Guide to Ecuador’s Authentic
Haciendas and Hotels
The Best from North to South
|Hacienda Zuleta with a typically colorful Ecuadorian decor.
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 Café Cultura was once the French Embassy. Each
is unique and melded with its community.
Hungarian born, László Károlyl
recognized the uniqueness
of these authentic accommodations. He chose a group of Haciendas
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
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
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,
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
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
Sustainable Tourism: Employment
of local community people, Ecuadorian furnishings,
artwork, involvement in community.
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.
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
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
|Samari Spa Resort.
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
Adventures: Mountain climbing,
access to Devil’s nose train ride, hiking,
horseback riding, tours, visits to Riobamba, mountain
biking, Chimborozo Volcano, polo and bullfighting
Sustainable Tourism: “Smart
Voyager” Certification, local employment
and involvement, use of natural resources, Ecuadorian
art. Internships available.
Location: Coast – San
Clemente (small fishing village) near Manta.
Description: Opened in 2008, modern
three story hotel overlooking an outdoor pool and
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,
For More Information
www.ecuadorexplorer.com is an extensive travel guide to Ecuador and features an app.
a 4-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.
$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.
dollars. Bring extra $1, $5 and $10 dollar bills.
Even a $20 bill is difficult to use. Airport exit
charge to leave Ecuador varies from $30-50 depending on your departure location 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