By Lance Brashear
MANABI- In hindsight, the success of Palmazul Artisan Designed Hotel and Spa seemed ordained. Its poignant location in San Clemente, a mere black dot on a coastal map, has made it less a destination to discover than a getaway now planned by thousands of beach goers each year. In fact, the month of August is already sold-out.
But things did not start out this way. What would become one of the most popular coastal vacation sites in Manabi, and an idyllic setting for weddings and events, was supposed to be a family vacation house. Now, it is both.
When they stumbled upon this sleepy fishing village, owners Jessica Meza and her husband Kjetil Haugan, had been scouting for the perfect place to build a beach home. They had not intended to build a hotel.
“It was going to be a large house with a lot of rooms to invite friends. We were not thinking about a business. We thought only of friends and family,” says Jessica.
Both she and Kjetil had traveled up and down the coast for years searching for the perfect vacation spot. “We never found a place along the entire coast for families,” she says.
Together they had found hotels with a small pool and good food, but no spa. Or they found a spa, but there was no family atmosphere. Or they found family atmosphere but the bathrooms were undesirable or the food forgettable. Something was always missing.
Now, it seems, everything is complete.
Ines García, General Manager for Palmazul says, "The hotel is a family hotel and it is also for couples because what we offer at the hotel is 'relax.'”
Palmazul has an open design where the doors to each room face east while the balconies open to the west with a view of the beach and a continual, fresh, ocean breeze. Step out of the hotel and you are on the pool deck; step off the pool deck and you are on the sand. You could not get any closer to the ocean without being on a boat.
In every way, the Palmazul Hotel has been made with nothing but local touches. The hotel was constructed using local, artisan labor as much as possible. The furniture is all handcrafted by woodworkers in the area and the showers and bathtubs were molded by the same boat makers in San Clemente who construct the fiberglass fishing boats that line the beaches.
Most importantly, the Palmazul Hotel relies on local residents from San Clemente and San Jacinto for the smooth-running, daily operations. Jessica says, “The idea was that we open with a social conscience.” She believes they have worked hard to ensure employees are well-trained and content, to the point where the blue, Palmazul uniform shirt is a source of pride in the community by those who wear it.
Palmazul has evolved into something more than a hotel. The weather coupled with the ocean view make it an ideal, unforgettable location to get married. "We are famous for weddings, now." says Ines.
Jessica says they offer complete “Destination Wedding” services including wedding planning, decoration, catering, and photography. They host up to 200 people for wedding dinners and up to 500 for wedding cocktail parties. And their packages include overnight accommodations for up to 40 persons.
Palmazul also regularly hosts conferences and business meetings for Manabi area businesses. They have rooms, tents, and a giant screen for outdoor presentations.
In essence, the hotel has become a place to meet the needs of all national residents, whether for business, pleasure, or important life events.
And still, the international tourists continue find their way here. A small, but vibrant international crowd filters in throughout the year, not including the one who never leave.
Located just behind Palmazul is Vistazul, a 30-unit condominium complex where virtually all residents are North American or European. It is a small ex-pat village for those who seek tranquility and an ideal climate unknown to them in their native land. They often take advantage of the services of the hotel including Cocomar, the town’s only fine dining restaurant.
Chef Alberto Cortez maintains a fusion menu with traditional Manabí cuisine and international food where nothing is left without a personal touch. Try the ocean fresh prawns in uvilla sauce, made from a small, native fruit. Or sample the ceviche with ginger and wasabi or sal prieta – a local seasoning that defines Manabi flavor. Even something as ordinary as rice with shrimp gets special attention through a touch of dry tomatoes.
Before or after your meal, the poolside (and beachside) bar gives residents a chance to keep unwinding with a house cocktail. Their famous grosella wine is made with the fermented grosella fruit picked from trees on the hotel grounds and mixed with the local sugar cane liquor. They also offer the “Palmazul” cocktail which has blue curacao, lemon (the local “limon”), ice, and rum. Equally popular is the “Passion of San Clemente” drink, made with passion fruit grenadine and a Brazilian liquor called cachaca.
But of all the reasons to come to Palmazul, Jessica insists there is one that cannot be overlooked, so they decided to guarantee it: the sun.
If you happen to be one of the few visitors whose stay is overcast, without a hint of sunshine during any day of your visit (and it has only happened about four times in the past six years), then Palmazul will invite you back for free.
To try the sunshine guarantee with a reservation or for more information about weddings and events, contact Palmazul in Quito at 2-254-9721, in San Clemente at 05-261-5008, or visit their website at www.manabihotel.com. Rooms ranges from $117 to $197. Palmazul is located in San Clemente, just 35 kilometers from the Manta airport along the spondylus route.
Ciudad San Clemente, Manabi