If you happen to subscribe to my newsletter, then you know that we decided as a family to stay closer to home this summer, with more intentional adventures and activities, allowing us to really slow down before a VERY busy fall and winter approach.

I set my sights on Mexico for one of these excursions, and zeroed in on the Hotel Esencia, which we had heard about through our very dear travel friends, and a few of Patrick’s clients alike.

I typically shy away from “resorts”, so when I learned about the seclusion that Hotel Esencia offers, I was immediately intrigued.

While researching the property, they had me hook, line and sinker at “originally built as the private hideaway of an Italian duchess”. Italians know how to holiday, so I’d follow them anywhere!

When you arrive off of the main highway, you are carted through dense jungle paths that lead you to your rooms (with no numbers), separated throughout the grounds by natural screens of foliage and trees.

Even when fully booked (for a few of the days while we were there), we rarely saw more than ten people at a time, except for major mealtimes.

Every afternoon we would walk down to the beach and grab an empty palapa (no reservations needed), snatch up the boogie boards, order drinks and food, and enjoy the heavenly breezes and pristine beach with deliciously warm water (such a nice treat for us Californians) almost all to ourselves!

The pool is just a few steps away from the ocean, which was a nice way to switch up playtime for the kiddos (there is an adult pool on the other side for those wanting a bit more peace and quiet).

There are three restaurants on the property, (steak, Japanese inspired, and Mexican with a twist)… all of them wildly delicious with magical views.

Patrick and I were beyond impressed with every meal. The food is pricey, but so worth it for the quality, freshness and ingenuity, and we don’t say that very often about hotel fare.

You can pop into Tulum (as we did on our day trips) for alternatives, and even scarf down the complimentary pastries, coffee and hot chocolate for your breakfasts to save a bit here and there (which is what we also ended up doing by accident due to rushing out the door for our tours each morning).

We made up for lost brunch big time on the morning of our departure and it made me question our laziness on the previous days (OMG… even to pop in and get a smoothie or a latte would have been worth getting up ten minutes earlier!).

Tea time with treats is also served daily in the late afternoon, as a sweet little prelude to dinner.

The design of Hotel Esencia is elegant and charming, with the main building boasting hacienda details (arches, wood detailing and beautiful pops of color), the restaurants outfitted with thatched roofs and twinkling lights, and the residences taking a more sleek, modern approach with white polished curves and plunge pools.

I really wish I had more photos (and better quality), but we were enjoying ourselves too much for me to “work” on vacation! I created a Mexico highlight on my Instagram, though, if you would like to see some video content that more precisely captures the magical atmosphere. I promise you… it’s worth it.

After arriving Sunday afternoon and enjoying a fabulous dinner with Mexican BBQ, mariachis and more, we woke up on Monday morning to take a private tour of Rio Secreto, one of the regions many underground rivers and cenotes.

This was definitely the highlight of the trip, as my kiddos have not stopped talking about it.

There are multiple choices for cenotes, but we went ahead and booked a private tour through Esencia.

Yes, this tour is expensive, but you get a solo guide and hours to spend more than 60 feet underground in a river that is “almost”clean enough to drink from in parts of the caves that no one else is visiting.

This is a fossilized shell more than two million years old, and there were many more like it!

Our chaperone was incredibly knowledgeable, and we left with an abundance of historical details relating to the geography, plant and animal life, religious tie-ins and culture surrounding these caves.

We were also provided with a snack, and a homemade lunch afterwards that was to die for.

Could we have splurged on a bigger room at Esencia? Sure… but we usually splurge on tours such as this because it’s what we remember and benefit from the most. This is just a little Murphy Travel Tip 😉 .

Day Two we woke up to this cutie Coati looking for chocolate (supposedly they LOVE the breakfast treats delivered each morning), and a new day to get our history on…

We originally planned to tour Coba, the highest Mayan pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula, but when we found out that we couldn’t ascend it anymore we decided to stay nearby and have a car take us to the ruins in Tulum.

The kiddos were TROUPERS, as it was CRAZY hot… but they persevered and learned some great things along the way…

… and then our driver took us to his favorite Tacos Al Pastor joint and it was the bomb.

After an ice cream we hightailed it back to cool down in the ocean and visit more of our favorite property “guests”.

On our last full day, we decided to chill for the most part, which included a guided dip into a private lagoon just a short walk away.

If you are lucky (which we were), you can sometimes visit one or more of the manatees that frequent the lagoon.

We were able to see this gorgeous guy and dive down to give him a “pet”. He was so large and gentle… just going about his business scooping up moss from down below and then swimming up to say hi.

I was actually admonished online by a viewer  for not respecting wildlife (after I posted a video of Parker touching his back).

She is from Florida, where Manatees are in danger, so I can understand where her anger came from… but I let her know that I always do my due diligence and research when we plan to see wildlife anywhere in the world.

We wouldn’t touch any animals unless we were given permission.

Our guide was local, knowledgeable, and extremely protective of these creatures (they have names for each Manatee family member), and only a very small numbers of guests are allowed at a time (the lagoon is privately located in a neighboring resort that was damaged by a hurricane and has since been empty).

We were honored to make Elvis’ acquaintance and hope to meet more of his siblings one day 🙂 .

A few more notes and tips…

1. The service was impeccable. Everyone was so kind and eager to assist us in anything we needed.

2. August was HOT, but we love hot and took advantage of the lower pricing because of the season.

3. There can be issues with seaweed in the water and on the beach August through October, but it wasn’t a problem while we were there. The seaweed that did show up was raked off of the beach. Again… I’d take my chances.

4. I had a few people ask me how family friendly Esencia is (it skews very romantic). We saw multiple families while we were there and never felt awkward or like we were bothering anyone with noise, etc.

Again, they do such a great job with privacy, that you can definitely find it if you need it.

We also made sure to book day-trips (see above) to wear our family out. It sort of worked 😉 .

Thank you Esencia for such a delightful stay…

… how wonderful to know you are just a short flight away!