Puerto Cayo, Ecuador

Photo: Tanusas Hotel

Can you keep a secret? Seriously. This one shouldn’t be shared. You’ll want to tell everyone about this exciting destination. Don’t. You’ll want to rave about Chef Rodrigo Pacheco. Don’t. You’ll want to post constantly on Instagram. Don’t. You should keep this little hideaway all to yourself.

Tanusas Hotel isn’t easy to reach. The little hotel sits on the coast of Manabí, a province known for its endless beaches, tiny fishing towns, and nature reserves. It’s a three-hour drive from the airport in Guayaquil. Machalilla National Park, which is considered a mini Galápagos, lies 45 minutes to the north. While surfers call Puerto Cayo, a few miles south, sleepy on an exciting day. This is truly a secluded destination.

The property is stunning. The main house contains the breakfast room, the reading room, and suites. It overlooks a bamboo-shaded lounge and the ocean-facing pool. Villas, the Pilates & Fitness Studio, and Ki Spa fan out from there. They’re bordered by trails, birdwatching spots, an organic farm, and huge gardens. Howler monkeys and at least 150 types of birds live in the untouched greenery beyond that. The deserted beach, lined with only a handful of houses, is never far from sight.

Photo: Tanusas Hotel

The hotel is also home to BocaValdivia. The Ecuadorian restaurant has a thatched roof and tables on the sand. Chef Pacheco returned to his homeland after training in France and cooking in restaurants with multiple Michelin stars. He’s focused on ancestral culture and sustainability now. That means farming, harvesting, and fishing the way pre-Hispanic people did thousands of years ago. BocaValdivia, even more than the beach, is the reason to make this long trip.

BocaValdivia doesn’t have a menu. Dinner ranges from four to six courses each night. They’re based on what can be locally foraged, netted, and picked. The results are anything but simple, though. A cactus leaf turns into a vessel for an aloe vera and watermelon salad. Ricotta is made with the milk of the farm’s cows. Mangrove shrimp are grilled on a yucca-root grill. Carita fillets are paired with curried artichokes. Sherbert is served inside mocochas, the shells of tagua nuts. Only the wine has to travel here. They’re all from South America, though. You can even cook, garden, and fish with the chef before dinner preparations begin.

The meal is a true journey. It’s the reason to plan a trip to Ecuador right now. Just remember: It’s a big secret.

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