I can hear the platter sizzling as it leaves the kitchen and approaches our table, the steak I ordered still cooking as it is placed before me, along with the huge, meter-high brochette that is placed with the guest across from me. This is truly a feast fit for the Barbarian, who’s larger than life image is on the wall above me.
Start early in the morning and rent a bike for the 16 kilometer ride (about 9 miles) to Pailón del Diablo, or Devil’s Cauldron, waterfall. Your mostly-downhill ride will wind along the canyon and you’ll be able to spot several other dramatic waterfalls along the way — there are over 60 of them in the area surrounding Baños! The real excitement is the Pailón, though: with its twisting stone staircase and plunging force of water, this monster waterfall is Instagram gold. When you’re done taking pictures, pay $2 to toss your bike in the back of a truck and return to Baños in time for lunch.
Hosteria La Perla is a hotel built right on the beach. It is only a short walk through the back gate until your toes are in the sand. The first thing you notice when you reach the beach is a small island about five miles offshore. At the end of the island, it appears as if there is a giant Army boot. Legend has it that pirates would hang treacherous buccaneers on the island.
There are hundreds of quaint fishing villages along Ecuador’s Pacific coastline. Each one has its own particular charm or sight that makes visiting it a memorable vacation experience. Many of them advertise their locality for its great whale- or dolphin-watching opportunities. But the small town of Puerto Lopez has another claim to attract tourism. The area of the Pacific Ocean around Puerto Lopez plays host to the migration of the great manta rays that venture there in the thousands to mate.
As soon as you step inside the door, it is very easy to see that this truly was the home of colonial Spanish nobility. The reception lobby must originally have been the home’s greeting parlor, from where you step down into a lofty covered atrium. Today, the atrium functions as the hotel’s first-rate restaurant, called Rincon de Cantuna. A terrific breakfast buffet of the quito_buffetfreshest local fruits is displayed every morning on locally woven and beautifully colored Ecuadorian cloths. The buffet is a complete breakfast with eggs, meats, and breads, or you can order from the menu. Melody and I also had a delicious and tender Filet Mignon for dinner in the Rincon de Cantuna one evening.