Not only are we architects and designers in the hospitality and wellness space, but we are also adventurers. We get exposure to many interesting destinations and always try to augment our work by also looking for an opportunity to discover a new neighborhood, hike a rigorous trail, or perhaps ski a nearby mountain.
We had the privilege of visiting some beautiful destinations during the past year and have rounded up our favorites to create this list we think you should try in 2024.
Ecuador is a small country, roughly the same size as Colorado, but it packs an incredible array of gorgeous natural settings to explore. No trip to Ecuador would be complete without visiting a beach. Options abound, but one that we particularly loved was Ayampe, a small surfing village on the Pacific coast with just a few dirt roads. While it is more refined than many of the beach towns in the area, it is still very rustic.
There is not a lot to do but that’s why people come here. It’s a place to surf, connect with nature and other travelers, practice yoga, and eat great food in a stunning setting. There is a regular rotation of international visitors coming for yoga and surf retreats making it an interesting and diverse place nestled within the warm Ecuadorian culture.
It’s also the perfect base for additional coastal explorations. To the south is a cute beach town, Olón, and the neighboring party town of Montañita. To the north is Puerto Lopez, a fishing village and the area’s biggest town, and Playa de los Frailes, a stunning, protected beach worth the trek.
Fans of yoga should go to Otra Ola, an open-air yoga studio that is part of a surf and Spanish school. The class we took was phenomenal and we can’t wait to return.
Despite being a tiny village, there are some really great places to eat. Selvamar serves up amazing cocktails, seafood, sushi, and other Ecuadorian & Asian-inspired fare within a dimly lit wood and bamboo-filled atmosphere. Los Orishas, started by an Italian-Ecuadorian couple, has simple, fresh, and delicious food inspired by the traditions of Italy and the bounty of Ecuador.
Also visit Plaza Madre Tierra, a curated selection of small restaurants, most with counter service and outdoor seating within a lush garden. They also have regularly programmed live music as well as yoga and meditation classes. Check their Instagram for up-to-date information.
Olympic Peninsula, Washington
The storied beauty of the Pacific Northwest is nothing new, but it never fails to impress. The Olympic Peninsula is no exception. Part of its allure is the isolation; it is a true destination, a place where you don’t just pass through but instead travel to with intention. This geographic isolation lends a hand in the ability to disconnect.
Natural grandeur and a seemingly prehistoric air take the focus with unassuming towns dotting the coast. You could spend weeks exploring the area, but if you’re short on time, we recommend two spots: the Deer Park Trail (map link) and a visit to the Hoh Rainforest (map link).
The drive leading to the Deer Park trailhead is an adventure itself. A winding mountain road with expansive vistas and hairpin turns take you far away from civilization, making the journey feel like a rite of passage into this pristine wilderness. The road to the trailhead is seasonal and only open from July-September, so plan accordingly.
Go to the quaint and delicious Oak Table Café in Sequim for a pre- or post-hike carb load. They serve breakfast until 3pm and are known for their gigantic souffle apple pancakes.
Hoh Rainforest, with its ancient trees dripping with moss, is a classic and a must-visit for anyone headed to the peninsula. Given its popularity, there will most likely be a wait to get into this part of the National Park. Last time we went, we waited around an hour in stop and go traffic until arriving at the entrance. But the wait is worth it.
While driving to the Hoh Rainforest, the road meanders along the Hoh River. We recommend packing a lunch and taking it down to the riverbanks to enjoy an al fresco picnic next to some of the most unspoiled nature in the states.
In theory you could make it a day trip from Seattle since the drive to the Visitor’s Center is just over 4 hours, but it is much better to stay in the area to give a full day or two of unrushed exploration in this unique corner of the world.
The Adriatic Sea has always been on the top of many travelers’ bucket list, especially to places along the Italian Coastline. However, if you are searching for roads less traveled that still carry a sizeable share of charming, timeless towns, dramatic mountains that plunge into the sea, as well as affordable and mouthwatering cuisine, you need to get yourself to Montenegro. This little gem, located on the Sea’s eastern side and just south of its more popular neighbor Croatia, is a stunning and majestic destination.
Meandering along the very sinuous two-lane roads that traverse this country, it is hard not to want to stop every 5 minutes for a photo or wander into every stone village that smiles at you. But stay the course and head to the old town of Perast; it will satisfy your soul. This photogenic town lies beneath the hill of Sveti Ilija and overlooks the Verige Strait, the narrowest part of the Bay of Kotor.
The main street of Perast is along sapphire blue water and lined with charming ancient architecture that provides a perfect backdrop for leisurely strolls, various points for swimming, kayaking or simply feeling the sun on your face. If you are up for some exploring, opposite Perast, you will notice two small islands sitting in the Bay. One of the islands has a beautiful church on it, Our Lady of the Rocks. This holds a special place in Montenegro’s history and culture.
Legend has it that the island was created by local fishermen who, over centuries, placed rocks in the water upon returning from their successful voyages at sea. Today, a small church stands proudly on the island, adorned with magnificent frescoes inside with a collection of votive silver plates. The €5 boat trip is worth it, if for no other reason than to take in the amphitheater of mountains that surround you with epic beauty.
Cafe society is quite strong here with a variety of fresh food options that come right out of the sea in front of you or nearby farms. Try Armonia, a lovely little cafe on the water’s edge serving traditional dishes, light bites, salads, and coffee. Its a wonderful place for a mid-afternoon pit stop.
Conte Restaurant is a more upscale dining experience. Take a seat on the water, have a glass of crisp Montenegrin white wine, and indulge in a divine sunset dinner al fresco. And of course, head to Moritz Eis for those who are fans of gelato!
The best time to enjoy Montenegro is during the shoulder season of late spring-early summer or in the beginning of autumn. There are plenty of options for accommodation and the best thing is that there is no big box brand banality to deal with. For a sincere experience, book at the Monte Bay Retreat. This charming stone villa has only 6 rooms, complete with a woodburing sauna, hot tub and infinity pool. Host Sasa Ilic and his staff serve up a delicious, crafted breakfast and have a bespoke dinner program.
Isola di Ortigia– Siracusa Sicily
For better or worse, White Lotus-Season 2 dropped Sicily onto the hot sheet of places to go in 2023. Fortunately because of a previous trip prior to the release of this popular dark comedy, we already knew how magical this Island was and decided as part of our return visit, we would canvas other unique destinations not glamorized by “Hollywood.”
One such place, is Isola di Ortigia, (“Island of the Quail” in Italian). A small Baroque city over 3,000 years old on the Ionian Sea in southeastern Sicily and is the old historic center of Siracusa. It is a place dotted with impressive church facades, elegant piazzas, and narrow streets where you can easily get completely lost and love every minute of not knowing what you will come across next. This gritty UNESCO heritage site is beautifully imperfect with crumbling edges, faded glory, and some of the best food you will ever taste, repeat: ever taste!
For lunch, follow the locals to Antica Giudecca, a friendly hole-in-the-wall that serves up the city’s best street food. Sicily’s famous oversized arancini rice balls, filled with ragù, spinach or eggplant, come freshly fried for only €2. If sandwiches are your thing, head straight to Caseificio Borderi. It's located at the end of the outdoor market. Go hungry and pack some patience; the “Sandwich Guy” there draws long lines. There is no menu except for whatever he decides to make for you and trust me, you will love it!
As the sun starts to set, make your way over to Cortile Verga, an evocative cocktail bar and raw bistro set within the courtyard of a 17th century Baroque palazzo. Order a craft cocktail and bruschetta to whet your appetite before you head out to dinner, which should definitely include having mussels and pasta norma at Carnezzeria!
Ortigia is overflowing with unique alternative stay options located within old palazzos and charming guest houses. However, you should book at the Musciara Resort. This converted inn used to be a tuna canning factory and boasts a private beach along the crystalline sea and is a short walk from the town center. The breakfast spread is abundant with local fruits and vegetables complete with 6 or 7 freshly baked cakes to pair with your cappuccino. It is also highly recommended to relax in the late afternoon on the white sand with a campari spritz. They are particularly refreshing after returning from a day trek up Mt. Etna, an active volcano about 1.5 hours away!
We love visiting small towns that have managed to develop and maintain an individual character, and Bisbee Arizona is one of those places that feels a bit enigmatic, mysterious, and worth exploring. The narrow, winding streets reveal colorful and unique architecture with a mix of Victorian, Art Deco, and Southwestern influences.
This reinvented mining town is hidden away in the hills of the Mule Mountains, 90 miles from Tucson and only 11 miles away from the Mexico border. Surrounded by the expanse of the Chiricahua desert, it is easy to understand why this area was called the Wild West.
The quintessential saguaro cacti cover the rolling hills and if you’re lucky enough to visit during springtime, you’ll witness the amazing desert blossoms.
Known as both a free-spirited, artistic haven and a literal ghost town, I went with my sisters and niece looking to explore the art scene and hoping for a close encounter with the dead kind. We booked a room at the Copper Queen, a historic hotel from 1902 that was initially built to provide the height of modern luxury for the executives and VIPs visiting the mining town. Now it is a popular destination for ghost hunters and those with an appreciation for the paranormal. If you book far enough in advance, you can reserve rooms where regular sightings reportedly occur!
As the mining town began its decline in the 1960s, it quickly became a counter-culture destination welcoming creatives and artists from all over, and savvy leadership embraced the potential as a tourist destination. An artistic spirit is palpable wherever you walk with vibrant murals, quirky sculptures, and numerous galleries showcasing the works of local and international artists.
For a town of its size, Bisbee boasts a remarkable culinary scene. Quaint cafes and locally-owned eateries reflect the eclectic atmosphere and focus on regional specialties. Taqueria Outlaw is amazing for tacos. I always need to order an Al Pastor taco and it was delicious, as were the carne asada tacos. They also have great vegan tacos including a mushroom adobo option and a cauliflower taco.
And while the temperatures might be a little more temperate than other parts of the state, having some ice cream under the hot desert sun is almost obligatory. The French-owned Pussycat Gelato started with the aim to create the best gelato imaginable. Housed in a former brothel, the shop has kitschy retro vibes and a range of amazing flavors.
Patisserie Jacqui is the place to go for a sweet treat to nosh on while exploring the shops and galleries. While the innovative menu changes regularly, you will assuredly want one of everything including a baklava syrup-soaked croissant filled with tahini pistachio almond cream and strawberry preserves. Or their take on a panna cotta: the David Lynch-inspired Blue Velvet tart, or a salty brown sugar cookie. The list goes on.
At times it can feel like you are on a movie set while exploring the area, its quaint shops, and its Wild West architecture. But then you remember this is real; this is where the inspiration comes from. And the iconic Tombstone is only a short 20-mile drive away.
Have questions about a particular destination? Would you like our itinerary? Reach out and we’ll be happy to share!