On a recent trip to the Mayan Riviera, Esencia, an elegant, discreet resort, became Charles, Jeff and my private little Mexican paradise. We played hard, ate well and learned the art of doing nothing in the sun. Due to consecutive fashion shoots, we ended up staying for almost 3 weeks, so there was ample time to try out all of the resort’s kid-friendly activities. Although most of Esencia’s amenities are designed for adults, the resort and surrounding area had lots to offer its littlest guests, like yoga sessions, cooking classes, horseback riding, boat fishing, snorkeling – even a chocolate massage!
The surf would change from day to day, sometimes powerful three-foot waves, but mostly smooth, lake-like water that was very safe for Charles to swim in. We spent hours collecting shells and unusual-looking coral for our sandcastle creations and became experts at relaxing on the shaded lounges in the powder white sand. Tip: You should bring sand toys since the hotel doesn’t have these items available. We bought ours at a flea market in Playa del Carmen about 5 minutes from the resort.
When the surf was too intense for Charles, we headed to the pool located a few steps from the beach. There are two pools at Esencia, a lap pool and a shallow pool. We spent most of our time at the smaller pool that is roughly four-feet deep and has three steps that follow the length of the pool. The first step protrudes out about four feet into the water, which provides for a great place for babies to sit and play in the water as well.
I loved the food at the resort so much that I took home an unexpected souvenir – right around my middle! No matter how much I resisted, I couldn’t eat enough guacamole, ceviche, and chocolate cake, which is probably why a gym on the premises might have been beneficial. The hotel’s restaurant, Sal y Fuego, specializes in seafood and organically grown foods, with a focus on Meso-American cooking, a method that cooks meat in banana leaves below the earth. Each day was a new culinary adventure and after finishing one meal, we were planning our next or reminiscing about the meal before. The chef was so good to us, making sure Charles was happy with each of his specially prepared meals. Charles ate no-sauce pizza, buttered pasta, grilled fish, breaded chicken, french fries, and many varieties of fresh vegetables. He was always anxious to get his hands on a fruit smoothie, ice cream and the freshly baked cookies at teatime.
I highly recommend the cooking classes. Charles loved the cooking experience in the kitchen with the resident pastry chef, who was so patient with the four-year old eager participant. Charles’ face lit up every time we were off to another cooking class. He made guacamole and cookies for our group. With a white chef’s hat on his head, he emerged from the kitchen a proud artisan anxious to share his creations with us all.
Swimming with Dolphins:
On one of our excursions away from the resort, we swam with a dolphin named Connie at Puerto Aventuras, which is about 20 minutes south of Playa del Carmen. You can choose from 3 different dolphin activities at this marina; get a dolphin kiss, ride on a pair of dolphins, or race across the surface with them. Charles was unsure at first, but eventually got into the water and touched the bottlenose dolphin as she swam by. He was amazed that she was so soft and couldn’t stop talking about his experience afterwards. http://www.puertoaventuras.com
Resort Address: Playa del Carmen 77710, Mexico; Contact Number (877) 528-3490; http://www.hotelesencia.com.