You’re planning that dream vacation — a much-delayed getaway with friends or family, perhaps — and a whole house rental is all that will suit. It’s been narrowed down to the Mexican Caribbean (that only took six months to decide) and it seems like it should now be a cinch to arrange.
Then comes the wish list: a private pool, a beach, all-ensuite, good restaurants, excellent reviews. The reject pile grows bigger by the day.
But how about three pools, one of them rooftop? And a professional-level gym with a virtual on-demand trainer, plus a private, state-of-the-art 20-seat cinema? Add in full-time staff, ultimate privacy, the facilities of a first class hotel — not to mention a pristine Mayan Riviera beach — on the doorstep.
It’s all yours at the new Esencia Mansion, a four-bedroom deluxe house perched at the edge of the 50-acre estate that houses Hotel Esencia, a boutique resort on the sandy shores of Xpu Há just north of Tulum.
The Mansion, which opened in November, is the latest part of Kevin Wendle’s vision for a barefoot-elegant Mexican escape, bar none. The entrepreneurial Hollywood producer and co-founder of Fox Broadcasting (you can thank him for “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “The Simpsons,” among many others) added hotelier to his LinkedIn when he bought a grand Mediterranean estate from Rosi de Ferrari, an Italian duchess who used it as her remote beachfront retreat before turning it into the hotel.
Since 2005, its sympathetic reinvention, weaving in its Mediterranean bones and stained glass with natural modern sleekness, coupled with top-notch service and facilities, has made it a magnet for A-listers looking for a discreet holiday in the sun. The glitterati guest list includes Emily Ratajkowski, Lupita Nyong’o and Jason Wu, who wrote that: “Everything is very refined: the decor with mid-century and curated art … the food, even the tequila.”
The hotel’s accommodations include 47 suites and three villas, some beachfront and others private cottages, surrounded by jungle, offering a chic level of luxury paired with lush surroundings. You’ll share your idyll with monkeys, iguanas, albino peacocks and cheeky coatimundis who may wander into your room and steal your breakfast pastries.
The new Mansion sits back from the property within its own walled-off terrain. If luxuriating within its 12,000 square feet feels like you’re actually living in the private home of a multi-millionaire, it’s because you are.
The house was originally designed to be Wendle’s own paradisiacal home from home — a victim of his own success, the hotel sells out so often that he’s often had to stay in the staff accommodations.
As such, the property was created to the highest spec, including pieces from Wendle’s own art collection (including contemporary works from frequent hotel guest Marcel Dzama) which augment the architectural smooth lines, natural materials and neutral colors, with pops of sage and ocean blue that echo the surroundings.
Hotel Esencia’s in-house architect Petter Svensson and artistic director Juan Carlos Gutierrez joined New York interior designer Giancarlo Valle for the project.
Valle previously worked on Wendle’s Greenwich penthouse as well as his Rhode Island beach house, and the “dream team,” as Wendle called them, have produced a space that truly belongs in glossy architectural and interior design tomes.
As so many second (third, and fourth) homeowners do, Wendle realized that rather than have the house sit empty while he was not in residence, there was an opportunity to hire out the place, primarily for VIPs, celebrities, heads of state — and basically any other group of eight people who can club together the $20,000-per-night price tag.
Once there, the house design allows friends and families to spread out in style, with flexible living spaces and those three pools offering plenty of sunning spots. Ensuites also have private entrances for ultimate privacy.
But you’ll want to meet up for sundowners on the panoramic rooftop, where you can dine under the shady palapa while admiring the 360-degree view over the jungle treetops and out to sea. Afterwards, head to the ground floor and your own fully stocked speakeasy (what self-respecting VRBO is complete without one?) entering through a discreet side tunnel into a bar-come-nightclub. Muted lighting, faded frescos and plush booths give an air of illicit hedonism for after-dinner drinks including, of course, smooth tequila shots — Lalo’s boutique hooch slips down a little too easily — or a DJ can be hired to spin tunes if you’re looking to liven up the night.
Breakfast is catered daily, and you have a resident chef and 24-hour butler at your service, but if you want company, you can choose to stroll over to any of the hotel’s three restaurants.
The beachfront Taiyo is a Japanese-Mexican fusion concept, all beachy colors with bright pops of scarlet, and the spot for sushi and surprisingly good local Casa Madero chardonnay. They share the outdoor space with Mistura, where you’ll find delicious catch-of-the-day fish tacos as well as the signature hotel margarita, featuring grapefruit, rosemary and ginger.
Beefbar, a spin-off from the Monaco original, comes alive at night, with fairy lights in the palm trees and flickering tiki torches lining the jungle paths. Sit under the stars and choose from local delicacies like veggie mole bowls, comfort food like brick-oven pizza, or high-end cuts of beef such as certified Japanese Kobe.
If, in the cold light of the morning after, you feel the need to revitalize, grab a smoothie (the coconut, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, ginger and honey is divine) and take a yoga class in a tree house while listening to the waves.
Then head to the Mayan spa, where you can say a blessing at the palapa door and get a range of services, including a coffee detox massage and ancestral ritual healing. If you need a mind-opener, visit the sweat lodge. I simply opted for one of the best facial treatments I’ve ever had — the moisture infusion, using Tata Harper raw honey products.
Once refreshed, grab a cerveza from the beach bar and take a walk along the crescent beach to a secret hideaway cenote with crystal clear waters, where you can take a paddleboard to snorkel or dive with majestic manatees — a truly magical experience.
If you can bear to leave this tropical paradise, the excellent concierge service can direct you to the local environs and beyond. For a bird’s-eye view of your surroundings, book a helicopter for a jaunt to archaeological sites such as Chichén Itzá or the Tulum ruins — the new tennis court (with a shady outdoor club where you will be served fresh fruit before your private lesson) doubles up as a helipad.
Of course it does.
Mansion rates start at $20,000 per night plus tax and service. Hotel Esencia rates start at $1,500 per night. For more information: HotelEsencia.com