Palmazul, the exceptional getaway

29/Diciembre/2011 | 15:35


Have you ever looked at a little dot on a map and wondered what you might find there?  Perhaps you have seen a place with a nice name, seemingly in a nice location, but few people seem to know much about it.

If you look at a map of the coast of Ecuador you may find  a dot between Bahía de Caraquez and Manta - a little town, which never used to appear on some maps and is still missing from others.

San Clemente.

Some will say it is nothing special; but, those who have visited will say it is nothing ordinary.

San Clemente is a fishing village, like many others along the coast, where melancholy floats in on the breeze.  But a few years ago two people saw that they could take the local, relaxed spirit and share it with others in a way that nobody had ever done in any other fishing village in Ecuador.

The Palmazul Artisan Designed Hotel & Spa brings people to San Clemente every week – people who never even knew it existed a few years ago.  It is still somewhat of a secret.

The hotels sits on Ecuador's pristine coastline and 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, warm breeze.

Years ago husband and wife owners Kjetil Haugan and Jessica Mesa searched the entire coast looking for the perfect spot to build what has become the coast's preeminent hotel and spa. 

Once they found it they constructed a national and international tourism destination, which still remains anchored in the local community.

Palmazul is very much a part of San Clemente.  The hotel was built using local artisan labor as much as possible. 

Meza says, "The idea was that we open with a social conscience."

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 which line the beaches.

And  Palmazul relies on local residents from San Clemente and nearby San Jacinto for the smooth-running, daily operations of the hotel.

You cannot be all things to all people, unless of course you have everything to offer.

Yoyi Minaya, General Manager for Palmazul says, "The hotel is a family hotel and it is also for couples because what we offer at the hotel, what it offers you is 'relax.'  We have play areas for kids.  We have a mini golf course.  We have a karaoke room.  We have a spa."

The weather coupled with the ocean view at Palmazul make it an ideal, unforgettable location to get married. 

"We are famous for weddings, now." says Minaya.

Aside from being the place to capture the perfect day, it is a place for couples to honeymoon, or return for a romantic excursion.

"We organize a special, romantic dinner in the beach with torches…a special menu is included with wine, champagne, and exclusive service just for these two persons in the beach with a specialized attention."

Though Palmazul has become a popular destination for Ecuadorians who love an escape to the beach, it also attracts foreign visitors.  Palmazul says that 30 percent of their guests are foreign travelers and that is not counting the ones 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.

As residents of Vistazul they wander over to the hotel to enjoy the pool, the beach, or the second-floor, home to the area's best restaurant, Cocomar.

The menu at Cocomar is a fusion of traditional Manabí cuisine and international food.  

"We have a fusion ceviche with ginger and wasabi or a shrimp ceviche with sal prieta," says Minaya, referring to a traditional seasoning in Manabi made from two key ingredients: mani and maiz (peanuts and corn), ground together often with a few additional ingredients that give it flavor or color, like pepper, garlic, cilantro, or achiote.

But more than the expats who live nearby, the Ecuadorian nationals  flock to Palmazul. 

The popularity of returning guests has prompted the hotel to create a new membership program.  Guests can purchase yearly memberships ranging from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, complete with points that are cashed in for lodging and services.

For those who come to San Clemente and wish to do a little area sightseeing, Palmazul offers excursions. But for those who want to absorb the spirit of San Clemente, Minaya recommends borrowing a Palmazul bicycle:

"In the morning, very early, ride a bicycle to Charapotó…ride along the malecón [in San Clemente] and you see the fisherman pulling their nets from the sea, you see how they fish."  She says the experience and imagery are extraordinary.

"This is incredible photography."

The point, she says, is that no matter what you do at Palmazul, "you do not feel as if you are between four walls."

Palmazul is located in San Clemente, Ecuador.  Standard rates range from $118 to $215 plus taxes. For reservations or more information contact them in Quito at 2-254-9721, in San Clemente at 05-261-5008, or visit their website at