Each year, we enjoy looking back on certain hotel amenities that we especially enjoyed over the course of the previous 12 months. Sometimes, a single element — a spa, a beach, a particular service — can elevate a hotel from excellent to unforgettable. In 2021, we felt more than usually grateful to be able to experience such pleasures.
Best Beach: Hotel Esencia
Playa Xpu-Ha, Mexico
Extending along the coast from the south of Cancún down to Tulum, the Riviera Maya offers palm-studded beaches and warm weather year-round. Our preferred property in the region, the newly recommended Hotel Esencia was built right on Playa Xpu-Ha, a dazzling white-sand beach dotted with palms and backed by canopied jungles. The calm, turquoise waters are shallow and ideal for swimming. The ocean floor has few rocks, though water shoes are available. Some hotels along the coast are plagued by invasive seaweed that washes up on the sand from April to August during sargassum season, but Esencia makes great efforts to keep its private stretch of beach clear. Aside from an idyllic location to swim or to laze beneath a thatched cabana, Playa Xpu-Ha is also a haven where giant sea turtles bury their clutches in the sand. In August, guests can witness a baby sea turtle release.