Updated: Apr 22, 2018
There I was, sitting on the hardwood flooring around the Jacuzzi tub, waiting for the water to get hot and wondering if this room was worth the money. It was our anniversary and we had decided to spend a little extra and get the Presidential Cabin to celebrate because it had a 2-person Jacuzzi tub…could be fun? But the darn thing woouldn’t get hot. That can sometimes happen up here in the Andes, the ground is so cold that it can take forever to get the water to be hot, especially if the water heater is far from the faucet, which was the case for this lake front room at Cabanas del Lagos on the east side of Lake San Pablo in Ecuador. The wonderful staff had placed small, clear dishes filled with water, red rose petals, and candles on the far side of the tub to provide a romantic atmosphere against the dark greenish slate wall which had a large window-view of the lake. And the window was high enough so you could see out when you were standing, but no one could see in when you were in the ground-level Jacuzzi tub. So I waited for the water to get hot. We had spent a long day on the lake and I was eager to get warm, since the lake was a chilly 50F (10C), and even in a wetsuit, I was still quite cold. Laguna de San Pablo is located 4 km (2.49 miles) west of Otavalo at approximately 2670 meters (8760 feet) above sea level in the province of Imbabura in northern Ecuador. The lake is absolutely idyllic set in between the lush mountains of Imbabura and Mojanda and the farmlands and towns Otavalo and San Pablo.
We chose the Cabanas del Lago because of its excellent reputation, price, and multitude of activities available on property. The property is built to resemble a combination of local indigenous style huts crossed with Spanish and Ecuadorian style casas (or homes) with thatched roofs. The main building and restaurant are located lake-front providing dining all day and the staff treats you like family. The resort offers a children's petting area with bunnies in the middle of a mini-golf course (which is not easy by the way) right in the center of the buildings with the rooms. There is also a children’s play area and a vendor area selling local crafts and jewelry. They offer a variety of types of rooms each with its own private sitting area outside. We were very impressed with the style, presence, and comfort of the Presidential suite. Our front porch area had a bamboo dining table and chairs and a 2-person swing facing the water sports marina just to the left. We were literally 10 feet (2.5 meters) from the lake edge. And the staff was available to build us a huge fire each night after putting hot water bottles inside the foot of our bed. You would have paid 10 times what we paid for the service alone in Hawaii resort.
After a great night’s sleep, we awoke to treat ourselves to the amazing breakfast buffet in the resort’s restaurant. It was a scrumptious layout with make-to-order omelets, pancakes, waffles, muffins, a huge amount of fruits, cheeses, jams and jellies, bread, and cereals. We both ate so much we had to wait an hour before heading out to the marina for our water activities. The marina is about 50 yards from the restaurant, and while not large, is very efficiently setup for everything from swimming to children’s water bubbles, to boats and jet skis. We rented a jet ski first since neither of us had tried one before. The only catch is that the warnings and instructions are strictly in Spanish, so brush up or bring an interpreter. The Jet Ski was incredible fun and we took turns driving it around the lake for our half hour before we decided to try some other toys.
Next, we rented two standup paddle boards and the super friendly staff instructor gave us some quick lessons and about 15 minutes of supervision before leaving us to our own devices. Since neither of us have tried standup paddle boards before it took us some trial and error to be able to go from kneeling to standing and from just standing to actually paddling, and not without some cold water testing! But we both were able to standup eventually and paddle a little bit. We will definitely need to invest in a couple of our own and get a lot more practice, but maybe in warmer water. After an hour of trying to paddle, I was ready to hangout in the sun and try to get warm, but Bob decided to test out a kayak since he has been missing his canoe something fierce. So off he went in a one-man kayak while I peeled off my wetsuit, put on a jacket and moved into the sun to try not to mess up too many photos.
By the time Bob’s hour was up, we were both exhausted and frozen solid, so, as I indicated before, it was time for a Jacuzzi bath, which was taking forever to get hot. We both ended up jumping in the shower instead, which got hot fast enough, and put on some dry clothes to test out dinner at the restaurant.
Once again the service was outstanding. We were seated in a little glass-enclosed alcove out on the lake just in time for a gorgeous, orange and gold sunset. Unfortunatley, as the sun went down and we finished our local-style appetizer (sorry I don’t even remember what we were eating – just that it was scrumptious), the wind picked up and we couldn’t handle the cold, so we asked to be moved inside to a table out of the wind. The waitress knowingly smiled and provided us an excellent table which still had an amazing view, but was warm and protected. Bob had a thick, delicious piece of steak smothered in mushroom sauce served with mashed potatoes and veggies and I had a mixed seafood plate, but I started eating it before Bob could get a photo (sorry, I was hungry!). Since we don’t drink alcohol, we sampled the lemonade and juice, both of which were very tasty. And, of course, we both sampled the deserts. Yum!
On the way into the restaurant we had stopped and informed the front desk about the cold water in the Jacuzzi tub and while we were at dinner they had fixed the problem and put hot water bottles inside the foot of the bed again. They also stopped by shortly after we got in the room and offered to build us another incredible fire, and, of course, we gladly agreed. As we flipped through channels on the satellite TV (included with the room), we both passed out to pleasant dreams.
After enjoying the breakfast buffet again the next morning, we went back to our porch and watched few locals with a brand new boat try to load it in the marina. After almost crashing into the fencing next to the ramp (it was a very narrow ramp), the super friendly marina staff jumped in to rescue them and backed their boat very professionally down the ramp and into the water. It was much colder and we weren’t convinced we should don our still damp wetsuits for another round of standup paddle boarding, so we decided to partake in a couple rounds of mini-golf. I have to admit that is one of the hardest mini-golf courses I’ve ever played, even though, to Bob’s amazement, I was able to shoot a hole-in-one. After two frustrating rounds of mini-golf, and about 15 minutes of watching the adorable bunnies, we decided to pack up, checkout, and head back home.
The only downside to the resort was that they stated that they didn’t allow “mascotas” (or pets). But while we were into our second round of mini-golf, a family showed up with their two unwieldy dogs and even let them off-leash to run around. So I was a bit unhappy that we hadn’t been allowed to bring our well-behaved little puggy, but we’ll address that if we ever decide to go back.
Overall, I would highly recommend this little resort as a great place to experience a high quality, resort-style vacation while you’re visiting northern Ecuador for about one fifth of the price of visiting a resort in Hawaii. If you would like more information, we’ve included some links below. Enjoy!
For water sports, the marina staff has a variety of shorty wet suits available, as well as life jackets, for anyone renting water toys and equipment. However, I brought my own thicker wet suit, since I'm wimpy and get cold easily.
The staff speaks very, very little English, so it's a good idea to brush up on your Spanish and/or bring along Google Translate or a Spanish/English dictionary.
The temperatures vary greatly in the San Pablo lake area, so I recommend dressing in layers and being prepared for rain and wind any time of the year.
Thank you for reading!
Lynn, Bob and Niele