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Guide to Ecuador’s Authentic Haciendas and Hotels

The Best from North to South

Hacienda Zuleta in Ecuador
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 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 Pinsaqui
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 north of Quito, Ecuador
Hacienda Pinsaqui.

Hacienda Hato Verde
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.

Samari Spa Resort
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
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.

Hotel Palmazul
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.ecuadorexplorer.com is an extensive travel guide to Ecuador and features an app.

Transportation: Rent 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.

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 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 stay.

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