Gourmets start packing:Tanusas Retreat & Spa – an eco-friendly beach retreat in Ecuador – is run by Alain Ducasse-trained chef Rodrigo Pacheco. His buzz-generating kitchen is a hothouse of culinary creativity (ask nicely to bag a cooking class); however, the hotel’s Pacific coast setting, tropically toned decor, and palm-tree-crowded grounds allure too. Set in unspoilt Manabí Province, this teeny 10-room resort cosies up against sweeping nature reserves, fauna-filled forests and Isla de la Plata – a booby-roamed beauty spot that's like a Galápagos apéritif.
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One hour-long cooking lesson for two and a 45-minute massage for one
Noon, but late check-out is available until 2pm, subject to availability and a fee (50 per cent of the full rate). Earliest check-in, 9am. Guests can store luggage and relax at the bar or by the beach if they arrive early.
Double rooms from £271.71 ($342), including tax at 22 per cent.
All-inclusive meals by chef Pacheco are included in the room rate.
Manager Pacheco hires staff from the surrounding villages, and he’s embarked on a ‘green’ school project, to raise awareness about rainforest conservation and ethical harvests.
At the hotel
Private beach, spa, gym, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: beach bags, sunhats, free WiFi, minibar, bottled water, Kohler bath products. The Royal Suite and villas have TVs and DVD players.
Our favourite rooms
Set a short stroll from the main house, and shielded from prying eyes by palms and cacti, the Royal Suite is the most secluded. Spend lazy lie-ins gazing at panoramic views of sprawling greenery from your bed. Pre-Colombian artwork adds an authentic air, and a pair of ocean-view sunloungers accentuates the petite private pool’s deck.
Outside the main house, by the bar, there’s an ocean-facing heated pool and a large bamboo-shaded deck. Sink into the sea-coloured cushions of the bucket chairs, rock on the periwinkle hammock, or stretch out on a sunshine-yellow sunlounger.
Open from 7am to 6pm, Ki Spa’s two treatment rooms are prepped for essential-oil massages that’ll leave you as headily scented as the grounds. A steam room, hammam and sauna round off the pampering options.
A pocket-sized Spanish phrasebook if your Español isn’t up to scratch.. Don’t pack that Panama hat: handsome, locally made Metier hats are sold on-site. A cache of GoPros ensures some action-packed holiday snaps too.
Pacheco’s wife owns a fitness studio in Quito and gives pilates and yoga lessons. Please note visitors to Ecuador are required to show proof of public or private health insurance upon entering the country. Without this, you could be denied entrance.
Baby cots (US$50) or an extra bed (US$150) for four-to-12 year olds can be added to rooms, kids' meals are offered, and local babysitters (US$50 an hour) can be hired. The Two-Bedroom Villas are private and spacious enough for families.
Absolutely. There are solar panels throughout and waste is filtered. Ingredients come from local farms, and the hotel owners have started community programmes focused on responsible food production, nutrition and protecting the environment.
Sit peering at the ocean through the swaying palms on the clearing just outside the restaurant.
Be inspired by traditional Ecuadorian dress: don neon-bright skirts, tucked-in white shirts and statement necklaces. Pair Mr Smith’s Panama hat with a laid-back Breton-striped tee.
Alain Ducasse-tutored chef Rodrigo Pacheco has wowed punters at Sketch in London and Le Palme d’Or in Cannes. His new-Ecuadorian cuisine is plucked straight from the source: forest-scavenged fruits, fish and crustacea straight from the nets (often Pacheco’s own) and kitchen-garden goodies that showcase the Manabí Province in full flower. Standout dishes include carita-fish fillets with curried-artichoke salad, or fig parfait with sea-salt sables and coffee ice-cream. The thatched restaurant is coolly casual with sun-saluting views. Lunch is served here, and a generous buffet – with must-try home-made dulce de leche – is laid out in the breakfast room.
The small but sweet, citrus-hued bar – on the pool deck – is strung with kitsch pineapple lights and displays local handicrafts. Signature cocktail Sol de Manabi (rum, passion-fruit juice and cinnamon) is the perfect poolside cooler. If abstaining, sip an iced glass of zingy Limonada del Coco.
Breakfast is served from 8am to 11am, lunch from 1pm to 3pm. In the evenings, Pacheco’s magic comes into play from 7.30pm to 10pm.
From 8am to 11pm, burgers, grilled octopus, tempura platters, deep-fill fish sandwiches and home-made ice-cream can be whisked to your door.
The hotel is on a 50-acre reserve on Ecuador’s Pacific coast, flanked by dense verdure and a quiet beach in little-known Manabí province. Fishing village Puerto López is 40 minutes’ drive away, and Machalilla National Park lies to the north.
Eloy Alfaro International Airport (www.aeropuertomanta.com) is the closest, about an hour’s drive away. European flights connect via Quito and direct flights are available from major US hubs.
It’s not essential to book a car as the hotel can arrange day trips and airport transfers. Ensure you have GPS if you do hire a car: signage for the hotel is sparse, and there’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it driveway. There’s Avis car hire at the airport and free valet parking on-site.
Worth getting out of bed for
The hotel’s 50-acre reserve has plenty for action-seekers. Hop off your sunlounger for an open-air pilates lesson with Rodrigo’s wife. Or head to the beach for surfing sessions and guided kayaking along the coast. This hotel offers golden opportunities for food-fanatics to learn about local cuisine: gather ingredients from the garden and forest, take a cookery lesson or go fishing – often accompanied by chef Rodrigo. Hike and bike through the Manabí Province or see mangrove forests, islets and beaches on horseback. The hotel can arrange trips to vast nature reserve Machalilla National Park, a 45-minute drive away, which comprises of pelican, albatross and booby-populated Isla de la Plata (a sort of mini Galápagos) and protected forest – home to howler monkeys, ocelots, white-tailed deer, armadillos and more. Bike or trek through the trees, take a whale-watching trip, or scuba dive from Los Frailes beach, where manta rays and sharks hang out.
Five-star dining is included in your room rate; trust us, you’ll want to savour every morsel. However, if daytripping to Puerto López, look out for Etnias’ goodie-filled blackboard menu (+593 9 167 6876). The petite bamboo-clad café is run by French ex-pats; coffee, waffles and crepes are excellent, and WiFi is refreshingly reliable. Another ex-pat success is Bell Italia, set by the Malecon; be sure to squeeze in a chinwag with gentlemanly owner Don Victorio between courses.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this boutique beach retreat on the Pacific Coast and unpacked their ikat-patterned shawls and pan-pipes, a full account of their chilled-out coastal break will be with you. In the meantime, don your shades for a quick peek inside colourful Tanusas Retreat & Spa in Ecuador…
Fine dining steps down from its ivory tower at Tanusas Retreat & Spa, and slips on a pair of flip-flops. Chef and manager Rodrigo Pacheco has plied his tasty trade in world-renowned eateries, but it’s only here (with all-inclusive meals) that you can calypso back to your suite’s hammock for a snooze after polishing off his locally plucked delicacies. Work up an appetite with a horse ride through mangroves, spotting the furred and feathered locals or somehow upping your relaxation levels in the spa. If decision-making becomes too tiresome, ask staff to plan your itinerary. Don’t be afraid to get pally with Pacheco too: he runs cookery classes and often attends fishing excursions, so guests can glean a few tips on how to recreate his decidedly local dishes back home, albeit with supermarket-foraged ingredients.