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“Cloud forest / birder heaven”

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El Monte Sustainable Lodge
Ranked #7 of 47 Specialty Lodging in Mindo
Certificate of Excellence
Washington, District of Columbia, United States
Level Contributor
188 reviews
25 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 81 helpful votes
“Cloud forest / birder heaven”
Reviewed May 7, 2013

El Monte Lodge is across the Mindo river from this hiker-destination town in the cloud forest roughly 2 hours in the mtns. Northeast of Quito -- one arrives swinging over the rushing glacial river on a wooden bosun's chair rigged to a rope pulley. The owners, an American and his Ecuadoran wife, who I believe is part Huarani (an indigenous tribe), built the whole place. She as the main designer of both the log lodge and A-frame wooden cottages by the river and in the forest. The lodge is a high-arched thatched A-frame with open sides, an open-air grill and kitchen, comfortable sofas and chairs round a horno-type fireplace and library tables. Polished wood floors mean guests leave their shoes on the short stairs rising to the lodge platform. Food is served family style and is largely local produce, fruit and fish, much from their own garden; no alcohol is served so BYO if you want an evening glass of wine or spirits. Fresh eggs come from local hens and the breakfast omelets are special. Beds are fine, covered with Ecuadoran woven fabrics; large windows and 2nd story views of the river and forest; baths are rimmed with cement and embedded riverstones. No A/C, and rain fell every afternoon. Electricity is now provided by an ingenious small generator run by hydro-power from the natural fall of the Mindo River's swift current, but you'll want to sleep when it's dark in order to rise at 5:30 AM for the best birding. This area of Ecuador has perhaps the most concentrated population of tropical species in South America. We saw guan, golden-crowned Quetzal, several species of toucan, doves, and more than 25 types of hummingbird...and much more. Nearby, on the town side of the river, is a butterfly garden and small museum. I wish our three days had been five.

Room Tip: Ask for a lodge by the river, it is great to sleep in that sound.
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  • Stayed March 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank Judith D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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136 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
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Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (37)
Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Quito, Ecuador
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed April 18, 2013

El Monte Sustainable Lodge is probably as “eco” as it gets in the Mindo area. This is noticeable in many ways and details, both lodge and management. Even the electricity is generated by a self-made hydro-electric system. The lodge itself is luxurious and very comfortable. Very romantic cabanas. Great bed, nice bathroom and lots of space. The beautiful dining area is a 2 minute walk from the cabins and holds a relaxing atmosphere with an extensive library, fire place, hammocks etc. Meals are served family-style and the owners are often there to join you. The meals are very good, healthy, with a special attention to vegetarians/vegans. The best of all is the location of the lodge: right out in the cloudforest jungle about 10 minutes by taxi from Mindo town. The forest is mainly secondary but most has regenerated back to nice forest and the accompanying reserve is full of orchids, insects, frogs, birds and other wildlife. The lodge has a bird list with over 300 species recorded on the lodge property. It is one of the easiest places to see specialties like the Sunbittern and Choco Toucan. There is a trail system with loops in a relatively flat area and a steep hillside trail for hiking/enjoying the nature optimally. Lodging includes knowledgeable local guides and they bring you out for hiking, birding, or visiting nearby attractions like the butterfly farm or cable car. Other extras include a natural pool with a hot tub, they grow some of their own vegetables in the garden, plus they also have a “bio-station” building where researchers and volunteers can stay. I’m very sad to read the single “terrible” review available where people state it was an “infuriatingly miserable” stay. This review has been blown way out of proportion: surely there is seasonal rain and mud, and yes, spiders and other insects can enter the rooms. But don’t forget that you are in the middle of cloudforest jungle and not in Paris or New York! Also, it is perfectly understandable that the management asks you to take out your boots (and this is not because they do not want to clean the floor, the rooms have been very clean). Nothing wrong with the pricing (about $100 per night, including 3 meals and local guides), and a bargain for Western standards. In conclusion: it is a beautiful eco-lodge, surrounded by amazing nature, well run by very friendly and knowledgeable people.

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
1 Thank Dusan B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Edmonton, Canada
Level Contributor
10 reviews
10 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
Reviewed March 4, 2013

This is a gem of a place. Peacefull, quiet and in a very natural setting. Lots of birds. Stayed there for four nights. Natalia, our bird guide for two days was great. Food was excellent, and Tom, the owner was a very engaging host. We made good use of our rain jackets each afternoon. Would love to go back.

  • Stayed January 2013, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
Thank Don S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
50 reviews
16 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 23 helpful votes
Reviewed March 2, 2013 via mobile

Amazing Eco lodge in the middle if the Mindo Cloud Forest.

The food is absolutely amazing! And sustainable! The staff are all lovely and we were able to meet Tom, the owner, and find out a little about the history of the place.

Would love to go back.

Take some bug repellant. There are these little nasty black flies that have us some of the worst bites we've ever had!

  • Stayed November 2012
    • Value
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Helpful?
Thank embly
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Redmond, Oregon, United States
Level Contributor
12 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
Reviewed January 29, 2013

I stayed at El Monte in January for 6 days on my own. I was fortunate enough to meet the owner, Tom and Mariela. A friend of theirs, Mike, was helping them out that week and he was great! They all made me feel very at home and welcome. The lodge was very beautiful and my lovey cabana was next to the river and that was great for helping me sleep at night. I felt very safe there. The system for getting across the river to the resort was awesome! You sat on a swing that was pulled on a cable by someone on the other side. Very fun!
The main house was all open with a fire pit and great places to sit and watch for birds. The food was outstanding with wonderful deserts twice a day. My bird guide, Natalia, was fantastic! She was incredible at spotting birds and listening for their calls. I saw so many beautiful birds. I would definitley consider coming here again. They were attentive to me without being overbearing and were always concerned about how things were going for me. There was one guest who fell ill and they were very good to her. It is about a 40min walk into the town of Mindo. I toured the chocolate factory, butterfly farm and orchid garden. All were great. There is an internet cafe in town too. Many thanks to the owners and staff for making my experience so woderful!

  • Stayed January 2013, traveled solo
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank Mary D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Wilmington, North Carolina
Level Contributor
62 reviews
14 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 23 helpful votes
Reviewed January 2, 2013

My wife and I were the only guests at El Monte when we stayed there in Mid-DEC 2012. We had some burps with setting up a rental stay because El Monte does not use PayPal - and when they did not respond initially to confirm a wire transfer for the lodging - I cancelled. However, they had had a death in the family and they honored an email confirmation for the room and we simply paid in cash.

The trip to Mindo is about 90 minutes. The El Monte is located at the end of a dirt road about 4km from Mindo. You must cross the river with a rope transfer bridge. This was a first time experience for me - in fact - its the method of transport the El Monte used to construct the large cabanas and lodge!!

Our stay was very good - especially in that choice and pleasantness of the cabana. Our cabana was quite large, well kept, all large rooms, and soaring ceilings. My wife was not pleased about the relative lack of light in the cabana, and insufficient plugins to drive her laptop/hair dryer etc. While all true, this did not detract from the atmosphere of low level lighting and candlelight - just understand its an ECO LODGE.

The meals/food was delicious, vegetarian style dining by day and by night candlelight. The one issue - for me - was the low level of lighting between the cabana and the lodge for dinner. The area is surrounded by large river rocks, any of which could trip up the unsuspecting traveler with the possibility of a rather nasty injury.

The lodge itself is a joy to relax in, reading books, or just taking it easy.

My wife had a guide for her portion of the nature trip - her name is Natalia. We HIGHLY SUGGEST you ask for Natalia IN ADVANCE. This sweet young lady was up at 4AM to assit my wife with trekking into the jungle for her photo shots. Hardly a bird was to be found during the two days of jungle hunting - but that was certainly not the fault of Natalia. This also included trips to the nearby butterfly and frog farms.

The host, Tom, he's just a great guy. We met him for dinner and for lunch. He has kep the El Monte as an Eco-Lodge as a matter of philosophy. He keeps things simple and I can appreciate the efforts he has made to blend in with the surrounding environment.

My only suggestions - both as a traveler and a friend - is to offer the additional wiring hookups and perhaps more mood lighting in the cabana ceilings and the bedtime areas.

And, Tom, PAYPAL, PAYPAL, PAYPAL. This will greatly increase bookings - or refunds - and thereby increase your business success - or as much success as you may chose.

I highly recommend El Monte - despite the price - if you are looking for a "luxury Eco-Lodge" experience. El Monte is - by far - the largest and most interesting cabana I have ever stayed in. And, we experienced no cockroaches - even though it is no doubt possible that insects may play a part in the overall experience of any Eco Lodge.

Thanks for the experience and hopefully we will continue our relationship for a long time to come.

Room Tip: Reseve in advance. All cabanas are large, and nice.
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  • Stayed December 2012, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
3 Thank Don S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Pusiano
Level Contributor
71 reviews
34 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 127 helpful votes
Reviewed August 27, 2012

The lodge is as great as the pictures show and Mindo is a really nice village to visit if you like tropical forests and amazing birds.
Food is also excellent.
Only downside: when you arrive at the lodge a bird watching guide will greet you and possibly explain what to do during for the day (assuming you speak some spanish). Apart from that nobody from the lodge management/staff is there to be seen throughout the day so you need to work out by yourself when/where to eat, what to do, etc. Also upon departure do not expect a smiley farewell; once more there will be nobody around: all as elusive as a puma in the forest!!!

  • Stayed August 2012, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
3 Thank Marcovojage
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about El Monte Sustainable Lodge

Property: El Monte Sustainable Lodge
Address: Roca E4-49 y Amazonas | Pasaje Chantilly, Mindo, Ecuador (Formerly El Monte Lodge)
Location: Ecuador > Pichincha Province > Mindo
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Business Center with Internet Access Free Parking Restaurant Suites Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #7 of 47 Specialty Lodging in Mindo
Number of rooms: 6
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
El Monte Sustainable Lodge is an ecotourism destination in every sense of the word. We emphasize nature here at El Monte, in the form of birdwatching and observation of wildlife in general. Aside from the natural focus of our lodge, we also supply many of the vegetables, eggs and more from our organic garden. Most of our energy is supplied by a microhydro plant. We are located in a 110 acre reserve that is close to the Mindo-Nambillo Reserve of over 40,000 acres. At only 3 kilometers from the town of Mindo we are within access of many the activities, such as the Butterfly Garden, Ziplines, White-water Tubing, waterfalls and more. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
El Monte Hotel Mindo

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