Travel

Quintana Roo

Establishment neighborhood
Hotel Esencia
77734 Xpu-Há, Riviera Maya
Hotel Esencia was originally built as the private getaway of an Italian duchess. Now, it buzzes with chic clientele who choose the resort for its privacy and discretion. (The current owner is an art collector, whose connections and influence are apparent in the crowd and art curation on the property.) The beach is swimmable, although seaweed blooms might hinder that effort if you’re here in the spring in the early summer; the pools, in any case, are lovely, and divided between family-friendly and adults-only. And on top of daily breakfast baskets delivered to your room, there’s a café and juice bar, a sushi spot with Mexican inflections, a seafood grill under a grand palapa, an outpost of a Monaco steakhouse, and a beachside spot for margaritas.
Sense
Rosewood Mayakoba, Carretera Federal 307, Playa del Carmen
A favorite of goop staffers for long-weekend retreats, this gorgeous indoor-outdoor spa is on its own private island. You arrive by crossing the Puente del Balneario (“spa bridge”) from the Rosewood Mayakoba resort, and the lush grounds include twelve treatment rooms and eight suites that all have private porches. Some facials are gentle and nurturing, while others, like the revitalizing Toning Ritual, in which a chilled mask is applied to the skin, are meant to intensely awaken your complexion.
Palafitos
Carretera Cancún-Tulum Km. 45, Riviera Maya
Taking a deep bow to the overwater bungalows of Bora Bora, Palafitos is a small resort-within-a-resort composed of stand-alone huts hovering over the cerulean Caribbean. Serviced by its own restaurant, spa, and stretch of white sand beach, you never have to leave the water. Should you wish to leave your bungalow, the sprawling El Dorado—part of Karisma, which is a Mexican owned-and-operated hotel group—offers additional restaurants, pools, and swim-up bars. If you book one a bungalow that faces the ocean, you get unobstructed views of the sea (including below, as stretches of the floor are transparent), your own floating pontoon that you can snorkel off of, indoor/outdoor showers, and all the trappings of a luxury hotel (butler service, beachside picnics, etc). The restaurant is excellent, offering multi-course small plate dinners with lots of gastronomic flourishes—this isn’t Mexican comfort food. While Palafitos is definitely a big draw for honeymooners and special occasion celebrators, its proximity to the Cancun airport makes this an easy choice for a quick weekend away, too.
Rosewood Mayakoba
Ctra. Federal, Playa del Carmen
Rosewood Mayakoba is a huge resort that’s very well run and well-manicured. You’re surrounded by water, with the Caribbean on one side and freshwater lagoons on the other, which you traverse by boat. (You can always get around by bike or hitch a ride on a golf cart.) The suites have private plunge pools, sun decks, and outdoor showers; they’re spacious and great for friends traveling together. By day, Zapote Bar is a chill spot for a drink; it really turns up at night. Be sure to book a spot at La Ceiba—a dining experience under a large Ceiba tree on the property’s 20,000-square foot garden, where hotel guests and staff dine together on a menu crafted from locally-sourced produce and regional wines and tequilas. But if you want to hole up at the spa every day of your visit, you wouldn’t be blamed—it’s a totally special space, housed on a private island overlooking limestone lagoons and offering up an extensive menu of Mayan-influenced spa treatments and rituals.
CasaSandra
Holbox Island
Since it's only about an hour's drive from Cancún, Holbox, a barrier island on the north edge of Yum Balam, is a brilliant option for people hoping to take advantage of plentiful direct flights, yet stay out of the Spring Break fray. Nestled up against the West-facing beach (which means sunsets over the ocean), CasaSandra is the best luxury location on the island, with a lovely restaurant and a private feel, even though you're walking distance from the town, which is blessedly free of tourists. The hotel offers a three-day couples' package that includes a private boat tour and romantic dinner on the beach for a romantic—but zero-planning—long weekend away. Quick tip for first-timers: Bring plenty of cash, since there are no banks on the island and ATMs are unreliable at best.
Coqui Coqui Tulum (Closed)
Carretera Tulum Boca Paila, Tulum
There's lots to appeal about Tulum (including its off-the-power-grid quietness), and then there's an even bigger draw to Coqui Coqui. In keeping with the surroundings, it has a beautifully rustic aesthetic: Exposed concrete walls, contrasting animal hide tapestries, and the softest white linens draping the bed posts. The exterior looks like a cross between the nearby ruins in Tulum and a well-built sandcastle on Mexico’s Mayan Riviera surf. There are just seven rooms, so it’s quiet with candles only after dark. Their house branded natural hair and body products are stocked in the rooms (one of the owners, Nicolas, founded Coqui Coqui Perfumes). Meanwhile, their clean, simple cafeteria serves some of the best snapper ceviche in town, though there are other great restaurants up and down the beach.