She is a member of the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) Susanna is the author of the book: Fifty and Beyond: New Beginnings in Health and Well-Being. Her blog is here. Her new book, Our Interwoven Lives with the Zapotec weavers: An Odyssey of the Heart, can be seen here.