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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Do you ever find yourself in a situation when you have a friend coming to visit and you know you want to spend some time catching up, but all of a sudden you feel like you just moved to the city you’re in and can’t think of a SINGLE decent place to go for drinks? Or coffee or breakfast or dessert? You spend weeks or months making mental notes of all the new places you want to try but when the opportunity arises to go somewhere, it’s as if everywhere you’ve ever heard of vanishes, leaving you panicked as your quickly do a Google search of “good restaurants in…” or “best place to eat near me.” Maybe it’s just me, but I have started keeping a written list of those such places so that I don’t keep finding myself in that situation.
The most recent example is when a friend was coming into town for a few hours, and while we both knew we wanted to grab some drinks, dessert was mentioned, and I quickly found myself falling down the rabbit hole of local instagram foodies, trying to find something visually appealing that caught my eye and met the criteria established.
This time, it manifested in the form of Barcelona Wine Bar. I’d heard of it. I’d seen pics of it. I knew they had alcohol. So far so good. A little more scrolling and voila, dessert was spotted. This was the place.
Upon entering said place, my initial feelings were validated. With shelves of books, antique knick knacks, and a few scattered plants, I immediately felt as though I was entering into a cozy cellar that featured warm lighting and delicious smells.
After a round of sangria, we decided to throw some tapas into the mix before moving on to dessert. The abondigas, spiced meatballs in a tomato-based sauce paired great with the complimentary bread that we couldn’t get enough of. The pork belly with almond slivers was so extremely tender it almost melted in your mouth. And the garlic aioli topping the patatas bravas was worth licking the plate for. Of course we didn’t…
We allowed the savory goodness of meat and bread, sauces and spices, to almost dissuade us from ordering dessert. But alas, we came here for a reason and we could not leave without fulfilling our quest.
The crepas allowed us to complete our mission. Stuffed with the lightest, yet creamiest coffee filling, drizzled with chocolate sauce, and sprinkled with whole hazelnuts, the rich flavors were so smooth and airy with just the right amount of crunch.
The next time I need to find the perfect spot in a pinch, there will be no hesitation.
I like hidden gems, hole-in-the-walls, and offbeat destinations