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At a glance

  • You'll love

    Sandy, safe beach

    Adults-only pool

    Daily crafting hour

  • Kids will love

    Yoga classes

    Scuba lessons

    Kids' spa menu

  • Don’t expect

    Kids clubs or crèche

    Planned activities

    Walkable town


Along a quiet stretch of Mexico’s Mayan Riviera, just steps from the cerulean Caribbean, you’ll find family-friendly beach hotel Esencia. This intimate oceanfront resort with top-notch service and style proves there's no such thing as too much spoiling. After all, this 29-room retreat is the former private estate of a fabulously wealthy Italian duchess who knew how to indulge. Linger poolside over breakfast, spend the day building dazzling white sandcastles or snorkelling, or keep little hands busy in a yoga session while you snooze. Don't miss a signature treatment at the sublime spa: there's chocolate massage for the kids, and energizing temazcal rituals for adults.  

Smith Extra

Here's what you get for booking Hotel Esencia with us:

Complimentary cocktail for each parent and a 30-minute chocolate massage for each child

Special offers

Exclusive rates, packages and special offers at Hotel Esencia

Stay 4 nights for the price of 3


‘Private butler service, yoga and scuba instructors on site, free yoga lessons for kids and an hour of arts and crafts every day for children five years and younger (book in advance) so parents can indulge in a kid-free meal or a couples massage...’

Smith & Family


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Hotel Esencia – Riviera Maya – Mexico

Need To Know


29, including 17 spacious suites and two two-storey, two-bedroom cottages.


12 noon. Earliest check-in, 3pm. Times can be flexible, subject to availability; for early/late arrivals, the hotel can store your luggage, while you use the hotel facilities.


Double rooms from £619.51 ($793), including tax at 29 per cent.

More details

Rates exclude breakfast, which is served poolside at Sol y Arena restaurant. À la carte items, which include coffee and teas, fruit-topped yogurts, porridge, pancakes, eggs many ways and freshly pressed juices, range from $5-$15. Children Under-2s stay free in cots. Under-12s stay for US$75 a night and an additional (third) bed in any room is US$150 a night.


All areas of the hotel are pram and pushchair/wheelchair accessible. One hour of arts and crafts is available each day for the little Smiths aged five and younger; book these sessions 48 hours in advance to guarantee a spot. Complimentary yoga sessions and scuba instruction are also available.  

At the hotel

Two pools, beach, restaurant, bar, organic spa with temazcal treatments, Jacuzzis and steam room, gardens and free WiFi throughout. 

In your room

FlatscreenTV, DVD/CD players, iPod dock, preloaded iPod mini, internet access, black-out blinds, Molton Brown bath products, minibar with complimentary water, soda, juice and beer. Kids get their own mini-robes and sandals, and there are colouring kits on arrival for small children.  

Our favourite rooms

With the exception of the La Torre Deluxe Ocean View room, all Garden View and Ocean View rooms have ample space for families (two adults and one or two children). The Garden View Rooms (with private balconies) or Garden View Suites (with plunge pools) each have two beds and an ensuite with bathtub, in an open-plan layout. While spacious and roomy, these rooms do lack the privacy of having two distinct bedrooms. The two-storey cottages offer the most space for larger families, sleeping two or three adults and two or three kids. Make your casa away from casa a spacious two-storey cottage loaded with the comforts of home… and then some (butler service, in-suite chefs). Mayan textiles and hand-woven rugs add a pop of local colour to the contemporary furnishings in these Spanish-style abodes. There are two bedrooms (one with a king-size and the second with two twins beds), two ensuites (one with a bathtub), a full kitchen (for early risers and late-night snackers), a dining room and living room indoors along with a terrace, private pool and serene gardens outdoors.  


With a family-friendly pool (wide, gradual steps lead to the heated pool, but no lifeguards) and a quieter adults-only one, everyone will happily find a relaxing and refreshing place for a dip. Both pools are open from sunrise to sunset, so claim one of the sunloungers on the cement deck trimmed in tropical flora, and be get ready to spend a good chunk of your day poolside. That goes for dining, too – Sol y Arena, which serves breakfast, lunch and snacks throughout the day, is set overlooking the hotel’s main pool.  


Aroma has the distinction of being the Riviera Maya's first organic spa (using indigenous fruits, plants and herbs – many grown in the estate’s garden). There are five treatment rooms, four Jacuzzis and two Mayan-style temazcal domed steam rooms. There is a menu tailored for children aged 5–13 (14s and over can choose from the adult menu) with yummy signature treatments like chocolate baths and massages and tropical strawberry and vanilla body wraps. Teenagers and parents can refresh with holistic healing treatments – reiki, cranio-sacral therapy – and a range of facials and other revitalizing couples’ massages.  


When it comes to beach gear, the hotel has you covered. Oversized towels, buckets and spades, and pool floats are all on hand.

Book ahead

The small group yoga sessions for yogis big and small (aged four and older) fill up quickly: book your slot in one of the three age-specific classes when you make your reservation. Book one hour arts and crafts lessons for little Smiths (aged five and younger) 48 hours in advance.

Food and drink

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Hotel Esencia – Riviera Maya – Mexico


Casual poolside café Sol y Arena serves breakfast, lunch and small plates throughout the day in a relaxed shaded pavilion. Start your day with filling chilaquiles, nibble on grilled fish tacos for lunch and pop by for ceviche after a day at the beach. Open for dinner, Sal y Fuego is set in an open-air palapa with views of the manicured gardens; the space deftly balances rustic beach chic (thatched roof and dark wooden floors) with the elegance of a fine-dining room (moody candlelight and white linen-dressed tables). The Meso-American menu is inspired by the tropical setting, with an emphasis on fresh local produce, herbs and vegetables grown in the estate’s gardens and seafood: be sure to try the lobster taquitos and traditional Yucatán roasted lime soup.

Family fare

Both restaurants have highchairs, booster seats and children’s menus under-12s. Familiar comfort foods – quesadillas with refried beans, mini hamburgers and home-made macaroni and cheese – are the menu standards, but chefs will tailor and create dishes for particular (ok, picky) diners, including baby food, baby purées and snacks. The kitchen will happily warm baby bottles, too.  

Hotel Bar

Both restaurants have casual bars with a handful of seats. There is no separation from the restaurant, so kids are welcome.  

Last orders

Sol y Arena serves breakfast from 7am to 10:30am; after 10:30am, drinks, lunch and smaller snacks are served until 5:30pm. Both the dining room and bar at Sal y Fuego are open from 6pm to 11pm.  

Smith Insider

  • Top table

    Breakfast and lunch are always served poolside. At dinner, snag one of the tables hemming the dining room overlooking the exotic plants and swaying palm trees in the garden.

  • Room service

    Room service from the menus at Sol y Arena and Sal y Fuego is available from 7am to 11pm. The concierge can assist with after-hours requests.  


    A meal plan is available (except during Christmas holiday season) that covers breakfast, lunch and dinner and is good at either restaurant or room service. At $95 for adults and $50 for kids (excluding drinks) this is a better deal for families that stick to three square meals a day.  


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Hotel Esencia – Riviera Maya – Mexico

Parent approved

‘Private butler service, yoga and scuba instructors on site, free yoga lessons for kids and an hour of arts and crafts every day for children five years and younger (book in advance) so parents can indulge in a kid-free meal or a couples massage...’

Smith & Family


Parents are treated to two hours' complimentary babysitting every day: take advantage and sneak away to the spa for a couples’ massage, or linger over a romantic dinner. In addition to that, qualified multi-lingual babysitters can be booked with 24 hours' notice; it costs US$30 for the first hour, then US$15 for each additional hour, per child.


Audio baby-listening devices (with a range of 120m) suitable for use between cottage bedrooms or when you’re out on your private terrace (perhaps enjoying cold cerveza) are available to borrow: request one at the time of booking, or before arrival, as there's limited availability.

What's there already?

For babies

• Highchairs • Steriliser • Bottles • Bottle warmers • Baby cots • Cot bedlinen • Black-out blinds • Baby monitors • Baby bath • Infant car seat • Crayons • Board books

For toddlers

• Highchairs • Booster seats • Cot beds • Cot bedlinen • Beach toys • Crayons/pens • Craft materials • Picture books • U-rated DVDs • Swimming aids

For older children

• Children's bathrobes and slippers • Car booster seats • DVD library • Board games • Wii consoles • Boogie boards • Beach toys • Swimming aids


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Hotel Esencia – Riviera Maya – Mexico

Things to do

Spending time outdoors making the most of the gloriously tropical climate is the main allure of this idyllic Caribbean coast. So unplug from your gadgets and get outside and play. Splash, snorkel or take a scuba lesson in the turquoise sea edging the beach just steps from the hotel. Paddle around in one the hotel’s two pools and stroll the estate’s over 50 palm-tree-trimmed acres. If vitamin D overload occurs, take a break from the sun and step into the kitchen for expert cooking lessons. And no one should leave with experiencing one of the many restorative signature organic spa treatments at Aroma. And, adding to the wellness-retreat feeling, complimentary group yoga and meditation classes are offered in the main house, and private yoga sessions can be arranged, too. 

Sunny days

In addition to the two pools, Esencia has an enviable beachfront perch. There are no private beaches in Mexico, but because the estate is flanked by private homes, the stretch of white sand feels secluded and remote. The calm, shallow and warm water is safe for swimming (there is no lifeguard), and shaded and sun-exposed loungers are available for guests. Buckets, spades, footballs, Frisbees, boogie boards and snorkel gear are all on hand for guests to borrow. And over-12s (adults, too) can take the plunge and work towards their scuba certification with lessons from the resort’s scuba instructor.  

Rainy days

Rain or shine, the hands-on cooking classes for small groups (ages 4+) are not to be missed. Book your slot in one of three sessions – Mini Pastry Chef (ages 4–8), Junior Guest Chef (9–12) or Mexican Cooking (adults, and kids aged 12+) – when you make your reservation. And when it does rain (which is rare outside of the August to October hurricane season), you can check a film out from the library and retreat to your room or join other guests for a movie screening or board games in the main house.  

And there's more…

Organised activities for kids are not standard, but if there are several families staying during a holiday, the resort will organize group events, such as an Easter egg hunt during Easter.  

Local Guide

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Hotel Esencia – Riviera Maya – Mexico

Located an hour south of tourist-teeming Cancun, Esencia, set on a secluded stretch of sandy shoreline, is just remote enough that you might indulge in the fantasy that you’ve truly left reality behind. However, if you can pull yourself away from the beach, there are natural wonders and fascinating ancient cities to explore nearby, too.

Playa del Carmen, a 20-minute drive, is the closest spot for a town fix of shopping and restaurants if the quiet pace of the beach is just too, well, relaxed. Italian-focused restaurant Cenacolo (+52 984 803 5705) on Fifth Avenue presents several variations of carpaccio, house-made pasta and substantial surf-and-turf fare in a cosy, candlelit room. It’s lovely for date night or supper with older kids – however the extensive list of pasta and risotto will please diners of all ages. Just up the street is Mi Pueblo (+52 984 803 0332), with outdoor seating, casual dining and a loud mariachi band that makes it an ideal spot for family dining. This local's favourite is known for traditional Mexican cuisine such as rich mole poblano, fortifying tortilla soup, shrimp tostada and house-made tortillas. Grab a table outside, order margaritas for you, syrupy Mexican Coke for the kids, sit back, relax and all will be kept entertained by the strolling band.

A further 15 minutes away, you can visit the pre-Hispanic city of Tulúm. This ancient fortress town is an excellent spot for scouting handmade souvenirs and discovering traditional cuisine. Pop by Hartwood on Carretera Tulum Boca Paila, for dinner. Run by New York natives Eric Werner and Mya Henry, this casual, open-air eatery has a serious commitment to featuring locally sourced ingredients. The approachable menu of regionally inspired contemporary American cuisine – fresh seafood and steak served on cast-iron dishes and chunky cutting boards – changes daily. The restaurant is first come serve, but they do accept reservations for groups over eight people.

If exploring ancient ruins is of interest, make the one-hour drive inland to Coba, the site of Mexico’s highest Mayan pyramid. If clamouring up the 130 feet to the top is too tall an order for small explorers, you can wander the surrounding jungle trails and search for tropical birds and swinging howler monkeys. For a more ambitious archaeological adventure with older children (who don’t mind logging several hours in the car), make the two-hour drive to what some consider one of the seven new wonders of the world, Chichén Itzá, a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of the largest and best restored Mayan cities. Marvel at the ancient architecture including a temple dating back to 950 AD and a 75-foot pyramid constructed in the 11th century.

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Hotel Esencia
Carretera Cancún Tulum, Pedio Rústico Xpu-Ha Lote 18, Quintana Roo, Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo, 77710
Hotel setting

Relaxed Riviera Maya


Cancún International Airport is an hour's drive from the hotel. From here, you'll be able to fly to cities all over the US, with onward connections to the UK. It's also served by some charter flights from the UK.


Taxis are inexpensive, but it’s worth renting a car if you want to explore further afield – there are desks at Cancún airport. The hotel is around 20 minutes south of Playa del Carmen, accessible via a small lane running off Highway 307, which links Cancún with towns along the Riviera May.

Parent travel tip

If you’d rather not to lug the child car seats with you, they can be reserved in advance with both Avis and Hertz.


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Hotel Esencia – Riviera Maya – Mexico

Smith & Family  Parent Panel reviews

Every property featured in the Smith & Family collection – including Hotel Esencia – has been selected and approved by parents.

Secluded and serene, the 29-room Esencia resort is an intimate departure from the string of all-inclusive resorts dotting Highway 307 as it ribbons its way from Cancún south along the Riviera Maya. This former private estate of an Italian duchess may be smaller in scale than other mega-room hotels, but it’s expansive in every other way – making it an ideal family escape, with style. Private butler service, yoga and scuba instructors on site, cooking lessons for chefs aged 4+ and – best of all – two hours of complimentary babysitting every day so parents can indulge in a kid-free meal or a couples massage: the service and staff will leave you feeling like royalty, too. Set on 50 tropical acres with lush gardens (where herbs and produce for the restaurant are grown), there are two palm-tree trimmed pools, the area’s first organic spa (with ancient Mayan steam rooms) and a bright-white swathe of sandy beach and turquoise Caribbean views at every turn.

Smith & Family

The Guestbook  Smith member reviews

Whenever you book a stay at a Smith & Family hotel, we'll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what real-life family guests had to say about Hotel Esencia in the Guestbook below.


Stayed on

We loved

We live in Sydney (so appreciate good food and beaches) and have a 7 month old baby. We travelled to Mexico for a close friend's wedding, and wanted 5 days relaxation afterwards by the beach with our daughter. This place was perfect: - very baby friendly: on arrival they gave us a cot with mosquito net and sheets, and a bottle steriliser, baby bath and washing up liquid; most of the staff knew our daughter's name by the time we left - very friendly staff who really went the extra mile to ensure we had what we wanted - great babysitter - excellent spa - free kayaks and paddle boards - food was delicious - beautiful large room - kid's pool In summary it was luxurious without being pretentious, it was genuinely family friendly, the staff were fantastic and we loved it. Go to the ruins in Tulum. Very atmospheric and you can really imagine the Mayan trading ships coming off the sea through the reef.

Don’t expect

Massive parties. This is not the Cancun you have heard about - which makes it even better.

Rating: 10/10 stars