About three hours from Quito, the journey to Mashpi Lodge is an adventure in itself. As you leave the city and climb into the mountains on curvy, bumpy roads, the view is constantly changing until suddenly you find yourself shrouded in clouds. Welcome to the middle of Ecuador’s Chocó-Andean Cloud Forest.
A former logging spot turned luxury resort, Mashpi Lodge is the heart of a 3,000-acre private reserve. Built on the only flat area in the reserve, its floor to ceiling windows give it the appearance of a shiny glass box. Whether enjoying dinner, relaxing in the lobby, or lying in bed, guests never lose sight of the jungle.
Mashpi’s 24 rooms and suites are spread throughout three floors. Every room boasts forest views, thanks to a wall (or two depending on the room) of glass. Generous in size, Wayra Rooms feature either king-size beds or two full-size beds, and have all the comforts of home, expect televisions. Desks are large enough to hold and charge electronics like cameras and phones. Along with filtered water, reusable water bottles are provided to guests to use and take home. Small bathroom vanities have one sink, but plenty of counter space for two. Showers are hot and welcoming after long days of muddy explorations.
Though one might have thoughts of lingering, little time is actually spent in the rooms at Mashpi Lodge. Expedition guides and naturalists lead hikes to remote waterfalls and swimming holes twice a day and once in the evening. Varying in difficulty, there are more than a dozen trails to choose from. Leave your hiking shoes at home, you’ll be given a pair of rubber boots to use during your stay. Hiking in boots takes a little bit of practice to get used to, but after you encounter a mud puddle or two, you’ll understand why the amenity is pure genius. Forget sunscreen, but bug spray and a raincoat, are good things to have handy.
A staggering number of animals make their homes inside the Reserve. With 400 species of birds and 200 species of snakes, sightings will be frequent, to the point where you might actually start taking them for granted. Bugs of every shape, color and texture are also plentiful. Frogs are easier to spot and night, while Pumas tend to stay well-hidden. Close to 20 hummingbird species make common practice of dive bombing in between guests to access feeders in the Hummingbird Garden. Hundreds of species of butterflies have been identified in the Reserve. A dozen types can be seen in the butterfly garden at the Life Centre, while the cries of howler monkeys echo in the distance.
Pedaling over the tree tops on Mashpi’s “Sky Bike” is a highlight and easier than it looks, but flying atop the trees takes no work on the Dragonfly ride. Open-air gondolas carry up to four guests and their guide along a mile-plus cable. The entire loop takes a couple hours, depending on how often you stop to watch the rainforest and its inhabitants in action.
There’s no pool, but you won’t miss it when you’re splashing in one of the many gushing waterfalls in the forest.
All meals are included. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet style, while dinner is ordered from a menu. Selections are varied and tasty, particularly when taking into account the remote jungle location.
Visitors to Quito often combine the journey with a trip to the Galapagos. Mashpi Lodge works closely with partner Metropolitan Touring to schedule airfare and organize transfers.
Rates at Mashpi Lodge start at $1,098 per person (based on double occupancy) for 3-days/2 nights. It includes all meals, daily guided activities, transfers to and from main hotels in Quito, and Wi-Fi. You can also check sites such as Travelocity or Expedia to compare rates.
Review and photos by Dana Rebmann. Her stay was hosted by Mashpi Lodge, but as always her thoughts and opinions are her own.