10 reasons you need to stay at this lodge in Ecuador's beautiful Cloud Forest

This surreal location is a place for learning, discovery and pinch-me moments

By Dana Rebmann,

When the shuttle van finally pulls up in front of Mashpi Lodge, you’ll be more than ready to get out and stretch your legs.

Located inside the Metropolitan District of Quito, the 69-mile drive takes about three hours thanks to the curvy roads vehicles must bump along to make the journey. But once your feet are on solid ground, it only takes a few minutes to realize there will be no regrets.

Mashpi Lodge at sunset — Photo courtesy of Mashpi Lodge

Actually, your feet take top priority at Mashpi Lodge. Before heading out on any of the lodge’s more-than-a-dozen hiking trails, every guest is assigned a pair of rubber boots. They’re like the puddle jumpers you had as a kid, just not as colorful.

A bit clunky, they take some getting used to, but warm, dry feet never go out of fashion, especially when you’re taking on the mud of Ecuador's Chocó-Andean Cloud Forest.

Getting to know nature is the reason to come to Mashpi Lodge. Even the rooms reflect the idea of soaking in the rainforest sights as much as possible. All of Mashpi’s 24 rooms and suites offer a commanding jungle view, thanks to a wall (or two, depending on the room type) of glass. There’s even a window that can be opened for folks who want to listen in as well.

Room with a Cloud Forest view — Photo courtesy of Mashpi Lodge

Wayra Rooms have everything you’ll need, from comfy beds to hot showers. There are no televisions, but you won’t have time to miss your favorite show. Local residents in these parts have a way of monopolizing your time.  Here are 10 things that you'll be lucky to experience when you visit.

Panoramic terrace

Birdwatching roost — Photo courtesy of Mashpi Lodge

A favorite spot for early morning birdwatching, you could come to the panoramic terrace in your pajamas if you felt so inclined. Located on the third floor, the scenic outlook is an easy walk from all rooms.

Naturalists are on hand to help guests spot and identify the average 15 to 20 birds that make a daily appearance. And the raccoon-like Andean Coati has a habit of stopping by to grab an unattended banana or two.

Life Centre

Have the forest to yourself — Photo courtesy of Mashpi Lodge

With room for just 47 guests, Mashpi Lodge isn’t the type of place where you’re likely to feel crowded, but the Life Centre offers a posh spot to take in the idea of having the rainforest all to yourself. Listen to howler monkeys roar while relaxing on a chaise lounge. Or even better, have breakfast on the broad, wooden deck with a view from every angle.

Butterfly breeding

Butterfly landing spot — Photo courtesy of Mashpi Lodge

More than 100 types of butterflies can be found in the reserve, but observing them requires luck and patience. The breeding and garden area at the Life Centre houses a dozen species of butterflies.

Along with your guide, colorful illustrations help identify species.  It's something most are keen to do, after an assortment of dainty fliers use you as a landing spot.

Hiking trails

Don't forget to look up — Photo courtesy of Mashpi Lodge

Mashpi Lodge has 14 trails to explore, and each is different from the next. Ranging in difficulty from easy to moderate, from advanced to  expert, there’s a trail for all ages and fitness levels.

On the steeper stretches, colorful recycled crates have been embedded in the ground to form steps and firm footing. Guides lead every adventure, pointing out everything from holes in the ground that might house tarantulas to vines coiling up tree trunks in hope of reaching more sunlight above.

Waterfalls

Make a splash in a waterfall — Photo courtesy of Mashpi Lodge

Don’t forget to pack your bathing suit. Many of the hiking trails lead to waterfalls you’ll want to splash around in. Temperatures average in the mid-to-high 60s. Some waterfalls treks are more difficult than others, but guests can take the outing to new heights with a ride on the Sky Bike or the Dragonfly.

Sky Bike

Pedal power propels the Sky Bike — Photo courtesy of Mashpi Lodge

Pedal through the clouds on the Sky Bike. Built for two, one person pedals while the other takes advantage of the free ride through the treetops, making it a fun possibility for adventuresome families. The ride takes about 10 minutes each way, and riders can switch off on the easy pedaling responsibilities when on a round-trip adventure across the forest.

The Dragonfly

Toucan in the Choco Rainforest — Photo courtesy of Mashpi Lodge

If the idea of spending more time in treetops is appealing, the Dragonfly cable ride is worth adding on to your stay while at Mashpi Lodge. At $40 for adults and $20 for children, it’s one of just a handful of items not included in the all-inclusive style rates.

Open-air gondolas, or cable cars, carry up to four guests and a guide along a mile-plus stretch of cable, providing a bird’s-eye view of the forest canopy. An added perk: when you spot something of interest, like a Choco toucan, the gondola can be stopped to better take in the view.

The observation tower

This view is worth the climb — Photo courtesy of Mashpi Lodge

It’s a bit of a workout climbing the nearly eight-story metal observation tower, but it’s really the view that leaves you breathless when you reach the top. On clear days you can see the lodge, but misty days have their own special beauty. Keep your eyes and ear open for woodpeckers, parrots and other guests cruising through the canopy.

Hummingbird Garden

A hummingbird fuels for flight — Photo courtesy of Mashpi Lodge

Unfazed by visitors, 19 colorful hummingbird species whip around the hummingbird garden, weaving through trees and mesmerized guests without hesitation to reach well-placed feeders. Toucans, squirrels and tanagers stop by from time to time as well.

Night walks

Tree frog in the Choco Rainforest — Photo courtesy of Mashpi Lodge

The Mashpi forest never sleeps. Armed with flashlights, guided night hikes introduce guests to the likes of frogs and snakes, and help guests work up an appetite for dinner.

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.