Thursday, December 4, 2014

Santa Barbara Hosteria

One of our favorite getaway spots is Santa Barbara (Ecuador that is!) in the picturesque town of Gualaceo where the people are warm and friendly, and the town is bustling with leather shoes, purses and jackets.

We spend one or two days every three months at this oasis and each time we think our stay can't get any better, but it does!

Santa Barbara Hosteria is located about 22 miles from Cuenca and for 60-cents you can be transported by bus to the subtropical paradise of Gualaceo where beauty knows no limits. You can catch the green Gualaceo bus every 10 minutes at the Terminal Terrestre in Cuenca and the scenic drive takes about 45 minutes to an hour because it stops to pick up passengers along the way.

Once in Gualaceo, you'll be dropped off at the bus station and you can take one of the white pick-up trucks (aka taxis) to Santa Barbara Hosteria (cost $1.50). Driving up the palm-tree lined entryway reminds me of Santa Barbara, California (without the ocean). There are tennis courts...gardens, pools, horseback riding...and a luxury spa area. Each room is well-appointed with every imaginable luxury and a five-star restaurant, La CampiƱa del Sol, which literally means "Countryside of the Sun."

If you book a room Monday through Thursday, it's $75 per person and includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. Their meals are absolutely divine and one of my favorites is the Penne Picante with jumbo shrimp.

This time of year, they're all decorated for the holidays and since we didn't put up a Christmas tree this year, it was a treat to be surrounded by all things cheery and bright.

The service at Santa Barbara Hosteria is impeccable, including a welcome drink when you check in and you always feel like royalty as soon as you enter the reception area. When you call them for a reservation, be sure to mention if it's a special occasion. It was our anniversary and they had some special surprises for us (I won't spoil it by sharing!).

The views are spectacular and this time we had balcony with a view that took my breath away and while Mark took his afternoon nap, I treated myself to the spa area. We usually book a Monday or Tuesday and we practically have the place to ourselves. I wouldn't suggest making reservations on a Friday-Sunday as this is a popular hot spot for weddings.

While we were in California for seven months in 2012, we passed through Santa Barbara many times but I have to say that even though there's no ocean view, I love this Santa Barbara better. At night, the twinkling lights from the city of Gualaceo are simply magical.

Our next visit will be for Valentine's Day and we already know what room to ask for in advance. Hope you enjoy this place as much as we do.

Until next time...hasta luego!

Also, the Second Edition of "Living and Retiring in Cuenca: 101 Questions Answered" will be available in 2015!

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