The picturesque volcano located in Cotopaxi National Park is a must-see when in Ecuador and should be on every backpacker's list. The park is a beautiful untamed landscape covered in flora and fauna from beautiful fields of wildflowers to herds of llamas and alpacas wandering aimlessly. Whilst it can be visited easily from Quito on a day trip, if you have the time and are making your way down south there’s a better way to get the best of both worlds. Why not combine your visit to the volcano with a stay at one of the best hostels in Ecuador? Have your every need met: transportation to the park, hiking and tour services at the ready, amazing accommodation all slap bang in the middle of Cotopaxi National Park and a stone’s throw away from the volcano. Here’s everything you need to know about staying at Cotopaxi Secret Garden and exploring the national park.


If you are a backpacker and want to experience an amazing hostel alongside other travellers then you must stay at Secret Garden Cotopaxi.

The reason why you should stay at the Secret Garden is three-fold:


  • it’s the easiest way to get to the park
  • it’s the best way to see the volcano (either from the hostel or booking tours through them)
  • it’s one of the best hostels in Ecuador and probably South America

Secret Garden is situated right in the middle of the national park, directly opposite Volcan Cotopaxi, giving you unrivalled views of this natural wonder.


You may have come across one of the photos from the hostel on Instagram as it often goes viral, making backpackers and travellers drool with envy. Honestly, every time we look back over our photos, we want to be back there sitting in the hammock watching clouds swirl around Cotopaxi’s snow-capped peak.


Aside from having the best view of the volcano, this is one of the best hostels in the country and the Secret Garden routine you settle into makes your stay even better.


The hostel is far from ‘civilization’ and so they offer a 2-night minimum stay package deal, but you’ll most likely want to stay longer once you arrive.


Here’s a breakdown of costs. The 2 nights/3days in an 8-12 bed dorm costs $95 and includes:


  • all food: breakfast, lunch and dinner as well snacks and drinks (unlimited bananas, banana bread, tea and freshly brewed coffee)
  • a short 2-hour waterfall trek
  • a full-day trek to the summit of Pasachoa mountain.
  • Transport from Quito/or to Machachi if you are then heading south

If you are a couple and want your own room then you have the option of staying in one of the more unique accommodation options such as the hobbit holes for $115 or the hill house with private bathroom and fireplace for $145 which are even more dreamy. 


There full pricing and run down of the package can be found here.


On top of the amazing location and food, they also run their own private tour company from the hostel so that you can pay extra for tours such as horse-riding or visiting Cotopaxi Glacier if you wish.


Here’s a quick breakdown of the free treks you receive with the package as well as the paid tours.


Waterfall Hike (Free)

A two-hour guided trek up through the beautiful cloud forest behind the hostel, wandering through orchids and surrounded by the sounds of nature.


This is an easy trek and depending on the weather, you have the option of swimming in the refreshingly cold waterfall pools. A great way to start your stay at Secret Garden and getting to know the other travellers in the hostel.


Pasachoa Hike (Free)

Pasachoa is an extinct volcano sat in the fields behind the hostel.


The trek starts as the base of the cloud forest with around an hour or so with a steep incline. Once out of the forest the trail flattens out for a while onto untouched fertile grasslands where you can take a break and catch your breath before heading to the summit.


The last 30 minutes of this trek are the toughest as you are reaching the summit at 4,200m but when you reach the top you won’t be disappointed with a 360 view of the park, all the volcanoes and a glimpse of Quito if the weather is on your side.


The trek is roughly a 4-5-hour return trip and includes a private guide with snacks and drinks provided.

Cotopaxi Glacier Hike (Paid $35)

For our free day, we decided to do the extra trek up the volcano to the glacier.


You will spend about an hour in the jeep driving into the park, getting some amazing views of the volcano on the way. After exiting the jeep, it’s about an hour steep incline trek up to the refuge just before the glacier.


We had already acclimatized to Ecuador altitude in Quito and Otavalo, but this was still pretty tough due to the steepness and the extra 1,000 or so metres of elevation.


Once you are at the refuge you can take a break, and from there it’s an easier, flatter walk of around 20-30 minutes to get to the foot of the glacier for some breath-taking views across the national park. You’ll return to the refuge where you can enjoy a freshly made hot chocolate made with local produce.


There’s the option of riding bikes back down the mountain which makes sense as its pretty fun and saves you trekking back down! If you are feeling brave, Secret Garden also offers the complete summit tour which requires 2 days. You can read their guide here.


Horse-riding & Ruminahui Hike (Paid)

Two extra activities run by the hostel. Horseriding across the high Andean plains through the park with amazing views all day or a more challenging trek up Ruminahui to 4,631m – check them out on their website here.


There are multiple ways to visit the park including day trips from Quito or by organising tours from the nearest town of Machachi, but if you are staying with Secret Garden it’s a lot easier. 


Secret Garden Cotopaxi and Secret Garden Quito are sister hostels. So, if you are staying at the hostel in Quito or even if you just book to stay at Cotopaxi, the hostels run free shuttles down to Cotopaxi.  So all you need to do is be outside Secret Garden Quito on the morning you are booked in for a free ride. 


If you are travelling up from southern Ecuador, then you will need to get a bus to Machachi which is the nearest town to Cotopaxi National Park. From here, the hostel will give you a designated meeting point and a shuttle bus will come and pick you up. Simple. 

To see how this fits in to a full Ecuador backpacking itinerary over three weeks, check out the post below:



The food is unbelievable, and the portions are more than enough so you never feel unfed.


The actual hostel itself is one of the cosiest places we’ve ever stayed in, with wood-burning fires, sofas and a selection of dogs to cuddle up with.

The hostel is surrounded by beautiful gardens and with a giant hammock and swing where you can lounge in, drink a beer and take in the views of Cotopaxi.


If you breakdown the cost per day, $42.50 for 3 meals, snacks, an activity and a night’s accommodation in one of the most picturesque national parks in South America – it’s totally worth it.

Secret Garden Cotopaxi made it onto our best hostels list for the whole of South America for a reason.


For more on our favourite hostels in South America, check out the post below:




If you are confused about how to plan it, here’s how we did it:


  • Day 1 – shuttle bus from Quito, 2-hour waterfall trek
  • Day 2 – Cotopaxi Glacier Hike, full day
  • Day 3 – Pasachoa Hike in the morning, lunch, bus to Latacunga

On your first day, you arrive mid-afternoon to a mulled wine welcome before heading off for the waterfall trek.


You then have the evening to explore the grounds, make friends with the other travellers and marvel at the beauty of Cotopaxi volcano.


Then on the second day, you have a choice of doing the free Pasachoa trek or booking a paid activity such as horse riding. On our second day, we decided to pay for the Cotopaxi Glacier Trek as it takes a little bit longer than Pasachoa.


This meant on our third and final day we could get up and do the Pasachoa trek, return to the hostel in time to shower and lunch, and then grab the shuttle bus.


We think leaving Pasachoa to the last day is the best day to do this, so you aren’t rushing back and aren’t in any danger of missing the bus. Secret Garden mentions that all activities run from 8:00- 1:30 PM so you can do an activity on the last day, however, some activities can take a little longer than others.


Check out is at 10 AM, but most guests stay for lunch until 3:00 PM for the shuttle bus back to Quito or to the nearest bus station to go South.

If this itinerary doesn’t work for you, and you only have one day spare then we’ve outlined more tours and other ways of getting to Cotopaxi here:



We think every backpacker visiting Ecuador should visit and stay at this amazing hostel. But if you don’t neccesarily have the time you can take a day trip from Quito. 


We’ve compared three different day trips from the capital and a trip to Cotopaxi is one of the best value for money. 


Where to next after Cotopaxi? If you’re heading south then check out our guides for the Quilotoa Loop and Banos.


Or if you haven’t got your Ecuador route planned yet, our month long itinerary can help!

For more information on Quito: