Published on October 3rd, 2013 | by Mark Chesnut
HOTEL REVIEW: Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve & Lodge, Ecuador
While visiting Ecuador during the tourism conference called TravelMart Latin America recently, I was invited to spend a night at Bellavista, a rustic nature lodge set on a private nature reserve about two hours by car from Quito, Ecuador. Here’s my experience.
THE STYLE: The trip is part of the experience at Bellavista. I was picked up at 6am in Quito from the Hilton Colon Quito hotel, for the scenic drive to Bellavista, arriving in time for breakfast. After about an hour and a half on major highways, we took a winding, unpaved road for the final leg of the journey, arriving at the lodge in time for breakfast. As soon as we got out of the van, it was impossible not to notice the hummingbirds flitting around the birdfeeders nearby; the quantity and proximity of these creatures makes for superb nature photography opportunities. A shaded pathway links the small compound of hillside wooden buildings that make up Bellavista, which has 18 rooms but 50 beds (some are dormitory style).
THE GUEST ROOMS: Bellavista is a place to enjoy quiet and connect with nature. I chose a cozy room reached by a tightly twisting staircase above the semi-circular restaurant; the room had one double bed and one single bed, two triangular windows that looked out upon the cloud forest (one had a door that opened onto a small private balcony). There was also a tiny private bath with shower. There is electricity but no WiFi, TV or locks on the doors; the rooms are used mostly as a resting place following peaceful yet active days of exploring the natural surroundings. Travelers looking for even more of a treehouse experience can opt for a bed even higher up in the small building, reached by a ladder-like structure.
HOTEL FEATURES: Guided nature walks are a big draw at this hotel, which is set on a 2,000-acre private nature reserve that dates to 1995. Free loaner boots will keep your shoes from getting dirty. A friendly, well-informed guide gave us a brief chat about the resident hummingbirds, whose fast-moving wings sounded almost like kittens purring as they darted in and out of the feeding area (although one especially tiny species sounded more like a bumble bee) — before leading us on a two-hour walk along some of the paths that criss-cross the forest. Each of the hiking trails is labeled with a letter and also a difficulty rating, and it’s also possible to wander alone (because of the ecoystem in this region, our guide explained, there are no dangerous plants or animals that could cause harm). The guide stopped often to explain the ins and outs of the local flora and fauna. Mornings offer the clearest views for a nature walk, while in the afternoon, she explained, hikes provide a glimpse of a very different forest, as clouds set in, making it obvious why this is called a cloud forest. Lunch was fresh trout with salad and water.
In addition to a dining room, where a fresh and varied menu is served three times a day, there is also a lounge — something like a recreation room — that has a bar, a small shop that sells gifts and practical items, and tables where guests can make use of the hotel’s inventory of books and board games to pass the time in between tours. The lounge area faces one of the most-photographed hummingbird feeding areas, and large diagrams aid with bird identification.
BEST FOR: Nature lovers, fans of hiking and ecotourism, and vacationers looking for a peaceful getaway that’s relatively close to Quito. Rooms start at $91.81 per person, double occupancy, with three meals, or $53.28 per person, double, with no meals. The lodge offers a two-night, three-day package that includes roundtrip transportation to/from Quito, three meals a day and guided walks, for $284 per person, double.
MORE INFO: Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve & Lodge
MORE ECUADOR TRAVEL TIPS & INSPIRATION:
• Culture, Nature & Adventure: 3 Great Reasons to Visit Ecuador
• AIRLINE REVIEW: LAN Airlines Airbus A320, Quito to Cuenca, Ecuador
• HOTEL REVIEW: Hilton Colon Quito — Luxury & Location in Ecuador
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