We typically book our hostels before we arrive in a city. However, our internet at our hostel in Banos was down the day we left, so we had to show up in the city without any plans. Fortunately, before we knew that the internet would be out, we grabbed the Lonely Planet “South America on a Shoestring” book and flipped through it at dinner. For some reason, we jotted down a few hostels and addresses in Cuenca.
When we showed up at the Cuenca bus stop, we gave the driver the address for Hostal El Monasterio. It was a quick, 5 minute ride which only cost us $1.75. We grabbed the elevator up to the 6th floor and were greeted by what appeared to be the cleaning lady. She did not speak English but our Spanish continues to get better so we were able to communicate with her that we wanted a room for 2 nights.
The cleaning lady showed us our room and while it didn’t blow us away, we didn’t really know where else to go. We inquired about pricing and she told us it was $34 per night, $40 per night if we wanted breakfast included.
I am not great at Spanish numbers so Andy was breaking it all down for me. The cleaning lady thought that we were considering not staying and dropped our rate from $34 a night to $30. It was the easiest haggling we had ever done since we weren’t even trying! We agreed and got settled in our room.
Our room had 2 beds – a double and a king. When I saw the king size bed I was pretty excited. We haven’t had a true king bed since we left the US. When I looked at the room, I neglected to sit on the bed, had I done so I would have realized that it was hard as a rock. Needless to say, we spent our 2 nights on the double bed, using the king bed to store our gear.
The room had some weird workmanship with patched together ceiling tiles and walls, but for the price we paid, I didn’t expect much and honestly booked the hostel because of the view from the common area.
For a pretty crappy bathroom, it had one of the best views. When brushing my teeth, I had views of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (if you ignored the TV cables hanging outside the window), as well as some local gardens below.
There was a gas powered water heater at the hostel which meant that we were able to consistently have hot showers, something that can be hit or miss in South America. Our shower constantly dripped which was annoying but when we closed the bathroom door at night we didn’t hear it.
From what we could tell we were the only guests, or some of the only guests in the hostel. This worked out well as it was easy to hear noise from the hallways, common area and adjoining rooms.
The reason that we chose to stay at the hostel was the rooftop balcony. We had read in Lonely Planet that this hostel had the best view of the city and I have to agree. We were able to see historical buildings, shops and more.
We spent quite a bit of time on the rooftop balcony – watching the sunset, taking pictures and enjoying some local beers for happy hour.
We made a trip to SuperMaxi, the grocery store in town to see if we should cook at the hostel or dine out. The prices at the store were quite high and for the limited time that we had in Cuenca, we decided that it would be best to dine out.
The kitchen was clean and well equipped, making me wish that we had been able to purchase groceries for a more reasonable price and at least cook a few meals in.
The wi-fi was the speed that we expected for South America. Since we spent quite a bit of time at the hostel, we were able to load quite a few pictures/videos to our Google drive.
The hostel is located in a mixed-use building which included doctor’s offices, private residences and more. Every evening at 6pm, the front gate would shut which ment that you had to buzz the hostel to be let in. This made me feel very safe that there were not people in the building that should not be there.
The location could not be better. Hostal El Monasterio is located right in the city center, a stone’s throw from all of the attractions in town. We found it easy to get around by our own 2 feet, only taking a taxi when we had to head to the bus station to catch our bus to Mancora, Peru.
If I were to return to Cuenca, I would possibly look for another hostel to stay at. While the location and view were perfect, the room itself left a little to be desired. If they were to renovate their rooms I think that the hostel could be absolutely amazing and likely be full all of the time.
If you don’t speak Spanish at all, you may want to consider another hostel as we did not encounter anyone who spoke English. While this was alright for us, it would have been nice to have a native speaker who would be able to guide us to the attractions, recommend dining options and more.