The Secret Garden is probably not such a big secret anymore. It is recognised as one of the best places to stay for travellers in Quito, winning the Hostel World award for 'Best Hostel in Ecuador 2014'.
We spent three nights there on some unseasonably warm days in April to check out what it had to offer.
As with a number of hostels in the historical part of Quito, Secret Garden is set in a huge labrynthical colonial building. Set over five floors, you could seriously get lost, with each day bringing the discovery of a new corridor or section.
Is it a party hostel? No. Instead, it's a really social and friendly atmosphere amongst guests and staff, some of whom are volunteers. In the evening, everyone eats around the long dinner table, which is a great opportunity to get to know other travellers. The wifi is switched off after 6 p.m. in this area of the hostel to strongly encourage actual, you know, talking to people!
Quito is split into two distinct areas for travellers – the Old Town or La Mariscal.
After an afternoon and a couple of evenings in the latter, we can honestly say we prefer the Old Town. It's prettier, quieter, safer and well, just better.
Secret Garden is in a good spot, a few minutes walk from the Cathedral, close to lots of cheap local restaurants and a 10-15 minute taxi ride to Mariscal.
As Quito has a bit of a reputation, it's also worth adding that we felt safe in the area.
Hands down, the rooftop area has one of the best views you'll find of Quito from any spot in the city. And you can enjoy it all whilst nursing a glass of chilled white wine or fresh ground coffee in your hand!
At 2,827 metres high on the 5th floor, it really is the heartbeat of Secret Garden. The reception, kitchen, restaurant, smoking area, bar, Spanish school and everything in between are all based here. We spent most of our time at the hostel based up here and it was a great setting to hang out in, day and night.
The food was superb. After a year on the road, we have eaten more than our fair share of rice, beans and assorted meats - Letty's food reminded us of the hearty meals our mum's used to make. Don't miss pie night! Paired with a glass of red wine on a chilly Quito night, it was a little slice of homely heaven. Additionally, the vegetarian options were excellent. Instead of being an afterthought for 'picky-eaters', the meals tasted just as good as the meat counterparts. The breakfast was also generally really tasty, except from the French Toast which needs a bit of work!
The showers are also HOT with PRESSURE. And not just a 'hope that it might be a trickle of warm water' but the sort of shower that you want to spend time in. From our travels throughout Latin America, we know that this is a rare thing indeed!
Be aware that prices for everything (room, drinks, food) are advertised BEFORE tax, and as the hostel works on a tab system, your final bill amount could come as a bit of a shock. Every other hostel and restaurant so far in Ecuador have quoted prices inclusive of tax, so we're not sure why it had to be different here.
We had a private double with shared bathroom (B1), with a large window overlooking the courtyard. It felt a little dated and in need of a revamp, but was nevertheless comfortable and spacious for our three night stay, with nice touches like wooden floors, bedside lamps, extra blankets and a small wall safe. For the price, you may expect a little more but it was absolutely fine.
The shared bathroom was just outside our room. It was only used by us and the couple next door. It was in good condition and always spotless when we wanted to use it.
value for money
Decent accommodation in Quito is more expensive than in neighbouring Colombia and the rest of Ecuador. Secret Garden is one of the pricier options in the Old Town and so may be out of reach for travellers on a tight budget. Given that it doesn't have a kitchen for guest use, the price of a double with shared bathroom is high.
However, we understand that not everybody is counting every penny. If you prioritise a great experience, secure setting, social atmosphere and making friends over saving a few dollars, the Secret Garden is a fantastic choice.
If you're planning on getting the dinner, make sure you order before 10.30 a.m. to get your free drink. Also, try to request a double room with a window - we popped our head into one without and it could have been a little unpleasant for more than a night or two.
Very good internet, several social areas, free luggage storage, lockers, security guard at night, book exchange, Spanish lessons, restaurant for breakfast and dinner, bar, free coffee, tea and filtered water, secure taxi service and airport shuttle available. Volunteering opportunities are also available.
Our stay was provided free of charge so that we could experience The Secret Garden. As ever, all photos, opinions and spelling errors are our own. For more information on why you can trust our reviews, click here.