Ecuador lodging options are ever-increasing. In popular destinations you may have difficulty narrowing down your choices, while off-the-beaten-path accommodations — thanks to both locals and expat owners — are becoming more available. It’s possible to spend less than $10 for a bed, but it’s just as easy to shell out several hundred for the night.
In remote regions like Ecuador’s Amazon rain forest, choosing where to stay takes on a particular importance because the lodge also arranges activities during your stay. In general it’s a good idea to book ahead, but we recommend viewing your room when you arrive before committing, as there may be large discrepancies in size and comfort.
In the country’s warmer lowlands, hot water is considered a luxury; in the highlands, air conditioning is. Read on to learn more about where to stay in Ecuador.
If at all possible, plan to spend at least a few nights at a hacienda — a grand estate on a large plot of land. These family ranches are most commonly found in the Andean highlands and date back to colonial times. (The oldest, Hacienda Guachala, was built in 1580.) Today many haciendas — some of which are still managed by the original families — have been turned into charming and often luxurious hotels. Gourmet meals and some activities are generally included.
The number of rooms at a hacienda varies, as some have added buildings to accommodate additional guests. While prices at the most extravagant properties can be steep (perhaps $700 per night for the best suite), travelers on a budget can find simpler, but still lovely, options.
Many haciendas pay tribute to their rich histories with interiors in keeping with their heritage (though updated with modern amenities). Some, such as Hacienda La Alegria, remain working farms. Nestled in the “Avenue of the Volcanoes” an hour south of Quito, this family-run farm offers guests a glimpse of a bygone era, and its 10 well-appointed rooms overlook sweeping views of the property. Similar to the majority of haciendas, La Alegria offers horseback riding tours — an ideal way to explore the Andes. Rates here are higher than average in Ecuador, but they include accommodation, meals and horseback riding.
Hacienda Primavera Wilderness Ecolodge, meanwhile, is a particularly unique option because of its location in the El Choco rain forest reserve an hour and a half from Otavalo. Guests can help on the farm; follow trails by foot, horseback or mountain bike; observe forest wildlife; or simply relax by the pool. Each of the eight suites is decorated in the Spanish colonial style and has its own balcony. Rates are relatively inexpensive, and include meals and some excursions.
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Those wanting to go deep off the grid can choose from a good selection of lodges tucked into the Amazon rain forest. Traveling to one of these lodges isn’t just about a bed for the night, but also about having access to a part of the country that would otherwise be inaccessible.
Accommodation is generally in individual cabins or cabanas; meals and excursions are often included. Guests may have to book for a minimum number of nights (often three) and follow a loose itinerary. Higher-end lodges offer many comforts and amenities, but don’t expect the same luxuries as a city hotel; even electricity is not a given. Many can only be reached by boat.
The Huaorani Ecolodge on the edge of Yasuni National Park is one of the most difficult to get to — a 45-minute flight followed by a canoe ride — and can accommodate just 10 guests. The local Huaorani indigenous community owns the lodge and teaches visitors about their culture. Visitors can search for wildlife during guided hikes, try using a blowgun and learn to identify medicinal plants. Solar panels provide electricity, a bio-filter treats waste products and traditional, palm-thatched roofs cover each cabin.
Ecolodges can also be found in the Galapagos Islands. For those looking to splurge, Pikaia Lodge on Santa Cruz Island combines sustainability with impressive luxury. The lodge itself is built on an extinct volcano and includes 14 modern, spacious rooms as well as a restaurant and infinity pool. The building is made largely from recyclable materials, uses solar panels and biodiesel, and collects and reuses water. Guests can opt for guided excursions near the lodge or travel to the archipelago’s other islands by private yacht.
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Hotels in Ecuador range from very basic — with communal bathrooms and little more than a bed in your room — to jaw-dropping luxury. You’ll be spoiled for choice in the larger cities, while in more remote areas there may only be one hotel.
In Ecuador’s major cities you’ll find some international chains, including Hilton, Radisson and Howard Johnson. Numerous well-appointed, character-filled hotels are popping up around the country. Anahi Boutique Hotel in Quito, for instance, has decorated each of its 16 rooms based on a different theme. Its Suite Amazonas has large flora murals on the walls; Suite Pop features two beds with large pink headboards and bright purple duvets.
For travelers headed to Banos, consider Samari Spa Resort, which was built at the site of an 18th-century stone monastery. Guests staying in the resort’s 37 rooms have access to extensive gardens, an authentic tavern and a spa with indoor pool.
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Hosterias and Hostels
For those looking to go basic and cheap, opt to stay at hosterias, hostels and simple guesthouses or hotels. Offerings will vary — many will have shared bathrooms, some may have Wi-Fi, others will require you to bring your own towels. While they’re certainly nothing fancy, these accommodations can be clean and the owners friendly.
For those stopping in Cuenca, La Casa Cuencana offers both dorms and private rooms. Guests at this family-owned establishment enjoy hot showers, two fully equipped kitchens and, for an additional fee, breakfast in the morning.
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Galapagos Cruise Ships
Most travelers to the Galapagos choose to explore via a liveaboard boat, as it enables them to visit more islands. The main considerations when choosing a tour are the size of the ship, itinerary and activities. Boats are highly regulated by the Galapagos National Park; each operates on a 14-night schedule. If you choose a shorter itinerary, do your research beforehand to ensure you’ll be visiting the islands you’re most interested in.
Some yachts and sailboats accommodate as few as 12 guests; larger ships take up to 100. Size doesn’t necessarily dictate expense — the amenities, meals, cabin category and quality of guides determine the price tag. Sister ships Eric, Letty and Flamingo each hold 20 passengers and are a popular mid-range option. Snorkeling is part of every tour’s itinerary, but scuba divers will need to choose an appropriately equipped ship, such as the 16-passenger Galapagos Sky.
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–written by Marsea Nelson