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“Amazing potential but falls well low of the mark”

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The Secret Garden Cotopaxi
Ranked #4 of 253 Quito B&B and Inns
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 27 February 2014

We stayed in a private cabin at Secret Garden Cotopaxi for 3 nights and left with very mixed feelings.

The location is undeniably spectacular, (if you get a clear, fog-free day, which we didn't really), near the Cotopaxi National Park, with views of 3 volcanoes, but also quite remote. We had to take a bus to Machachi, about an hour South of Quito and then a pre-arranged private 4WD taxi ($15 regardless of how many passengers) up a very bumpy unsealed road for another hour to reach the hostel.

The private cabin was cosy and atmospheric to begin with, but nowhere do they tell you that the cabins have no electricity. Which is fine in principal, but not if you have no prior warning to charge batteries etc, and if you want to read books in the evenings.
Each cabin has its own wood fire, which the staff are supposed to light for you each evening, but which didn't get done for us every night. Consequently our room was freezing cold one evening, and on the other nights, stiflingly hot with no way to vent the excess heat without letting mosquitoes into the room. Bad design that definitely needs addressing. They also don't give you enough materials to start your own fire easily, as ours had often gone out by the morning, and the room was freezing cold.

The staff were mostly made up of volunteers, who from the looks of it had been cajoled into taking on far more responsibility than they would have ever agreed to for an essentially non-paying job. They seemed at turns very stressed and/or uninformed in their roles. There were overbooking problems and organisational problems throughout our stay. The only one that affected us was the promised "free introductory trek" to a nearby waterfall that never happened. Instead we went on a $10 per person trek to the top of a 4200m extinct volcano with an untrained guide and got caught directly in the middle of a lightning storm on the return.

The hostel is full board only, there are no kitchen facilities to store, cook or make your own food, one reason for the high price. We found the meals on the whole to be fairly average, mostly made up of lots of stodgy carbs - rice, pasta, bread etc. The portions were just about filling, but if we had done more activities, we would have been left hungry. Having said that, there is always tea, coffee, bananas and drinking water available.

The saving graces of the hostel are the main building and grounds, very well kept, and we enjoyed the daily afternoon tea and cake around the fire, and wandering the grounds feeding the horses, llamas and pigs.

The management definitely needs to sort out the organisation and running of the hostel and activities, because for the price everyone pays (the dorm beds were almost the same price per person as our private cabin), I was expecting a LOT more.

Despite all this, we met some really cool fellow travellers and did enjoy our stay. But we probably wouldn't recommend the place to anyone unless the faults were addressed.

  • Stayed: February 2014, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank doddos
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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209 - 215 of 315 reviews

Reviewed 22 February 2014

Beautiful lodge, lovely cabanas, nice area, easy to meet other travellers but... there were some significant downfalls which mean I would not recommend this place. Totally contrary to the reviews we read before we went.
- food was budget backpacker at best, and we were starving the entire time. we had to walk 1.5 hours to another hostel to buy more food since we were so hungry. lunch was lentils with rice or veggies in soy sauce on rice, breakfast was one egg and bread one morning, one pancake the next with some fruit, and one of our dinners was hot dog on pasta. not what you expect when you're paying so much, and considering it's a base for big hikes.
- volunteers did not have good information.
- on comparison with quito and latacunga, activities here are more expensive, even though you are on the doorstep of cotopaxi
- small point, but unlike every other hostel in ecuador, tax isn't included. this adds up to quite a bit at the end.
- unless you want to read your book on the couch, expect to pay to do anything from here. in one case, this includes 10 dollars a person for a guide that doesn't speak to you on the hike.

If you do go:
- BRING FOOD
- ask fellow travelers for advice, not the volunteers
- if you are sleeping in a tent, try not to leave anything in there. Our friends stuff was soaked, and they were cold.
- one night is probably sufficient if you just want to do one hike

  • Stayed: February 2014, travelled with friends
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3  Thank Camricha
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 20 February 2014

The location is honestly amazing, however beyond that everything fell below expectations. The staff ("volunteers") were extreemly unhelpful, the food was below budget (hotdogs over spaghetti), and everything came with hidden fees.

Only stay here if your budget is $100+ per night as the only free activity is riding bikes, which 2 of 4 had flat tires. Overall we had such high expectations which were dashed. Check out the other options in the area to avoid dissapointment, or just base in Latacunga.

Room Tip: Tents get wet, Playhouse is tiny, Cabanas are expensive
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  • Stayed: February 2014, travelled as a couple
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3  Thank Sean W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 13 February 2014

This really was the most beautiful place I've stayed in Ecuador, and one of my favorite places in South America. I spent 4 nights here (after initially planning only 3) and can definitely recommend it of you are looking to get off the grid. That being said, however, the service in the place wasn't so great. You could really tell that the 'volunteers' didn't want to be there, and they were pretty disorganized (overbooking the dorm and providing only the most basic service that they are required to) But I get it... They are volunteers. The food also wasn't too amazing, and the portions were small for what you were paying. Also, if you book a tour, they pack you a 'to go' lunch of a basic sandwich (which would cost $0.50 in any restaurant, yet you're still paying the $35/day. But all that being said, I still really enjoyed my time here. The hostel itself is beautiful, and I rather enjoyed not having electricity in the dorm. Candles were provided which added to the rustic feel of the place. I would definitely come back.

  • Stayed: February 2014
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2  Thank Pishacha
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 9 February 2014

What a great and magical place. What we enjoyed the most was the novelty of having no internet and actually talking to people. Meals were excellent, super hikes and tours in the area and a great place to lounge around. The kids enjoyed the house dogs, horse, and pet cow. We booked the Cotopaxi Tour, horseback riding and took the free waterfall hike. Well worth it. Watch for the loose dogs on the way to Cotopaxi as they bit a friend of ours (well away from the hostel), and the road is crazy and nauseatingly bumpy...but otherwise an incredible place.

Room Tip: There is only power in one or two private rooms, all others have no power so bring a headlamp and ch...
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  • Stayed: February 2014, travelled with family
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1  Thank fishonyukon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 8 January 2014

This place is awesome! Delicious food, lots of hikes, great view of Cotopaxi on a clear day. They arranged a shared ride from Centro Historico in Quito which was awesome. Although $35 a night sounds steep, you get three meals a day so it's actually a bargain.

  • Stayed: December 2013, travelled solo
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1  Thank Lisa_Kant
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 18 December 2013

I can't possibly say enough about this place. Forget the breathtaking views and relaxed atmosphere, the service is top notch. The manager Remi goes above and beyond from sunup to lights out. He is also a walking encyclopedia of information when it comes to all outdoor activities. So I'd suggest buying him a beer and picking his brain as much as possible.

  • Stayed: December 2013
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Thank Thee_Freshman
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about The Secret Garden Cotopaxi

Address: | Via El Pedregal, Quito EC170350, Ecuador
Region: Ecuador > Pichincha Province > Quito
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free Parking Restaurant Shuttle Bus service
Hotel Style:
Ranked #4 of 253 B&Bs / Inns in Quito
Price Range: £51 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Number of rooms: 12
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Katherine and Tarquin, the owners/creators of The Secret Garden Quito, have moved to the countryside where they have been building their dream home and hostel. It's spectacular mountain scenery, it's a beautiful traditional lodge made of mud bricks and thatched roof, it's an eco-friendly self sufficiency project, it's great homegrown herbs and spices,with an exquisite home style food, it's considered an adventure center and it's a relaxation center. ... more   less 

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