Review: Dining & Activities At Mashpi Lodge

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In this installment I’ll be talking about dining and activities at Mashpi Lodge. All meals and most activities are included when staying here, so beyond the steep room rate, at least you’re not being nickel-and-dimed for everything.

Breakfast at Mashpi Lodge 

All three meals are served in the hotel’s main restaurant, which is also basically the centerpiece of the hotel. Breakfast is served from 7AM until 9AM, with most explorations starting at 8AM.

Mashpi Lodge dining room

Mashpi Lodge restaurant

Breakfast consisted of a buffet.

Mashpi Lodge breakfast buffet

This included freshly squeezed fruit juices, cereal, yogurt, yogurt parfaits, fresh fruit, pastries, croissants, bread, cold cuts, and cheese.

Mashpi Lodge breakfast buffet

Mashpi Lodge breakfast buffet

Mashpi Lodge breakfast buffet

Mashpi Lodge breakfast buffet

Hot options included oatmeal, sausage, bacon, empanadas, french toast, and pancakes.

Mashpi Lodge breakfast buffet

Mashpi Lodge breakfast buffet

Mashpi Lodge breakfast buffet

On top of that there was a menu with some egg dishes you could order off of, which read as follows:

Ford had poached eggs a couple of mornings, while I had omelets.

Mashpi Lodge breakfast — poached eggs

Mashpi Lodge breakfast — omelet

The hotel also makes excellent cappuccinos, which you can have all hours of the day.

Mashpi Lodge breakfast — cappuccino

Lunch at Mashpi Lodge 

Lunch at Mashpi Lodge is served between 12:15PM and 3PM, and is also buffet style. Options included cheese and cold cuts, bread, ceviche, a salad bar, and several hot items.

Mashpi Lodge lunch buffet

Mashpi Lodge lunch buffet

Mashpi Lodge lunch buffet

Hot options included soup and a few rotating items, so you never had the same thing two days in a row.

Mashpi Lodge lunch buffet

Mashpi Lodge lunch buffet

Mashpi Lodge lunch buffet

Mashpi Lodge lunch buffet

Then there was also a selection of desserts.

Mashpi Lodge lunch buffet

While I can’t say that the breakfast or lunch were memorable, I thought they were pretty high quality for buffets. Furthermore, the buffets were practical given that there was often only an hour or so between the morning and afternoon activities, so you could grab a quick bite.

Mashpi Lodge alcoholic drinks & happy hour

While all non-alcoholic drinks are included with room rates at Mashpi Lodge, alcoholic drinks aren’t. You can find Mashpi’s wine list here, and Mashpi’s cocktail list here.

I thought alcoholic drinks were pretty reasonably priced. A nice bottle of wine could be had for under $40, and they were always happy to serve it to you over multiple meals, so you don’t need to drink it all at once.

Similarly, cocktails for $12-13 didn’t seem unreasonable. The hotel even has a daily happy hour from 6:30PM until 7:30PM, where you can get half priced cocktails.

Mashpi Lodge happy hour

The pisco sours were excellent, as were many of the other cocktails, some of which I thought were pretty creative.

Mashpi Lodge pisco sours

These were always served with bar snacks.

Mashpi Lodge bar snacks

Mashpi Lodge dinner

Even though the same dining room is used for all meals, the vibe for dinner felt very different given the lack of natural light.

Mashpi Lodge restaurant

Dinner is an a la carte experience, and is served nightly from 7:30PM until 10PM.

The dinner menu was different every night, and you could always enjoy a three course meal (plus there was an amuse bouche), or you could opt for a lighter sandwich for dinner, so let me share a sampling.

Here’s the dinner menu for the first night:

The bread selection varied every night, and was warm and crispy.

Mashpi Lodge dinner — bread

The amuse bouche also varied every night.

Mashpi Lodge dinner — amuse bouche

I’ll let the pictures of what we ordered mostly speak for themselves, but overall I thought the food was very good.

Mashpi Lodge dinner — cured beef tenderloin salad

Mashpi Lodge dinner — “encebollado” of the woods

Mashpi Lodge dinner — sun dried tomato salad

Mashpi Lodge dinner — traditional chicken stew with fried tomatoes

Mashpi Lodge dinner — salted cacao textures

The second night we weren’t that hungry so just ordered sandwiches, which were disappointing. The bread didn’t taste crisp or particularly fresh, and I think both of the sandwiches would have tasted better if warm.

Mashpi Lodge dinner — sandwich

Mashpi Lodge dinner — sandwich

Mashpi Lodge dinner — grilled figs cheesecake

Here’s the dinner menu for the third night:

Mashpi Lodge dinner — locro de papa Mashpi style

Mashpi Lodge dinner — prawns with garlic sauce and prawn emulsion

Mashpi Lodge dinner — steak tenderloin and mountain garlic

Mashpi Lodge dinner — five textures cake with mountain biscuit

And lastly for the fourth night:

Mashpi Lodge dinner — beef in citric lime sauce and spicy mustard

Mashpi Lodge dinner — sea bass maito

Mashpi Lodge dinner — mountain red pepper steak

Mashpi Lodge restaurant service

As I mentioned in the previous installment, a vast majority of the people working at the hotel are from nearby villages, so don’t have experience working at international hotels. Taking that into account, service in the restaurant greatly exceeded my expectations.

The wait staff were consistently friendly and well intentioned, and while a few things were occasionally lost in translation, those issues were pretty minor. A special shout out to Ramiro, who was an especially nice server in the restaurant, as well as Diego, the restaurant manager.

In many ways the service reminded me a bit of being at an Aman. You never had to sign anything and after the first day they knew our room number, so you just show up, they know who you are, etc.

Mashpi Lodge activities

Now let’s get to the section that a trip to Mashpi is all about — the activities. In many ways the activities reminded me of our trip to Explora Easter Island last year.

The hotel has over 15 types of explorations to choose from (you can find some of them here), depending on whether you want an easy, moderate, advanced, or expert activity, and also depending on what you want to see.

Generally speaking people do one activity after breakfast and one after lunch, though it’s totally up to you. You can add on an additional night-walk, you can do a single all-day activity, etc.

Here’s the activities board that shows an example of some of the options:

Mashpi Lodge activities board

And here’s a model showing what the Mashpi reserve looks like:

Mashpi Lodge map

All of our activities ended up being private, which was awesome. Ordinarily in some situations you’ll be paired with others, while in other situations you’ll be alone, depending on what everyone else wants to do.

However, I think we were the only people who were looking to hike long distances (otherwise the resort was mostly full of people with small children, as well as seniors), so while most people were doing the easy and moderate activities, we wanted to do the hard and expert activities.

On our first day we were paired with Estuardo, who would be our guide. It wasn’t initially clear he’d be our guide the whole time, but he ended up accompanying us on all of our expeditions. Estuardo is such an awesome guy, and I feel like he largely made our experience so great.

He was from a nearby village and was clearly so passionate about nature, and that rubbed off on us. It amazes me how from 10 feet away he’d see a frog the size of a penny and point it out to us, he’d know the species of every single type of bird everywhere, etc.

So let’s talk about some of the activities. I have an irrational fear of chair lifts and gondolas. I recognize it’s irrational, and no matter how often I try to get over this fear, it never goes away.

But I keep trying to challenge myself, and in this case there were two activities “challenging” that fear. The hotel’s most famous attraction is the dragonfly, which is essentially a gondola, except it’s tiny and you feel like you’re in a basket.

The Dragonfly Mashpi Lodge

It goes for two kilometers over the cloud forest at the slow pace of 50 meters per minute, so if you go roundtrip on it, the ride takes about 80 minutes total.

The Dragonfly Mashpi Lodge

At times it’s 200 meters from the ground, so it gets really high, and at some points I was scared and wanted to stop. But the perspective this provided on the forest was unparalleled. At times you were way above the tops of trees, and could see for quite a ways.

The Dragonfly Mashpi Lodge

The Dragonfly Mashpi Lodge

At other times you went through the forest canopy, which was pretty cool as well.

The Dragonfly Mashpi Lodge

The Dragonfly Mashpi Lodge

Then there’s the skybike, which can seat two people. The catch with this is that one person has to pedal, as there’s no motor or anything. This covers a distance of about 200m in each direction, and takes about 20 minutes roundtrip.

The Skybike Mashpi Lodge

The Skybike Mashpi Lodge

We did a bunch of different hikes, sometimes to waterfalls. These hikes typically began on the main dirt road leading to the hotel.

Hiking around Mashpi

But then you quickly get off that path. Sometimes there’s an actual path you’re following, while sometimes you just make your own way (or more accurately Estuardo made his own way, and we followed him).

Hiking around Mashpi reserve

Hiking around Mashpi reserve

Hiking around Mashpi

The scenery was incredible.

Hiking around Mashpi reserve

Hiking around Mashpi

And out of nowhere Estuardo created an “all natural” swing, which Ford swung on, but I wasn’t about to get anywhere near.

Swinging at Mashpi Lodge

One morning we went on a hummingbird expedition. I figured this would be boring, but it was actually very interesting to see that they have 32 species of hummingbirds here (as well as all kinds of other birds). Estuardo’s knowledge really made it all the more interesting, given how passionate he was about it.

Mashpi Lodge hummingbirds

Mashpi Lodge hummingbirds

Estuardo was also amazing at taking pictures of birds with my iPhone through his binoculars.

Birds at Mashpi Lodge

Birds at Mashpi Lodge

Birds at Mashpi Lodge

Birds at Mashpi Lodge

Then there was possibly the craziest thing I’ve ever done. By day two Estuardo said “you guys are pretty fit, do you want to go on a night hike tomorrow at 3:30AM?”

I was terrified in the forest in daylight, but doing so in the middle of the night sounded horrifying… so of course we said yes. 😉

Not only were we hiking in the middle of the night, but for about half the hike we were literally just climbing up and down the side of a mountain without a path.

I struggled to sleep the night before, I was that scared. However, it ended up being a really cool experience, even if we were terrified at first.

Mashpi Lodge night hike

Mashpi Lodge night hike

The reason for the early start was that there’s some sort of bird mating ritual that happens at sunrise at one particular point in the forest, so we wanted to be there to witness it. It was interesting, but truth be told my favorite part was just the act of hiking in the middle of the night.

Sunrise at Mashpi

We ended up partly taking the dragonfly on the way back, except this time the weather wasn’t nearly as good.

Hiking around Mashpi

The Dragonfly in fog

Speaking of the weather, the climate surprised me a bit. Quito is at an altitude of nearly 10,000 feet, and when we were there it was pretty cold. However, Mashpi is at a much lower altitude, and it’s also a cloud forest, so it’s much warmer. Apparently it’s about 70F year-round, and on most days it rains at least a little bit.

On our first day we had perfect weather with no rain, while on subsequent days it rained a little bit, but not that much.

If you’re looking to relax, Mashpi Lodge has a hot tub, sauna, and steam room that you can reserve. They make it private so that you can reserve it in 30 minute slots, so we did that one evening.

Mashpi Lodge hot tub

Mashpi Lodge hot tub

The hotel also has two spa treatment rooms located on the third floor. We ended up getting massages here, which were exceptional, and they cost 80USD for an hour (which is obviously expensive by Ecuador standards, but cheap by international luxury hotel standards).

Spa treatments at Mashpi Lodge

Other than that, you can also take in a lot of the forest just enjoying the views from the hotel. How beautiful is that?

Sunset views from Mashpi

Mashpi Lodge dining & activities bottom line

Food at Mashpi Lodge was solid and practical. With breakfast and lunch the focus was on efficiency, in order to be able to grab something to eat between explorations. Meanwhile dinner was a much more impressive offering. I also appreciated their excellent cappuccinos, their creative cocktail list, and even their reasonably priced cocktails.

We loved our time exploring Mashpi reserve, and that’s largely thanks to how enthusiastic Estuardo was. It was obvious he took pride in his “home,” and that’s something that’s always nice to see.

If you’re into this kind of stuff and can stomach the price, I highly recommend Mashpi Lodge.

I’m happy to have been, though I also feel like it’s a “been there, done that” kind of place, so I don’t think I need to return. Though there are lots of other places in South America I want to explore next.

  1. @Ben Thanks for the detailed and informative review!!! We are going to Mashpi Lodge next summer as part of our honeymoon, and we are now even more stoked after reading about your experience.

  2. Lucky, Ford is so much cooler than you. Nice job with the review, though. A very unique property that was exciting to read about. Great photos, too.

  3. Lucky, Interesting location and resort. It looks beautiful and seems like a luxurious way to see South American rain forest. I’m curious how long the expert hikes were? Also I’ve never heard of Mashpi Lodge before this post; How did you learn about the resort?

  4. I’m amazed that alcohol isn’t included for the price. I’ve paid less for two people per night at some African Safari lodges, and everything was included, and the activities were far better.

  5. Ford’s biceps are impressive! Wolf!

    It all looks quite beautiful. I would go for the hummingbirds and the night hike. Otherwise, I’m too much of an urban bum to make a special trip there, despite the gorgeous scenry.

  6. An episode of Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby (on Netflix) covers Mashpi Lodge. It’s definitely worth watching.

  7. Why did you say in the first post about Mashpi that you only spent money on alcohol and spa treatments was the skybike and dragonfly free or paid or did you get it for free?

  8. I only travel these days for birding. It’s interesting to see how other people visit these kind of lodges. A hummingbird tour of Ecuador is definitely on the bucket list for me, I understand there are several of these lodges all with different species a person could tour.

    I can help you put a label on your other birds if you want them… Your chubby bird with the red breast is Toucan Barbet. Your toucanet is (probably) Crimson-rumped Toucanet. Your tanager is Golden Tanager. (Great photo!) Your dancing bird is Andean Cock of the Rock! A very famous bird! What a fun picture of Ford too. Seems like a trip you will always remember.

  9. The activities looked amazing and I would have loved that skybike and would have wanted to take the dragonfly every day.

    Can you discuss how you handle taking care of such a great personal guide such as Estuardo? Its clear that his enthusiasm helped make the trip, I am assuming you were able to reward him accordingly. How does one approach that? Is there a standard gratuity in the price, is there a gratuity that you add on that you put on the bill and hope its split accordingly, or do you give the gratuity directly to the guide?

  10. Does not seem that impressive, particularly at the price point

    If you are a nature lover, i would highly recommend Thala Beach Nature Reserve near Port Douglas, Australia. Far lower price point and has its own private beach as well.

  11. Samusak, people who are going to Ecuador for a hummingbird tour don’t care if it’s cheaper to visit Australia. You can’t take it with you! A cloud forest isn’t a beach and it doesn’t appeal to the same market. 32 hummingbirds at one lodge in Ecuador or 0 hummingbirds in all of Australia (hummingbirds are only found in the Americas). It’s not a tough decision.

  12. Those food pics look well-lighted. Just curious, do you use a flash and is it annoying to other diners. And wow, that’s a great pic of Ford

  13. @peachfront

    You clearly have no idea that Thala Beach nature Reserve is near the Daintree Rainforest which is the oldest Rainforest in the world. And it has a private beach.

    If you want to see hummingbirds you can go to Healdsburg, California and will be able to see them all day long as long as you keep a water source nearby.

    Finally, you are entitled to your opinion, but you are not entitled to the facts nor are you entitled to my opinion.

    Thala Beach Nature Reserve

  14. @samusak – Having stayed at the Mashpi Lodge and the Thala Beach Rainforest Reserve, I would say that they are equally nice. Personally, neither property lives up to my experience at the amazing Oberoi Vanyavilas in Ranthambhore, India. So, claiming one is better than another is senseless – tastes are subjective.

  15. @Travis

    Well you have proved my point. Life is subjective. And so are opinions.

    As someone who has been to Vanyavilas and Rajvilas and Amarvilas and Udaivilas and Sukhvilas, I can tell you that the Oberoi Vilas properties are apples compared to Mashpi Lodge and Thala Beach Reserve which are oranges. What I mean by that is the Oberoi Vilas Properties are different from National Geographic Lodges. The Oberoi Vilas Properties are luxe while National Geographic Lodges are not.

    Go ahead and compare an Oberoi Vilas property to a Mashpi Lodge or Thala all day long.

    They are just different.

    However Mashpi Lodge and Thala are not that different. Thala in my humble opinion is more attractive at a lower price point.

    However, as a shareholder of EIH Ltd. ( company that owns and operates Vanyavilas and other Oberoi Hotels) , I thank you for the free publicity.

    Wishing you Happy Travels! Please frequent and publicize more properties such as Oberoi Vanyavilas and other properties owned and managed by the Oberoi Group.

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