In case you missed it, I wrote an earlier post about horseback riding through the Andes mountains of Ecuador. What I didn't share with you was that, because of the three hour van ride from Quito, this was not exactly an easy day trip. This required some additional lodging and boy did we pick the right place.
The Secret Garden of Cotopaxi is a hostel located deep in the Ecuadorian countryside, roughly a three- hour bumpy van ride from Quito. You can arrange lodging and transportation from the sister hostel of the same name, located in Quito.
From here, we were able to book the horseback riding excursion that I detailed in an earlier blog post (you can find it here).
One of the biggest draws of staying at the Secret Garden, besides its utter adorableness, is its proximity and access to Cotopaxi National Park, and more specifically, Cotopaxi volcano. If you're lucky, during your stay you will be able to witness a sighting of the volcano- which is truly a gift as it provides a stunning landscape.
When selecting your lodging, you have the choice between several options, including small dorm-style housing, bird's nest cottages, or hobbit holes. I personally stayed in one of the hobbit holes, which was a very basic but very cozy room that featured a warm and comfy bed, some basic furniture, and a great view of the park.
Included in your stay at the Secret Garden is a free guided hike to some nearby waterfalls, which you can read about here. You will also be provided lunch on the day of your arrival and departure, as well as all other meals during your stay. You have access to unlimited water, coffee, and tea, as well as little snacks such as fruit or bread.
The hostel staff can help you book excursions with outside organizations, including the horseback riding tour through Cotopaxi National Park that I opted for. You can also choose from a variety of different hikes through the park or to the volcano. Read more about the available excursions here.
You'll definitely want to take advantage of the heated jacuzzi, where you can enjoy views of the park and a comfortable place to relax. If you're lucky, you may even spot a llama or two.
Check out the amazing video below to get an inside look at the BEAUTIFUL grounds and surrounding park at The Secret Garden in Cotopaxi.
The small town of Mindo, Ecuador is nestled tightly in the Andes Mountains cloud forest, one of the richest bio-diverse ecoregions in the world. Mindo is a well-kept secret and has no shortage of fascinating attractions, but its reputation and popularity as an adventure destination is growing rapidly.
Just a block or two off the main square, you will find a tall building looming over the trees. Featuring on-site chocolate making, a delicious cafe, locally roasted coffee, and rooms with a view, El Quetzal is THE destination for chocolate lovers and adventure seekers the world over.
After you grab a bite to eat at one of the many delicious cafes in town, you can check into your room at the chocolate factory! Located up a few flights of stairs, we choose the room that features a balcony, swinging hammock, and amazing views of Mindo and the surrounding mountains.
Because we were guests in the lodge, we were permitted free entrance into one of their world-famous tours. You can follow along as a guide walks you step by step through the bean-to-bar chocolate-making process. Starting with the cacoa bean, you will learn about the ins and out of how modern-day artisans have turned this amazing bean into one of the most lusted after flavors across the world. You'll even get to sample a batch of fresh chocolate brownies and experience for yourself the rich flavors grown right in the Ecuadorian valley!
Breakfast the next day was the cherry on top! We woke up and were treated to special seating on the veranda, surrounded by beautiful foliage and the sounds of the town waking up. Choose from a selection of cooked-to-order meals and fresh coffee-there's really no better way to start your day!
Staying at El Quetzal was more than just finding a room on Airbnb- we got to experience part of the amazing chocolate-making culture of Mindo. The secluded atmosphere allowed us to observe Mindo life from above, taking it all in.
Need to Know:
- Chocolate tours are offered 7 days a week, from starting each hour on the hour from 10:00am-5:00pm
- Cost $10/person (*Free entry if you are staying in one of their Airbnb suites!)
- You can book a stay in the lodge here
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Living in Charlotte, North Carolina, I have access to many local gems, as well as short distances to other incredible cities, such as Asheville, North Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina, or Savannah, Georgia. While these are all amazing options for a weekend getaway, sometimes we just don't have the time to drive even two hours out of the city. The good news is that doesn't have to be a deal-breaker!
With only one night to spare in our crazy schedule, I did some detective-level internet searching to find the perfect getaway location for us. The best part? It was only a 40-minute drive away. At first that might not seem very enticing. A getaway is supposed to be removed from home, right? At this quiet, secluded, and nothing but peaceful Airbnb, it wouldn't matter if it was a 5-minute drive down the block- it had everything we needed, and nothing we didn't!
From the moment we arrived on the property, we were greeted warmly and directed to all the locations we may need, from the room itself to the eco-toilet to the hottub and the paths around the edge of the farm. Our room, a barn loft situated on a 20-acre farm, was tucked in one corner of the property and felt close enough to the other amenities, but also private and secluded.
As the only guests on the property at the time (it was a random Thursday night after all), we had the place to ourselves. The hosts do live on-site, and you may catch them in a conversation or two, but it never felt overbearing or cramped.
The room had everything we needed, from plastic wine cups to basic grilling supplies, and a lovely tea and coffee bar, as well as a mini-fridge. Our room featured a private deck with a grill out back, and right outside our door was the fire pit. After dinner out, we enjoyed wine and the hot tub, but decided against building a campfire this time around.
The eco-toilets were the absolute cleanest and well-maintained outdoor toilets I've ever used (which is a lot) and I felt extremely comfortable walking the property, even at night, to use the sink. Perhaps one of my favorite features of the entire farm was the outdoor rain shower. It was in fact raining during much of our stay, and there's something so calming about showering outdoors in the woods with the rain tapping the roof above. Despite the rain, our stay was so wonderful and cozy, although if you happen to visit during sunnier weather, the hosts even provide hammocks for you to enjoy in the adjacent woods.
While our stay was brief, this quick off-the-grid adventure was exactly what we needed to reconnect and reset.
Oh, and if a barn loft doesn't strike your interest, the farm also has its very own stone greenhouse or woodsy treehouse which is definitely where we'll be staying next time around.
More information can be found on the farm's website, The Green Omnivore.
Photos by The Green Omnivore
I like hidden gems, hole-in-the-walls, and offbeat destinations