This might just be my favorite hostel ever. It’s more than just a hostel, it’s an entire experience.
It’s my second morning in the volcano region of Ecuador, and I’m currently swinging in a hammock, staring directly across the valley at the majestic Cotopaxi Volcano. I’m surrounded by green rolling hills and pastures with occasional grazing cows, horses, and llamas. Snow-capped volcanoes dot the horizon, luring adventurous travelers onto their trails.
Yesterday I hiked one of these trails myself, and from the top at 13,776 feet, we could see multiple volcanoes and all of Quito.
This is the Cotopaxi region of Ecuador. Experiencing this place is a MUST, and the good news is, it’s super easy to get here and it’s affordable.
The Hostel: Secret Garden Cotopaxi
Secret Garden Cotopaxi is a hostel in Cotopaxi province, the volcano region just outside of Quito, Ecuador. It offers a two-story dorm, private cabañas, a tent house, a big house, a small house, and hobbit houses (yes, really). With a sister hostel in Quito, daily shuttles to the Cotopaxi location are easily accessible and only cost $5 per person.
The property is set on a hill overlooking a gorgeous valley surrounded by mountains. Each building on the property stands alone, so there are gardens and grassy areas and walkways in between the buildings. There are several community toilets, there is hot water, and there is even a jacuzzi with a view of Cotopaxi. Yep.
Related: How to Pack for Adventure in Ecuador
A Day in the Life at Secret Garden Cotopaxi
Tea and coffee is available after 7am, and people slowly start to gather either indoors or out on the net overlooking the valley (think of it like a group hammock). At 8 breakfast is served, and at 8:30 or 9, depending on your activity, daily tours gather and leave for their various destinations.
Most tours finish and come back before lunch is served at 2pm. If your tour is longer, you’ll get a packed lunch so you can return later.
Snack time is at 5pm, and dinner is around 7pm. While we were there, one traveler organized a yoga class, and several people joined her, doing yoga together in the common area.
There is always hot water for tea or coffee and also banana bread and bananas available, so you won’t go hungry! The meals have generous portions, the snacks are delicious, and there is also local craft beer and wine for purchase (about $4 per glass). You keep a running tab and pay everything when you check out.
Related: Why I’m 30 and Still Stay at Hostels
What I Loved
The LACK of WiFi/The PEOPLE element: There is no WiFi here, and sleeping spaces are small with no seating areas, which essentially is designed to bring everyone together in the common areas to interact and hang out with each other. When you walk into the common area, you’ll see people chatting, reading, doing yoga, or swinging in a hammock, but everyone is in the same space.
It’s very cozy and communal. Interaction is greatly encouraged. It’s like stepping back in time before there were cell phones in everyone’s hands. You really get to know the people around you, and we had a truly great group of people from all over the world to get to know, it was such a bonus.
Meals: Snack and meal times are scheduled to make sure that everyone keeps showing up to be together. The food is delicious and often served family style, which only further encourages community engagement. WiFi can wait.
Location: The location, perched on a foothill directly across from Cotopaxi, is 110% incredible. The view of Cotopaxi simply does not get any better than this.
Related: 5 Hostel Myths, BUSTED!
The animals: There are multiple dogs that live here and accompany travelers on hikes every single day, so when they come home they are tired and ready to be cuddled. The small ones get passed from lap to lap, and I’m not sure who is happier, the guests or the pups.
The resident llamas are pretty friendly as well, and the horses elegantly chase each other around. #pinchme
What I Didn’t Love
If I absolutely must complain about something, then I will say that the water in the jacuzzi was more than a bit dirty, and one day we didn’t have cold running water in our cabaña (only hot). But then I realize I’m complaining about a jacuzzi with a view of an incredible volcano in the middle of a beautiful place in Ecuador, and that seems silly. Neither of these issues were a big deal, nor are they enough to warrant not coming here, this place is amazing.
How to Book Secret Garden Cotopaxi
I highly recommend booking their 3-day package deal, which includes transportation, all meals, two nights accommodations, and a guided hike up Pasochoa, the peak I described above. Plan to spend at least 3 days here, as most people want to stay even longer.
Book in advance because this place fills up quickly.
They also offer other tours for an extra price, including horseback riding, hiking to the glacier on Cotopaxi, and an overnight trip to summit Cotopaxi (about $300), and you can decide to do these tours after you get there. Each night you choose which activity you’d like to do the next day. It’s very well organized!
Booking must be done directly through them, so visit their website to check out the rooms and prices and to book your stay. All inquiries can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
As of publishing, the 3-day package with dorm accommodations was $88 per person, the prices go up accordingly depending on which accommodations you choose. I stayed in a private cabaña and the price was about $30 more per person than the dorm package. In my opinion, this was well worth it.
The cabaña was just big enough for two of us, had a private bathroom, and my favorite part: a wood stove that they lit for us each evening. At a HOSTEL. This place really pays attention to details and the service is amazing.
Secret Garden Cotopaxi is relaxed, positive, and happy. It almost feels like a modern-day hippy compound, only with everyday travelers like you and me just getting away from the hustle and bustle of civilization. It’s beautiful, I cannot recommend this place enough. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to continue enjoying my hammock with a view…
Related: Looking for a great, cozy, all-inclusive (and also affordable!) hacienda in Cotopaxi for couples or families? Check out Hacienda El Porvenir, my first Cotopaxi love.
This post was part of a collaboration with Secret Garden Cotopaxi. As always, all opinions are my own.