A lover of all things beautiful, Hollywood producer and media entrepreneur Kevin Wendle saw Hotel Esencia as the opportunity to create the perfect retreat on the Riviera Maya…a place between jungle and ocean and with a profound understanding of luxury and superlative service. So he infused the hotel with the same warmth and hospitality he reserves for his family and friends, making every guest feel like they are coming to a place that’s as good, if not better, than home.
In an exclusive interview, he tells us his motivation to take over the former tropical hideaway of Italian duchess Rosa de Ferrari and transform it into the 29-room whitewashed Hotel Esencia, decked out corner to corner in a collection of art and antiques he curated himself.
Meet Kevin Wendle
GLH: Hello Kevin. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few of our questions. For the people who may not be familiar with your story, could you quickly introduce yourself?
Kevin Wendle: I’m a long time entrepreneur more than anything. I began my career as a television producer and almost everything that has followed has been about entertaining people, making people happy.
GLH: How did you develop your taste for the hospitality industry?
Kevin Wendle: As a side hobby I’ve always loved designing and sometimes flipping luxury homes. Along the way I’ve worked with so many talented designers and architects and I’ve learned so much from them. As someone who loves hosting guests at my homes, a few friends said to me “you should really be in the hotel business” so that’s what led me here and I couldn’t be happier.
GLH: Why did you choose to acquire Hotel Esencia in 2014? Did you have a particular attachment to Mexico and more particularly to the Tulum region?
Kevin Wendle: A good friend of mine owns some large hotels in the region and I saw that Riviera Maya was, and still is, the fastest-growing tourist destination in the world with non-stop flights from almost all major cities in Europe and the Americas. I was already madly in love with the tropical year-round perfect weather, the glorious palm trees, and the rich Mexican and Mayan culture – I realized it was such a special, magical place and I wanted to be here as often as possible.
GLH: What were the major changes you made to the hotel when you took over and what were the things you preserved?
Kevin Wendle: Hotel Esencia began as the seaside villa of an Italian duchess on one of the world’s most spectacular beaches. It’s located midway between Tulum and Playa del Carmen with no neighbors on either side. It feels like you’re at someone’s private estate on a deserted island yet most clients don’t have to fly halfway around the world to be here.
I kept the original main house, which had been so brilliantly designed, but upgraded or rebuilt most of what was here, including the new restaurants and more than 80% of the original suites to make them more spacious and luxurious with all the comforts of a refined beach home.
GLH: Was it important to combine the preservation of the architecture of the building and surrounding nature while also bringing in an ultra luxury touch? Can you explain how you achieved this?
Kevin Wendle: I’m an art collector so art and design are such a big part of my life and my own homes. As I think of Esencia as my family’s home in Mexico, I wanted to be sure my family and friends – and of course our guests – would feel that they are in a place of warmth and beauty. So art and design, and the best food and service that money can buy is all part of this. I mean, when you’re on vacation, you ideally want to visit somewhere that’s at least on par with your own home if not a big step up. So many of our clients are extremely successful and I didn’t want to let anyone down no matter where they were coming from.
GLH: What do you think made Hotel Esencia the “Wellness Star of the Year 2021” as reported by Forbes?
Kevin Wendle: The idea to create Rooftop Wellness Suites was an idea I had in the darkest moments of 2020 when I knew we would be closed for a while. No matter how fast the pandemic would come to an end, I believed that our clients would treasure their own private spaces more than ever. I tore down the ten smallest suites in the hotel and built these duplexes from the ground up, much more spacious and luxurious with large private rooftop pools, “The Mirror” virtual personal trainers, TRX, Technogym weights, yoga mats, steam showers with essential oils, and even optional Peloton bikes. These are now our most popular suites and we were honored to be recognized by Forbes Travel Guide as the only winner of their 2021 Wellness Star Award.
GLH: We know that you also have a strong attachment to France and that you acquired Château de Curzay, set to become the next Hotel Esencia in France. Do you plan to make Esencia a chain of hotels that we could, one day, find everywhere in the world?
Kevin Wendle: We currently have two hotels and, of course, we are open to the idea of opening more. It all starts with finding that magnificent location away from it all where our luxury clients want to be.
GLH: According to you, why should travelers come to Hotel Esencia?
Kevin Wendle: I’m so pleased that we’ve been recognized again and again as Mexico’s best beach resort but today’s luxury travelers want more than just a great bed and beach. We are intensely focused on the entire guest experience from booking to departure – we think about each guest almost every minute of every day – to ensure an unforgettable holiday in every way.
GLH: If you had to describe a perfect day at the hotel, what would it be?
Kevin Wendle: Waking up to fresh coffee and warm pastries delivered, complimentary, on your terrace and enjoying the sounds and sights of the exotic birds circling for a bite. Go for an early morning beach walk or our complimentary yoga followed by breakfast. From there, flop into a beach palapa with a great book, enjoy the sea, maybe a swim and some snorkeling followed by a lunch of fresh ceviche and tacos, more beach time, a swim at the pool, paddle boarding, kayaking or enjoying one of our 40 Mayan treatments at the spa.
Then maybe a nap, cocktails at our beach bar then dinner followed by stargazing with someone you love. Or if you’re lucky, after dinner, watching a giant sea turtle create her nest or seeing the birth of hundreds of baby sea turtles on our beach between August and October.
GLH: And finally, if you had to craft a perfect itinerary in Tulum, where would you go and what would you do? Any secret address you’d like to share, especially around Xpu Há?
Kevin Wendle: Don’t miss swimming with the manatees in our secret lagoon!
For more exclusive interviews, stay tuned!