Eco-friendly hotelMashpi Lodge is a modern monolith of recycled steel, tropical wood and glass hidden in cloud forest in Ecuador’s Andean foothills. It was built in sustainable style by former Quito mayor Roque Sevilla, on land wrested from loggers. Its minimalist decor draws the eye to The-Land-Before-Time-esque views, and while you’re trekking, sampling local delicacies or butterfly- and hummingbird-spotting, bio-boffins in the hotel’s research centre safeguard the rainforests’ residents. It’s world saving, in true Smith style.
Get this when you book through us:
A free room upgrade on arrival (subject to availability), welcome drink and one free ride on their treetop cable-car the Dragonfly
10am, but flexible. The hotel’s transfer departs at 1.30pm: if you miss it, you must arrange your own transport for an extra charge. Earliest check-in, 4pm.
Double rooms from £1078.08 ($1,362), including tax at 24 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional government tax of $2.75 per room per night on check-out.
Rates include all meals and soft drinks, guided activities (walks, birdwatching, nature encounters, Sky Bike, Life Center, waterfalls and Hummingbird Garden) within the reserve, use of rain ponchos and boots, and transfer to and from four hotels in Quito.
Attend a butterfly briefing in the Life Centre to get up to speed on the area’s lepidoptera. If that’s not to your taste, a chocolate-sampling session might appeal. Your philanthropic side with be soothed on learning that a stay here supports the Cree Ecuador project – an initiative to create jobs for local villages – and ongoing research at the Life Centre. Glide almost silently below, through and above the canopy on the Dragonfly gondola ($40 a person a stay for all activities that use this aerial tram; $20 for under-12s) as one of the lodge's expert guides will help you spot birds, animals, rivers and waterfalls from your unique vantage point.
At the hotel
Spa and wellness centre, open-air viewing platform and terrace, garden, lounge, library, boutique, research centre, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: air-conditioning, free bottled water.
Our favourite rooms
To overlook the rainforest from a Philippe Starck-designed tub with your date, book into one of the sprawling Yaku suites. Wayra Rooms 21 and 23 sit on the second floor, enjoying the same verdant sights as the suites and are just a short stroll from the terrace.
There is no pool: soak in the spa’s soothing Jacuzzi, or splash about by the forest’s hidden waterfalls.
The spa’s Jacuzzi allows glimpses of the rainforest through slatted wooden panels. Therapists practice traditional massages in a small adjoining treatment room, using nutrient-packed forest finds – mud, stones, herbs and leaves – to revive guests.
It may not be sexy, but non-slip socks will aid forest treks. Natural insect repellent is vital too. If you forget anything, the hotel’s boutique sells zippered khakis, multi-pocketed vests, waterproofs, torches, straw hats and local handicrafts and goodies.
Public areas and the ground-floor Wayra Rooms are wheelchair accessible. Visitors to Ecuador are required to show proof of either public or private health insurance upon entering the country. Without this, you could be denied entrance.
Rainforest rambling is suited to juniors, tweens and upwards. Some Wayra Rooms (on the ground and second floor) interconnect. Restaurant staff can set up high chairs and heat milk, there are baby-changing facilities, and chefs can prepare kids’ meals.
Established in 2001, Mashpi Reserve protects 2,500 hectares of pristine tropical forests (the long-term goal is 14,000 hectares); this rich biomass acts as offset for Mashpi Lodge, which has been a completely carbon neutral property since 2017. Offsetting efforts are entirely local and certified by Mashpi’s environmental assessment advising group. The Lodge’s efforts with Mashpi Reserve contribute to the UN’s climate action goals and the creation of biological corridors in the Chocó Bioregion provide a safe haven for wildlife and contribute to biodiversity.
The lodge itself was built in scale outside the city of Quito to avoid bringing heavy construction machinery into the forest. Recycling and upcycling are key in the hotel's operation and solar panels provide some of the lodge’s energy. The restaurant menu showcases local produce unique to the area and the lodge trains the local community in sustainable production and composting techniques for their crops.
Over half of the staff members belong to the local community; all receive training in service, sustainability and languages through Mashpi’s Fundacion Futuro programme. The Lodge’s Science Department trains local guides and park wardens and has created a team of parabiologists who help scientists in field work, collections and studies.
Sit with your nose pressed to the glass (well, almost), at a table near the towering windows, or nab the garden’s sole table for alfresco feasting.
Hiking gear at lunch, lightweight dresses and shirts come evening. A swish up-do will fix humidity-frazzled, post-trekking tresses.
Meals in the two-storey, glass-walled restaurant – with views of rainforest-clad peaks – are wholesome, inventive and staunchly local. Forest-plucked herbs, spices and chilies enliven chicken, beef and seafood dishes, while exotic fruits, rich chocolate and super-strong coffee round out the harvest, and Argentinean and Chilean wines are expertly paired. Light lunches include soups, sandwiches, ceviche and an ice-cream buffet, and breakfast is a heartier affair (with eggs any way, breads, home-made jams and honey, cheeses, meats, cereal and muesli, and fruits and juices). The chef can tailor meals for vegans or allergy sufferers on request.
The bar is in the restaurant, but drinks can be taken in the lounge, the hotel garden, or on the open-air terrace. Natural energy juices or chilled glasses of sweet cane juice will keep you going on days out. Tropical-fruit-laced cocktails and full-bodied wines from Argentina and Chile go well with tales of the day’s trekking…
Breakfast starts early for excursion-bound guests, from 7.30am to 9.30am. Lunch runs from 12.30pm to 2.30pm, dinner from 7.30pm to 9.30pm. The bar stays open till 11pm.
None. If you get peckish, order snacks and drinks at the bar and bring them back to your boudoir.
The hotel is swathed in cloud forest in the Andean foothills northwest of Quito. The capital is a three- to four-hour drive away, otherwise there’s nothing but slopes of towering trees for miles.
Mariscal Sucre International Airport (www.aeropuertoquito.aero) is the closest, a 90-minute drive away. There are frequent American Airlines, Delta, AeroMexico and United Continental Airlines flights.
Plan your A to B well: there will be dirt roads, and mountain-passes on the way. Transfers are included in room rates, but if driving yourself, there’s free parking and an Avis booth at the airport.
Worth getting out of bed for
You could lounge in the lodge’s spa and Jacuzzi, salute the sun (or more likely, cloud mist) in a yoga class on the terrace, or peer at wildlife through a pair of binoculars, but stays here are about donning rubber boots and Goretex, and getting grubby on rainforest rambles (with the help of the hotel’s guides). Gawp at ferns and rare orchids, exotically plumed birds, monkeys, peccaries (small boar-like creatures) and possibly a shy puma, before de-robing and drifting through cellophane-clear lagoons by hidden waterfalls. There are two main trails: the Howler Monkey (2km) and Cucharillo (700m). Both are a vertiginous but rewarding meander through dense, wildlife-roamed foliage and climax in jaw-dropping views. Or experience the after-dark delights – luminous fungi and hand-sized moths – of a night walk. Take a tandem pedal through the treetops on a Sky Bike safari, or hang with fluttery friends at the Hummingbird Station or the kaleidoscopic residents of the Mariposario (butterfly house). The Life Centre, where conservation projects are carried out, is in a leaf-shaped building, a half-hour walk from the hotel. Its deck is a pretty spot surrounded by kitchen gardens and often visited by curious critters. Enlightening talks about Mashpi’s biodiversity are held frequently. Twitchers should scale the 26m observation tower – a 10-minute walk away – from where toucans, parrots and other intriguing birds can be seen.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this rainforest-set eco-lodge in Ecuador’s Andean foothills and unpacked their ethically produced chocolate and trusty trekking boots, a full account of their natural escape will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a (recycled) postcard from Mashpi Lodge…
Squawks, chirrups and whoops ring from the mist-swathed rainforest surrounding Mashpi Lodge, and this bestial chorus only enhances the hotel’s get-away-from-it-all atmosphere. Dense greenery stretches for miles around and the views from each room’s floor-to-ceiling windows look like stills from The Lost World. The striking minimalist structure – composed of glass and recycled steel – is eye-catching and was built on land saved from loggers by owner, and former mayor of Quito, Roque Sevilla (sadly not a Spanish hair-metal band) to earn National Geographic’s yellow rectangle of approval. Virtuous spa treatments and contemplative sitting spots abound, but even those unaccustomed to Goretex should hop on the Sky Bike or hit the greenery-traced trails. After all, you never know what wild spectacles await you…