Daniella walks along a beach in Tulum wearing a white dress on a warm day with the ocean waves crashing behind her. As she approaches a palm tree, she explains why, despite what “The Real Coconut” brand name might suggest, she does not drink coconut water every day. “I don’t feel coconut water is the most sustainable product we can use,” Daniella explains. In a video posted to her YouTube channel, she informs us that coconuts harvested for coconut water are only useful for the water. If we wait until the coconuts have completed their development, there are countless foods we can make from the fully grown coconut meat, making developed coconuts the more sustainable option.

Daniella’s passion for sustainability, desire for wholesome and easily-digestible foods, and love of Mexican dishes lead to the creation of her brand, “The Real Coconut.” Her hotel, the Sanara Tulum Hotel, has opened a restaurant called “The Real Coconut” that features dishes made from coconut meat as well as other sustainable ingredients. Daniella’s favorite dish? The Nacho Bowl: A base of spinach and local greens, topped with grain-free coconut flour tostada chips, drizzled with melted chipotle coconut cheese, guacamole, pico de gallo, salsa, coconut sour cream, and jalapeños. I am just about ready to hop on a flight from New York to Tulum just to enjoy a night at her restaurant. Unfortunately, this probably isn’t going to happen any time soon. All hope is not lost, however. Daniella’s signature coconut flour tostada chips (organic, gluten-free, paleo, vegan) are recently available at Whole Foods (in California) or online at therealcoconut.com. Be ready to be transported to the beaches of Tulum, where you too can walk along the water in a white flowing dress

salad, vegetable
Photo courtesy of The Real Coconut Media

Traditionally, I am skeptical of packaged foods. Even if something is free of the common allergens (such as gluten and dairy), I wonder from where the ingredients are sourced, if the production is ethical, if the ingredients really are okay for my health. After listening to videos on Daniella’s website and conducting an interview with the wellness goddess herself, I fully believe in The Real Coconut products. Daniella is in the game for the good of the world. She has even disclosed her tortilla recipe on therealcoconut.com for complete transparency. Read my interview below to learn more from Daniella, and hopefully you will be inspired as I am. 

cheese, bread, platter
Photo courtesy of The Real Coconut Media

1. Were you always interested in healthy living, or was a there a certain event that sparked your passion?

It’s been a very gradual path beginning at 19 years-old when a family friend took me to a seminar in Dallas by Dr Joel Robbins who championed the concept of Health through Nutrition, and Eating for Health and Wellness. This was a concept foreign to most people (22 years ago), though more accepted in the US. I was so blown away by the seminar that I called my dad and told him about it. He got fully on board with this and we ended up bringing Dr. Robbins to the UK twice in the space of a year to do seminars. 

Despite my enthusiasm, I was still very young, and we didn’t have the same awareness and accessibility of good quality food and ingredients that we have now. I also put huge pressure on myself to eat a particular way which I eventually learned was very detrimental, and caused me to slip even more, and then feel terrible guilt. Over the years, I began to understand myself more and realized that the self-imposed pressure and guilt were doing more harm than whatever I put into my body! So I eventually reframed this and learned to understand what worked for me. It was very much a gradual path and I am still moving along this, making better choices every day.  

2. How would you define your health philosophy?

As above, my philosophy for health is that we are all on a gradual path to healing and wellness. If we can keep making small conscious positive steps, we don’t even realize what big leaps have been achieved until we look back. Some people can handle making drastic changes in their diet/lifestyle etc, but most often those attempts fail and we end up back to where we started, or even worse. So I would always suggest adding positive steps, and the detrimental/not so positive habits or choices, will gradually fall away and we don’t even miss them!

3. What did you feel like was missing in the wellness market and lead to the creation of your various brands?

Whenever I went on vacation or traveling, I would feel worse when I got home than before I left. So, as we built Sanara, I knew that I wanted the restaurant concept to be something that would nurture, not only me and my family, but our guests. It was also as simple as the fact that I wanted to eat guacamole, but not with triple fried corn chips, and tacos but not with flour or corn tortillas… so I created an alternative.

4. What have been the highs and lows with both your companies, The Real Coconut and the Sanara Tulum Hotel?

I think that the success aspect has clearly been the overwhelming response to both the restaurant, and products. People are so grateful to be in our space, and eat our food.

 Challenges have been many, yet nothing which stands out to me as something overwhelming. We deal with each challenge step by step. Generally it’s been an incredible journey and I have learned so much along the way.

5. You are clearly passionate about sustainability. How do you incorporate this into your work and your daily life?

 I look to make conscious choices in every area of my life, from my beauty and personal care, household cleaning, clothing, eating and more. I love to support brands with similar values, and favor quality over quantity.

In business, my bigger picture is completely focused on sustainability. I didn’t set out to create a snack company for the sake of just selling snacks. We could have had a much easier life just focusing on the hotel and staying in Tulum, but there was such demand for the tortillas and chips, as well as our food and restaurants that I felt compelled to move forward. I also knew that if we were successful in selling the products, we would be able to complete the circle on the supply chain of our ingredients, plus all stages in production, and by doing so, have a significant impact in specific regions. We are committed to working in Belize to support farming programs for plantain, cassava, and coconuts, as well as funding and setting up processing plants for plantain flour, and coconut products.

My mantra is to look at ways of supporting personal, and global sustainability... for both to go hand in hand with the other.

6. Could you tell me a little bit more about your journey as a business woman? What advice would you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

I am fortunate that I was brought up by an entrepreneurial father and an artist mother, who never limited my vision as to what was possible for me, even though it was not an affluent upbringing. I was always very sure that anything I set my sights on, I would be able to achieve. I became a scuba diving instructor despite having suffered terrible asthma and collapsed lungs as a child and in the process healed my lungs (however, I would not recommend this to anyone without consulting their doctor). I became an underwater photographer before becoming a photographer, teaching myself everything through trial and error, and then went on to be a successful commercial photographer, both underwater, and on land. I freelanced as a copywriter, journalist, voice over artist, set up and ran several businesses, all before this culmination of my life’s experience, in building Sanara and now bringing forward, The Real Coconut along with the agricultural programs. I’m sure there is more to come that I don’t even know yet.

My advice is, don’t focus too much on where you want to go, and how you are going to get there. Do things you love, and things that flow naturally for you, and the path will open itself up for you. And never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Follow your passion to bring forward your purpose.

7. What is next for Daniella Hunter? What is your long term goal?

More of The Real Coconut… our collaboration with WeWork will open in October in Downtown Los Angeles, with other TRC restaurants coming forward after and a goal to feed many people with our food. Further products… lots of focus on plantain, and more coconut… and from this, the agricultural and processing plant projects in Belize.

All helping to feed ourselves in a sustainable way, whilst also supporting the planet.

Photo courtesy of The Real Coconut Media

Thank you Daniella for helping to make this world a better place.