A short-notice photography assignment for the May issue of Virtuoso Life had me on a plane to Riveria Maya faster than I could say “margarita.” I’d forgotten what a quick trip it is to this part of Mexico from Dallas. Just two hours after departing cold, rainy DFW, my plane  descended over turquoise water and I pulled up to Hotel Esencia, near Tulum. My pre-trip research revealed that fashion designer Jason Wu recently married here and, sadly, I missed actress Kate Bosworth by only a few days. The hotel’s vibe is like your most stylish friend’s beach house, with a laid-back attitude and extreme attention to detail. It feels extra exclusive because of its lush and green tropical surroundings and the 31 rooms pop with colorful textiles against a white minimalist design.

Here are five things I loved about Hotel Esencia.

The Ceviche Menu.

The Pool Restaurant offers a ceviche menu with no less than FIVE options! I ate ceviche three days in a row. It was so good. Don’t miss the Aguachile de Camarón (shrimp marinated in lime juice, serrano chile, and cucumber) and Ceviche de Atún (yellowfin tuna, avocado, jalapeno, lime, and red onions).


The details.

Hotel Esencia loves to tweak standard hotel details. Instead of slippers, guests receive perfectly sized Havaiana flip-flops and a straw beach tote to use and take home. Branded blank books and pencils replace stationery and pens. An in-room iPod is loaded with three playlists, one for mañana (morning), tarde (evening), and noche (night) by Michel Gaubert, the music designer for Chanel and Dior runway shows. I played these on repeat during my entire stay.


Four words: Diet. Coke. Ice. Cubes.

This might be the most genius invention ever, especially for a beachside restaurant. When my Diet Coke arrived, I gasped at realizing what was in my glass! I now use this party trick when I entertain at home.

diet coke ice cubes

The peacocks.

There’s something extravagant feeling about a hotel where these stunning birds roam the grounds. The fancy male liked to come by and block the entrance to my room on occasion, but he was so impressive, I didn’t really mind.

The boutique.

This is not your standard hotel boutique. Striking jewelry, housewares, and designer pop-ups had me returning every day to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I loved the custom-wrapped Assouline Chic Stays book so much I committed to hauling all six pounds of it home. I couldn’t pass up this textile-inspired necklace, either.

boutique book

Coming Up: Kevin Wendle, the owner of Hotel Escencia, is an entertainment industry powerhouse – he launched the Simpsons and Beverly Hills 90210, among other pop-culture megaliths, and cofounded CNET and E! Online. Stay tuned for his travel essentials from the May issue of Virtuoso Life.

All photos by Korena Sinnett, associate art director for Virtuoso Life.