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Ecuador’s Authentic Hotels and Haciendas from North to South


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Ecuador is beginning to attract more tourists to regions besides the Amazon, Quito (capital city), and the Galapagos Islands. Travelers are discovering the Andes highlands, Avenue of Volcanoes, coastal areas and southern Ecuador. Many travelers enjoy authentic experiences while staying in historic haciendas and hotels which offer organic foods, cultural inclusion, sustainable ecotourism, volunteer possibilities, and adventures

During my trip, I met gracious and enthusiastic proprietors who were eager to share stories, legends, history, and anecdotes about their hotel or hacienda. As an owner of Kaony Lodge put it, “I love what I do.” I sensed that his remarks were not an exception.

Haciendas are generationally-owned. Its descendants take great pride in keeping their family’s traditions alive. It is their life’s passion to preserve the properties. Their personalities, as well as the staff members, added life and learning to each stay.

Other owners found properties they loved and spent years restoring them. For example, Samari Spa Resort used to be a monastery, and Hotel Café Cultura was once the French Embassy.  Each is unique and melded with its community.

Hungarian born, László Károlyl (owner of Hotel Café Cultura) recognized the uniqueness of these authentic accommodations.  He chose thirteen from Quito (north) to Vilacabamba (south) and developed criteria for the group, “Exclusive Hotels & Haciendas.” “Exclusive” does not imply elitism in this case at all. Rather, it refers to this group of haciendas and hotels that represent various regions of Ecuador. 

Each property is involved with the local community, uses local products, and is representative of Ecuador’s culture. They practice sustainable tourism and ecological practices leading to the “Smart Voyager” Certification.

Established in 2000 by the Ecuadorian NGO Conservation y Desarrollo, along with the Rainforest Alliance, this “Smart Voyager” Certification implements “best practices” in the tourism industry.

Its strict requirements for owners include contributing directly to the local economy and environment, reduction in the ecological impacts of tourism, while providing travelers with the opportunity to help local people and protect wildlife.

László’s “Exclusive Hotels and Haciendas” requirements--along with work towards the “Smart Voyager” certification—serves to assure travelers of a comfortable yet authentic experience which is beneficial to the environment, local people, and wildlife.

Following are the names, websites, location, brief description, adventures, volunteer possibilities, and sustainable tourism practices for each hotel and hacienda. They are listed from north to south.

Haciendas and Hotels in Ecuador

Hacienda Rumiloma: www.haciendarumiloma.com
Location: Flanks of Volcano Pichincha on 100 acres of primary Andean forest, 10 minutes from Quito with view over city.
Description: Generational home of Freire family; three-story with restaurant, special events room, Irish-Ecuadorian pub, newly built “rustic-luxury” 5-suite casitas.
Adventures: Mountain climbing, hiking in National Park above hacienda, Chiva bus rides into Quito, tours to art museums, historical and new town Quito.
Sustainable Tourism: Involvement with barrio community; employment, use of local products, sponsors of dance troop, community hall dinners, football team. Water and energy preservation.  Continuation of the Freire’s family tradition of replanting native trees and saving the frog population.

Hacienda Rumiloma
Hacienda Rumiloma.

Hotel Café Cultura: www.cafecultura.com
Location: La Mariscal Sucre, “new town” of Quito
Description: Renovated two-story mansion, English and contemporary theme, whimsical wall and ceiling fresco paintings, living room with library, fireplace, computers, sofas, café-bistro, gardens; 26 individually decorated rooms.
Adventures: Midst of action, nightlife, Ecuadorian market, shops, restaurants, cafes and tour information.
Sustainable Tourism: Water recycling and filtering systems, energy saving systems, biodegradable products, organic produce; working towards “Smart Voyager” Certification. Hiring and training of locals with superior wages and upward mobility possible; maintenance of small gardens in city of Quito.

Hotel Café Cultura
Hotel Café Cultura.

Hacienda Pinsaqui: www.haciendapinsaqui.com
Location: In Ecuador’s lake district at base of Volcano Imbabura, 90 minutes north of Quito.
Description: Built in 1790, this manor house is filled with Ecuadorian antiques, paintings, extensive grounds, breakfast area with walk-in fireplace, 20 guestrooms, equestrian bar, dining room, library, living and sitting areas.
Adventures: Historic interest: Liberator General Simon Bolivar guest and Treaty of Pinsaqui was signed here; horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, visits to artisan villages, lakes, Ibarra and Otavalo’s famed Indian market.
Sustainable Tourism: Employment of local community people, Ecuadorian furnishings, artwork, involvement in community.

Hacienda Pinsaqui
Hacienda Pinsaqui.

Hacienda Zuleta: www.haciendazuleta.com
Location: Three hours north of Quito, near town of Zuleta in Angochagua, Imbabura Province;
Description: Cultural immersion in 17th-century hacienda owned by the Galo Plaza Lasso (once an Ecuadorian President) family.  Descendants operate it. Colonial home, 2,000-book library, filled with photos and antiques, living and nine guest rooms with fireplaces, dining room, honor bar, organic gardens, flowers, working dairy and horse barn, embroidery shop, trout farm.
Adventures: 90 exceptionally-bred Zuletano horses for rides on 4,000 acres, outdoor activities such as: horse drawn carriage ride, hiking, mountain biking, Condor Rehabilitation project, cheese factory, trout farm, pre-Incan ruins.
Sustainable Tourism: “Smart Voyager” Certification, local employment and training, GPL foundation provides childcare center, library, school, women’s embroidery cooperative, recycling, composting, trout and worm farm. Volunteers wanted.

Hacienda Zuleta.
Hacienda Zuleta.

Hacienda Umbria: www.haciendaumbria.com
Location: One hour south of Quito near town of Machachi, Andean valley.
Description: Samper family home with flower gardens, immense kitchen, dining and living room, antiques, “cava” wine cellar, chapel and four guest rooms.
Adventures: Owner is chef who fixes gourmet meals, teaches cooking, serves tapas with fine wines in “cava”; Andalusia horses for riding, extensive grounds, dairy farm, sheep, rose plantation nearby.
Sustainable Tourism: Local employment, training, use of local products and materials, precise restoration of home.

Hacienda Umbria
Hacienda Umbria.

Hacienda Hato Verde: www.haciendahatoverde.com
Location: 90 minutes south of Quito, near Cotopaxi Volcano National Park.
Description: Original hacienda and working farm owned by Morabowen family for generations; meticulous restoration using local materials, pumice walls in living room, 6 guest rooms with fireplaces (more being added), dining area, library, living room, and Ecuadorian paintings.
Adventures: Only private entrance to Cotopaxi National Park; horseback riding from hacienda to hacienda, biking, mountain climbing, hiking and trekking, lakes, indigenous markets, train ride, visiting dairy farm.
Sustainable Tourism: “Smart Voyager” Certification: Local employment, careful restoration detail to original home, insecticide-free vegetable garden, native trees planted every six months. Volunteers wanted.

Hacienda Hato Verde
Hacienda Hato Verde.

Hacienda Manteles: www.haciendamanteles.com
Location: 3 hours south of Quito in central Andean valley, near Banos with view of active Tungurahua Volcano.
Description: Family owned for generations in primary forest. Ecuadorian antiquities, windows surround dining and living areas, 16 guest rooms with views, and living room with fireplace.
Adventures: Hiking, climbing, zip lining, canyoning, fishing, waterfalls, visiting indigenous people and markets, wild orchids, Llanganetes and Sangay National Parks, mountain biking, nightlife in Banos.
Sustainable Tourism: “Smart Voyager” Certification, local employment, foundation for preserving 500 forests, recycling, organic gardens, flowers, composting, conservation projects with community, agro-tourism. Volunteers wanted.

Hacienda Manteles
Hacienda Manteles.

Samari Spa Resort: www.samarispa.com
Location: Three hours south of Quito in town of Banos. 
Description: Recently opened; meticulously restored from monastery to hotel, resort and spa; 2 level dining room, bar and original tavern downstairs, separate hotel, 37 guest cottages and rooms. Convention room, art gallery, Oriental Spa with 14 treatments, outdoor pool, tennis, Japanese Gardens,
Adventures: Walks in gardens, hiking, zip lining, mountain biking, rafting, climbing, canyoning, swing jump, chiva bus rides, and nightlife in Banos area.
Sustainable Tourism: local employment, hand- carved furnishings from Ibarra, woodcarving town, use of natural products, all is hand-detailed.

Samari Spa Resort
Samari Spa Resort.

Hacienda Abraspungo: www.haciendaabrapaspungo.com
Location: Three hours south of Quito, near Riobamba.
Description: Family-owned, adobe and tile roof, restaurant, bar, Ecuador photos of climbing and paramo flowers, women’s traditional hat collection: extensive gardens and 42 guest rooms.
Adventures: Mountain climbing, access to Devil’s nose train ride, hiking, horseback riding, tours, visits to Riobamba, mountain biking, Chimborozo Volcano, polo and bullfighting classes
Sustainable Tourism: “Smart Voyager” Certification, local employment and involvement, use of natural resources, Ecuadorian art. Internships available.  

Hacienda Abraspungo
Hacienda Abraspungo.

Madre Tierra: www.madretierra1.com or www.ehhec.com
Location: Near Vilacabama (valley of longevity) in southern Ecuador.
Description: Subtropical environment, guest rooms, outdoor restaurant, small convention center, spa with holistic treatments, mud and Turkish baths, pools, flowers, palms, gardens, lush flora.
Adventures: Spa treatments, visiting Vilacabama and Loja, hiking, horseback riding, Jacuzzi, swim, bird watching, relaxing.
Sustainable tourism: Local employment, solar energy, recycling, and involvement with community.

Madre Tierra
Madre Tierra.

Kapawi Lodge: www.kapawi.com
Location: Amazon rainforest in remote location close to Peru; flight from Quito, canoeing, riverboat, only accessible by plane.
Description: 2008 National Geographic award as one of 50 top ecolodges in world; owned and operated by Achuar indigenous people; 20 fully screened cabins over lagoon, dining area, reading materials.
Adventures: bird watching, jungle walks, visits to indigenous communities, canoeing, cultural immersion.
Sustainable Tourism: Achuar indigenous operate the lodge after years of training, solar energy, waste recycled, eco-tourism at best, cultural immersion.

Kapawi Lodge
Kapawi Lodge.

Hotel Palmazul: www.palmazulecuador.com
Location: Coast – San Clemente (small fishing village) near Manta.
Description: Opened in 2008, modern three story hotel overlooking an outdoor pool and Pacific Ocean.
Adventures: Beach, surf, Kid’s Explorer Club, tennis, pool.
Sustainable Tourism: Community involvement; employees from San Clemente, trained, better incomes for families. Christmas presents to children. Owner teaches tourism for free at local high school, working to bring doctor to community, recycling.

Hotel Palmazul
Hotel Palmazul.

For More Information

www.exclusivehotelshaciendasecuador.com or www.ehhec.com (contact: Emma Morgan)
www.rent-4wd.com
www.hipecuador.com
www.ecuadorexplorer.com
www.smartvoyager.org

Transportation: Rent a four-wheel drive vehicle and driver (split the cost with other travelers), rent a car, taxi, bus and in some cases ride horseback.  Driving yourself may present difficulties in that maps can be sketchy, few street signs and road conditions.  Busses are often far from the hotels and haciendas. Contact www.hipecuador.com or each hotel and hacienda for more information.

Rates: From $60 to $200+. Ecuador has a 12% tax. Additionally, a 10% tax service charge is usually added by the hotel or hacienda. Breakfast is included with most accommodations. Hacienda Zuleta includes all meals. Madre Tierra includes breakfast and dinner.

Currency: American dollars. Bring extra $1, $5 and $10 dollar bills. Even a $20 bill is difficult to use. Airport exit charge to leave Ecuador is $40.80 to be paid in cash.

Passport and Visa: Passport: required (need expiration date 6 months later than trip). Visa: not required for less than 90-day stay.