As far as South American destinations go, mainland Ecuador goes largely under the radar. I’ve met hordes of backpackers that opted to fly from Peru to Colombia or vice versa just because they thought Ecuador was worth skipping over entirely. Thankfully, those of us that manage to stray off the beaten path can get rewarded with some incredible hostels to stay at.
There is a lot to love about the Black Sheep Inn. Not only is it a beautiful property tucked away in the remote mountains of Chugchilan, it is as eco-friendly as a hostel can get. I loved how Black Sheep Inn repurposed trash and recyclables to create some beautiful decor, including their small fitness center made from junk. The Black Sheep Inn has some amazing amentieis that one would not expect while backpacking. From the sauna to the yoga studio and fitness room, Black Sheep Inn spoils you.
The three-story dorm cabin was one of my favorites I have ever stayed at, feeling more like a luxurious mountain lodge than a grimy hostel room. It was cozy, beautiful built, and best of all, you never had to worry about food. With every reservation at Black Sheep Inn, you would get breakfast, a bagged lunch, and a home-cooked vegetarian family-style dinner to look forward to every night. Oh, and free coffee, tea, cookies, brownies and other baked goods all throughout the day.
Hosteria Izhcayluma | Vilcabamba
Luxury travel at backpacker prices is the name of the game at Hosteria Izhcayluma. This hostel is a treat for travelers who manage to make it all the way down to the lesser-visited village of Vilcabamba. It is quite off the beaten path, nearly six hours away from the nearest tourist hub of Cuenca. However, nature is best experienced far away from everything else. With hidden waterfalls, a national park, and endless hikes to do in Vilcabamba and its surroundings, Hosteria Izhcayluma serves as the perfect home base in between it all. The dorm rooms felt more like massive mountain cabins that we had no business paying less than $10 a night for. The vast property also includes a swimming pool, free yoga classes, and hiking trails starting straight from the property.
Your Ecuador adventures will likely start in the bustling capital city of Quito. If you are looking for a hostel in the colonial city center of Quito, then look no further. Community Hostel Quito provides exactly what you will be looking for on your travels: a community. One of the most social hostels that I’ve ever been to, Community Hostel makes sure that you are never riding solo. With family breakfasts, dinners, and nightly social events, it is extremely easy to make friends here. Seriously, everyone was practically flocking to be my friend after I belted out some ABBA during their karaoke night. At least, I was drunk enough to think they were.
Secret Garden | Cotopaxi
Secret Garden Cotopaxi is one of the most incredible hostels in the world. From all parts of the property, you can catch a view of the monstrous Cotopaxi volcano. Even from the pooper. You can book this hostel in a package that includes hikes and meals, so while the $119 3-day price might seem a bit much at first, you absolutely get your money’s worth. Cotopaxi National Park is one of Ecuador’s most beautiful areas and the value of having a home base like Secret Garden Cotopaxi in between exploring is difficult to overstate.
Cuenca is my favorite city in Ecuador and it gave me a much-needed balance of relaxing and adventure. Seriously, there is so much to do in Cuenca but at the same time, you can be content doing absolutely nothing at all. I stayed at Alternative Hostel for a week and felt completely at home. The beautiful and modern decor is something that I was not expecting to find in Ecuador, especially after staying at some pretty grimy and outdated hostels throughout my trip. With cheap shared and private rooms, a common kitchen, and an ideal location close to the historical center and many attractions, Alternative Hostel is the best place to stay in Cuenca.
Although Banos isn’t exactly a big city, Selina’s location right in the main plaza is perfect. It is a massive property that boasts everything that former Selina guests have gotten used to. Clean, modern, and always filled with art and aesthetic, Selina is a beautiful setting to call your home in between the wild adventures that you will experience in Baños. From chasing waterfalls to zip-lining to horseback riding up in the mountains, it is easy to see why Baños is considered the backpacker adventure capital of Ecuador.
Llu Llu Llama | Isinliví (Quilotoa)
Like Black Sheep Inn in Chugchilan, Llu Llu Llama is a beautiful eco-lodge and a popular stop for people doing the 3-day Quilotoa Loop. Located in the remote village of Isinlivi, this eco-friendly lodge boasts a cozy and home-y setting with stunning views of the surrounding mountains. At $20 per night for a dorm with breakfast and dinner included, it is hard to beat the value you get for such an incredible place. Like so many places in Ecuador, Llullu Llama feels like a reward for travelers who seek to venture off the beaten path.
If you are looking to have a good time in Ecuador’s backpacker adventure capital, then Community Hostel is where you will want to stay. Like its sister hostel in Quito, it is impossible not to make friends. It is one of the most social hostels I’ve ever stayed at. The family dinners quickly evolve into pre-drinks and before you know it, the whole squad is hitting the clubs together. I ended up going out pretty much every night in Baños, in no small part to the group of friends I made at Community Hostel.
Montanita is as wild of a city as it gets and there is no better place to get the night rolling than Hidden House Hostel. My first night at Hidden House, they had a $5 all-you-can-drink deal that lasted for five hours. I felt like I got my money’s worth within the first hour, and then promptly remembered very little of that night. Montañita is the type of place that sucks you in. I spent almost two weeks at this tiny town doing nothing but partying and recovering. Montañita is an obscene amount of fun, and picking the right hostel is crucial in making sure you have the best possible time.
If you are looking for something a little more chill and laid-back, then Esperanto is the hostel for you. As opposed to the wild parties at Hidden House, Esperanto maintains a cozier vibe. It also allows you to bring your own drinks into the hostel, which might be the only deal better than a $5 all-you-can-drink. The top floor boasts a small little terrace with hammocks overlooking the ocean. There is no better place in Montañita to nurse a hangover, I guarantee that. They also offer a free breakfast, although I was never awake early enough to actually take advantage of it.
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