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
new to airbnb? use my referral code here and get $55 off your first booking
The small town of Mindo, Ecuador, is located where two of the most biologically diverse areas of the world, the Chocoan lowlands and Tropical Andes, converge together, creating an ecoregion like no other.
As the most popular tourist destination in Ecuador, with nearly 200,000 visitors a year, Mindo has quickly become known for its wide offerings of adventurous activities, including rafting, hiking, tubing, mountain biking, canyoning, zip-lining, and more. If high-speed adrenaline-rushing activities aren't really your style, Mindo also offers many opportunities for connecting with nature through bird-watching, butterfly and orchid gardens, and learning about the Andean chocolate-making process.
Roughly a two-hour bus ride from Quito, Mindo makes for the perfect day-trip or weekend getaway. Full of color, adventure, and raw natural beauty, you will love everything that this charming town has to offer.
Follow along as I share my favorite things to do in Mindo and how you can see a different side to the beautiful country of Ecuador!
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
On a month-long trip to Argentina, we took a weekend to explore San Carlos de Bariloche (commonly known as “Bariloche”). As is frequently the case, we really didn’t know at all what we were doing – we tend toward “winging it” a lot of the time. But we selected our hotel (Nido Del Condor) as though we know one from another (we didn’t) and it was beautiful! The room was spacious with a beautiful corner fireplace and lots of cypress wood polished to a high shine; a small balcony looked out over the roof of the spa to the lake and mountains beyond. We enjoyed breakfast in the dining room that also overlooks the lake.
Our time in Bariloche was limited, so we elected to take one tour and spend the rest of the time exploring on our own. We chose the small circuit tour (Circuito Chico), which makes a loop around the lake and offers numerous beautiful panoramic views. One stop included a chair lift to the top of the mountain for 360-degree views. The stunning beauty of these mountains is hard to explain – they are rugged, snow-capped, and surrounded by water, and they seem to pull you in and warn you away all at once.
We ended the tour in the center of town where we spent some time in the Museum of the Patagonia; this is a small museum but gives an interesting look at the natural history and culture of the region. The exhibits are in Spanish, but there are comprehensive printed guides available in many languages including English. We explored the downtown shops – surprisingly, fancy chocolate shops are plentiful – and came across an artisan’s market set up in the park. It’s always fun to stumble across the unexpected, and I found several handmade gifts to take back home.
Bariloche has a pretty waterfront and a nice, walkable downtown. We were there in May, and it was cold but sunny and pleasant for exploring. The flight from Buenos Aires is short, so it’s a very easy trip for a weekend. The town itself appears to cater equally to backpackers and outdoor enthusiasts, as well as to affluent shoppers and spa lovers – in other words, I think anyone would find a way to enjoy a few days there.
Written by guest writer Laura Atkins.
For more check out her review of the Patagonia Cerveceria at Feed the Passport
The first stop on our tour of Asheville is one of my favorites- a place that I keep going back to every time I visit. We all have our favorites and sometimes tradition trumps quality, but not in this case! This time around the tradition was born because of the quality; the quality of food, service, and atmosphere!
Sunny Point Cafe in West Asheville has it all. While I've only been there for some amazing brunches, they also feature equally amazing lunch and dinner menus, as well as a selection of wines, craft beers, and cocktails.
Rated #1 on TripAdvisor for the best brunch in Asheville, Sunny Point Cafe can also be found on hipster foodies' lists everywhere, ranking in the Top 10 for Best Asheville Brunch/Breakfast spots. Some examples of their award-winning dishes (yes, they have won awards for their amazing culinary talents), are the shrimp 'n' grits, which won the 2016 and 2017 Stoobie Award for Asheville's Best Shrimp 'n' Grits. I've also heard that their avocado toast is among the best in the city.
My personal favorites are the Huevos Rancheros- eggs topped with black bean cakes, feta, and cilantro crema (a gluten-free dish), and the Fried Chicken and Waffle sandwich- a pecan waffle topped with fried chicken, bacon, pimento cheese, and jalapeño jam. Their menu also features several options that can be made gluten-free or vegan.
INSIDER TIP: Because of the cafe's popularity, it is more than likely that you will arrive and have to add your name to a long list of those waiting- DO NOT LEAVE. I know how easy it is to be turned off by long wait-times, but believe me it is well worth it. In fact, the cafe understands your displeasure with having to wait, and makes it infinitely more enjoyable by providing a coffee station in the outdoor waiting area, where you can help yourself to unlimited refills of fresh coffee, and enjoy watching West Asheville life pass you by. On a nice day, you may even get to experience some live music, as local bands have been known to set up and play for hungry customers.
Aside from the incredible variety of dishes and flavors that are served up here, one of my favorite things about Sunny Point Cafe is that they are very socially conscious, featuring a different nonprofit partner every month! Every table in the restaurant has an envelope on it for customers, should they so choose, to donate money for the nonprofit that month. Along with the money from generous customers, Sunny Point also adds a donation to the collected funds, and delivers it to the chosen partner. In 2017, they raised and donated $16,856, and in 2018 they increased that number to $20,517. Read more about the organizations they've partnered with here.
INSIDER TIP: After your meal, head outside to the neighboring garden- here you can walk through the garden beds and see where the cafe plants and harvests the produce found in your meals! It's as fresh as you can get!
INSIDER TIP: Take a bit of the West Asheville flavor home with you! You can shop the selection of jams, dressings, and sauces that you may have experienced in your meal. If that's not enough, you can even purchase the Sunny Point Cookbook, featuring several recipes that have developed since the opening of the cafe, as well as other timeless comfort food dishes.
Have you been to Sunny Point Cafe? Let us know your favorite dishes in the comments! Got another favorite Asheville brunch spot! Let us know so we can check it out!
I've been to Asheville a handful of times, as it's roughly a 2-hour drive from Charlotte, and each time I love taking advantage of all this amazing city has to offer. From the wide selection of craft breweries, local coffee shops, and eclectic restaurants, it is truly a millennial's dream. If those are things you also value, then Asheville is the place for you.
Located in the western part of North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville has a population slightly under 100,000 people. Known for its vibrancy, it has a large (and growing) art scene, fascinating historic architecture, and is what a foodie's dream are made of. Walking the streets you are guaranteed to see layers of art and messages of peace adorning the walls. Ample opportunities exist to experience the local culture through artisans, food, and entertainment.
And if the city life becomes too busy for you, an escape to the mountains is a stone's throw away. From the Blue Ridge Parkway to waterfall hikes to cozy cabins, the great outdoors is ready and waiting for you.
In this new mini-series, I'm going to share all that I have come to know and love about Asheville, from the food and drink to art and nature. I was quick to identify Asheville as my spirit city, and if you stick around you may just find that it has something for you too.
If you've ever been to Asheville, share your favorite spots and things to do in the comments!
p.s. if this content looks familiar, it's because you've seen it before! This originated over at www.feedthepassport.com and is migrating here to our site. Feed the Passport is transitioning into a foodie-focused travel blog and we are picking up the pieces, focusing on the hidden gems, hole-in-the-wall, off-the-beaten-path treasures in cities around the world. Stay tuned on both accounts for the best in what to do, where to stay, what to eat, and how to experience the authenticity of each place we visit.
I like hidden gems, hole-in-the-walls, and offbeat destinations