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“One of my best holidays ever - I'd go back in a heartbeat”

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Tierra Chamahua EcoAdventures at Rancho Los Banos
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 11 April 2014

My wife and I were looking for something different and started researching ranches in the southern US and Mexico. When we saw the ranch's ads we started to think it might be a good fit for us, and was it ever!
Where to start? Well, the riding and scenery is outstanding. This should be the real reason you come here. The horses are healthy and well-trained. The staff are expert riders and we always felt safe, despite riding some fairly technical terrain. You say you don't want technical? No sweat. Manuel and his team can draw from countless ride options to find the right level for you. And the options go on and on. We were there for 6 days of riding and had a blast on all of them. In fact, we had fun at night trying to decide if we now had a new "favourite route".
Of course, this little piece of paradise wouldn't be worth the effort of getting there unless you have great hosts, too. We got along really well with their staff. It's an intimate environment in the sense that they have a limited amount of guests, so you get to know their staff really well. They were professional, helpful and attentive to our needs.
So, what do you need or expect out of a holiday? In our case, based on the information we received prior to booking our trip, we had realistic expectations in terms of luxuries. This is not the place if you want long, hot showers, This is not the place if you want five-star meals. This is not the place if you want to be pampered to death all day long. Halleluiah! I'm willing to live simply and rough it a bit if it means I get to visit a working ranch, meet fantastic people, be around animals all day, ride through extraordinary landscapes, eat healthy meals and totally unwind from the craziness of my job.
So, my only fear is that this place gets too popular and feels compelled to grow. It's just perfect the way it is. Is it perfect for you? Get in touch with Manuel and talk about it. He's more than happy to provide you with any information.
Thanks again to the Los Banos team - we had an amazing vacation!

Room Tip: We stayed in the master bedroom at El Cumaral and enjoyed having the en-suite bathroom.
  • Stayed: April 2014, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank Dave R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviews (193)
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70 - 76 of 193 reviews

Reviewed 3 April 2014

We were picked up at 9:30 after a huge breakfast at the Yatt Place at the Tucson Airport. We walked for about 45 minutes and waited for our ride with Ramon of Garcia Taxi. It was a 2 hour drive to Douglas/Prieta crossing. We passed through Cochise County. On the way we passed Tombstone with Boot Hill. Driving down the Main Street, we passed the OK Corral and the sheriff's office. At the border, we changed vehicles and Manolo, the father of Manuel Valenzuela picked us up. We stopped and got a hat for Chris and then drove to meet our driver on the next leg. Ont he way we stopped for traditional tamales and beans that were fabulous. The 2 hour drive in Mexico took us through the town wherre Geronimo had ended up after his raids and then further south into Apache Country. Day 1: Up at 5 and said farewell to a family of 6. Breakfast 1 was fruit and some trail mix with coffee. The papaya and pineapple were especially delicious and fresh. Breakfast 2 was a full Mexican breakfast at the riding center made by Lupita. Our ride was 3.5 hours through some pretty rough countryside. We were surrounded with plant life all of which seemed to possess sharp spines. The horses were gentle and kept us all confident that they, at least, knew what they were doing
We had several firsts for Chris in the mountains: First tortilla made under the tutelage of Lupita, First roping lesson from Cheney, First view of Apache Country (for both of us), First border crossing into Mexico, First stay in a place without electricity where all energy is solar, propane carted in over very challenging roads, or windmill (for afew wells, First view of newly born calves and a foal. He has also met many friendly dogs. The coyotes had provided a spirited serenade. We saw a Puma clearing where one had bedded for the night. There are said to be three kinds of large cats on the ranch including mountain lion, puma,and occasional jaguar along with the Puma who migrate north at this time of year. There are also bobcats. We also sampled the gathered sap of the mesquite that tastes a bit sweet and bitter and buttery, Chris and I hiked with Claire to the caves with an ancient oven and paintings that have been dated back 2,000 years. Many bones lay along the riverbed that we hiked to the cave indicating cat activity . The most interesting was a havelina or wild small pig of the area.
At the coast We wentf to Kino on the Sea of Cortes after a long hot drive through the Sonora desert. The route took us to a small town where we had lunch of meat tacos and vegetables. We strolled through the plaza and explored the church started in 1636 and coming to its present form in the twentieth century. The gazebo had electronic music that played at noon and Manuel and Jill's delightful two girls danced to it in the gazebo. In Hermossillo, the capital of Sonora, we stopped at a Walmart to pick up supploes. The beach house is gorgeous. We sat on the balcony outside the room looking at the sea ringed by a long necklace of white sand that extends several miles. The town of Kino is small and still has the feel of a seacoast village that has not yet been found by too many tourists. Dinner was found at a restaurant that had wonderful battered freshly caught fish and fish tacos. The next day we awoke to the smell of chorizo, eggs and a full Mexican breakfast. I ran along the beach a bit before breakfast, showered in the outdoor shower and came in to start with coffee and fruits. The day was spent on the water in a little skiff manned by Capt. Saul. He was terrific. We motored out past Alcatraz Island, the last refuge of the blue footed booby toward Tiburon Island. On the way we pased some sea lions and lots of birds. A shrimp boat was reeling in its nets and we stopped to watch. It was a genuine wildlife party with birds scrapping on and off the water, sea lions coming inside the net to feast and then coming out again (also squabbling) and the men on the boat working very hard to get the nets in before the entire catch was gobbled. Several pods of porpoises also swam by. We went around Tiburon and encountered or actually heard a whale. It turned out to be a very large grey whale swimming alone. Judging from the comparison to the skiff I would estimate it was about as large as they get - 35 to 40 feet. In any case, it provided a lot of bulk and was quite unperturbed by our being around. We fished and caught bait. Using that, we went to the bottom and pulled up more than enough Ling Cod for dinner for our group of 8 as well as Capt. Saul. I hope this narrative gives you the idea....

Room Tip: These are not fancy rooms. They are great places to sleep after a tiring day in a great place to so...
  • Stayed: March 2014, travelled with family
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1  Thank Marquis20854
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 21 March 2014

Yes, it's a schlep to get there but it's totally worth the experience. Manolo, Manuel, and Jill are wonderful people and caring hosts. Normally rides are 5 hours long, but Diego shortened ours to 4 due to our experience level. My husband and I were concerned about reactions to our nontraditional family (2 dads and a 7 year old girl) from hosts, staff, and guests. But we were embraced by everyone. Coincidentally, it was during our stay in February 2014 when the Arizona state legislature had passed the bill to allow business owners to discriminate against LGBT people on religious grounds. I wish them well and would recommend the ranch to people who can go with the flow. Water at the lodge was not working for a day but Manuel fixed it by the end of the day. There was some car trouble which is challenging when you have to shuttle guests back and forth twice daily between the stable and the lodge. Maybe someday the road between the stable and the lodge can be made more smooth to ease the shuttling.

  • Stayed: February 2014, travelled with family
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2  Thank Andrew I
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
TierraChamahua, Owner at Tierra Chamahua EcoAdventures at Rancho Los Banos, responded to this reviewResponded 11 April 2014

Thanks for your review, Andy. We really appreciate it. We take great pride that our entire organization and team celebrates diversity in all its forms. As a progressive, modern and forward-thinking guest ranch, one that celebrates the virtues of the 21st century, we annually host numerous LGBT groups, together with a very diverse set of guests.

We are proud that all our guests are treated honorably, equally, fairly and without prejudice. At the Rancho, everyone is treated the same, and we love that aspect of our operation.

We also thank you for your patience and understanding during our 12 hour water shortage [caused when a running toilet drained our water tank], and our uncooperative vehicle. As you saw first-hand, our location is so remote, and so rugged, it is not easy to call a plumber or a mechanic, or resupply parts or food, when something goes wrong, in this part of the world.

We really appreciate guests such as yourselves who are understanding of our dynamics. Thank you again, and we hope to see you and your family again one day.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 20 March 2014

If you want to ride great horses, in a remote and beautiful area, and meet amazing and wonderful people, then you should come here. It is many trips rolled into one. I left feeling like I should have stayed longer and am thinking of when I can come back. Thank you for welcoming us so warmly and taking care of us so well. Tierra Chamahau is a very special place, and made us feel so welcome. Thank you!

  • Stayed: February 2014, travelled with family
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1  Thank unexpected-adventure
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 3 March 2014

If you looking for a holiday, go to Florida. If you are looking for a true life experience go to Tierra Chamahua(Los Banos). If you want to ride amazing horses thru rugged terrain in beautiful mountains then Los Banos is the place. If you want to leave the beach lounge and hike thru areas that have been travelled by natives for a thousand years, this is the place. To see and be in this remote area, makes you feel alive. A small but real moment was drinking water from a natural spring that comes out of the side of a mountain. I explained to my daughter that this was probably the first time we had truely tasted water, the way it was meant to taste. Manuel and his father , along with the entire ranch staff look after you like family. The "Girls" where fantastic, Moni, Camilla,and Claire, added a really fun aspect to the trip, 3 fantastically strong young women!! I Diego has had lots written about him. He is a true gentelman, and fantastic on a horse. This place is full of photo opportunities, and I will incude photo's but you need to go yourself. Step out of the comfort zone, you will be amazed what you can do, and you will create memories for a lifetime, we did. Hello to our friends at Los Banos

Room Tip: Ask for the Master suite, you get your own bathroom, and the sunrise is right out your window. Beaut...
  • Stayed: February 2014, travelled with family
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Thank JackDex
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 27 February 2014

I can’t think I have much to add to all the glowing reviews, except to add one more voice to the happy chorus. I may be a bit unique in that I am a woman “of a certain age,” traveling solo, speaking few words in Spanish. I can assure you that there was never a moment when I did not feel completely safe, comfortable and at ease.

Every person who works at the Rancho, either owner or staff, was helpful, patient, good humored, hard working and knowledgeable. I was also lucky enough to be here at the same time as some other guests who were great fun and very easy to get along with. I made friendships that continue at home. Of course, this can’t be guaranteed! I was just lucky!

While I was here, the main ongoing activities were horse riding, canyon hiking, and ‘porching,’ which includes sunrise and sunset viewing, stargazing, reading, chatting and watching the kids who were visiting have an amazing time. My most loved activity was riding. I’ve only ridden horses before on the East Coast of the US, where I live. This is an entirely different experience. I was told many times that the riding can be difficult. In my experience up to now, a difficult ride means you are on a difficult horse. There are no difficult horses here. I was told that in the 5 years that the ranch has been taking guests, there has never been a horse with a guest that spooked, bucked, ran off, refused a cue, kicked another horse on the trail, or did any of the other things I’ve come to expect horses to do at times. So then, I kept thinking, how is the riding difficult? The narrowness and steepness of the trails, the need for good balance, the altitude, heat and thorny bushes. I learned quickly on the narrower paths to follow the guide exactly– that is, Diego: famoso cowboy and zen master of horses and riding -- and when I did, I did not encounter thorns. When I chose a different path, lots of thorns!

The scenery is astounding, the wildlife is unique and beautiful, the air is clear, and there is great quiet. Many guests say, when they first arrive, “It doesn’t seem real!” At night I heard horses grazing outside my window, and coyotes in the distance. One of the “girls,” -- the young women who do everything from round up and drive horses, prepare and serve breakfast and dinner, wash up, tack up the horses, guide hikes and rides, remember where you left your water bottle, drive the vehicles, bring in supplies, mend equipment, manage the solar panels, entertain children, etc., etc. –- saw a mountain lion while I was there. This is rare, but she was lucky!

As is emphasized on the website, it is essential to know that the Ranch is it’s own ecosystem, existing within a grander magnificent and fragile ecosystem. The philosophy of the ranch is to live within its larger system by limiting human impact, and thereby preserving the natural space.

For guests, this means you have the experience of spending time in a place outside yourself. The rewards are huge. I don’t believe any guest here did not have many opportunities to learn things they didn’t know before. I learned many. It also means that not all priorities can be for immediate human enjoyment. For this environment to be able to sustain guests, it has to be cared for. The people who work here may at times need to put the demands of the ranch before the immediate desire of an individual guest. Not all hikes can happen every day. Your favorite horse could need a rest. There is not a surplus of electricity at all times. There may be technical difficulties with one of the vehicles, and once in a while, a road is closed unexpectedly. In a word, it’s not Cancun.

But, if this sounds like your kind of place, take the adventure, GO, and you will take something very special home with you.

  • Stayed: February 2014, travelled solo
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3  Thank Flyaway2000
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 February 2014

Words cannot describe and pictures fail to capture the true beauty and awe of Rancho Los Banos. I'm a huge horse-lover and have always wanted to visit a guest ranch. I searched dozens of websites for ranches throughout the U.S. and Mexico, but ultimately chose Rancho Los Banos based on the reviews and descriptions of how genuine it is, the "real" ranch experience. I'm a very active and adventurous individual and desired a vacation that would satisfy the thrills I was seeking, as well as, a place that allowed me to escape from the hustle and bustle of the busy city life and lose myself in the breath-taking scenery of God's beautiful creation. I went on this trip solo to do a bit of soul-searching and reflecting, but never once did I feel alone or worried about my safety. At Rancho Los Banos I got exactly what I was looking for. The horseback rides were by far the most amazing rides I've ever been on and the day long hike through the canyon, bouldering up into the caves was incredible. The only thing that tops the sites and adventures at the ranch is the people! From the moment Manolo picked me up and welcomed me in Douglas, AZ, to meeting everyone at the ranch, enjoying Lupita's delicious home-cooked meals, having a blast spending time with the three lovely European hostesses, Camilla, Claire, and Monii, riding with the last real vaquero, Diego and meeting the other cowboys, hiking and learning all about the area with Manuel, to saying my final goodbyes to my horse "Tequila" and the entire ranch family, everyone truly went out of their way to make my stay the best possible. I feel so blessed to have found Rancho Los Banos and the six incredible days I spent there making memories that will last a lifetime. I can't wait to return and make so many more!

Room Tip: I was a solo traveler and stayed in the El Cumaral Lodge, which I really enjoyed because it allowed...
  • Stayed: February 2014, travelled solo
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Thank Kristi S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Tierra Chamahua EcoAdventures at Rancho Los Banos

Address: Rancho Los Banos | northeast Sonora, 242242, Mexico
Region: Mexico > Northern Mexico > Sonora
Amenities:
Free Breakfast Suites
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 49 Speciality Lodging in Sonora
Price Range: £74 - £148 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Number of rooms: 10
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Rancho Los Banos is a 30,000 acre privately owned nature preserve and adventure travel guest ranch located at the foot of the Sierra Madre, a mere 55 miles south of the southeast Arizona town of Douglas in safe, secure northeast Sonora. Here you will find some of the most pristine, secluded and scenic land anywhere. We offer stunning landscapes, world-class hiking and horseback riding, trekking, birding, wildlife spotting, jeep ecotours, lake and river kayaking, stargazing, fishing, mountain biking, great porching, delicious Mexican food and comfortable accommodations. The ranch has miles of stunning box canyons, high sierras and riparian riverbeds. It borders 20 mile long Lake Angostura and amazing Bavispe River. The sheer vastness of this land will enchant you and our hospitality and service will make for a great vacation. Experience adventure travel at its very best at Mexico's premiere guest ranch. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Tierra Chamahua Ecoadventures At Rancho Los Banos Hotel Sonora

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