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.
- 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