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Although we only had a short time to visit Guayaquil on our way to the Galapagos Islands, we decided to also explore the surroundings and spend a day at a cocoa plantation. Fascinated by the opportunity to learn about the whole process for chocolate making, directly from the farm with an experienced chocolatier, we chose Hacienda la Danesa, a family-owned working hacienda. We booked this day online a few months earlier, and the itinerary included transportation from and to our hotel in the city, activities on the farm, lunch and refreshments, all organized in the company of a personal guide.

Tips&Tricks: Cocoa plantations have a very important role in Ecuador’s history and economy, making it the world’s largest exporter of quality cocoa.

Disclaimer: I Was There was created to provide true and honest opinions about our experiences around the world. We genuinely enjoy traveling and storytelling, so our reviews are not in any way influenced by commissions or affiliate programs.

Top Guided Tours and Activities (our favorite choices)

Tips&Tricks: If you want to take part in all the activities at Hacienda la Danesa, there is the option to stay overnight. The rooms are beautifully arranged and the people there make you feel at home. In addition, you can enjoy the farm without being pressed for time. You can go horseback riding, river rafting or cycling alongside rustic paths. If you spend a few days in Ecuador, Hacienda la Danesa is the perfect place to relax away from the city.

From Guayaquil to Naranjito

We were eager to visit a cocoa plantation, and on our way a part of Guayaquil and its surroundings. As the largest city in Ecuador and one of the most important ports on the west coast of South America, Guayaquil is a diverse, vibrant destination. But as soon as you leave behing the bustling streets with modern buildings overlooking the old colonial houses and funny statues, you’ll really experience how stunning this city is. Endless rich green fields on both sides of the highway alternate with banana, cocoa and sugar cane plantation, interrupted only by a few very modest cities.

Luckly, our friendly driver shared many recommendation and local insights, so the almost two hours to Naranjito passed immediately.

Hacienda la Danesa

The farm turned out to be much more beautiful than we expected. Hacienda la Danesa looks straight out of a fairytale. Once past the main gate, you can see dozens of horses and cows that are allowed to roam freely. The road is lined with tall teak and bamboo trees and almost everywhere you look, you’ll see a variety of colorful flowers blooming.

Our guide welcomed us with delicious snacks in a beautiful garden, thoroughly guarded by peacocks, egrets and a few guineafowls. Since the cocoa plantation is just a part of the farm, we were encouraged us to spend as much time as we want wandering around.

Tips&Tricks: Hacienda la Danesa is a perfect alternative to spend a quiet day out of town. The location exceeds any expectations and the food is absolutely amazing.

Learning to make chocolate

The Chocolate-Making Workshop at Hacienda la Danesa is an excellent opportunity to visit a 50-year-old cocoa plantation where you can understand the entire process from planting the seeds to making a chocolate bar. A first part of the tour is held on the plantation, where you can see the cocoa trees, flowers and fruits. We could even picked a ripe cacao pod to open and taste its pulp. After a short introduction about the cocoa and the amazing Ecuadorian varieties known by the farmers as the “black gold”, we found out the secrets of making the perfect chocolate, from roasting to grinding the beans with brown sugar.

The second part of the tour continued in a nice and cozy studio. We learned from a chocolatier what is the right melting temperature, cooling techniques, how to prevent aeration and what materials should be used to make the perfect artisan chocolate. From spices to dried fruits, coconut flakes or nuts, we got to choose the most delightful flavours for making our own bars to take home with us. P.S. Of course we combined all of them, and the end result was absolutely delicious!

Where to stay in Guayaquil (our favorite choices)

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