Travel

Riviera Maya Hotels

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.
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.