For a taste of the countryside that’s just a short hop from the city, hacienda hotel Caballo Campana is a great way to get the best of both worlds in Cuenca, Ecuador. Part of the Exclusive Hotels & Haciendas group of Ecuador, this is a well-run “hosteria” that gives guests a cozy retreat on a family farm.
It felt like we had just left the city when 15 minutes from the center we pulled into the driveway of the 28-acre hacienda, a collection of white buildings with hand-painted trim around the windows that has been running as a hotel for 16 years. With fresh air, lots of room to roam, and horse jumping facilities at the far end, it’s a nice break from the exhaust fumes of the city.
Hosteria Caballo Campana is run by Priscila, the daughter of the hacienda owner, and her Argentine husband Fernando. They actually met while getting hospitality management degrees at the same university, so they know a thing or two about how to run a successful lodge. They are gracious hosts and both speak English fluently, so a stay here is a far cry from some country inns in Ecuador where you’ll be pulling out a Spanish phrase book often or resorting to pantomime.
The design and decorations are fitting for a country inn, with wood-burning fireplaces, warm colors, and rustic furniture. Coffee and tea are available complimentary all day next to the lobby area, where guests often congregate around the fireplace. You can order a beer or glass of wine as well. Equestrian art and horse riding accessories adorn the walls.
This hacienda is popular with riders and has plenty to keep them occupied. There’s a riding school for kids on site and the offerings available range from a basic one-hour ride in the surrounding area to trips around the tournament-sized jumping courses for those with plenty of experience. This is not a place with a couple horses on hand to make it look like a ranch: there are 32 stables now and more coming later.
This is a popular place for weddings and other big gatherings, so families can benefit from the extensive recreation facilities. A huge playground will thrill the little ones and there’s also a soccer field, basketball court, and a volleyball court. Staffers can advise on hiking trails looping around the hills and back to the property.
The 16 rooms and suites on offer vary greatly in size and style, as would be expected of buildings that were once part of a family compound. Some are just a bed and bath with a tiny TV, while others are spacious suites with a bunk bed room for kids and another bedroom for the parents. Two-floor cabins are like your own private little house. A tray of welcome nibbles and a minibar are nice touches, as are the bath amenity kits with razors and Q-tips. Don’t expect blah central heating though: instead staffers light up the fireplace or wood stove in your room while you’re at dinner and in some rooms the floor is heated as well. You also get a thick comfy robe to wear around.
The restaurant here is more elegant than you would expect and is not just serving up simple farm food. Soft lighting and cloth napkins accompany meals presented with flair. Ecuadoran dishes with a gourmet touch focus on local trout, meat that didn’t travel far, and the abundant produce that grows year-round in the region.
Rates start at $72 for a single but the best value are the suites and family cabins, which top out at $152 for four. (Plus Ecuador’s hefty 22% tax you get hit with throughout the country.) The packages are an especially good deal as they include some meals and in some cases, horseback riding. Book direct through the Hacienda Caballo Campana website (the couple managing the property is fluent in English) or combine it with hacienda stays in other parts of Ecuador through the Exclusive Hotels and Haciendas collective.
Review and photos by travel destinations expert Tim S. Leffel, who was hosted at Caballo Campana while on a tour of the region with Cuenca Tourism.